In April 2018 we walked the western section of the Lycian Way and loved it. We said we’d come back to do the eastern section, and so 14 months later, we did.
The jump off city is Antalya. It’s a modern city of a million people, but hugging its ancient harbour is a tiny old town, preserved and restored, which is definitely worth a day or two to explore.
From Antalya we were driven around the coast to begin the walk on a forestry road heading into the hills outside Tekirova.
Day 1 – Tekirova to Cirali: Immediately we began climbing up. And up. And up. It was approximately two months further into summer than when we walked the western Lycian Way section last year, and the temperature difference was huge. Soon we were soaked in sweat. But as we had keenly anticipated, once we reached some elevation, those gorgeous views over the Mediterranean opened up.
We descended from the summit to a black sand beach, unusual for this part of the coast.
We walked along the shore and followed a path over the hill on the other side down to another beautiful cove. This time the shore was ringed with large rounded boulders. We skirted the water’s edge, hopping across the rocks, then up and over another short but steep ridge to another black sand beach where campers were lounging in the shade of the trees.
And then the ‘fun’ part. The path crabbed around the edge of the bay on a stony path, then up and up a dirt track to the top of the ridge line. These pictures show plenty of trees, but somehow most of the walk was in full sun. The heat was sapping. But when we reached the top, the path widened and the walk was always spectacular, so who can complain.
From the top we dropped down, joining the road into Cirali where we were to stay for two nights.
Cirali essentially consists of a long strip of sandy beach with at least a kilometre of little pensions and guest houses in leafy surrounds strung out along the other side of the road. It’s relaxed and low key. A nice spot for a couple of nights.
Total walk distance: 19km.
Day 2 – Circuit walk from Cirali: This was a lazy day. In the hills behind Cirali is a natural gas phenomenon famous from ancient times. It’s an easy, flat walk through the back of Cirali village and out through local farms to an area now managed as a picnic/rest area. From here you can walk up a stony path for a couple of kilometres to a hillside where flames escape from fissures in the rock.
According to legend, Hippones, son of the King of Ephyra, killed his brother, Belleros and took the name Bellerophontes, ‘the one who killed Belleros’. Dad wasn’t too happy, and sent him into exile.
After wandering around, generally unwanted wherever he went, he ended up in Lycia. The King of Lycia wasn’t too fussed but didn’t want to kill him either, so he sent him to fight the Chimera which lived here on Olympos Mountain.
The Chimera was a fire-breathing monster with a lion’s head, goat’s body and snake’s tail. Bellerophontes attacked from above, mounted on his winged horse, Pegasus. He speared the Chimera through the throat with a lance, pinning him into the underground. The Chimera perished but his interred body continues to emit flames from down below. So the legend says.
In celebration of the Chimera’s defeat, a race was held in which competitors lit their torches from the flames and ran down to the city of Olympos on the coast. This is said to be the origin of the Olympic torch.
Hand on heart, the site isn’t really that interesting. The flames are small and look a bit like the remains of a lot of campfires. It’s a bit hard to believe that ancient mariners used them as a navigation point. There’s little chance the ones we saw could be visible from the sea, although to be fair apparently the strength of the flames varies according to barometric pressure, so maybe they are more fierce at other times.
It was searingly hot, and the heat coming off the rocks from the burning gas increased the temperature a bit more. We returned to Cirali for a swim. A much better plan!
Total walk distance: 5km.
Day 3 – Cirali to Adrasan Bay: Around the point from Cirali is a stretch of beach popular in the 1960s when hippies squatted in tree houses through the summers. Those days are gone but this area still has a pretty languid feel. Spending the summer in this place, right on the beach, would be tough.
At the far end we exited the beach through the archeological site of ancient Olympos. This once important city of the Kingdom of Lycia was sacked by Pompeii the Great in 67BCE. The ruins occupy an interesting location, on both sides of a narrow gorge through which a river runs down to the bay.
The walk threaded through the ancient site and then up through the remains of a necropolis with sarcophagi pressed into the hillside.
For the next 5km the path tracked relentlessly up. At the summit, we were rewarded with views that went forever over the fertile inland plain of Adrasan.
From the top we descended steeply following a path through pine trees and stands of arbutus, also known as native strawberry trees.
Reaching the plain, we followed farm tracks through pomegranate plantations.
The walk ended in the village of Adrasan Bay. The main street is back from the beach, along a steam which runs down to the sea. Again, the village is little more than a string of small pensions and guest houses with a few restaurants, stores and juice stands. Some of the guesthouses have been built on the opposite side of the stream and have pavilions over the water which are most refreshing in the heat.
Total walk distance: 16km.
Day 4 – Walk to Adrasan Lighthouse: Today’s walk was a hike around Adrasan Bay, up to the lighthouse on a point south of the bay, and return.
When we enquired about booking this trip, we were reminded our dates coincided with Eid (the holiday celebrating the end of Ramadan) and ‘the entire population of Istanbul descends on the coast’! Adrasan must be one of the popular spots. It was full of families and the beach is lined with lounges for rent and boats for hire. Yes, that mountain in the background is the one we climbed over yesterday to get here.
Once past the beach, the trail climbed high above the water and we had the view and the path to ourselves. More of that stunning turquoise water.
After rounding the point we reached a magic spot. Just below the lighthouse was a tiny bay with perfect water where we stopped and lounged about for a while before turning back. Once again proving that if you have to walk there, there’s a good chance you will have the beach to yourself.
On the way back we saw a group of turtles heading purposefully toward the coast. It was like they were headed to town for a big night out.
Total walk distance: 8km.
Day 5 – Adrasan Bay to Melanippe: Another steep climb today, as the path left Adrasan Bay and climbed inland past an abandoned camel farm and up to a pass in the mountains.
Then up the ridge, another sweat-soaking experience, to superb vistas.
We continued on to Gelidonia Lighthouse. It is one of the signature images of the Lycian Way, and there’s a good reason for that. The views of it, and from it, are pretty special.
There’s a track from the lighthouse down to a bitumen road so its popular with day trippers who park at the bottom and walk up. We walked down and then followed the road around to Melanippe Bay where a driver was waiting to transfer us to Demre for the next leg of the hike.
Total walk distance: 18km.
Day 6 – Kapakle to Simena: Who knew Santa Claus was Turkish! Yes, really.
Before starting our walk today we visited the Church of St Nicholas of Myra in the city of Demre.
St Nicholas was a bishop in the ancient city of Myra (modern day Demre) in the 300s who was renowned for secret gift-giving. In one of his most famous acts of generosity, he is said to have saved three girls from being forced into prostitution by lobbing a sack of gold coins through the window of their house each night for three nights so dad could pay their dowries.
After his death he was credited with a number of miracles and was canonised. Over time, a tradition developed of giving gifts to children on his feast day, 6 December. During the Reformation, attempts were made to stamp out the practice of worshipping saints, and the gift-giving day was moved to 25 December to try to un-link it from St Nick.
It didn’t entirely work, but over time characteristics of other child-friendly figures from European folklore were adopted into the gift-giving traditional day. Dutch emigrants took their character, Sinterklass, who was based on St Nicholas, to America and with a bit of modern commercialisation thrown in, Santa Claus emerged as the jolly fat man in the red suit surfing the skies in a sleigh drawn by reindeer. Not much resemblance to the original as depicted in this fresco at the church.
The Church of St Nicholas of Myra was built in 520CE on the foundations of the earlier church where he was bishop. Over several centuries it was buried in silt from repeated flooding, but was restored by the Russian Emperor Nicholas I in the 1860s. It is a major site of pilgrimage for Russian Orthodox believers because St Nick, as well as being the forerunner of Westerners’ Santa Claus, is the patron saint of Russia.
Our driver then took us to our drop off point to begin walking.
It seems like Turkey has so many ancient ruins that what might be considered remarkable elsewhere, is just a farmer’s field in Turkey. After walking about 2.5km through rock strewn, terraced fields, we suddenly found ourselves in an ancient ruined settlement. There were no fences, nothing to indicate the history or age of the site, no sign of any measures being taken to protect it, just a few goats wandering around.
This is Istlada, an ancient Lycian settlement with a ruined basilica, cisterns, sarcophagi and homes , which has never been fully explored and just sits silent and forgotten in a small fold in the hills back from the coast.
The track then continues back to the coast where a series of little coves are popular with sailing boats.
Then around and over the steep, rocky coast we went, gazing enviously at the swimmers below. It was really hot work. Eventually we reached the ruined castle of Simena, built by the Romans and renovated by the Genoese.
The village of Simena down on the bay is accessible only by boat and gets lots of day trippers who trudge up to the castle, browse through the summer tourist stalls which line the path to the top, then hop back on their day tour boat and chug away. As the sun sets, the village relaxes into a beautiful silence, which we enjoyed from our little guesthouse on the hill.
Total walk distance: 8.5km.
Day 7 – Ucagiz to Kas: From Simena we took a quick dinghy ride around to the next bay to the village of Ucagiz. The morning light on the water was amazing.
A driver met us in Ucagiz and dropped us at the start of our last day’s walk. It was a hike through some fields and farms, then along a rocky track up high with views across the sea to the Greek island of Kastellorizo (more on it later).
There were more secluded swimming spots along the way.
And some not so secluded. We ended the hike here at Limanagzi Bay. A water taxi shuttles between here and the town of Kas, so a lot of people come over to swim, relax on a sun lounge and have a few drinks at one of the restaurant/cafes that line the entire beach.
We hopped on the water taxi and headed to Kas.
Total walk distance: 6.7km.
Wrap up: Another beautiful Lycian Way walk. As compared to the western section, this one has steeper hills, and some sustained walking on trickier paths, although nothing beyond the capability of a reasonably fit walker. Our accommodation places on the western walk were more spectacular – almost all having panoramic views over the sea. On this section they are mainly on the coast level, so they don’t have views, but this does mean the opportunity for a swim at the end of the day. We’ve done quite a few hikes on our travels and the western Lycian Way remains our favourite so far. But this one is pretty fantastic too!
We used Amber Travel again, and again were very happy. On time pick-ups, good accommodation, sensible walking notes, and GPS data to download directly to Map Guru. We definitely recommend them.
After the walk we stayed on in Kas for five nights. We’ve been here twice before and think it’s close to being a perfect Turkish coastal town. Small enough to walk everywhere you want to go, but packed with good restaurants, cafes etc. Great shopping!
It doesn’t have a town beach really, but there’s good swimming off the platforms run by the hotels and cafes. Ours had super-comfy double day beds right over the water.
And it is only a short boat ride to Kastellorizo. This little Greek island is just 2km off the coast of Turkey, and the harbour is a perfect postcard.
It’s unmistakeably Greek.
You can hike around to the ruins of a 14th century castle, then get back to the harbour with time for a long seafood lunch right on the water’s edge with turtles swimming by.
And be back in Kas by late afternoon. Perfect.