Walking the Lycian Way in Turkey

The Lycian Way, around 540km long in total, was researched and developed by Kate Chow, a writer, amateur historian and pioneer of sustainable tourism in Turkey, in an attempt to identify and preserve some of the country’s forgotten byways. Aren’t writers brilliant? Opened for walkers in the early 2000s, it’s actually a network of ancient paths, caravan trails and backcountry roads that links Fethiye in the west with Antalya further south.
To walk the Lycian Way in its entirety would take you a month, so most walkers break it up into week-long chunks. And take our word for it – with scenery like this, you’re not going to lose enthusiasm for coming back to it. This is generally regarded as one of the most beautiful walking routes in the world, but it’s more than that. The Lycian Way encompasses ancient civilisations, villages and ruins lost in the mists of time. Most of the time it hugs the coast of ancient Lycia, wowing you with gleaming Mediterranean views, but it also diverts from time to time into the rugged interior, into parts of rural Turkey that see few visitors other than walkers.


Eastern section

Starting with an arrival into Antalya, a week-long itinerary follows selected sections of the trail, with clear standouts being the coastline of Kekova, its bays and peninsulas, the sea dotted with islands; the eternal flames of Chimaera, once used by sailors to navigate, close to the idyllic Cirali Beach Olympos National Park nearby, where you can see the remains of temples and thermal baths, as well as an acropolis on a sea cliff, and also of course the opportunity to wander around Antalya’s picturesque old town. Besides the coastal panoramas, the route takes you over mountainous landscape and through deep forest.

Western section

Usually beginning in Fethiye, a traditional launching point for gulet cruises, walking itineraries on the western section of the Lycian Way follow dramatic Mediterranean coastline, with sandy beaches and steep cliffs dominated by the Taurus Mountains, their foothills peppered with olive groves. You’ll walk mainly on footpaths and old mule trails, with regular ascents and descents. Highlights include Butterfly Valley, huge numbers of them flutter around the canyon walls; views over the stunning Ölüdeniz beach; ghostly abandoned villages and busy cobbled harbours; well preserved and unusual tombs from the Roman and Byzantine period, and amphitheatres carved from solid rock.

Gulet cruises and walking on the Lycian Way

Sailing aboard a traditional Turkish gulet is a natural accompaniment to a walking vacation on the Lycian Way. You set sail from Marmaris, exploring the trails and quiet beaches of the Göcek Islands, and finish in the harbour of Fethiye after a week. Eating and sleeping onboard, and with twin or double en suite cabins available, the island hopping is interspersed with visits to ancient sites such as Tlos, where the mythical Pegasus is said to have lived, and some fantastic day hikes, with the Sakilkent Gorge a notable highlight.

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Practicalities of walking
the Lycian Way

Guided small group tours, or self-guided tailor made walking tours, are both available on the Lycian Way. Self-guided trips provide you with detailed information packs including route maps that are checked by GPS and regularly updated, as well as notes, and of course the trail itself is easy to follow, with red and white waymarkers echoing the French Grand Randonnees system. On small group tours, numbers are usually limited to around 16, and you will be escorted throughout by a knowledgeable guide. In many cases the guide will be local, with expert knowledge of village life and culture, adding another dimension altogether to your walking and of course, this way there is no need to worry about whether you’re heading in the right direction.
Whichever type of trip you opt for, accommodations are pre-booked for you along the route, in locally owned guesthouses – a great opportunity to sample typical rural cuisine. Luggage is transferred between accommodations so you can get by with just a daypack.
Expect to cover around 10-18km each day, and to be on the go for seven hours or so. While the Lycian Way is open for walkers all year round, it is definitely best approached either in the spring (April to May) or the autumn (September to October) because the summer months are just far too hot to make it enjoyable. Trips are usually eight days in length – tailormade tours of course can be shorter or longer – and focus on either the eastern or western section of the trail.

How fit do I need to be?

Vicky Garnett from our travel specialists Explore:
“Our Lycian Way vacation is a moderate-graded trip. The walking is on the whole is easygoing but can feel more strenuous in the heat (rather than due to the distances). There are some steep hill sections and the trail is uneven and stony underfoot in places, but the trails are predominately empty and this route is definitely all about the scenery!”
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Christine McIntosh] [Lycian Way - bay: Warren Talbot] [Western section: Warren Talbot] [Practicalities: Warren Talbot]