Hiking the Lycian Way

The Lycian Way is Turkey’s most famous long-distance hike. According to the Internet, it’s a 500+ kilometers long fascinating mix of stunning coastline, olive groves, rustic towns and ancient ruins. Having walked the even longer Camino de Santiago across Spain and the even hotter Via Francigena through Italy, I was tempted to do this thing, to walk like a Lycian.

So last June I just went, without preparing much for it. I learned a few things. While it’s true that the trail has everything mentioned above, there’s so much more to it. Read on, and I’ll tell you whether The Lycian Way really is one of the world’s greatest long-distance trails.

Lycian tombs in Fethiye, Turkey.

Day One

I traveled to Antalya on a dirt cheap last minute ticket. They’re easy to find from Norway in early June, before the schools close for the summer.

From Antalya I took a bus west for four hours, to Fethiye. My walk would begin there. It’s a lovely city where it would be easy to relax and enjoy myself, but all I did there was to to stock up on edibles at a grocery store. Turkish prices made it extra tempting to buy more snacks than I could carry.

The first Lycian ruins appeared almost immediately, inside Fethiye. They tombs carved straight into the mountain reminded me about Petra, Jordan. Some can be visited as part of a museum area, others are just part of random people’s backyards.

I soon learned that ancient structures of this kind pop up all the time along the trail, and in just as many places away from the trail, I’m sure. There’s a lot of visible ancient history in this area.

Trail markings on the Lycian Way.

Outside Fethiye, I soon walked on what looked like an old Roman road. Various color markings on stones here and there confirmed that I was not lost yet.

The old Greek town in Kayaköy, Turkey.

After a couple of hours I arrived in Kayaköy. One century ago this was a Greek town known as Livissi, with a population of about 6,000.

I won’t get into the details, but like other Christians in Ottoman/Turkish-controlled areas, the Greeks here were treated badly for a long time. In 1923 the small population that remained were forced to leave Turkey. The city was left to decay, and is now a historical monument to human stupidity.

The place reminded me about Machu Picchu, both visually and as an historical parallel.

Day trips by boat from Fethiye, Turkey.

The Fethiye district is heavy on tourism. As I walked south along the coast, I kept seeing people spending their day on a boat in “secluded” bays and beaches.

Walking in the heat is hard work, especially when everyone you see wear swimsuits and bikinis while enjoying cold drinks.

Photo of Ölüdeniz beach, Turkey.

Late in the day I reached Ölüdeniz beach. During summer it’s the tackiest place imaginable; thoroughly crowded and full of vendors of fast food and all kinds of vacation crap. I couldn’t walk past it quickly enough.

Still, between all the beach and souvenir shops, there were also good grocery stores. In hindsight, I should have bought my food here, instead of carrying it the whole way from Fethiye.

Anyway, in my haste to get away from the resort town, I almost ended up getting myself killed.

Bad trail on the Lycian Way, Turkey.

To be able to visit Kayaköy, I had to make a significant detour from the official trail. To get back to where I was supposed to be, I could either hike several kilometers inland to Ölüdeniz town and pick up the proper trail there, or I could semi-climb a mountain, straight up from the beach.

I chose the steep option.

It probably saved me a tiny bit of time, but in return I got to experience some of the worst hiking of my life. Plenty of rusty barbed wire was lying around, only marginally more lethal than the sharp rocks and dry vegetation surrounding it. In the photo above, you see a particularly tricky section. The trail is that barely visible brownish stripe across the steep stone surface. The hill felt a lot steeper than it looks here, maybe because I was carrying a heavy backpack and the ground was covered in loose gravel.

There’s a vertical cliff at the right edge of the photo. Had I slipped here, I would have disappeared down it. I’m pretty sure there’s an impressive collection of dead hikers from across several millennia at the bottom of that cliff.

Exhausted from the crazy hard climb, watching the sunset from my campsite midway up the mountain somewhat improved my mood.

Fireflies accompanied me as I watched the sun silently disappear. At the same time I could observe, without sound and from afar, tourists in Ölüdeniz consuming beers and kebabs at numerous beach-side pubs. Such a strange mix of views.

Morning on the Lycian Way, Turkey.

Day Two

My second day on the trail began with a relatively pleasant hike across a mountain plateau, as I was shielded from the sun by the shadow the mountains. The trail was easy to see and follow, and I started looking forward to the rest of this trail.

Water source on the Lycian Way, Turkey.

Usually when the trail came near a village, I would find a water source like this one. While basic, they’re well designed. The top basin is also used by animals, so if you want to use soap, you do it where the water leaves the basin.

I always drank and filled my water bottles when I saw one of these. Sometimes my stomach would protest ever so slightly, but it never caused me any lasting trouble.

Photo of small rural mosque in Turkey.

Kozağaç, like every other tiny village on the Lycian Way, has one of these. They look like small shrines to the almighty moon rocket, but they’re actually mosques.

I’m as atheist as can be, but I learned to fully appreciate these mosques. Usually there is clean and cold drinking water available, and often a working toilet as well. Some even have a pretty, little garden with trees offering shade, making them perfect for a rest stop on your way to heaven or hell.

Photo of slow hiking on the Lycian Way, Turkey.

This became my best friend for a short section of the trail. Fortunately I was soon able to outpace him.

Tortoises popped up everywhere, especially during the first few days. I even had one little guy attempt to assign himself to be my pillow, waking me up by digging his way under my tent in the middle of the night.

The red and white paint on that rock is how the Lycian Way is marked. Sometimes the paint indicates that you need to make a turn, but generally it’s just a welcome indication that you are in fact still on the trail, believe it or not.

You can not rely on these markings to guide you the whole way. I highly recommend walking with a GPS trail, for increased chances of survival.

Photo of a comfortable chair on the Lycian Way, Turkey.

There are precious few facilities for hikers along the way, but near Kirne I found this irresistible comfy chair, in what seemed to be a particularly random spot.

Photo of overgrown Lycian Way trail.

The trail kept disappearing into tall grass. I could see where I was supposed to go on the other side of the valley, so I just kept walking in that general direction.

Photo of Kabak Beach on the Lycian Way, Turkey.

It was a hot day, and I was happy to arrive at Kabak beach in the middle of it. In my opinion, this must be the best beach along the entire Lycian Way.

There are good facilities and a small shop. It’s a popular tourist destination, still, it seemed that most of those who go to the trouble of getting themselves to this dead end of a beach, were friendly campers and hikers like myself. The resulting atmosphere felt extremely laid-back. You know, the kind built on yoga camps full of modern day hippies. If this beach had been anywhere else but in Turkey, the sweet smell of marihuana would have lingered heavily over the valley.

If you can, I recommend stopping here for a couple of days. Relax on the beach or do some of the many short, yet highly rewarding hikes you can do from here.

Photo of steep trail on the Lycian Way, Turkey.

Of course, I didn’t follow my own advice. After a quick and refreshing swim in the sea, I continued my hike almost straight up the valley.

Now, that was a tough hike on a hot afternoon. The scenery was quite dramatic. I knew I was supposed to somehow get all the way up to the top of the mountains surrounding the valley, although it looked nearly impossible from where I started walking.

I was taken to one almost vertical walls after another, yet somehow the trail managed to just keep going up and up, via a wide range of excellent viewpoints.

To motivate myself to keep going, I made a rule. For every 100 meters of altitude gained, I was allowed to stop for 10 minutes to breathe and enjoy the view.

This resulted in many, many stops. Probably a lot more than the rule actually allowed for.

Photo of rural driveway in Turkey.

Day Three

Eventually I made it to Alınca village. It’s just a hamlet, but I found an excellent place to stay overnight. It was a great example of how the trail and a small community can mutually benefit from each other.

Thanks to the scenery, this part of the Lycian Way gets a lot of hikers. Good money can be made if you can offer a comfortable bed and a decent meal. Until now, the people of Alınca only charge a little bit of money for exactly that, but they should soon be able to make enough to allow them to stop keeping a cow in the driveway.

Photo of the Great Wall of Turkey near Alinca.

After Alınca, a coastline full of unforgiving cliffs is really hard to navigate. The trail doesn’t help. I wish I had just walked along the road from Alınca to Gey instead. The views are almost identical, and there is basically no traffic anyway. You’re welcome to use this hard-earned experience to your advantage.

That said, when I had the energy and courage to look up from the trail in front of me for a second now and then, I really enjoyed the amazing view of the coast.

Photo of man walking on beach below Alinca, Turkey.

When I first learned about the Lycian Way, I imagined a pleasant amble along the beaches of the Aegean Sea.

In real life, it turned out to be for the most part a hellish and seemingly random hike up and down coastal mountains, with the sea only visible in the distance and/or far below.

I admit to being pretty envious of the guy walking on this beach, having his own boat to bring him effortlessly up or down the coast. He and I experienced two extremely different mornings, only a few hundred meters apart.

Photo of dangerous trail on the Lycian Way.

Here’s an example of the trail between Alınca and Gey. Notice the red and white markings on the ground.

I was not lost; this is really where I was supposed to walk. The trail followed a narrow ledge on top of a disturbingly high cliff, with lots of loose gravel and stones that appeared to be so tired of rock life that they were ready to jump. This went on for several kilometers.

Meanwhile, two hundred meters to my left there was a perfectly nice and level road with no traffic, going in the same direction.

Photo of Lycian Way heading inland before Gey.

Beyond the cliffs, Sancaklı awaited. Until now I had mainly hiked through brutal mountains. Here, the landscape opened up a bit, and for a while I walked with ease across farmland.

I have to admit that it was a welcome change.

Photo of stop sign on the Lycian Way.

In addition to the occasional trail markings, sometimes there were also markings telling me where not to go.

I don’t know what would happen if I had walked into that bush, or why I would even consider doing so, but I’m sure there are good reasons for this skull and that X.

Photo of Coca-Cola for sale on the Lycian Way.

Entering the village Gey, I was extremely happy to see an open shop. Cold drinks never taste better than on a hot hike.

If you’re one of the children hanging around this shop that day: I’m sorry I scared you by the way I downed a large bottle of Coca-Cola in one big gulp, and then immediately started on a second bottle.

Anyway, almost every little cluster of buildings along the Lycian Way seemed to include at least one small market selling essentials. And while I passed a place like that at least once per day on my hike, on some days it was only that once.

I learned to stock up whenever I could.

Photo of manual labor in the hot fields of Turkey.

The area around Gey had the most impressive and extensive terraced fields I saw throughout this hike. People were working in them, mostly manually, under a scorching sun, sweating almost as badly as I was.

I exchanged many a knowing look with the locals as I walked by.

Photo of water that is not safe to drink in Turkey.

Many of the wells and other water sources marked on my map turned out to be completely useless. Sometimes when I removed the cover of a well or cistern, I was instantly hit by the smell of sulphur and/or the sound of angry mosquitoes buzzing somewhere far below.

In some cases people had thoroughly blocked the well opening with branches or garbage, to indicate that in no way was this water for drinking.

To counter this, I generally carried 4-5 liters of water on my back, just in case I would need them. A couple of times I shared my water with distressed hikers on or off the border of dehydration. I don’t know if I actually saved any lives, but some of the recipients certainly gave me the impression that I did.

Photo of mountain road in Turkey.

There’s not much traffic in the mountains, but you see the occasional small motorcycle. Riding on them can be anything from a seemingly suicidal six-year-old to a full family on their way to a wedding, and sometimes there’s livestock on two wheels, too. Usually accompanied by a human being.

The locals seemed to be of the opinion that their village roads are highways where speed limits count for nothing.

Photo of Stellagama stellio in Turkey.

Apart from tortoises and goats, there was precious little wildlife to behold. Mostly lizards, really.

This is a roughtail rock agama. They can somewhat alter the color of their skin to blend in with the background wherever they are. This one did so reasonably well.

Walking in hot weather feels so much worse when you constantly look down at a brilliant coastline. So close, yet still impossibly far out of reach.

Photo of Lycian Way leading straight into the water.

Day Four

Coming down from the mountains, I entered a wetland area near the northern end of Patara Beach. The trail was easy to follow, until this happened.

The trail simply led straight into a temporary lake, and seemed to remain submerged for several kilometers. I have no idea why it was like that, but I was forced to either swim or find another way to continue my walk.

Photo of hot hike across the agricultural plains near Patara Beach.

My detour became a lengthy hike on an endless straight road surrounded by greenhouses full of tomatoes. It was boring.

Mini buses shuttle back and forth between Patara Beach and the ruins of Xanthos. In hindsight, getting on one of those wouldn’t have been a bad idea.

Photo of overcooked sheep in Turkey.

You know it’s a pretty warm day when the sheep lie around like this, being utterly miserable.

Photo of Lycian ruins at Letoon, Turkey.

Out of nowhere, these ruins and a huge ancient amphitheatre appeared next to the trail, near Letoon village.

This was the most impressive archeological site so far on my hike, and I was bordering on glad that I had decided to not take the bus straight to Xanthos.

The setting took a little bit away from the experience, though. The ruins seemed completely surrounded by tomato farms, and it looked as if much of the complex was still buried beneath said farms. It’s all basically an ancient Greek site, so the Turkish are maybe not so eager to restore the place to its full glory?

Photo of animals in a restaurant in Kinik, Turkey.

I stopped for lunch in Kınık. A kebab sandwich was the only item on the menu. As usual in places like that, it was a great meal. It only cost me about 16 lira, the equivalent of about 3 US dollars.

The variety of wildlife frequenting the restaurant made my meal even more enjoyable, I have to say.

Photo of Kemal Ataturk statue in Kinik, Turkey.

Every town of any size in Turkey must have a statue of Kemal Ataturk, the Father of the Nation. Preferably surrounded by statues of patriotic farmers and soldiers.

Kınık had a pretty good one, including a farmer and his wife carrying carrying giant bullet shells.

Photo of tired Bjørn at Xanthos, Turkey.

Just outside Kınık is Xanthos, a significant archeological complex.

Known as Arñna, it was probably the largest Lycian city of its time.

The place has been conquered and sacked many times throughout history, leaving a rich selection of ruins. The most famous one is the Nereid Monument. To see it, you must go to the British Museum in London. There’s obviously much grumbling about this in Turkey.

Among the remaining highlights in Xanthos is the Roman amphitheatre you see behind that wide smile of mine. There’s also the highly interesting Xanthian Obelisk, a find that served much like the Rosetta stone, allowing us to finally figure out the Lycian language.

Then there’s a Byzantine Christian basilica, a necropolis carved straight into the mountainside, and much, much more.

I spent two happy hours Xanthos, but I had to move on. Night was coming.

Photo of blocked trail on the Lycian Way, Turkey.

In many places it was literally painfully obvious that they haven’t quite figured out yet where the trail should go.

On my way out of Çavdır, the trail took me to a cemetery, and then told me to climb a fence to continue my walk.

Photo of ancient aquaduct on the Lycian Way, Turkey.

Beyond Çavdır town, the trail turned into a balancing act on top of an ancient crumbling Roman aqueduct. This may sound charming, but it was actually rather difficult.

The aqueduct was completely dry, which was good, but it was also narrow, meaning my wide butt and backpack kept getting stuck. Besides, the construction, a mere two millennia old, was already falling apart, which offered many opportunities to send me tumbling down the mountain.

Shortly before sunset I found a pretty meadow with a busy stream carrying delicious drinking water. I got company as well. Three other through-hikers were already there. In addition, a local family had chosen to celebrate the end of Ramadan on that meadow, eagerly sharing piles of food with us hikers. They also helped me pitch my tent, so it took four times longer than usual.

Eating and chatting with a group of brand new friends was a really nice way to end the day.

Photo of stupid trail design on the Lycian Way, Turkey.

Day Five

My hiking morale was high when I got going the next morning, but the trail did all it could to take away all my energy and optimism.

First I arrived in Çayköy, where several vicious dogs chased me past many luxurious villas. One of the dogs even bit my leg, fortunately not penetrating the skin. I was furious with it and would have bitten it right back if it had not run away, scared off by the loudest roar I had to offer.

The whole spectacle greatly amused an old lady sitting in the shade nearby, apparently with nothing to do but to wait for the next hiker to come by.

Next up was Üzümlü. I bought some fresh bread and orange juice and had my breakfast at the mosque. This part of my morning was nice enough, but then I started walking again.

I figured I would have a nice and easy promenade along the road towards the ocean. My plan was sabotaged by a group of old men in İslamlar. Again, they were just sitting around doing nothing. I would be their entertainment for the day.

As soon as they saw me, they were physically convincing me about the fact that this road was absolutely not part of the Lycian Way.

Instead they pointed me down a semi-vertical path leading straight into a deep, deep canyon. To be fair, my GPS trail agreed with the old men.

I tried to protest, but they kept insisting that I had to descend into the canyon. Walking the road was plain wrong, according to them. In the end I gave in.

And that’s how I spent an extra hour battling my way into a canyon, fording a stream, cursing the trail planners, and finally climbing up the similarly steep opposite side of the canyon.

You can sort of see where I walked in the photo above. From the buildings in the background I went almost straight down, and then up to where this photo was taken. It was super-strenuous. If you ever walk this section, I beg you to follow the road instead. There’s absolutely nothing worth seeing inside that infernal canyon.

Photo of Inca-like stone masonry in Turkey.

At last I reached Akbel village. From there I could either continue east along the coast, or I could make a major detour to Patara, where what is most likely the highlight of all Lycian ruins is located.

Also, according to the map, the trail that way was fairly level. That’s exactly what I needed after the hellish canyon I had just navigated. As a bonus, Patara is where the original Santa Claus (Saint Nicolas) was born. All this combined made it clear what I had to do.

On my way to Patara I did get to see a very nicely constructed two thousand years old viaduct, shortly after leaving Yeşilköy. It was so impressive that I suspect that some Inca children must have visited here a long, long time ago, and built this thing while waiting for the boat home.

However, it has to be said that while it was not a physically demanding walk, this section of trail came with some incredibly hostile vegetation. I donated a lot of blood throughout the afternoon before I finally reached Gelemiş. To be able to patch myself up properly, I splurged on a nice hotel room for the night there.

The amphitheater in Patara could seat about 6,000 people.

Day Six

Patara was well worth the detour. The many ruins were in good enough shape to allow me to grasp the layout of what once was Lycia’s main port.

They’re still digging major structures out of the dunes, so in a few years there’s probably even more reason to go here and have a look.

Photo of the old main street in Patara, Turkey.

The main avenue in the city is a 3D mosaic of columns and stones that are slowly being best-guessed back into place.

The city was once large and busy, but the river floating past here silted up and turned into a breeding ground for malaria-ridden mosquitoes. People left, sand shifted, earthquakes happened, and here we are.

Photo of Turkish beach fashion.

After studying the ruins for a whole morning, I took an equal amount of pleasure from observing a mainly Turkish clientele enjoying themselves on nearby Patara Beach. Their unique beachwear fashion was quite … interesting.

The same ticket gave me entrance to both the ruins and the beach, and 99 % of the people paying for a ticket went straight to the beach. Don’t worry if the parking lot is full of cars when you arrive. You’ll be pretty much alone at the ruins.

Photo of Limanagzi Beach near Kas, Turkey.

Now I had a decision to make. I could spend the rest of the day walking back to where I had come from, and then hike almost straight up a mountain. Or I could take a bus to Kaş, pick up the trail from there, and then follow it on what seemed to be a relatively flat coastal section of the Lycian Way.

Based on the poor walkability of the parts of the trail I had seen so far, I was not comfortable with the idea of hiking alone up and down a high mountain. So I took a bus to Kaş.

The ride took just under an hour, yet it covered almost as much ground as I had managed to conquer by foot during the previous six days.

I spent no time in Kaş, which turned out to be another crowded tourist town. At first the trail was as nice as I had hoped for. One lovely beach after the other tempted me to stop for the day. Yet I hiked on.

There were nobody else on the trail. Travel by boat seemed to be the preferred option around Kaş. I was clearly the stupid one, but when you hike, you hike.

Photo of trail safety on the Lycian Way, Turkey.

The remains from the age of the Lycians are not always treated with much respect. Near Limanağzı, an old tomb carved into the rocks is used to fasten a rope, to make it relatively safe to navigate the steep cliffs leading down to the beach.

Photo of my tiny tent, camping at Ufakdere.

My day ended at Ufakdere Bay. Getting there was a tough struggle with hostile surroundings, a long series of encounters with sharp rocks, and lots of trail markings that were completely useless.

Ufakdere is a suggested camp site, because once upon a time some facilities were installed here to support an archeological dig in the sea nearby.

At that time it may have been a good place to spend the night. Now it wasn’t.

The toilets were out of service and locked up. The water had stopped running. A man worked as some kind of care-taker of the place, but all he would do for this hiker was to shake his head at my stupidity and sell some lukewarm drinking water at a considerable premium.

He indicated that I was welcome to camp on the rocky ground there, but I found a better spot just large enough to pitch my tiny tent on a bit away from the buildings.

Thirsty and exhausted, I look a fair bit happier than I actually felt in this photo.

A sailing boat anchored right next to my campsite. The people onboard were having a great time; eating, drinking, swimming, discussing and listening to music. It was such a huge contrast to my experience.

They were nice people, though. They saw me, and came over to ask if maybe I wanted a cigarette. I told them no thanks, but that if they weren’t already filthy rich (they obviously were), they could become so by selling me a cold can of Coca-Cola.

They gave me one. For free. I was in heaven for all the four seconds it took me to drink it.

Photo of typical camp site on the Lycian Way, Turkey.

Day Seven

Next day I had walked for about an hour when I reached the next suggested campsite. It turned out that while Ufakdere had been bad, this was infinitely worse, and exactly how it looks in this photo.

The promised cistern there did not exist. All I found was some semi-finished buildings in heavy decay.

I began to worry. I had brought plenty of drinking water from Kaş the previous day, but that was almost all gone by now. And clearly there was no reason to trust that the next spot on the map marked as a well would actually turn out to be anchored to reality.

Then a miracle happened.

Photo of the world's best breakfast.

I stumbled my way past rocks and trees for a long time, ever more thirsty. Near the tiny Kormen Island I reached a beach-like spot, where I found Turkey’s contender for the worst-looking toilet in the world competition.

It was just ridiculously dirty and broken. The good part of that was that a pipeline on the wall had burst, and a slight trickle of water smelling of rotten eggs came out of it. I gathered some in a bottle and attempted to drink it.

I just couldn’t.

I made my way down to the shade of a tree near the water and laid down to convince myself that drinking sulphuric water is better than drinking no water. While doing this, I noticed a Turkish family camping nearby. And they noticed me.

Before I could gather the strength and shamelessness to walk over and ask if they could sell me something to drink, they sent their youngest child over to me with a plate of fresh watermelon and the purest water I could wish for.

I could have cried. Actually, I think I did. They noticed this as well, and sent another child over, carrying bread, cheese and tomatoes. I hate tomatoes in general, but this one I could have made my god and worshiped for the rest of my life. Actually, I think I will, lacking any better real options.

These gifts from the Turkish people brought me back to strength, and I walked over and told them that my love for them could only be exceeded by their own mothers, that I was a victim of the Lycian Way, and that they had made me happier than anything else so far on the trail.

The only one who seemed to understand a word of what I uttered was a boy of about nine. I’m not quite sure what his translation made of the situation, but the father thumped his chest and said “Lycian Way good! We good! You good!”.

He was at least partially right.

Photo of a lifesaver on the Lycian Way, Turkey.

The next few kilometres were the hottest I walked in Turkey, but with my stomach full of watermelon, I almost bounced along.

In Bogazcik village I could fill all my bottles up with nice and cold water from a well. A few meters up the road I even found Lykia Camping & Cafe, where I bought all the cans of soft drinks they had. I drank half of them on the spot.

It looked like a lovely place to spend the night, but now I was over-hydrated and in need of some serious sweating. Fortunately, that was the easiest thing in the world to arrange. I just kept walking.

Photo of Lycian tombs at the top of Apollonia, Turkey.

Now it was time for a small detour from the trail. On top of a hill outside Bogaszik lies the remains of the Lycian city of Apollonia. It’s probably at least 2,500 years old, and the most recent ruins, to put it that way, is a Byzantine church from merely 1,200 years ago.

It was a great place to visit, as if designed by Tolkien. There were walls, pillar tombs and various other monuments that any museum of history would be proud to display. And I had it all to myself.

No proper road leads here, and there are simply too many more conveniently located ruins elsewhere in Turkey to excavate first, so this magical place is likely to remain in its current state for a long time to come.

Photo of landscape on the Lycian Way, Turkey.

From the top of Apollonia hill, I looked back and admired how far I had walked that day. I could barely see Ufakdere Bay fading into the coastal haze in the west. It filled me with a feeling of accomplishment.

And best of all, I knew that for the rest of the day, the trail would generally be descending, all the way to a part of the coast where I could have a refreshing swim.

Photo of hostile trail on the Lycian Way, Turkey.

As I had learned to expect, the trail was of course still awful, covered in loose, sharp rocks, and it still went up and down every hill on the way instead of following a natural and steady descent.

Eventually, though, I reached a wonderful place to stop for the night; Yörük Ramazan’s Boat House in Aperlai.

Yöruk himself was the only person there, but he let me rent a room for the night. I dropped all my stuff there, and then went for a swim in the bay. I may have cursed the Lycian Way many times throughout that day, but as I floated peacefully in the water, just before sunset, I was one entirely happy man.

Photo of room for rent at the Boat House in Aperlai, Turkey.

Day Eight

This is the room I rented at the Boat House, which obviously isn’t a boat house at all. Neither is it luxurious by any means, but it felt like pure luxury compared to my camp site the previous night.

It cost the same as a decent hotel room in Antalya, but I was happy to pay that to encourage Yörük to keep the place open. It’s not every day that a hiker will come by and use the services he provides.

Photo of red trail near Aperlai, Turkey.

The trail from Aperlai to Kekova was actually quite good. I was beginning to suspect that those who praise the Lycian Way maybe only have walked the parts near Antalya.

The closer I got to Antalya, the more facilities were available. This makes the trail easier to endure, and it’s only natural that more volunteers live, maintain and improve the trail here.

Photo of Lycian Way trail signs.

Official signs giving directions and showing distances became more frequent after Kaş. Things like that help a lot in building the feeling that you’re actually walking with a purpose and a goal, instead of just randomly punishing yourself by exposing your body and your equipment to a challenging environment.

Photo of Lycian tombs at a parking lot in Ucagiz, Turkey.

In Kaleüçağız I once again encountered traces of Lycian culture. You know there’s no lack of ruins, when even the parking lots are full of them.

Photo of crusader fortress Simena Kalesi in Kaleköy, Turkey.

I decided to stop early in Üçağız, which just had a pleasant vibe to it. Lots of happy tourists, yet not too many.

Simena Kalesi is just half an hour’s walk from Üçağız, above Kaleköy village. It’s a really old fortress that was built by the Byzantine Empire to offer the locals protection from pirates Later it was also used as a garrison by Christian crusaders, the Knights of Rhodes.

I went there for sunset.

Photo of Kaleköy, Turkey.

From the fortress I could look down to the water with Kaleköy village on one side and Kekova island on the other. Between them there are submerged ruins of an older city.

Lycian tombs stand partially submerged in the water and make for some epic photos if you’re there at the right time.

Photo of Lycian tombs in Kaleköy, Turkey.

My feet were in no mood for walking all the stairs down to the sea, so I stayed up on the ridge. There were of course plenty of Lycian tombs there as well. I think that this must be the part of the coast with the highest density of Lycian ruins.

They’re fascinating, but I felt that I had seen as much of that as I needed to see, and then some.

Granted, I was only halfway to Antalya and the official end of the trail. But I was now facing a bad weather forecast and a potential climb up to almost 2,000 meters above sea level.

As I sat up on that hill, I decided that my Lycian adventure was over. I had five days left until my plane back to Norway would leave, and I didn’t stand a chance to complete the entire trail no matter what. Most people spend a month completing the trail, and I had come roughly halfway in just over a week. Nothing to be ashamed of.

Besides, there were a couple of places in this part of Turkey I’d really, really like to see. Energized by the prospect of my new plans, I walked quickly back towards Üçağız.

Photo of the end of the Lycian Way for me.

This is the exact place where I left the trail, at an old cemetery, a little bit north-east of Kaleköy. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever go back to pick up where I left.

The last eight days had been a lot of things. Interesting. Hard. Hot. Disappointing. Surprising. Satisfying. Bewildering. Friendly. Hostile. You name it. Summing up the experience in a short paragraph is impossible.

Üçağız is almost too cute for its own good. And the harbor is full of aptly named boats.

Don’t get me wrong. I do not regret that I went. The Lycian Way turned out to be a tough challenge, and although I didn’t walk all of it, it gave me a decidedly new experience.

That said, there are few people I would recommend this long-distance trail for. And in my opinion, it certainly does not belong on any list of the world’s top 10 or even 100 best hikes of any kind.

This trail may sound intriguing to anyone who loves walking and only hear a vague description of it. In real life it’s likely to be much harder than you expect it to be.

Parts of it can be done as a series of relatively pleasant day hikes, but to walk the entire trail is a huge effort, and should only be attempted by experienced hikers with good hiking gear.

If you are experienced, and you’re looking for a cheap and real adventure, the Lycian Way can be just that. And as such, it’s definitely among the most accessible ones, at least to anyone who begin their journey in Europe.

I don’t want to scare anyone from going, but I encourage you to really think it through before you go. And if you can, walk in a group. This is a trail where everyone should have someone else to look after them at all times. Just make sure you don’t walk too closely together all the time. It happened often that I, involuntarily, sent a lethal stone tumbling down the trail behind or ahead of me. Each time I felt bad; what if someone had been in its way?

If you have an accident in the wrong section of the Lycian Way, the outcome could quickly turn extremely grave. And due to the current state of the trail in 2019, it’s all too easy to become the victim of some kind of accident there.

The danger of dehydration is clear and present throughout at least half the year. There are cliffs you can fall off, and steep walls above you from which rocks or fellow hikers can come flying down and squash you. Getting lost is all too easy. Combine that with even a mild fall where you sprain an ankle or break a leg, and you may never be seen again.

Just be aware of this. Please. And if there’s something you’d like me to elaborate on, feel free to ask me any question in the comments below.

Still want to go?

Godspeed, and happy trails!

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12 Comments. Leave new

  • Jackie Lau
    2023-12-16 17:16

    I was about to join an organised hiking grp by a hiking/travel co for a 5 dy hike from
    Fethiya to Ucagiz. But they are not keen to take me cos I am 67 yr old even though I have hiked at many places in Nepal n SEAsia. I felt rejected and sad. But after reading your extremely entertaining and informative article, I am happy now. Think I would just enjoy other lovely activities in Turkey like Turkish bath( good?), sightseeing, shopping and eating. Thank you. You should publish a book on all your hiking trips. I will buy.

    • Oh, hey, if it’s all hiking, then five days on the whole Fethiye – Üçağız leg is a pretty suicidal pace. Especially if you happen to be there on either really hot days or walking on a wet surface.

      If you want a shorter, yet still strenuous hike, look into walking from Fethiye/Ölüdeniz to Kabak. Allow at least one overnight camping somewhere, and then spend a couple of days enjoying the hippie-like atmosphere at Kabak beach. It’s a really pretty and laidback place. You can camp in a tent there, or find a room in a cabin or guesthouse. Then just get on the bus back to Fethiye for the kind of things you mention. After Kabak, things get a lot more rustic, and if something should happen to you, getting assistance/rescue is harder until you reach civilization again at Patara beach.

      Happy trails!

  • fiddlehead
    2023-01-29 03:36

    Excellent write-up about the trail.
    Very detailed and candid.
    I like your style. I am going there with my son and some friends in late March.
    Hopefully it will be a better time of year to hike than what you had. (water-wise and heat index)
    Thanks for the warnings on the toughness of trail.

    • You’re most welcome, Fiddlehead! And yes, March will probably offer more comfortable temperatures for hiking this trail. As long as you have your expectations set based on my hike report, you are likely to have a great experience. Even at that time, though, carry a little bit more water than you think you will need, and fill up whenever you have the chance.

      Happy trails!

  • Thanks for your good post, I will do this walk in 2022. Good luck

  • Lauren Johnson
    2021-11-23 16:25

    Thanks for the account?
    What dates did you go in June? Was it early June or late June?

    • Early June. I started out from Fethiye on 2 June, and ended it a week later, in Kaleüçağız, near Demre.

      I would recommend hiking a bit earlier in the year, when the area isn’t as overly hot and dry as it was when I arrived.

  • cem azer
    2021-03-16 23:20

    excellent. as like ı have travelled with you.

  • Good report. I’ve just been doing some hiking around Kirme, Faralya, Aktas, Bogazici, Dodurga, and Bel. It’s been enjoyable but really easy to get lost as a lot of the trail markers are faded, difficult to see, and/or sometimes infrequent. I’ve spent a lot of time backtracking and wandering about labyrinths of goat tracks. Sometimes it seems that a new road has cut through trails and other times people have built on trails (not just the Lycian Way). Every hiker I’ve spoken to has said they’ve had similar problems. For anyone attempting the hike, I would advise trying to get hold of an accurate gps track before setting off. That said, I’ve found the locals to be extremely friendly and the scenery quite spectacular.

    • Thank you for your comments, Kiers. It sounds like the trail hasn’t changed much since I walked it. The markings should be better, and a GPS is essential. It’s also much safer to hike together with a group than on your own, especially if something happens to you while you’re even just slightly off the trail. Which you realistically are a lot of the time.

      It seemed to me that the trail was most poorly marked in the section between Fethiye and Kaş, especially the parts where the population density is lowest. That’s probably just natural, but still a problem for inexperienced hikers. So maybe start from Kaş and hike east may be the best/safest option for someone who has to choose one half. Although there are some pretty high mountains along the way …

      Anyway, thanks again, and happy trails!

  • Hi, Thank you so much for your post! I am wondering how did you get back from Üçağız. We are trying to hike from the east and possibly fly out from Dalaman, are there public buses or any other transportation we could hire along the trail? Thanks!

    • You’re welcome. 🙂

      There’s exactly one bus from the village of Üçağız per day, leaving at 7:30 or 8 in the morning from the main square there. It goes all the way to Antalya, but you could take it just to Demre and switch to another bus to for example Kaş, and from there you can get a bus all the way to Dalaman via Fethiye if you want to. I would suggest that you instead hike from Üçağız to Kaş, though, because that’s a relatively nice part of the trail. From Kaş you should get a dolmus/minibus to Gelemiş, see the Patara ruins, and then continue the hike along the beach. The detour to Kinik and Xanthos is just not worth it, in my opinion.

      Happy trails!


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