We planned to hike the whole of the Lycian Way in November 2018. Unfortunately, a badly sprained ankle (the trail is often very steep, uneven and covered with scree!), plus some storms got in the way.
As it was, we completed about 132km of the trail, between Fethiye and Kalkan, 52km between Kaş and Demre, and 52km between Karaöz and Beycik.
Read our blogs of the hike:
The Lycian Way is a long-distance hiking trail along the southwest coast of Turkey. The length of the trail varies between 440km and 540km, depending on what source you are reading! It is made up of many different walking trails, that were researched and linked together by Kate Clow in the 1990s.
The trail takes in amazing coastal and mountain scenery, tiny Turkish settlements, larger towns, ancient ruins and beautiful beaches. Hiking the entire distance is likely to take about a month, depending on your level of fitness and how long you want to spend exploring the points of interest along the way.
A major reason for the discrepancy in trail length is that the trail is constantly changing. The whole area is criss-crossed with so many walking paths and the ‘official’ trail often moves around, as local people or officials decide that certain routes or locations are better.
This evolution of the trail does make navigation quite tricky sometimes and we frequently found ourselves following markers but not the mapped route or vice versa. To document all of these difficulties would take a whole essay. Ultimately though, we realised that it doesn’t really matter which little path you follow, because you will eventually reach the point you were aiming for and it is all beautiful. It also means that you can adapt your hike as needed. For example, we were able to avoid some sections of very difficult terrain when first back after injury. Just pick a path and go for it!
The trail is marked by two horizontal stripes of paint: white and red (on top of each other). Yellow and red markers indicate side tracks. Rock cairns are another useful navigation tool, if you see some, follow! There are also yellow signs at major trail junctions and the signs for the Lycian Way have a green strip at the top with ‘Lykia Yolu’ (Lycian Way in Turkish) written on it.
Where the trail turns a corner, the paint marker will often indicate what the actual trail does. For example, a marker that looks like a number 7 is NOT an arrow indicating turn right, it actually says that the trail goes forward and then turns left (imagine you are walking along the number 7 from bottom to top).
We chose to use the mobile app TrailSmart, in addition to following markers. Again, due to trail evolution this often did not map what we saw on the ground, but it was still a very useful resource.
The weather is hot and sunny a lot of the time, although it can rain so be prepared. Summer (June-August) is not recommended for hiking because it is way too hot. Spring (February-May) and autumn (September-November) are great, but still likely to be hot, although it does start to snow in the mountains. We started hiking on October 30th and had 28 degree (Celsius) days. We would take a long lunch break (usually 2-2.5 hours sometime between 12-3pm) to hide from the midday heat, and easily drink 3L of water just while physically walking. Towards the end of our hike the average temperature was closer to 15 degrees Celsius and it rained or even snowed in the higher mountains.
The trail can be hiked only camping, only staying in buildings (these are usually low-cost pansiyons/pensions, which can found in most settlements, although there is more choice in larger towns. One or two sections of the trail are without accommodation but could be done as several day trips with a taxi to and from the closest town), or a mixture of the two. Check ahead if you are travelling in off-season because many places close from mid-October to April.
We chose to wild camp, apart from when we were resting up post-injury.
Most settlements have a small shop and cafe, although the choice of goods in tiny places is very limited and tourist places often close from mid-October to April.
Gas for a camping stove is hard to find. We bought two canisters from Tibet Outdoor, near Selekler tram stop in Antalya (on the waterfront).
For water, many towns and villages have a water source and there are lots of cisterns along the way, although they can often be dry and purification is required. We always found water at least once a day. There is often water available outside mosques and cemeteries.
Carry as little as required. The lighter your pack, the happier you will be! The nearest airports are Dalaman, two hours from Fethiye, or Antalya. We flew in and out of Antalya. This allowed us to leave all of our non-hiking gear with our hotel and then pick it up at the end of the hike.
From Antalya, we took a four-hour bus (dolmuş, pronounced dol-moosh) to Fethiye, it cost about 30 Turkish Lira (8 AUD) per person. You can also catch a very cheap dolmuş between most of the towns along the trail if you want to section hop or otherwise move around not by foot.
Costs and fees
There are no fees or permits required to hike the Lycian Way. However, there are several ancient sites that charge an entrance fee. You can choose whether or not to visit most of these but there are a few that you have to walk through if you want to follow the official trail, e.g. Xanthos, Patara, Chimera and Kayaköy. Note however that outside of visiting hours ticket offices are not staffed and you are free to enter.
Twisted ankles and other minor injuries are quite likely along the trail, so be prepared with a basic first aid kit (and knowledge) and have a trail buddy. However, apart from that it is very safe.
There are a lot of dogs along the way, some stray, some not. Occasionally they will be chained up but most of the time they are roaming free. Owned dogs will often bark a lot and attempt to protect their property or animals on their land. They are not normally excessively aggressive and can usually be kept at bay by holding your hiking pole out towards them. If you are worried or confronted with an angry dog, bend down and pick up a large stone (or just pretend to pick up one). This will usually scare the dog into backing off. If it is persisting you can pretend to through a stone or as a last resort actually throw something to their feet.
- Hiking poles – strongly recommended, the trail can be challenging.
- Walking shoes – we went for trail runners over boots because we prefered something lightweight and breathable in the heat. However, adequate ankle support is important (as we found out) so decide how much you need.
- Gaiters – we wore short fabric gaiters (Dirty Girl gaiters) to keep dust and debris out of our shoes. Longer gaiters would be useful shin protection again thorny bushes but for how sweaty they would make you in the hot sun, loose, long trousers are better.
- Sun hat – it is hot and exposed
- Rain coat
- Warmer jumper/thermals for night-time – at higher altitude it can be chilly in the evening wind
- Swimsuit and small towel
- Hiking clothes (undies, socks, shirt and shorts/trousers) – things dry very fast, so we just took two of everything, rinsed them when possible and dried them off of our packs.
We each took one long-sleeved and one-short-sleeved shirt, plus one pair of shorts and one pair of light trousers (with of without zip-off legs). The long options were really good for all the sections with thick scratchy bushes, plus as UV protection.
Turkey is more conservative than most of Europe. For female-identifying folk, you don’t have to cover up in eastern Turkey (but definitely do further west), but short shorts, bare shoulders and cleavage will attract A LOT of attention that doesn’t feel comfortable or respectful, particularly in smaller villages. On the beaches it’s more touristy and a swimsuit was fine. A head scarf is only required if you wish to visit a mosque.
Other important things:
- Sunscreen and sunglasses
- First-aid kit
- Navigation tools – a phone with the app, phone charger and power bank, plus a regular old compass for us. Trail guides and maps are also available.
- Toilet paper, hand sanitiser and a hand trowel
- A lightweight bucket and 5m of cord/rope (to draw water from wells/cisterns)
- Water purification method – we use a Sawyer Squeeze filter, but purification tablets, UV lamp or other sort of filter would be fine. Just note that some of the water sources come with dirt and mosquito larvae!
- Passport – accommodation places will always ask for your passport at check-in, plus you can visit some Greek islands from towns along the trail.
- Any other toiletries or valuables that you will need. Note that small shops and kiosks might take cash only, but there are ATMs and card payments accepted in towns.
Camping and cooking items:
- Tent (free-standing and durable groundsheet – getting pegs into the ground is often very difficult and the ground can be rocky or with thorny plants)
- Sleeping mat
- Sleeping bag and liner
- Stove, gas, lighter/matches
- Cooking pot, utensils, sharp knife
- Water bottles and/or bladder – you need the capacity to carry at least 3-4 litres per person