For over a decade I dreamed about hiking Turkey’s Lycian Way – considered to be one of the world’s great walks. Years ago, well before the internet when you looked at books for inspiration, I bought one called The Top Treks of the World. I remember being in awe of the landscape on the Lycian Way and thinking this is one hike I really want to do.
Fast forward and I can now say that I’ve hiked a section of the Lycian Way. Our group of four spent six days on it – starting at Gul Mountain Hotel, 30 kilometres south of Antalya and finishing at Melanippe Beach near the Gelidonya Lighthouse. It is an outstanding trek – truly world-class but make no mistake – it’s a challenge.
The full Lycian Way is 530 kilometres long.
The trek starts just south of Fethiye and finishes in Hisarçandir, just outside of Antalya; you can hike it in either direction. Few people actually backpack the whole trail. (We only met three people in total; mind you we met a lot of Ukrainians and perhaps some of them planned to as well but with no Ukrainian we had no way of knowing.)
The hike is very challenging with daily ascents and descents in the range of 700 – 1,000 metres. The landscape is rugged and mountainous even though you’re often in sight of the Mediterranean. Finding a campsite can be difficult as can water, especially for cooking in the evening. You need to resupply at villages along the way and be prepared for some route-finding challenges along the more remote sections of the trail. Allow 30 days to do the whole of the Lycian Way. Check out this website for lots of useful information.
Our Lycian Way Experience
We didn’t have the time – or the inclination to do the whole trail. With a recommendation from an old friend who did the same trip, we decided to sign up with On Foot Holidays out of Britain. They booked accommodation, moved our bags every day so we only had to carry a day-pack, provided detailed trip notes and organized taxis at the beginning and end of the trip. They also have an English speaking travel agent on the ground in Antalya who was very helpful with other aspects of our Turkey trip.
Our trip began with an incredibly scenic 90 minute taxi ride through the mountains out of Antalya. The actual starting point of our hike was Gul Mountain Hotel – a big sprawling place in the middle of nowhere with so-so rooms but amazing food (and lots of it) and lovely people. It has a great location – just 50 metres off the Lycian Way. Bring warm clothes if you hike in late October. Rooms at several places – including this one – were chilly and it was usually frosty in the morning, especially when staying at altitude. (By 10 AM most days we were in t-shirts.) At the hotel we spent most of our time in the dining room where they had a big fire going.
When is the Best Time to Hike the Lycian Way
If the Lycian Way is a trail you’d consider, plan to hike it in the spring or fall. Summers would be brutally hot (along the coast temperatures will be 40°C) and in the winter it can be snowy up high and most of the hotels will be closed. In fact, we were the last guests of the season at three hotels along the route. In November it can be rainy but we had ideal hiking weather the entire time with sunny days and cool nights. Spring would be amazing for wildflowers.
Day one hiking the Lycian Way
It’s a 17 km hike from Gul Mountain Hotel, about an hour’s drive from Antalya to a small B&B – Suleyman’s Pension in Yayla Kuzdere.
We literally stepped out of the hotel and we are on the Lycian Way.
In short order my friend Jo and I lose the guys and miss one of the turnoffs. But there’s a benefit to that. We met a family out mushroom picking who were happy to chat and show us what they’d collected. It was a national holiday in Turkey so this family made the most of it.
Continuing, we had a few small hills to climb but nothing particularly onerous. It wasn’t until we reached Gedelme that we started the bulk of the 525 metre climb for the day. But before we continued, we took advantage of a restaurant offering fresh squeezed pomegranate juice. That became something we looked forward to every day.
Out of Gedelme we passed an old castle and then some truly magnificent plane trees. We also spent a little bit of time on the wrong track – but we learned quickly not to go very far without seeing the paint flashes. I think it was the only day we walked more than 10 minutes in the wrong direction.
The rest of the day was spent in a mix of lovely pine forest – where we saw the only other hikers of the day – and open fields. We also enjoyed some exquisite views of the Mediterranean Sea.
In late October we found that the sun started to go down by about 5 PM. It was particularly noticeable in the mountains. Since the rest of the hike had longer days we decided that we’d better get going by 9 AM so we wouldn’t have to rush – or pull out headlamps for the final kilometre or two.
We arrived at Suleyman’s Pension at about 5:30 PM. It was a lovely spot in an orange grove with nicely sized, very clean cabins and lots of chickens and roosters so we knew we wouldn’t need an alarm clock the next morning. Our host spoke almost no English but he knew the words for beer and wine. In no time we had our boots off with chairs pulled out on a tiny porch enjoying a cold drink while watching the sun set over the Mediterranean – a sweet end to the first hiking day.
Pictured below is a photo of one of the detailed topo maps we were provided with by On Foot Holidays.
Day 2 on the Lycian Way in Turkey
The second day – our longest and hardest day was the most beautiful in my opinion. Our day started in Yayla Kuzdere and finished 16 kilometres later in Beycik. Over the course of the day we climbed and descended the better part of a 1,000 metres (3,280 feet).
The hike took us away from towns for most of the day. The route was a real mix of old farm roads, trails through the woods and a truly outstanding section through limestone rocks. In high season we would have been able to avail ourselves of a cafe with a view on the descent. And if we’d been in amazing shape we could have added another two to three hours to our day and run up Mount Olympos.
Again we saw no animals but we hiked through an area early in the day where wild boars can be found.
Our day ended at the best hotel on the trek – the Beycik Palace Hotel. An infinity pool, lovely rooms with Turkish carpets on the floor, memorable meals and incredible hospitality were the hallmark of our stay. Thankfully we were here for two nights as it’s a great base for exploring the ruins of nearby Phaesalis.
Day 3: Beycik to Cirali
Our third day of hiking from Beycik to Cirali was an interesting one. While stopping to take pictures of olives drying in the front yard of a house, we met the owner Ali – who proceeded to offer us each a freshly picked pomegranate and agreed to pose for pictures.
And on the last part of the day, we hiked through the eternal flames of Chimaera – a hill of open rock with flames coming up through the cracks – a unique site for sure – and one that was used by sailors long ago for navigation purposes. According to information provided to us by our tour company
“the mythical Chimaera was a monster with the head of a lion, the body of a goat and the tail of a serpent, who roamed these woods and sprouted fire from her mouth. The Chimaera is characterized by a permanent fire caused by methane emissions.”
Our hiking to Cirali was easier than the previous day – mostly because we only had a total elevation gain of 350 metres over 17 kilometres.
The day started with a descent through beautiful pine woods filled with mountain views. It wasn’t until we reached Ulupinar that we started climbing again. If we’d hiked a little faster we could have had lunch at one of the many trout restaurants along the river. Trout farms are attached to the restaurants so you know the fish is fresh.
The most beautiful part of the day’s hike was the ascent from Ulupinar. It took us past a pomegranate orchard, then up a river and through open woods filled with ferns and wildflowers. At the top, superb views greeted us of the Mediterranean.
Then after a tricky descent through loose rock we reached the open expanse of Chimaera – with its eternal flames.
The last part of the day was the toughest even though it was the easiest. We walked through all of Cirali and our accommodation for the night – Yavus Bungalows – was the last place in town. It was also on the beach and though it was the end of the season I wish we’d had time to park ourselves on the sand for a few hours and enjoy the view. Instead, we gathered inside the restaurant for a fish dinner. In November the temperature drops quickly when the sun goes down but this place, like many, had a blazing fire going so it was a comfortable evening. It was also interesting to be a spectator in another country while the locals watched the election results roll in. Let’s just say service wasn’t too good though I hardly blame them.
Despite the fact the hike was only 17 kilometres long, we didn’t roll into Cirali until about 5 PM. We repeatedly found lots of reason to stop – admire views, meet locals, all part of the reason the Lycian Way is so memorable.
Day 4 on the Lycian Way: Cirali to Adrasan
Our fourth hiking day on the Lycian Way took us from Cirali to a hotel on the river in Adrasan. All told we hiked only 13 kilometres but climbed a total of 750 metres. It felt longer than the mileage would suggest.
The day started with a very pleasant beach walk and then a stroll along a Roman road through the ruins of Olympos. The extensive ruins deserve more time than we gave them. They’re especially lovely first thing in the morning when there isn’t a soul around.
After Olympos we spent the next few hours doing the bulk of the climbing for the day. It took us mostly through forest – with some beautiful tree specimens as you can see below. One section was hit hard by a storm in March 2011 and a lot of huge trees were either down or cut off at a height of a couple of metres. It would have been quite the storm to see!
Ultimately you have to climb to a pass, hiking below the walls of the ancient city of Phoinikous. Once at the pass the valley views got very interesting. And again, in what felt like the middle of nowhere sat a hut on the hilltop selling deliciously cold pomegranate juice as well as tea and coffee. Of course we availed ourselves and had a chat with the fellow running in it – which mostly involved our 20 words of Turkish and hand gestures.
The rest of the day was spent descending almost all the way back to sea level. The prettiest country shown in the photo below illustrates the ruggedness and the beauty of the mountains.
The last mile into Adrasan took us past the greenhouses we’d seen from afar at lunch time. We stuck our heads in one and marveled at the intensity of the plantings. Much of the produce we heard is sent to Russia.
Along the road into town we saw this roadside stand – which gives you a pretty good idea of what is locally grown.
Our day ended at the River Hotel in Adrasan. Although the hotel was nothing special, the people running it were lovely. Also, with its location next to the river we could eat and watch the birds in the river at the same time. Great entertainment!
Day 5: Hiking from Adrasan to Melanippe Beach.
The last day of hiking was a beautiful one with a good chunk of the day spent high above the Mediterranean coast. I admit to “cheating” at the beginning of the day. All of us decided to save an hour of rather uninteresting hiking by taking a taxi from Adrasan to the site of an unused and run-down camel farm. So much for being a “purist” on the Lycian Way.
The day started with a climb through very pretty woods up to a pass. In short order – and after getting our heart rate up, we enjoyed fabulous views of the coast. They stayed with us for several hours as we tracked the Mediterranean – staying 200 – 420 metres above the sea, weaving between pine forests and great sections of rock outcrop. The view out to distant islands was one of the best on the trip.
In some of the pictures you’ll see our friends carefully descending on scree. It was slippery at times especially on the descent to Gelidonya Lighthouse. One short section was airy and may not be a lot of fun for people afraid of heights. But it really is short and very doable.
Don’t be fooled when you reach the lighthouse. I figured it was much closer to the end point of the day then it really was. In fact there are still kilometres left to descend and even though the walking is delightful, it felt long. That may have been a function of the heat on the last day. But we got lucky at the very end of the day again and came across a fellow making fresh squeezed pomegranate juice. It was a no-brainer to plunk ourselves down on some beat up chairs and sip our new favourite drink.
The finale of the hike was at the underwhelming Melanippe Beach. I expected something bigger and better but still dipping your tired, blistered toes into the Mediterranean is a pretty sweet way to end any hike.
After the hike it’s well worth paying a driver to take you to Kekova. We stayed at the fabulous Ankh Pension right on the water for three nights and only wish it had been longer.
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