THE LYCIAN WAY
A spectacular route through the mountains and along the coastline of south-west Turkey, following the line of Roman and Ottoman roads, mule tracks and nomad trails.
The Lycian Way is Turkey’s only long-distance footpath, stretching over 400km from the popular resort of Ovacik to near the Mediterranean city of Antalya, passing through the seaside towns of Kalkan, Kas and Finike, as well as many ancient sites.
Walking the way
The Lycian peninsula which gives the route its name is a land of soaring limestone peaks, sheer cliffs, deep valleys and secluded coves; a dramatic landscape softened in places by fertile stretches of coastal plain and sandy beach. The path is waymarked to French ‘Grande Randonnée’ standards and there is a guidebook so navigation should not be too difficult, but this is an innovative path and some sections are remote. Although it takes in excess of forty days to complete the entire route, walkers can choose much shorter sections. Pensions and hotels can be found along the trail but in isolated areas the walker must rely on village houses or camping.
Spring is the best time to walk, as the weather is pleasantly warm, the flowers profuse and the peaks still snow capped, but short spells of wet weather cannot be ruled out. Autumn has the advantage of warm, but not hot, days, while winter brings short days but sunny weather. Remember though, with a low of sea level and a high of 1,800m, several seasons can be encountered in one day.
The wildflowers are stunning, especially in late winter and spring, with cyclamen, grape hyacinth, orchids and anemones in abundance. Strawberry and bay trees are common low down, while magnificent stands of cedar of Lebanon guard the high passes. The coastal strip is immensely fertile, with villagers cultivating every kind of crop from oranges and olives to aubergines and artichokes.
Hunting has reduced wildlife, but boars are numerous in forested areas and tortoises, terrapins and lizards ubiquitous. Turtles breed on some of the beaches along the route, and birds range from the rare Smyrna kingfisher to the common buzzard.
A walk through Lycia is a walk through both landscape and history. The tombs left by the native Lycian civilisation, both free-standing sarcophagi and those carved from sheer cliffs, are unique. The area also boasts some of the best-preserved and most spectacularly situated classical sites in the Mediterranean, including the beachside Roman remains at Patara and the massive theatre at Myra. Remote Byzantine churches hide away in the valleys of Lycia, and villagers still use the Ottoman domed cisterns which dot the landscape.
Ways of life
Although many locals now derive much of their income from tourism, in the villages life continues much as it has done for centuries. The phrase used by villagers to describe travellers, tanri misafir (guests of God), still rings true, and it is often hard to pass through a village without being offered tea, fruit, a meal or even a bed for the night. The semi-nomadic Yörük people of the area still take their flocks of sheep and goats to the yayla (high pastures) in the spring, only returning to the village in autumn, and families of woodcutters carry on a traditional itinerant lifestyle in the region’s many forests.
A couple of days from the western end of the way, the site of ancient Sidyma is one of the few places where the visitor can view a classical site much as one of the Victorian gentlemen travellers would have found it. Here, the village of Dodurga has been built amongst the ruins of the ancient city, and the pillars and blocks from Roman public buildings have been used to great effect in the locals houses and chicken coops.
Kas and Kalkan
Once a Greek fishing village, Kas is now a booming tourist resort with a wide range of accommodation, restaurants and shops. A good base for exploring the southernmost sections of the Lycian Way, Kas, with its safe harbour, is used by the cruise yachts which ply the Lycian coast. Nearby, Kalkan clings to a steep cliff above a beautiful bay, a smaller, slightly upmarket version of Kas.
Known to the Turks as Tahtali Dag (meaning wooded mountain) this 2,366m peak is one of the many Mount Olymposes dotted around the Mediterranean world. Dominating the skyline on the eastern seaboard of the Lycian peninsula, and affording wonderful views over the sea and Taurus range, the summit can be reached with relative ease from the Lycian Way’s highest point of 1,800m.
Other active ideas
If walking the Lycian Way, sunbathing, and visiting the fishing towns, villages and ancient sites in the region do not suffice, activities on and around the route include sailing and windsurfing, swimming and diving, sea kayaking and paragliding, rock climbing, canyoning and, in season, downhill and touring skiing.
© Walk Europe
Walk Europe is a guidebook which provides holiday ideas for single travellers, couples, families and groups of all ages and abilities.