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Hiking in Turkey: The Lycian Way

Apr 21, 2024 | Travel Tips

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The Lycian Way, a 520-kilometer footpath along the rugged coastline of the Turquoise Coast in southwestern Turkey (Türkiye), offers an adventure that blends history, culture, and breathtaking landscapes. As one of the world’s greatest long-distance hiking trails, it beckons adventurers to explore its ancient ruins, azure seas, and pine-clad mountains. This blog post outlines the details about the Lycian Way as well as other areas to hike in Turkey.

Conceived by British expat, Kate Clow, the development of the trail took several years before opening in 1999. Named after the ancient civilization that once thrived in this region, the trek begins in Fethiye, a coastal town nestled at the foot of the Taurus Mountains and ends close to the city of Antalya. Red and white painted markers denote the Lycian Way, similar to France’s Grande Randonée paths. Along the trail, you encounter remnants of Lycian, Roman, and Byzantine civilizations, including rock-cut tombs, amphitheaters, and citadels.

turkey mountains coast

The Lycian Way weaves through diverse landscapes, traversing rocky cliffs that plunge into the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea, walking through fragrant pine forests, and ascend into the mountains featuring alpine meadows ablaze with wildflowers. Part of what makes this route so special is that the topography of the mountains so close to the sea prevents rampant development, leaving a ‘wildness’ about the trail.

Don’t expect the organization of the Lycian Way to be like those of other well known European routes (such as the Tour du Mont Blanc).  There are parts of the trail where the markers are missing, where it’s been re-routed, or it may be difficult to find the route. On the flip side, you won’t see the crowds that you find on the Tour du Mont Blanc. Variants of the trail have developed over the years so that in parts you can choose a coastal route versus inland route, and more difficult versus less challenging route options.

hiker lycian way

One of the joys of hiking the Lycian Way is the opportunity to connect with locals along the route. Villagers offer warm hospitality, inviting weary hikers to rest in shaded courtyards and savor traditional Turkish cuisine. Encounters with goats, donkeys, and other wildlife remind us that we’re guests in their natural habitat, humbling us with the raw beauty of the wilderness.

While no mountaineering or technical skills are required, hiking the Lycian Way is no walk in the park. You will need all the things required for a backpacking trip (ie. maps, water, adequate footwear, etc) and moderate fitness. The trail presents its share of challenges, from steep ascents to rocky terrain and scorching sun.

mountains lake turkey

Practical Considerations

When to go: April – May and Sept – Oct are the best months to go; the summer months can be too hot in the lower elevation areas

Where to stay: There are various accommodation options along way as you hike from village to village; as well camping areas have been created for those who want to really rough it

How long: 520 km, broken up into approximately 21 stages

Resources: Culture Routes Society is a good resource as well as the Lycian Way website. Kate Clow’s book is one of  the only guidebooks available: The Lycian Way: Turkey’s First Long Distance Walking Route, by Kate Clow, 2014, Upcountry Ltdhttps://amzn.to/3VLkOP9

mountains lake

Where else to hike in Turkey

 

Turquoise Coast

The beautiful southern coast of Turkey offers up many delights aside from the Lycian Way.  These include Saklikent National Park (featuring one of the world’s deepest canyons); Olympos Bey Mountains Coastal National Park; and Mount Gülluk-Termessos National Park which sits very close to the city of Antalya, featuring one of the most ancient cities in Turkey amidst mountain scenery.

 

St. Paul’s Trail

The second long-distance trail established in Turkey is the St. Paul’s Trail, a trail that follows in the footsteps of the apostle Paul and extends from just east of Antalya and goes inland approximately 500 km to east of Lake Eğirdir. This trail goes above 2000 m in elevation, is much wilder than the Lycian Way, and you won’t find many tourists on this route. There is more information on this trail on the Culture Routes Society website and in the guidebook: The St Paul Trail: Turkey’s Second Long Distance Walk, by Kate Clow, 2013, Upcountry Ltd – https://amzn.to/3U3Lutc

kackar mountains turkey

Around Eğirdir  

If you do find yourself around Eğirdir, a beautifully situated town on the lake of the same name, it is a great base for hiking in the mountains that surround it. Hike up to Mount Sivri, Davraz, or Barla, all of whom have marked trails to the summit. The Eğirdir Outdoor Centre is a good source of information for hiking in this area.

Kaçkar Mountains

This mountain range stretches about 1000 km inland from the Black Sea, in northern Turkey. There are numerous places to hike here including in Kaçkar Mountains National Park, Hatila Valley National Park, and Küre Mountains National Park. Some of the trails here include the Kaçkar Mountains Traverse and the Küre Mountains Trail.  

ararat turkey

Mount Ararat (Mount Ağri)

If you’re in Turkey during the summer months, then hiking up to the highest peak of the country is an enticing option. In the far east of the country, near the border with Armenia, Mount Ararat (5137 m) sits alongside her little sister, Little Ararat (not so little at 3925 m) and both are climbable, for experienced hikers.

Aside from the hiking mentioned above, not to be missed if you’re visiting Turkey is the world-famous Cappadocia region, where the fairy chimneys can be glimpsed from hot-air balloon rides. Or the dazzling Pamukkale thermal pools where you can bathe in these astonishing hot springs.

cappadocia turkey
pamakkule turkey

There are many places to hike and things to see in this vast country that straddles the Europe and Asian continents. Discover the beautiful natural landscapes, ancient ruins and warm hospitality that Turkey has to offer; visit the Turkey (Türkiye) page at Where to Hike When.

 

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