Hiking in Turkey
Turkey’s natural beauty is unparalleled, and the best way to explore it is through trekking and hiking trails that weave through historical sites and legendary pathways. Hiking is a common practice amongst locals and tourists alike, and you will find several tracks that have gotten international acclamation for their scenic views.
The country’s location also gives it an advantage as the kind of scenery varies. This means that you can hike up the Taurus Range in the south-west of the Kackar mountains in the northwest or take up coastal routes such as the Lycian way and get a varied scenery each time. The trails are also extremely accommodating as many of them have shorter routes available for those who aren’t much into hiking. In contrast, those looking for a true challenge can take up one of the terrains that can even last months, should you wish to complete the stretch.
Hiking trails in Turkey. To give you an authentic taste of what it is like to explore Turkey on foot.
Stretching a total of 509 kilometres, the Lycian Way lies in the south-west of Turkey, from Fethiye to Antalya. The path is partly inland, but most of it follows the coast of Lycia and looks over the turquoise coast’s glittering waters. The trail was the first long-distance walking route in Turkey and was included in Sunday Times’ 10 best walks article.
While the entire trek takes around 29 days to complete, with plenty of options to stay and public transport should you wish to do some of the legs of the trail by road, you can easily take just a day trek at any of the entry points. You will also have famous pit stops at Patara, Kalkan, Kaş, Finike, Olympos and Tekirova. At Mt. Olympos, you can divert to another trail that is much shorter and known for having groups of travellers frolicking around with tents pitched on the grounds. Aside from the coastal views, this trail also passes ancient ruins and old roads as one of its purposes was to preserve said routes for historical purposes, so you can be sure that there is plenty to see while you hike.
Route: Fethiye to Antalya around the coast of Lycia, southern Turkey.
The St. Pauls hike is a famous 500-kilometre stretch that takes about 27 days to complete. The route from the ruins in Perge to Yalvac roughly follows the path that St. Paul took as he vades through the interiors to spread the word of Christianity. During the crossing of the Taurus Mountain, the waymarked trail reaches an elevation of 2200 metres and can be challenging for those not used to hiking or trekking.
If you wish only to do a section of this trail, a short-day trip to Perge or the trek towards the end, near the Lake District has splendid beauty and ancient ruins for you to discover. However, Kate Clow, the woman who took the effort to waymarking the trail, believes that this is the best way to learn ancient Byzantine and Roman ruins and Ottoman villages with traditional Turkish culture.
Route: From Perge, 10 km East of Antalya, to Yalvac, North-East of Lake Egirdir.
Evliya Celebi Way
The Evliya Celebi Way was designed in 2011 with inspiration from the pilgrimage route to Mecca, taken by its namesake, who was a sort of travel writer in 1671. Evliya Celebi travelled this same route on horseback, and to mimic this. You can also complete the trail on horseback yourself. Provisions for bikers and walkers are also made throughout the way. Starting at Hersek and ending in Simav, the riding route is around 650 kilometres long and takes about 25 days to complete whereas the walking trail is 330 kilometres long and takes 22 days to complete.
Along the way, you will witness tonnes of ancient sites that are old enough to transfer you back to an era that you would’ve only seen in history books. The trail also sticks to the countryside and will immerse you into nature and simple pleasures instead of the hustle and bustle of the grand cities and towns of Turkey.
Route: Hersek, a village near the city of Yalova, to Simav
An extension of the Caucasus mountain range, the Kackar Mountains and the Kackar Mountains National Park has been a tourist favourite. Based in the north-east, the mountains have eight trails that range from being short day trips to week-long excursions. Some parts are waymarked by the Turkish trekking expert Kate Clow but are always better to keep an app in hand. You can choose from the climb to the top of Mt. Kackar which is 4000 metres or the shorter routes in Hevek Valley. Both of these yields varied views with glaciers and glacial lakes to forested areas and grazing fields.
It is also advised to visit this biologically diverse area from July to September as some parts may be dangerous or closed during other times.
Route: The routes on the south are reached from Erzurum, and on the north from Trabzon
Yenice Forest has some of the most biologically diverse trails in Turkey and even includes some “Nature Protection Zones” to safeguard untouched forest area. Perfect for hiking in Autumn, the 210-kilometre long path in the forest has 21 trails that you can follow. These trails also have mountain biking options that increase the distance to 292 kilometres but keep you one with nature. Aside from the glorious flora and undisturbed forest that you will witness on your trek, some of the trails lead to the Hadrianoupolis runes for a slice of history and architecture.
Route: Yenice Forest in Karabuk, North of Turkey.
Like the St. Pauls trail in terms of its roots set in religion, Abraham’s Path follows Abraham’s footsteps from his birthplace in Urfa to Harran. While the entire walk enters the Israel-Palestine territory, the Turkish path takes ten days as is approximately 170 kilometres long. You will pass many architectural remnants from this period while also marvelling at the little Anatolian villages with their local delicacies and their mosaic architecture. Some notable sites include the Gobekh Tepe, which is the world’s oldest temple, pilgrimage site of Balikligol and the promised land of Cannan.
Route: South-East Anatolia, from the village of Yuvacah to Harran.
Day Trips in Turkey
The hikes, as mentioned above, are ones that will take you days to months to complete, and are known worldwide. However, if you are looking for something shorter and less overwhelming, you can also try one of the below options. These trails are no less spectacular but easier to tackle in a day. Each of them holds something different for visitors and travelling at least one of them during your stay in Turkey is highly recommended.
Cappadocia is known for its hot air balloons and mystical fairy chimneys and one of the best ways to discover the beauty of this rugged atmosphere is through the hiking trails weaved through the brown terrain. With the fairy chimneys taking odd shapes and the birth of a dozen valleys, each with a significant peculiarity, there is plenty to see as you loop through the trails (or maybe form your own!). Some of the most famous hikes are the Red and Rose Valley, Ihara Valley to Love Valley, Zemi Valley and Uchisar Castle trek. You can also ride an ATV through some of these hikes for an adventurous experience.
Beware that Cappadocia receives a lot of tourists, many of whom choose to go for treks. You can avoid these tourists by going for a morning hike or creating a path of your own using apps like Maps. Me.
The Independence Trail or Istiklal Trail is one of the most historically essential trails in Turkey. The old road formed the supply route for the liberation army in the 1919 war for independence. Today, the path that stretches from Inebolu to Kastamonu is a short trek passing some natural wonders that you can’t help but stop to admire. Situated close to the Black Sea in northern Turkey, you will witness the vast Ersizler Gorge, Karacehennem Pass and Çuhadoruğu peak in all its glory. The recommended travel to complete the entire trail till Kastamonu is seven days. A biking route was also formed in 2007 and is fully functional for the thrill chasers to indulge in some mountain biking.
At around 800 kilometres long, the Carian Trail is the longest in Turkey and was completed in 2013. Named after the Aegean region of Caria, the coastal trail is much like the Lycian. It is a means to connect ancient ruins and historically significant sites such as the Amos, the island of Seydir Hydas. The Carian Trail is divided into five major regions for ease of navigation. These are- the Bozburun Peninsula, the Datca Peninsula, the Gulf of Gokova, the Carian Hinterland and the Muğla Environs. Each of these sections offers different experiences for hikers.
The Bozburun Peninsula overlooks spectacular bays and passes ancient ruins. It also has the best of both worlds with luxury hotels and campsites, so it is the most fantastic option. Datca Peninsula is more of an untouched beauty amidst nature, whereas the Gulf of Gokova is the most extended section of the trail and has an uphill climb that descends close to the sea for some breath-taking views. The last two sections are mountainous regions followed by forested paths, both of which display a vast ancient history that you do not want to miss.
Uludag National Park
The Uludag National Park is a protected area in the Marmara region next to Istanbul and Busra. It contains the Uludag or Great Mountain standing tall at 2543 meters with features such as the Aras waterfalls and immense glaciers. While the national park is known for having the world’s longest cable car and being a famous ski resort, it is not short of hiking trails that yield views you can only dream of. While the courses are not waymarked, there are apparent routes that you can follow to discover more of this mountain’s beauty. The most famous of these trails is the one that passes through the forest from Sarialan to Cobankaya and is best suited for the summer months. You can also choose to start the course at the abandoned Wolfram lane, also known as Volfram. This trail above the treeline takes you to the summit which looks down upon the Sea of Marmara and Istanbul on clear days, as well as the glacial lakes at the top.
Regardless of which trail you choose, make sure to wear accommodating clothes and walking shoes. Don’t forget to carry water, a torch, and other essentials in case of a longer trek. We also suggest that you take a guide with you or download offline maps as the trails may not be marked in some areas. Please check the weather before you venture out for your adventure and don’t forget to stop and take in the view around you!
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