What: thru-hike of the Lycian Way. Where: southwest Turkey. When: April 8-25, 2011 (18 days). Distance: about 276 miles. Highlights: habitat and geographic diversity; amazing archaeological sites; friendly, kind people; good coastal scenery.
Why we went
We enjoy hiking in locations that are new to us, and as soon as we learned about the existence of the Lycian Way it became an obvious choice. It is in a part of the world neither of us had ever previously visited, we had heard great things about traveling in Turkey, and the trail itself was reported to be to be both scenically diverse and culturally interesting.
The website CultureRoutesInTurkey has extensive information about the Lycian Way, including paper maps, trail updates, a link to an iPhone app for the route, and a list of accommodations.
TrekRight: Lycian Way is a 2018 downloadable navigation app. It is not free, but based on looking at its demo mode, we believe that it may be a useful tool.
As for all our trips, we used our two favorite mapping tools: CalTopo.com to prepare gpx data and printed maps, and Gaia GPS while hiking. We used WeatherSpark.com‘s excellent climate summaries to choose the best months to visit the region.
Ruins at Myra near Demre. Tomatostans creeping in from all sides.
We began the walk sometime past noon on April 8 after flying to Istanbul from San Francisco and taking an over-night bus to Fethiye and then a local bus to Ovacik. The red and white tag on the right post is used to flag the Lycian Way. If you look closely you’ll see the red and white tags in many of the photos, a bit like playing Where’s Waldo.
The route is located in southwest Turkey and generally stays within 15 kilometers or so of the Mediterranean coastline. There is a guidebook written by the woman who developed the route; Kate Clow, a British ex-pat living in Turkey. Much of the route is waymarked on the ground. The image shows the town of Olu Deniz, a resort near the start of the Lycian Way. Many of the coastal towns in SW Turkey are popular with European tourists, but the bulk of the tourists arrive a bit later in the season.
2000+ meter peaks are found throughout this region of Turkey. This is Baba Dag or Grandfather Mountain.
Old agricultural terracing is common along the Lycian Way.
Being a mediterranean climate, the vegetation looked very similar to that of central California where we live. Many of the plants were close relatives of or the same families we have at home.
We reached the sea for the first time near Kabak, an old counter-cultural hangout where you can visit Butterfly Valley and rent a treehouse for the night. Like most of the tourist hang-outs we passed, the place was mostly empty of tourists, who generally don’t arrive until May.
The trails are often quite steep and rough and never frequently went up and down.
This is limestone country and loose rocks of all sizes often covered the trail.
Looking back towards Kabak Beach.
Lunch#2 on an old terrace near Alinca. We didn’t cook and ate mostly whatever we could buy from the tiny shops along the way: bread, cheese, yoghurt, nuts, raisins, olives, and chocolate.
We encountered many dozens of these guys during our trip.
In many areas, the countryside was far more empty of people and human artifacts than we expected.
It was high spring and very green and lush throughout our trip. We had expected the region to be a lot dryer, which is probably the way it will be a few months later.
Shepherd’s huts and grazing goats were a common sight.
A tiny shop in Gey where we bought some supplies and drank tea, which in Turkey is consumed at the highest rate per capita in the world. The nice woman who ran the store boiled us some tasty fresh eggs.
Camp#2. A five star campsite on an old threshing platform between Gey and Bel. It is the only piece of flat ground for several miles of trail.
Camp #2. The only American we met in Turkey outside of Istanbul and Antalya wandered by while we were eating dinner and snapped this photo for us. He was on his way from London to Georgia (which is 1300 km away) and stopped in this region for a short 2 day walk.
The view from Camp#2.
The mosque in Bel. The loudspeakers blare out the call to prayer five time a day. Every village in Turkey has at least one mosque, similar to the village churches in England. We couldn’t see that anyone was paying any attention to the broadcasts. To our ear, the English church bells are more aesthetically pleasing than the calls to prayer.
Wildflowers were blooming everywhere.
Pine woodlands are a feature of this region.
A long descent down a steep rocky slope led back towards the sea.
Below us is a huge plain created by the delta of the Esen River: the home of a Tomatostan. (more about this in a bit)
Old walls and towers of the Pydnal ruins on the edge of the Esen..
The Lycian Way led through a hole in the wall and across the site. Like most of the old archeological sites we saw in Turkey, the Pydnal ruins were not fenced off and had no interpretive materials for educating visitors. By Amy’s head is a typical red and white paint flash used to mark the Way on the ground.
A Tomatostan. In a number of areas, we walked by densley packed inexpensive plastic greenhouse in which huge quantities of tomatos, peppers, cucumbers, and other vegetables are grown, much of it destined for the European market. Economically, this has provided large numbers of jobs to Turkish workers, whom we called Tomato Wranglers. Tomatostans have also consumed large tracks of coastal real estate. We enjoyed walking through Tomatostans because, unlike the coastal towns geared toward tourists, these regions are “real” and the people were extremely friendly.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letoon Ruins at Letoon, a religious center dating back to 600 BC. This structure and a field covered with old pieces of carved stone just sit beside a road surrounded by the greenhouses of a Tomatostan.
The view across the river from Camp#3. We will be walking along the base of the far mountains from left to right for most of the next day.
Camp#3 on a sandbar along the Esen River near Kumluova, surrounded by greenhouses. It was decent place to camp and had a lot of evening bird activity.
Ruins at Xanthos above Kimik; unlike many other archaelogical sites, there were some signs explaining what is there. Xanthos was a major city in the Lycian League and dates back 2500 years. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xanthos It is a UNESCO World heritage site. The photo shows a theater.
The view from Xanthos out over a Tomatostan. The old city of Xanthos was once a major port and center of commerce.
For a good part of the fourth day, we followed the remains of the old aqueduct that supplied water to Xanthos. Much of the two thousand year old stonework is still intact. Some portions of it still carry irrigation water.
There was a lot of surface water along this portion of the route, which we didn’t expect.
Dinner#4 in a cafe in Akbel. We ate in quite a few of these small local establishments. There were rarely a menu so we were never quite sure what we were ordering. Everyone was very friendly and wanted to know who we were and what we were doing. This was difficult to explain due to the lack of overlap in languages. We did our best by showing the map and using gestures.
Camp#4 on a bluff overlooking the sea south of Akbel. No one else around. From here we will make a large loop SW to the coast and return late in the day on another piece of trail just a few hundred meters below this campsite.
Tomatostans. Xanthos, which we visited 24 hours earlier, is near the small pointed hilltop below and to the left of the distant snow-covered peaks.
Blocks of stone had holes cut into them and were mated to the next block via a cut flange and a cut recess. This formed the siphon tube. The entire thing was watertight and apparently operated for centuries.
Patara, an old seaport. This site is being restored and is one of the major sets of ruins in Turkey. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patara
Lunch#5, a picnic in the old amphitheater.
After leaving Patara, the Lycian Way loops for miles along the coast towards the tourist town of Kalkan.
Kalkan lies at the left end of bay.
Before reaching town, the route crosses a steep, trailess, boulder-field. The limestone is very sharp and jagged, so progress was slow. Most of the Lycian Way is fairly straigt-forward walking, but this stretch was a little challenging. We think the route author placed it here in order to avoid walking on a paved road.
Kalkan. Much of this town was still empty of people; we were told that the tourist season starts in earnest in May. Most of the buildings were empty rental apartments and condos.
Terraced fields, olive trees and flowers. In ancient times these were almost certainly well maintained olive orchards. There are still olive trees scattered around, but they are no longer pruned and tended.
The rocky nature of the ancient well built trail in this photo is quite typical of a lot of the Lycian Way.
A typical food shop along the route, and the crowd of men at the neighboring tea shop is also typical. Shops were almost always identifiable by a row of banners flying outside the door. The chest next to the door holds bread.
Enough people must walk the Lycian Way to encourage the local entrepreneurs.
Near Camp#6. Blooming fruit trees were scattered everywhere. We think the parallel rows of stones were part of an ancient irrigation system.
Camp#6, a five star west of Gokceoren. We are in a small valley, surrounded by limestone hills and ancient stone walls and irrigation channels.
Camp #6. Old walls and paths are abundant. In this case, the irrigation channel is still intact.
We never did figure out what this meant. We didn’t stop to wait, as it looked unlikely that anyone was planning to bring lunch 🙂
These trees look very similar to the Madrones we have in the California coastal mountains, and are of the same genus, Arbutus.
Archeological fragments are scattered all over the place.
Kas. This is a major destination for tourists traveling by boat along the Turkish coast, and also has a large number of condos used by northern Europeans. The tourist towns like this one seem completely disjoint from the surrounding landscapes.
Night#7 in the Aphrodite Pension in Kas. We think we were the only guests that night, but the proprieter said that on May 1st things suddenly get busy. The town was crowded with services geared toward “adventure travellers”: sea kayaking, hang gliding, boating, etc.
Many goats. Usually when we saw flocks of goats we could hear the shepherd calling and whistling. Occasionally we ran into the shepherds, who were consistently jovial.
The entire coastline in this area is rocky with very few sandy swimming beaches.
Lunch#8 near Korman Island. As we were eating, a group of a dozen day-hiking tourists and their guide wandered by. Other than those folks, the trail was empty of other walkers.
Dinner#8 at Ali’s Pension in Bogazcik. Like many other features on the map supplied with the guidebook, this town was a few kilometers away from where it is shown. Use the map with extreme caution, and supplement it with detailed maps from OpenCycleMap (we used an iPhone to carry those maps).
Camp#8. A quiet campsite below Apollonia.
An old well. These water storage devices dotted the countryside and most still worked; the branch in the access hole keeps animals from falling in.
An ancient Lycian sarcophagus. We saw a large number of these dotting the countryside. Like the tombs, all had been opened and looted.
Üçağız, another coastal tourist town. Dozens of boats in dock waiting for the customers to arrive.
Osman Castle east of Üçağız.
Cakil Beach: a nice place for breakfast#10.
The bridge at Andriake.
We stopped at a tiny roadside shop in Gurses to buy some lunch food
They graciously abandoned their seats and gave us their leftover food: spinach filled flatbread, fresh tomatoes, olives. It was really good. These young men were like others we met throughout our trip: gracious, generous, and kind.
You have to keep your camel somewhere…
Camp#10. Another riverside campsite; this time, at the start of the Gavur Yolu gorge four or five kilometers upstream from Demre. We had many friendly visitors early in the evening, all offering various kinds of hospitality. We thought of our Fox-News watching friends who had expressed conserns about our trip to Turkey — if they knew that the biggest challenge when surrounded by a crowd of young men in Turkey is to find a way to politely decline offers of fresh oranges, tea, chicken dinners, guest bedrooms, etc.
Heading up into the mountains early morning#11, which was grey and drizzly. Camp#10 had been on the river floodplain below, and the visitors we had at that camp were Tomato Wrangers from the greenhouses.
Alakilise ruins: a sixth century Christian church. 860 meters. A couple of German walkers were camped there and although it was lunchtime, were still in the process of getting ready to start moving for the day. They had not benefited from the information to be had at backpackinglight.com!
From Alakilise you start a steep climb to 1700 meters.
The route eventually reaches and follows a stony ridge for several hours.
Camp#11, a five-star site on a grassy ridge with fine views out to the east. We saw our lifer Lesser-spotted Woodpecker here, a bird we had been looking for on many previous European trips.
Morning view from near Camp#11.
The sea 1500 meters below us.
The trails were indistinct and not well marked in this section.
Very fine walking.
The town at the near end of the beach is Finike. The next day, we will walk the long beach which stretches for over 20 kilometers along the edge of the bay.
The start of the long beach walk.
Near Camp#12. Looking back towards Finike, morning #13. We had camped for the night in a small grove of trees next to a football pitch and the beach about 4 K east of Finike.
The remains of an attempt at a grand beachfront boulevard. Moderns ruins in the making.
We stopped for lunch#13 in a large beach pavilion belonging to a fancy resort hotel. A family of guests who were there welcomed us and brought us tea and salads from the hotel restaurant.
The white streaks on the hillside in the distance are metastazing Tomatostans.
The walk along the peninsula towards the lighthouse was beautiful as the late afternoon sunlight was skrimmed by the clouds.
Camp#13. At the lighthouse, we set up camp on a small wooden platform. The tent barely fit, but it was the only flat and level site in the area.
Camp#13, A fine dinner spot.
Camp#13. Sunset from the lighthouse.
The next piece of trail wound up and down through the seaside bluffs towards Adrasan.
After crossing the pass you descend 700 meters down a steep and slippery gully towards Olympos, Cirali and the sea.
Olympos is another set of ruins; they are located along a small creek just inland of the sea. Several tourist towns are just east of here and the ruins are a popular destination. We were there around sunrise and the ruins were deserted.
Roman baths at Olympos.
From the beach at the edge of the Olympos ruins, a good view of Mt. Olympos (2366 meters) is visible. There is a cable car to the summit and a restaurant has been built up there.
Looking back towards the Olympos ruins. The square towers are part of old fortifications.
Cirali; so many pensions, so little time. Here the Lycian Way forks into two alternate routes. One branch heads inland and crosses a saddle north of Mt. Olympos. The other closely follows the coast before turning inland the join the first branch high in the mountains east of Olympos. The two fork are similar in distance. Since we will spent a lot of time in the mountains on coming portions of the trip, we elected to follow the coastal fork.
Cirali with the mountains we had just crossed behind it.
Olympos clouded up early in the morning every day.
Most of that morning’s walk was along an old coastal road. For the first time we encountered a steady stream of other recreational walkers. There is a popular day hike on this road between Cirali and Tekirova, another tourist town further east.
Lunch#15 at Chrome Beach. We met a party of backpackers from Belarus here. It turns out that Turkey is a popular destination for people from the old Soviet Union, and the coastal town of Tekirova is geared to Russian speaking tourists.
Somebody has parked an old DC-3 on the beach in Tekirova.
In Tekirova. We liked the cool tractor snout cover a lot, and the workers were pleased that we noticed it.
Almost every Turkish town of any size has a monument to Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mustafa_Kemal_Ataturk. This one, like the rest of Tekirova, was bit over the top.
Tekirova, or tackyrova as we called it, is a quessential mass tourist site, catering mostly to Russian-speaking visitors as far as we could tell.
Camp#15, view southeast.
From Phaselis, the route heads inland into the mountains, eventually climbing to 1200 meters.
We saw lots of beehives along the whole route.
A old Roman bridge. We ate lunch#16 at a tiny bridge-side cafe.
Beyond the Roman bridge, the route follows the old Roman road, which is now covered with rockfall and landslides.
Morning#17 dawned with heavy mist.
Descending another canyon from Goynuk Yelasi.
One of the problems with navigating the Lycian Way is that the quality of the waymarks is inconsistent: very well done in many places but missing or incomprehensible in other places. The red and white bars means go this way; the red X means don’t go this way. The waymarks on the ground often don’t match the instructions in the text. Walkers should be advised that the waymarks cannot be depended on to keep you on the route.
Then down again.
Although prolifically advertised, unfortunately for us, Ali’s was still closed for the season.
Camp#17. Our last campsite on the Lycian Way.
Morning#18, the final day of this walk dawned clear and cool.
Finished, noon, 16 full days plus 2 half days for a total of 17 walking days. The mileage on the sign is meaningless, given that there are multiple variations along the route,. Despite what the sign says, the Lycian Way actually starts in Ovacik and end here in Hisarcandir, Fethiye and Antalya refer to the nearest large towns. From this sign we started walking down the road toward Antalya and, after an hour or so, hitched a ride from the first passing vehicle the final 20 K to town. We enjoyed the Lycian Way and found the walking to be mostly pleasurable, straightforward, and physically not extremely challenging. The scenery is generally good and sometimes outstanding. The people we met along the way were always gracious and welcoming. We can heartily recommend the route to other walkers.
First, I offer my assessment of our entire trip in Turkey. I profoundly enjoyed our three hikes in Turkey. I did not know what to expect and was a bit nervous as it would be our first hiking trip in a country in which we did not speak the language at all. My concerns dissipated within 15 minutes of our arrival at the Istanbul Airport when I had the first of hundreds of encounters with local people who were gracious, friendly, and helpful.
In all of our travels people have been polite and, when asked, have done their best to help us. Turkish hospitality, however, is an entirely different category. People were consistently proactive rather than reactive in their offers of kindness and hospitality. As we walked out of the airport another traveler asked if we needed help finding anything; rather than pointing us in the right direction he escorted us to the proper bus stop. During a rainstorm a child came out of a home to lead us by the hand to shelter. Agricultural workers immediately vacated the only table at a roadside kiosk so that we could sit, and then offered all of their food to us when they saw our paltry lunch. We completed the Lycian Way on a very remote road where we waited an hour for the first vehicle to pass; that driver picked us up and drove us to a location where he flagged down a passing bus and explained to the driver where we needed to go. A proprietor of a tea shop refused our payment, indicating that he was honored we stopped. While walking on a remote country road up into the mountains each of the five vehicles that passed in the course of a half day stopped and offered a lift. Whenever camped in view of houses, people brought us food. When we visited shops the proprietor would bring out three chairs, shake our hands, and sit down with us.
A few hundred people invited us to tea or offered us a place to sleep. I think it is fair to say that if I total all invitations to share a beverage on all other hikes we have taken, those will not add up to the number of invitations we received on any single day in Turkey.
This proactive friendliness and hospitality set our hike in Turkey apart from all other hikes we have taken, and for this reason Turkey is on my Top Ten List.
My assessment of the Lycian Way as a route is all positive. Even without the extraordinary Turkish hospitality, I would have thoroughly enjoyed the route. The scenery is grand and diverse. The architectural ruins are astonishing. The logistics are easy enough that we were able to relax and just enjoy the walk.
This was my first experience in Turkey and I enjoyed it immensely. The biggest win were the friendly people; almost everyone we met was kind and gracious and even if we could not communicate with them beyond a very basic level, we always felt welcomed.
The walking was always interesting and the route included a lot of variety and diversity. I was never bored by another day of the same old stuff. The scenery was usually at least pleasant and at times was outstanding. Encountering yet another set of unnamed ruins was fascinating; in the US, these would all have had signs and fences protecting them, but in Turkey, they are just part of the landscape and generally ignored. We had some five-star campsites, including one on a rickety platform at the Gelidonya Feneri lighthouse with fabulous views out over the Mediterranean Sea.
Which of the three walks was the best? I honestly could not chose; all were wonderful, each in its own way. For most other people, I would recommend doing the Lycian Way first, as it would be the easiest introduction to walking in Turkey. There is more infrastructure and the risks are much lower. The route is easier to follow and the consequences of getting lost are minimal.
I happily would go back to Turkey again if the current political situation were not so unsettled. All three of our walks there were memorable, fun, and trouble-free.
In the spring of 2011 we spent 18 days in Turkey thru-hiking the Lycian Way. Immediately after completing that route, we spent 13 days walking on the Saint Paul Trail (SPT). Finally, we flew to northeastern Turkey and hiked for eight days in the Kaçkar Mountains. This report has some general information about walking in Turkey and details specific to the Lycian Way. A second report discusses the Saint Paul Trail and a third covers our experiences in the Kaçkar Mountains.
Walking in Turkey: General Information
We traveled in Turkey in 2011. Since then, the internal political situation there has noticeably deteriorated. The current Prime Minister is an autocrat and personal liberties within the country have been significantly curtailed. We have no idea what this might mean to a foreign tourist, but it is likely that Turkish citizens are more careful about what they say and do in public. A significant high point of our travels in Turkey was the open and rewarding interactions with people we met along the way. Hopefully, the situation will improve in the future.
We find this immensely sad, as the Turkish people we met on our trip were as friendly and welcoming as we have encountered anywhere. We have traveled in rural areas in about 20 countries, either hiking or bird-watching, and have never been to a place where we felt more at ease with the residents. In the tourist areas, the interactions are like those in every other tourist destination in the world: people want to sell you something. But otherwise, folks we encountered seemed genuinely outgoing and friendly. Shopkeepers, villagers, shepherds with their goats, women working the fields, kids in the school yards, and tomato wranglers working at the greenhouses, nearly everybody was welcoming, often indicating with hand gestures and words an invitation to stop for tea or a meal or a place to sleep. Big smiles, outstretched hands, and a warm reception were the norm.
Turkey has several low cost airlines that offer internal city-to-city flights. The two flights that we booked in advance were very inexpensive, on time, on new aircraft, and were professionally run. Antalya has a major airport with many flights per day to Istanbul and other Turkish cities and direct flights to other European destinations.
Bus transport was easy and reliable. Long distance buses are modern, run on schedule, are comfortable, and include complimentary snack and beverage services. A dolmus is a small, local bus, and make frequent runs between smaller towns. These buses are found everywhere. Bus agents were very helpful in making sure we took the right bus.
Hitching a ride was easy on the one occasion we did so, although it was an hour before the first car came down the road. The driver picked us up, drove us out of his way to a location where he flagged down the appropriate bus, told the driver where we needed to go, and sent us on our way.
Food and Water
Developed public springs are found in all inhabited places and along many roads and paths. Ground water was also frequently available from streams, wells and cisterns. It may be much dryer later in the year.
Food is available in many, but not all, of the small towns and villages along the routes; the guidebooks and updates on Clow’s website provide some listings. Many of the shops were small and had a very limited selection of items for sale. We did not carry a stove and our staples were bread, cheese, nuts, dried fruit, crackers, yogurt, and chocolate. Occasionally we added olives, canned stuffed grape leaves or tuna, and, if we were fortunate, fresh fruit and vegetables. Flexibility is paramount: if you are fussy or have strict dietary requirements, you will probably be unhappy.
Bigger towns have restaurants; selections may be limited and menus often did not exist. Proprietors always helped us to figure out what we needed to order to get a complete meal. The restaurant meals were always at least palatable and were often quite good. We appreciated both the variety and novelty of foods and the opportunity to mix with other patrons having a meal.
We ate anything served to us, and we drank untreated spring and tap water throughout the trip with no problems.
In the tourist areas, we were occasionally overcharged. Restaurant bills would not add up correctly; the total price of groceries at small shops was sometimes suspiciously high. Grocery stores and most restaurants did not list prices, and we learned to ask the cost of dishes before we ate, so that we were not surprised by the bill at the end of the meal. This was much less of an issue outside of the areas that commonly serve tourists.
In 2011, for two people, we spent a total of $3500 for our entire trip, including all flights and the week in the Kaçkars:
$1915 airfare: international from SFO + 2 domestic flights
$65 for three guide books plus an iPhone dictionary application
$225 for six nights in pensions
$160 for bus fares
$1135 for food and miscellaneous other stuff.
English, or lack thereof
Outside of Istanbul, most people we met spoke very little or no English and we met only a few who spoke enough English to have more than a rudimentary conversation. Amy completed five very helpful lessons of Pimsleur’s Turkish Language program. In hindsight, she wished that she had invested the time to complete more of the lessons. It was possible to communicate the basics for shopping, bus tickets, and booking rooms with no language overlap, but we found it extremely frustrating to have a cup of tea with somebody and have no ability to say anything in Turkish other than “I don’t speak Turkish”, “please”, “hello”, “thank you”, and “very beautiful” and to understand nothing other than “welcome!” and “tea” and “Obama very good”.
There is a chance that when you stop at a tea-shop or market that at least one of the men in their 50’s or 60’s will have worked abroad and speak some French or German. We had more luck with French than with English. We were surprised that even most university students we met did not speak any English.
People will often try to ask where you are from by guessing a country. The first guess is usually Almanca (German) so if you hear that word you should state your nationality to clear up any confusion. Alternately, just say your nationality when you shake hands. Güle güle is the common way people will say goodbye.
We used the excellent Collins Turkish Dictionary with Audio iPhone Application. We tried several other free or inexpensive apps and found they were not worthwhile. Collins still sells a Turkish Dictionary iPhone app but it appears to be different than the one we used.
Hand gestures are different in Turkey and worth learning. Here’s one list of gestures; a quick Google search will turn up many more articles and videos.
Free-ranging dogs are abundant in Turkey. A lot of these are working dogs guarding flocks of domestic animals or houses. Many barked and growled at us as we passed, but never actually got close enough to us that we felt directly threatened. Shaking our sticks or stooping to pick up some rocks to throw was usually enough to get them to leave us alone. On a few occasions we actually had to throw stones at the animals to make them back off.
Notes for Lycian Way and Saint Paul Trail Hikers
The Lycian Way (LW) and Saint Paul Trail (SPT) have many things in common, and the notes in this section apply to both trails.
We used the 2009 edition of Kate Clow’s LW guidebook and the 2004 edition of her SPT guidebook. We found the books extremely useful for overall trip planning, however they not completely adequate for on the ground navigation. We found some of the route descriptions confusing and occasionally incomprehensible. New editions of the LW and SPT guidebooks were published in 2014 and 2013 respectively; we have not seen them.
Both guidebooks did include helpful cultural information and also provided useful data about the archeological sites we encountered. In the end, we agreed to give Kate Clow an A+ for conceiving of the LW and the SPT and for designing interesting and scenic routes, but lower marks for the quality of her written instructions.
It is likely that somebody attempting to walk the LW or the SPT using just the book and its accompanying map would occasionally have some uncertainties as to exactly where the route was supposed to go. The book and its map would be adequate until the trail was inevitably lost, at which point it would be tough and/or time consuming to relocate it.
Maps and gpx files
There were no decent commercial topographic maps of Turkey available when we did our trip; apparently the Turkish military did not allow them to be published. The internet made the military’s efforts moot because good terrain maps with 10 meter contour lines were available on Caltopo and Gaia GPS.
The paper maps that came with our guidebooks were conceptually useful, but not detailed enough for navigation and often did not match what we found on the ground; for instance, the location of some towns were off by several kilometers. The maps also did not have a scale. There is a newer LW map available now, listed in the Resources section. We do not know if the newer editions of the guidebooks include improved maps.
Clow provided access to her gpx files of the LW and SPT to purchasers of the guidebooks. Her GPX tracks appeared to mix at least two different datums, so some waypoints were a couple of hundred meters off. However, we did find that Clow’s gpx files were useable during our walk and we never became lost in any significant way.
Clow’s LW iPhone app displays the LW track on a very basic topographic map; it does not show other paths, roads or additional navigational information. The LW app does include hundreds of waypoints such as water sources, accommodations, and archaeological site information that should be very useful to a hiker. Clow is working on a new SPT iPhone app, which was not yet available as of late 2018. In either case, we encourage using Gaia GPS in conjunction with the apps.
We carried an iPhone with the relevant OpenStreetMap tiles and Clow’s gpx files loaded into Gaia GPS. By preloading all of this data we did not need WIFI or cell phone service. This technique was quite successful and we had very few navigational problems. The LW has been labeled as such in OpenStreetMap; the SPT is labeled as far north as Eğirdir. A smartphone running Gaia GPS loaded with the any of the available OpenStreetMap sources should help ensure that navigation is very straightforward.
You can also download the Caltopo gpx files of the routes we took. Note that this file shows our routes, which did not always exactly follow the described routes, and does not include other variants described in the guidebooks. Both the LW and SPT have been rerouted in some places since our trip in 2011; therefore we recommend against using our gpx data as your primary navigation tool.
Both the LW and SPT have been waymarked with red and white paint using French Grande Randonnée iconography. Waymarking a route like these was a huge effort and we greatly appreciate the efforts of Clow and other volunteers who worked on it.
The quality of the waymarking varied from excellent to sometimes confusing to occasionally absent. In some places, the waymarks, while present, were very weathered and faded. In other places, the waymarks were painted on the top surface of rocks embedded at soil level and were frequently covered with grass and could not be seen until we were standing on them. The on-the-ground routing was sometimes perplexing as the trail took seemingly quite arbitrary jogs and diversions and did not always follow the natural lie of the terrain. In a few places, local entrepreneurs have painted their own waymarks so that the trail is re-routed to to their cafe or pension. Often we found it very helpful to use our binoculars to look ahead and locate the next set of waymarks.
Use the waymarks when you can, be thankful that they are there, but don’t assume they will be sufficient for all navigational needs.
We also encountered a number of trail specific yellow signposts with directional arrows and estimated walking times to various locations. In 2011, there were not enough of these to depend on them as primary navigational tools.
At a strategic level, the LW and SPT are well laid out with logical choices about routing. At a more micro level, especially on the LW, the routing sometimes took convoluted paths to avoid any walking on roads, even dirt roads that had little to no traffic. We were occasionally annoyed at walking over very rough terrain or following a route with confusing waymarking that was within a few hundred meters of a deserted farm track.
Time of Year
We were quite happy we went in April. We rarely experienced any truly hot weather, surface water was available, and the hills were green and carpeted with flowers. Summer tourists had not yet descended in large numbers. Life felt relaxed in the towns and villages. We had occasional grey skies, but no significant rain at any time.
Summer is much hotter; so much so that the walking may be decidedly unpleasant away from the immediate coast. Interior regions may be very hot. In autumn the weather may be fine, but the hills will be mostly brown. In winter, there is more rain and there may be some snow in the higher mountain regions.
Camping and Lodging
While on the LW we spent nights in Kalkan and Kaş in small pensions. Between our LW and SPT hikes we spent a night in a hotel In Antalya. On our SPT hike we spent a night in a pension in Eğirdir. The remaining nights we camped.
Nobody we encountered while we were camped ever caused us any problems or concerns. Often people who passed by us offered encouragement, food or invitations to sleep in their homes.
We never had a significant problem finding a place to set up our tent. Portions of the LW are rough, rocky, and/or hilly and so would not provide suitable campsites, so as much as possible we planned ahead each day using maps and satellite imagery to identify potential sites well before it was time to camp. Locating good campsites on the SPT was a bit easier than on the LW, as there were fewer settled areas to contend with and on average the topography and ground surfaces were less challenging.
Notes for Lycian Way Hikers
The LW is located in southwest Turkey and connects Ölündeniz, near the coastal city of Fethiye, to the tiny village of Hisarçandir, which is about 20 kilometers west of the major coastal city of Antalya. The route stays mostly within 15 kilometers of the sea, sometimes right on the coastline, and other times climbing high into the coastal mountain ranges.
The LW was designed and developed in 1999 by Kate Clow, a British ex-pat living in Turkey. She wrote a guidebook for the route as well as guidebooks for the Saint Paul Trail and for the Kaçkar Mountains. It is clear that a lot of effort went into designing the LW and it is unlikely a hiker unfamiliar with the region could do as well developing their own route. The LW follows existing paths, but Clow and others did an enormous amount of work to scout and document a viable route, clear brush, and install, and subsequently maintain, waymarks.
The LW was an enjoyable walk with a lot of scenic and cultural diversity. Southwest Turkey has a Mediterranean climate and the weather patterns and plant life were very reminiscent of our home region near San Francisco. The walk offers rugged coastal scenery, ancient ruins, beaches, small hill villages, coastal tourist towns, and some fine forests, canyons, and mountains.
The Turkish coast is a major European tourist destination and many of the coastside towns are geared to provide services for these visitors. The LW passes through a number of the tourist towns. We were told that the significant tourist influx starts in early to mid May, so during our walk, the towns were mostly empty. Even without many tourists present, the towns definitely had a very different character than the areas a mile or so inland from the coast. We found it interesting to have the diversity of the tourist towns on the walk but hikers looking for “authentic” rural Turkey may not care for them. However, even the tourist towns felt Turkish and the quantity of truly tacky stuff was minimal. Tekirova was the exception; it was filled with claptrap and about as authentic as any typical low budget tourist trap anywhere in the world.
The LW passes through or near numerous archeological sites, some of them quite large and well preserved. Small ruins and stone artifacts are scattered everywhere, most without any identification signs. Many of the sites date back thousands of years and encompass numerous different cultural eras. We greatly enjoyed this feature of the walk, especially the casual nature of all the stuff lying around with nobody making a big deal about it. At one point, we walked for a couple of kilometers alongside an operating aqueduct that had been constructed during the Roman era.
Along the route there are numerous clusters of industrial scale plastic greenhouses. Here vegetables are grown year round with much of the produce being exported to Europe. Working in the greenhouses is a major source of employment along the coast and we saw many busy people at these sites.
The LW includes a number of variants to accommodate the season or special interests. We followed the primary route as described in the 2009 guidebook. The guidebook recommended taking a bus between Finike and Mavikent instead of walking along the somewhat developed shoreline, but we found the beach hike to be enjoyable and doing it added to the diversity of the trip.
Since we would be walking in the interior mountains on the subsequent St. Paul Trail, we followed the coastal option from Çirali instead of climbing over the north shoulder of Tahtali Deǧi (Mt. Olympos) which has a cable car to its summit.
We found the walking to be straightforward, with only occasional moderately strenuous sections. There were about 18,000 meters of elevation gain and loss on the route we walked. The area is mostly limestone, so the trails were often quite rocky and sometimes covered with loose stones. Some of the walking was on unpaved farm roads, and a small amount was alongside pavement. Generally, traffic was light to non-existent on the roads, except near the major tourist centers.
Just prior to reaching Kalkan, there was a tedious section of off-trail scrambling over and around sharp edged limestone boulders that required much care.
In our opinion, any adaptable, reasonably fit walker with a bit of experience in cross-country navigation and route finding should be able to complete the walk.
On the LW we met quite a few groups of western and central Europeans, one group of Turks, and one American backpacking portions of the route; most of these people were spending about a week on the trail. We only encountered one other through-hiker. We saw numerous recreational day-hikers near the major tourist towns. There were many Turks out in the hills tending animals or crops, although it was not unusual to hike for several hours or most a day without seeing anybody.
We birdwatch on all of our trips. We identified 196 species of birds while in Turkey. On the LW, we saw 104 species including 13 new life birds. There were very surprisingly few seabirds on the coast when we were there, but we were happy to find a few Audouin’s Gulls, a long sought after life bird. Among our favorite new birds were two nuthatches, Rock and Krueper’s, and the Fire-fronted Serin.