Six days hiking along the stunning Turquoise Coast of southern Turkey, through forested hills and terraced farmlands, and from every high point, breathtaking views of that blue, blue sea.
The Lycian Way walking trail snakes around the Turkish coast from Ovacik east to Antalya. It is approximately 500km in total and we walked the ‘western section’ from Ovacik to Patara, with an extra day at the start doing a day walk from near Kayakoy.
Day 1 – Kayakoy to Cold Spring Bay and return: We stayed in the quiet village of Kayakoy before commencing our walk, and on the first day, our track notes stated we would walk from Kayakoy village to Oludeniz, then catch a bus back to Kayakoy.
From our hotel, we walked to the nearby ‘ghost town’ of Levissi. In the early 1900s it had a population of about 20,000 people, mainly Greek Christians. Many were forced out in anti-Christian purges during the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922) despite Greeks and Turks having lived a peaceable coexistence there since the 1300s. The remaining village population was forcibly deported to Greece in 1923 as part of the population exchange agreement agreed by both countries following the war, which required Christian Greeks in Turkey to move to Greece and Turkish Muslims living in Greece to move to Turkey. The abandoned village was never re-populated, and fell into ruin. About 350 buildings remain, in what constitutes a modern day ruin.
The abandoned village has a number of churches and chapels as well as the many houses spread over the hillside. From high in the village, red and yellow trail markers lead up to a ridge behind. From the ridge we got our first views of the sea.
From here, we followed red trail markings, but after a while realised we probably were not on the right trail as the trail landmarks mentioned in our track notes didn’t match what we were doing.
We were not too worried. We thought there were different trails but the markers meant the trail we were on would meet up with the other one eventually or at least would also lead to Oludeniz, as there are no other coastal towns in that vicinity. We were wrong.
The markers we followed led to a bay further along the coast, with a population of one fisherman and one man harvesting grasses with a donkey. The fisherman told us we’d come to Cold Water Bay (sometimes callled Cold Spring Bay), and showed us on google maps on his phone where we were relative to Oludeniz. As the crow flies, not too far. But on foot, there is the minor problem of a massive headland between the bays, and no trail over the top. He said the only way to get there would be to go back to the ghost village and start again. The red markings are for yachties and people from day tripper boats from Oludeniz who moor in Cold Water Bay and walk over the hill to see the ghost village.
We climbed back up the trail and backtracked to the ghost village. By then it was too late in the day to walk the ‘real’ track, so we just had to content ourselves with heading back to our hotel for a cold beer instead. Damn.
Cold Water Bay was absurdly beautiful. A tiny cove tucked between forested hills plummenting straight down to the water. Crystal clear water lapping a white pebble beach. Total quiet. We’ve since read that in the summer a little restaurant opens there for the yachties (and lost walkers?). If you have to get lost, this wasn’t a bad second prize.
Total walk distance: Given our meandering off route, not sure.
Day 2 – Ovacik to Faralya: The Lycian Way officially starts just outside Ovacik, a village close to Kayakoy.
It was a perfect day for walking. Cool, clear, no wind. The trail climbed gently up.
After a while we could see down to Oludeniz, the beach that had proved elusive the day before.
Learning our lesson from yesterday, we tried to be more scrupulous about following the trail markings and the track notes. But it was difficult not to get distracted by the stunning views that appeared every time we rounded a corner or crested a hill.
We climbed up and around Mt Babadag, with spectacular views of the sea. The peak is only 5km from the coast so it’s a popular spot for paragliding. The weather was fine, clear and no wind. We saw many gliders high out over the sea.
Over the summit, the trail led away from the sea and in the afternoon we walked through areas of cultivation. There is a lot of honey production here and groups of hives are scattered over the hills.
We passed a couple of little villages in the hills. Part of the trail followed or shadowed the road for short sections, with the advantage of the occasional cafe or drink stand selling cold drinks and tea, always strategically placed at a high point with a sitting platform from which to admire the view.
Toward the end of the day the trail headed down quite steeply. The path was rocky and again we were walking in forest.
By mid afternoon we reached our accommodation for the night, which had stupendous views.
Total walk distance: 14kms.
Day 3 – Faralya to Kabak: After a steep climb up from Faralya, we found more spectacular views from every ridge.
It is spring and the flowers are blooming.
The countryside was beautiful and we were struck, again, by how clear the air is.
The walk was short today and we reached our accommodation by lunchtime. It was a great spot to relax for the afternoon. Excellent views, sitting platforms hanging on the side of the mountain, and an infinity pool worthy of a five star resort.
Total walk distance: 7.5kms
Day 4 – Kabak to Gey: Climbing up from Kabak, there were more of those stunning views of the sea.
Then the trail turned inland again to the mountains but was no less beautiful.
Back to the panoramic sea vistas, and some locals had found a cost effective way of enjoying the views. It looked like even the goats were appreciative.
We had lunch by an ancient water cistern.
After even more ridiculously picturesque views, we reached the farmed terraces of Gey, and more views to the sea.
After walking through the terraces, we reached our accommodation for the night. As we had almost come to expect, the views were spectacular.
Total walk distance: 16kms.
Day 5 – Gey to Sidyma: Leaving the hotel at Gey, we were joined by a white dog who accompanied us through the village and up the trail. It was a gentle climb up to very green fields and then the path became rocky but blanketed in spring flowers.
The trail climbed and we wondered if it was possible ever to get tired of those views.
We crabbed along a rocky ridge and down the other side. The trail become less distinct and in a few places we had to backtrack to the last marker and recalibrate. The dog not only stayed with us, but seemed to know the path. She would go ahead and then come back if we weren’t following. When we diverged and then backtracked she would be waiting as if to say ‘trust me, I know the way’.
We had tried after a few kilometres to encourage her to return home but she was having none of it.
It was thirsty work keeping the humans on track.
Eventually we arrived in the tiny, ancient Roman village of Sidyma. It was time for a rest.
Sidyma has only a few residents and is largely of interest for the ancient sarcophagi and other ancient stone remains scattered randomly over the landscape.
Our pre-arranged driver was waiting to collect us and drive us to Patara, where we were to stay the night. We were worried about our canine companion being now more than 7kms from home. There was no one in the village. We asked the driver about getting her back to Gey but he assured us the dogs know the hill tracks very well, and who was to say she didn’t live in Sidyma and had been visiting Gey. She had a collar (although not with identification) and her temperament and condition clearly indicated she had a home somewhere. Reluctantly we left her and as we drove away she was already off investigating another interesting ‘something’.
On the way we stopped at the ancient city of Xanthos. UNESCO describes Xanthos and the adjacent site of Letoon as “the most unique extant architectural example of the ancient Lycian Civilisation.
John’s assessment: “Hmmm. Another pile of rocks”.
Total walk distance: 9kms.
Day 6 – Delikkemer Aqueduct to Patara: The track notes said the hotel would drop us at a red X on the left side of the road a few kilometres out of Patara, and to head up to the left from there. Instead, they dropped us on the right and said “the trail goes up to the right”. Fortunately, we’d seen a red X on the left side about 500 metres back, so we walked back and, yes, this matched the next directions, so we were off to a good start.
It is a short walk to the base of the aqueduct where a purpose built hole in the aqueduct wall allowed access through.
On the other side, we followed the wall and were able to climb up onto it.
The aqueduct was built to supply water to Patara, then the capital of Ancient Lycia. There are more spectacular aqueducts to be seen in other parts of the world but what makes this one special (apart from the impressive length of aqueduct remaining intact) is the use of an inverted siphon system at this very section of the aqueduct. This is a line of perforated marble blocks weighing about 900kg each on top of a 200 metre section of the wall which form a closed conduit that transported the water under pressure across the mountain saddle. In other words, after flowing down to the bottom of the saddle under gravity, the siphon system caused the water to flow up from the bottom of the saddle to the next high point.
Leaving the aqueduct we headed cross country and up over a trail which interspersed bush land, olive groves and small farms. The wildflowers once again were vivid, and there were many tortoises out sunning themselves.
Converting ruins into usable buildings is common, but we weren’t sure how well this B&B would sell!
After an easy and lovely few hours walk we reached the ancient city of Patara. Partially excavated and still a working archaeological excavation in progress, the site is low key and there were only a few tourists about, so much nicer than the milling crowds at better known sites.
John’s assessment: “Hmmm. Another pile of rocks”.
From there it was a short walk to Patara beach. The only cafe on the beach was not yet open for the season and the wind had come up which whipped up the sand and made the beach rather unpleasant so we headed back to Patara village.
Total walk distance: 10kms.
Thus ended our walk. We would have loved another day at least. But next day we were headed to Kas and a few days of harbourside recreation.
Wrap up: A magnificent walk. We’ve hiked all over the world, and think that after the Paine Circuit in the Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, this is probably our favourite hike to date.
Billed as ‘moderate’ in most guidebooks, it’s actually not as challenging as you’d imagine – as long as you have good sturdy shoes. On the first day we saw two young women striding purposefully along at the start of the day and in the afternoon we passed them and one was limping along in thongs, a sure sign of blisters, we guessed.
We walked the trail in the first week of April. This is the very start of the season and we had absolutely perfect walking conditions. It was warm enough to walk in shorts and t-shirt but not too hot even on exposed parts of the trail. The sky was clear with no cloud or rain at any time. Other than at the end of the last day, it was never windy. The wildflowers were out. There were few people on the trail and the small hotels we stayed in seemed not yet full. (We only arranged the walk one week before and there was no problem with accommodation availability, but this likely wouldn’t be the case mid-season).
We did a self guided walk we arranged through Amber Travel, an operator based in Kas, whereby we walked independently using track notes they supplied and carrying only a day pack, with our luggage collected and transported to the next hotel each day, transfers at designated points etc. We were very happy with their service and the standard of hotels and meals (we used their upper package) and would have no trouble recommending them.