Hiking Along the Lycian Way
Enjoy the delights of a 500 km coastal footpath stretching from Fethiye to Antalya along the part of the Turkish coast once known as Lycia. Noted in the list of Top Ten Walks, hiking really doesn’t get better than this. This is an area rooted in history where the mountains emerge abruptly from the forested shoreline revealing secluded bays. The pathway leads you past some of the world’s most beautiful scenery with panoramic views of Mount Tahtali’s limestone crests, dense forests and ancient ruins.
A Little History
Lycia is the old name given to what is now the Tekke Peninsula, located on the south eastern coast of Turkey’s Mediterranean Sea. The Lycians who ruled this area as far back as 1250 BC were a nation who spoke an Indo-European language, which gave rise to the Anatolian dialect spoken here in the 2nd century BC. The Lycian League was the world’s first alliance lead by an independent people who ruled with a democratic philosophy believed to have influenced the American Constitution much later on. They had a distinctive style of culture and art and an excellent standard of living. They were captivated by the ancient Greek culture but their rule ended when they were absorbed into the Roman Empire. Their burial grounds and the remains of their settlements are many across the peninsula and are visible during stretches of the walk.
Planning Your Trek
The famous Lycian Way was opened to the public in 1999 and is one of the longest footpaths in the world and certainly not for the faint-hearted walker; it is officially graded as medium to hard although start of the path close to Fethiye may give a false impression as this is certainly the easiest part. As of this year, an ultra-marathon will be organized as a yearly event to really test the skills of those who enjoy great hiking. However, don’t be put off; if you are in good condition and have plenty of walking experience then you will enjoy nothing more than the sights and delights of this ancient route. The best time to tackle the Lycian Way is in either spring between February and May or autumn between September and November. Summers here are extremely hot although there are plenty of shaded parts along the route that you could pick out and try at this time of year. Walking here can be tough underfoot with many hard, stone pathways; however a good pair of hiking boots should suffice for the worst of the terrain. There are plenty of places to overnight en route so plan your daily trek around each stop-over including camp sites and village houses offering rooms. You do not need to go it alone on this route; there are plenty of organized hikes with professional guides advertised on the Internet.
Choosing a Route
There are 509 km of well marked footpath along the route and it would take your over forty days to walk the entire length of the Lycian Way, however you can choose to walk just sections off it to fit in with your vacation. Some of the highlights of the pathway include Mount Olympos, which is now called Mount Tahtali. This forested peak is 2,366 m high and dominates the landscape to the east of the Lycian peninsula. There are spectacular views over the Med and the Taurus Mountains. Some way into the route from the western start of the path you will reach the village of Dodurga, which was constructed amongst ruins of the old city. You can still see the Roman pillars and the remains of some of the old Roman public buildings lying in village gardens. The town of Kas originally known as Habesos in the Lycian language was established on the foundations of the old town of Antiphellos and this part of the path gives some incredible views across the coast. On the boulevard, which runs down to the harbour there is a Lycian tomb as well as some well persevered well-preserved rock tombs and an ancient theatre. The town of Patara can be entered through a triple gateway built around 100 A.D.
The town also has a theatre buried in the sand and the path along the impressive beach is 12 km long in itself. Simena once known as Kale has its roots in the 4th century B.C. It is home to a castle used by the Byzantines during the Middle Ages. The thing to see here is the small natural rock theatre carved inside the castle – it was one of the smallest theatres in Lycia. There are also many rock crypts and a Roman wall along with the remains of the public baths, which bear the inscription, "A gift to the emperor Titus made by the people and council of Aperlai as well as by the other cities of the confederation." Other noteworthy parts of the walk are the section along the slopes of Baba Dagi, where at 1,800 m up you meet the flight paths of the many paragliders here.
The incredible walk down to Faralya provides some amazing views of the cliffs of Butterfly Valley. Don’t miss the castle, port and fascinating sunken remains at Ucagiz or the church of the Angel Gabriel, which is tucked away in the hills above Myra. If you are not put off by narrow pathways take in the magnificent ridge top walk to Finike. When choosing somewhere to stay the night, try and include the lighthouse at Cape Gelidonia, it is one of the highlights of this stretch and has some impressive views and if you want to cool off make sure you pass the canyon at Goynuk, where you can take a dip.
This truly incredible pathway is sure to excite with its hidden Lycian ruins, beautiful views of forests and mountains crags, friendly and welcoming villagers and old-fashioned houses – it really is like nothing on earth.