The best hiking ever?

Stuart Sommers, 10 January, 2024
Routefinder Stuart Sommers explains why our walking holidays along Turkey’s Lycian Way could be the adventure of a lifetime.
 

Inntravel recently tasked me with scouting out the routes for their two new walking holidays along Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, between Dalaman and Antalya. Both holidays explore sections of Turkey’s first long-distance walking route: the Lycian Way.

When preparing for my mission, discussing with others and researching online, the same superlatives would emerge: the Lycian Way was “the best long-distance walking path on the planet”; or “the best hiking I’ve ever done”; or “the most memorable holiday I’ve ever had”. I’m used to superlatives. I was dubious, intrigued, and finally, when my two weeks of adventure were complete, I was convinced. The very best? It’s an apples-and-oranges type of argument, so for me there is no real answer. But when comparing outstanding experiences I’ve had on the trails over more than twenty years’ guiding, route finding, and travelling, Tukey’s Lycian Way is definitely up there.

On at least two days, one on each of the two holidays I scouted, I declared a new favourite coastal walk. The adventure was consistently grandiose: the walking paths climbed dizzyingly above the Mediterranean, and down to secret turquoise coves. The scenery was always dramatic and diverse, while even the most built-up and touristy parts seemed remote. Ancient ruins of civilizations past carpeted the hillsides and coastlines, unfenced, mysteriously uncrowded. On both holidays I found myself completely alone in a Lycian city, feeling haunted by ghosts, among massive stone theatres and tombs. The food was made with love and sun-drenched local produce, never fancy but always delicious and hearty, fused with all the criss-crossing of cultures that makes Turkey so diverse.

And so, to cut a long story short – and to remain superlative-free – I highly, highly recommend both of these walking adventures in Turkey. But to help travellers choose between them – if unable to enjoy both as I did – below are my thoughts on, and a few anecdotes along, the Lycian Way.
Seven Capes of Lycia
In a nutshell: Seven Capes of Lycia is the tamer, more civilised of the two holidays: the walks are shorter, always well-marked, all on good paths. In short, if you’d rather not hike for more than five hours a day, and prefer to avoid a little compass work (well, GPS work nowadays), then look no further: the Seven Capes is for you.

The Seven Capes offers ancient cobbled paths: easy to negotiate underfoot, and with postcardable views at every turn. The sea in every scene.
 
Selected highlights:
The accommodation: I received an especially warm welcome from Filiz at Misafir Evi: the breakfasts and dinners here were full of flavour and conversation. My stay at Hotel Montenegro in Faralya was just as friendly. On the panoramic terrace overlooking the sea, I had long conversations with Bayram about the routes, over endless cups of tea.

The beaches of Olüdeniz: The first and only sense of being a “tourist” came at the end of this first walk, along beautiful stretches of sand. The draw of the site is undeniable: large families of holidaymakers, a sky filled with paragliders, and a waterfront lined with trendy cafés and kitschy shops. I quite enjoyed it: an interesting and smile-worthy juxtaposition to neighbouring villages, tiny and modest.

The hike from Alinca to Gey: A non-stop barrage of picture-taking with my phone, mouthing expletives because I had broken my better camera. And all the while trying to stay in the moment, some 700 metres above sheer cliffs that plunge into the sea. Having done many coastal walks in a variety of jaw-dropping places, this may have been the most jaw-dropping of them all.

Sidyma: The final hike took me through the Lycian town of Sidyma, its (mostly) Roman ruins carpeting a vast plateau. There has yet to be a formal archaeological study here, and there wasn’t a single other visitor while I was meandering through, hopping over stone monuments to follow the marked path. In a tiny “modern” village above the ruins, I enjoyed a homemade lunch with plenty of mezze. I don’t speak Turkish, and conversation was limited to smiles and hand gestures, but the welcome was warm, and I felt at home.
The Pirate Coast of Lycia
In a nutshell: “adventure” is a relative term, and this walking holiday along the Pirate Coast of Lycia was an adventure for me. From over 2000 metres in altitude to sea level, with lengthy hikes and some route finding, I spent long days on the trails, in remote places where often I was the only hiker.

Other than the optional first two walks around Beycik, the Mediterranean is a constant theme, with swimming opportunities along long stretches of beach, or in hidden coves. The lost village of Simena, only accessible on foot or by boat, is a truly magical place to end this journey.
Selected highlights
The Flames of Chimaera: For at least 2500 years, bursts of flame have surfaced from the limestone slabs above the village of Çirali. I was unaware that this type of phenomenon existed, and stayed mesmerized by the flames. Local myth long held that these fires were the breath of a monster — part goat, part snake, part lion. Today we know otherwise: methane gas escaping from deep within the earth.

The hike from Adrassan to Melanippe: This was by far the most challenging hike of the holiday, but probably the most rewarding. With two passes to negotiate, and a path etched into a jagged and unspoiled coastline, the sea views are far-reaching.

Hoyran Wedre Country Houses: Canan and Süleyman are your hosts and friends in this little corner of paradise. Composed of ancient stone buildings, every wall and nook has been carefully and tastefully designed. I wasn’t able to spend much time around the grounds, but would have loved to spend hours in the beautiful gardens, by the pool, all overlooking the Mediterranean. So much thought and creativity go into the meals; at breakfast I must have been served a dozen types of jams, each with a careful explanation of origin (many from the gardens!).

The Boathouse Café: Set in a tiny and isolated cove just west of Simena, this café is a hidden paradise. I ordered calamari, which arrived looking beautiful. I’ll definitely be returning here – with my whole family in tow. And I’ll order the same again!
 
 

See for yourself...

Experience the dramatically remote landscapes and memorable hospitality for yourself on The Pirate Coast of Lycia, or for a longer trip, try our 9-night extended version which includes the chance to ascend the panoramic summit of Mount Olympos.

Alternatively Seven Capes of Lycia – our thrilling walking tour along the Lycian Way’s westernmost section – offers scintillating views and culminates with a terrific final stay overlooking Yedi Burun – the ‘Seven Capes’ for which the area is renowned.

 
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