Lycian Way Hike
The Lycian Way is Turkey’s first long-distance walking route, and while there are many more to take into account today, it remains the most popular. The 540-kilometre trail stretches from Fethiye to Antalya and takes approximately 29 days to complete.
Lycia is the historical name for the Tekke peninsula that overlooks the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean, lying on Turkey’s southern coast. Lycia was an independent region, and the Lycians benefitted from the strategic seaside location, making their trade and sometimes piracy strong. They also absorbed much of the Greek culture and later came under the vast Roman empire. This diverse history and culture are reflected in the ancient sites and ruins from ancient Lycia and the Byzantine empire. The locations, 25 in total, vary from monuments and baths to temples and amphitheatres.
While the Lycian Way sprouted from the idea to connect these historically significant sites, there is much more to see on this tremendous nature walk. Kate Clow, the woman who researched, founded and waymarked the route in the late 90s has a detailed guide for the entire Lycian way, from the coasts to the mountains and the villages to the natural campsites. Read on to find out more about this hiking trail and prepare for your walking trip in Turkey.
Paths to Take
There are many paths that you can take when walking the Lycian Way. While the trek is not suitable for mountain bikes and the likes because the roads are old and stony, it is in perfect walking condition. All roads lead from Oludeniz near Fethiye to Geyikbayiri near Antalya. On the way, you will see waymarks guiding you along the trail.
The red and white ones indicate the main trail, whereas the yellow and red ones indicate that you have diverted to a side trail. If you are short on time and do not wish to complete the entire course, these side trails can help you get the most of your trekking journey. Furthermore, aside from some stretches, all the paths are well connected to villages and resort cities, so you can easily skip a section and move to the next one by road travel.
Listed below are two of the routes that cover the entire Lycian Way. Since most people prefer to walk from the west (Fethiye) to the east (Antalya), that’s how the routes are described. However, nothing is stopping you from attempting the trail in reverse.
- Ovacik to Geyikbayiri
The official route starts in Ovacik, which is not far from Oludeniz, to Geyikbayiri. This route is more inland but passes the main points of attraction that you will not want to miss. The inland route takes an ascent to the Tahtali Dagi summit, which is the highest point of the trail rather than the coastal path that will take you via Tekirova. Through this route, you are sure to pass the ancient ruins like that of the capital city of Lycia, Xanthos, the Butterfly Valley and Letoon. Patara is also a must-visit spot. Here, you will see the 5000 seat theatre and ancient ruins paving the way to Turkey’s longest uninterrupted beach, which stretches 18 kilometres. You will also pass many villages that will give you a more local taste of Turkish culture and especially the food. Beaches, mountainous climbs and descents give you the whole experience of uninterrupted nature. In contrast, the cut-offs marked by resort cities and lively towns like Kas and Olympos help you rejuvenate in the cocoon of civilization.
- Fethiye to Kayakoy
While the Lycian Way’s official start is at Ovacik, many people prefer to make their start in Fethiye. This adds about a day to your hike and takes you through the side trail of Kayakoy. Kayakoy is a ghost town nestled on the hillside and has a haunting presence unlike any of the other ruins of the Lycian Way. These ruins are preserved as an open-air museum and are a great start to the rest of your journey. You can choose to descend through the Kayakoy ruins and the seaside resort of Oludeniz, world-famous for its beaches, or take a steep ascent to Ovacik and join the official route of the Lycian Way.
- Fethiye to Kas
For those who do not have the time or stamina to do the entire month-long walk, you can choose to make a short week-long or 14-day itinerary from Fethiye to Kas. This is a famous option for leisure trekkers, while still allowing you to get the most out of this experience. You visit the ghost town of Kayakoy, the Butterfly Valley and the Kabak beach before moving on to Kalkan. From Kabak to Kalkan, you can choose to take a dolmus, which is a minibus, to shorten the itinerary to a week. Between Kabak and Kalkan you can opt to hike or take the dolmus to the Xanthos and Letoon ruins and the Patara village. You can adjust the hike accordingly to add parts of a boat tour, a walk to the Saklikent Gorge or a visit to Cirali in Olympos for the burning rocks.
Alongside these routes, other popular excursions that may be shorter or more suited to your needs are the following:
- Seven Capes Trek
A week-long trek near Fethiye for beach lovers that takes the scenic coastal route.
- Short Eastern Route
A 10-day trek from Antalya to Simena that also covers the Sunken City of Kekova.
- The Pirate Coast
Here you take a week-long trek that includes Mt. Olympos and Chimaera along with the lighthouse of Cape Gelidonia.
Along the Routes
The Lycian Way was initially a means to connect and waymark the routes between the ancient ruins of Lycia. This means that there are approximately 25 ruins and historically significant sights throughout the Lycian Way that you can witness. Some of these are side trails while the others are covered in the official route from Fethiye to Antalya. Of course, these do not include the beautiful views of the coast, and the other activities you can partake in or witness along the way. Here are some of the key attractions that you do not want to miss when hiking the Lycian Way.
- Mt. Olympos
Mt. Olympos or Tahtali Dagi is the highest point of the Lycian Way hike. At 2366 metres and with a clear view of the Mediterranean, the summit is not something you want to miss. The walk up and down the mountain is approximately 15 kilometres and located in Cirali, a resort town. If you don’t fancy a mountain hike, you can also take a cable car up to the summit, a popular choice, especially during the winter months when the mountain is covered in snow.
From Olympos, you can also hike down through the beach at Cirali and then take the ascent up to the ancient ever-burning flame of Chimaera. The flames of Chimaera were the original source of fire for the Olympic flame and never ceased to burn due to a reaction of the methane gas. This natural phenomenon is quite the sight to see and not far from Olympos.
Some would argue that Patara is the primary attraction on the Lycian Way trail. This one section of the route is rich with ancient ruins and unmissable, stunning beaches alike. The place plays a vital role in ancient roman history, religious context, and mythological Greek history. Being the seat of so many important events, it comes as no surprise that there are multiple sites to witness here. You can witness the Letoon and Xanthos ruins. Both the ancient site and the capital of old Lycia are combined to form a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Following this trip, you have to visit the Delikkemer, the aqueduct.
However, the star of the show remains the ruins of what is said to be the Temple of Patarus, son of Apollo. This temple is supposed to have rivalled the temple of Delphi, and if its ruins are any indication, it seems like it did. Here you will see Byzantine baths, sarcophagi, basilicas and a vast amphitheatre that seats 5000. The ruins lead to what is said to be one of the world’s most beautiful beaches and Turkey’s longest uninterrupted beach stretching 18 whole kilometres. Sprawl around in the sand, take a dip into the ocean or explore the ruins. There’s something for everyone here!
- Butterfly Valley
Just 5 kilometres from the resort town of Oludeniz, the Butterfly Valley is a stark contrast to the former glitzy, tourist town. Now a preserved area, the valley is home to at least a 100 species of butterflies, common and incredibly rare (you can even spot a few Jersey Tigers), that dart around the waterfall that shoots out of the canyon on one end of the valley.
The valleys mouth is only accessible by water, and many who hike the Lycian Way prefer to take a day trip and then set up camp in the nearby village of Faralya. However, if you are someone who likes to camp under the stars, eating homegrown produce and casting in your version of Cast Away as you disconnect from the world, then staying overnight is the right option for you.
The sunken city of Kekova is a sight that you do not want to miss, and fortunately, you pass it right by as you hike your way through the Lycian Way. Just a boat ride away from Kalkan or Kas, the submerged ruins of Kekova can be witnessed through snorkelling, diving or even boats with glass bottoms for your viewing pleasure. While you do this, you can get your sun-tan on and visit the stunning beaches of the three places or use the time to dive in the deep blues of some of the best dive sites on the Turquoise Coast.
Planning and Preparation
Now that you are well aware of the route options and the best sites to see of the Lycian Way, its time to prepare for the imminent hike. The best time to go for the hike is from March to May or from September to November. While you can take the hike during the other months, be prepared to carry warmers for the cold months and sweat profusely while you climb mountains during the summer.
It is also essential for you to carry a guidebook or download an offline map (you can use maps.me for this one) since WIFI can be extremely spotty in many sections. You will also need to figure out whether you wish to take a guide with you to help secure accommodation, food and help in general or take a self-guided tour. Self-guided tours aren’t impossible as the waymarks are passable, especially if you travel from the west to east.
Lastly, packing should be your primary focus when preparing for your trip. You do not want to miss out on essentials and yet not pack too much since you will be hiking up and down mountains, some of the difficult, for an extended period. If you plan on hiking the summits or the areas that aren’t close to a village, you will need a sleeping bag and a tent. Water and food are a must for long hours of hiking. Furthermore, download the Couch Surfing app or familiarise yourself with the lodgings you can stop before making the journey.
Overall, the Lycian Way is a great hike that ensures enchanting views and thrilling adventures that satisfy the explorer in you. Whether you’re looking for a break or to see Turkey by foot, choosing the trail overlooking the Mediterranean is the perfect fit for all.
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