“The world reveals itself to those who travel on foot.” – Werner Herzog
Turkey (or Türkiye) is a mountainous country with beautiful scenery and large areas of unspoiled countryside, which are wonderful natural preserves for the extraordinary variety of wildlife, flora and fauna.
The mountainous nature of the country has had a strong influence on its cultural evolution. For centuries, nomads and semi-nomadic peoples have lived here and migrated annually with their livestock to the fresh pastures of the mountains and hills around. These alpine meadows, or yayla, still represent a firm tie to traditional culture.
Hiking allows you to get away from the crowds and discover more about the real Turkey we’re talking about, with stunning scenery, remote historic sites, traditional villages and, of course, the friendly villagers waiting to welcome you.
Serious hikers will probably want to explore Turkey’s rich interior and mountainous east but, even by walking a short distance inland from some of the busiest coastal resorts, it can feel as if you are in a different world.
Turkey has three official long-distance footpaths, the Lycian Way, listed by the Sunday Times as one of the world’s top ten walks, the St Paul Trail and the Carian Trail.
The Lycian Way is a 540km way-marked footpath around the coast from Fethiye to Antalya. It takes its name from the ancient civilisation which once ruled the area, the most visible reminders of which are the carved rock tombs that can be seen throughout the region. This section of the coastline is breathtaking, with wooded mountains rising steeply from the shore affording fantastic views and making for varied walking conditions. The route also goes past many of the more remote historic sites. The route is graded medium to hard; it is not level walking but has many ascents and descents as it approaches and veers away from the sea. It is easier at the start near Fethiye and gets more difficult as it progresses. It is recommended that you walk the route in spring or autumn; February-May or September-November. Summer in Lycia is hot, although you could walk the shorter, shady sections. The route is mainly over footpaths and mule trails; it is mostly limestone and is often hard and stony underfoot.
Highlights of the Lycian Way
You can find out more about the beaches along the Lycian Way in this article by Lisa Morrow.
St Paul Trail
The St Paul Trail is a newer way-marked footpath leading from Perge, 10km east of Antalya, to Yalvaç, NE of Lake Eğirdir. There is a second branch starting at Aspendos, 40km east of Antalya and joining the first route at the Roman site of Adada. The route totals about 500km. This route partly follows the one walked by St Paul on his first missionary journey in Asia Minor. It starts at sea level and climbs up to 2200m, with two optional peaks at around 2800m. Although the St Paul Trail is slightly wilder than the Lycian Way, it is also higher and cooler in the summer. The trip has varied and enjoyable walking days, some of which take you to ridge and peak tops, while others pass through forests, fields and ancient villages.
The town of Sütcüler, in the first part of the walk, was an important administrative centre during Ottoman times.
There is an old mosque from that period in the town centre and ruins from Roman times on a nearby hill. Ancient pilgrimage routes ran through the adjacent gorges and the area was known as Bavul, after St Paul. The second part of the walk takes you over the shoulder of Mt Davras (2635m) and across the İsparta plain for two days trekking in the Barla mountains. You have the option to climb Gelincik Dağı (2799m) and Mt Kaymaz (2250m). Stay in Barla before moving on to the lakeside town of Eğirdir for an ascent of Sivri Dağı, with time to take a Turkish bath (hamam) or swim in the lake.
Highlights of the St Paul Trail
The Carian Trail – Turkey’s Longest Coastal Hiking Trail
The Carian Trail is an 800 km long-distance walking path in Southwest Turkey stretching from Bodrum and Karpuzlu, by the Aegean Sea in the west, around the Gulf of Gokova, to Içmeler, by the Mediterranean in the south-east.
The trail was officially opened in 2013 and was soon hot on the heels of the Lycian Way, Turkey’s most popular long-distance walk.
Named after the Carian civilization, the trail follows a route through a region rich in ancient ruins and history. Stone-paved caravan roads and mule paths connect villages from the coast to a mountainous hinterland, accessing a lesser-known and unspoiled region that is full of colour and tradition for all to enjoy.
The trail is signed and way-marked according to international standards allowing both independent and group travellers to hike and enjoy the scenic beauty and cultural treasures of Caria.
Swim in turquoise waters from deserted beaches, climb through pine-scented forests to discover ancient ruins, and look out over a dramatic coastline across to the Greek islands of the South Aegean. Rare mountain goats still roaming the remote forests of the Datça peninsula, boat building in Bozburun, Neolithic cave paintings of the Bafa region, traditional village carpets woven by village girls; all this and more awaits the hiker in search of new adventure…
Carian Trail consists of four main sections:
One alternative section:
For more information on these routes, visit:
Sources: Discover Turkey/Culture Routes Society
This article was first published on 15 January 2019.