The Lycian Way

Until the 1950s, the only way to reach the Lycian coast was by boat or via bone-rattling trips through the mountains in antiquated motor vehicles. Even the main roads today date only from the 1970s, which is why this was the perfect place to establish Turkey's first and most famous long-distance trekking route, the Lycian Way.

The footpath, marked by red-and-white painted blazes, runs along the sea for 530 km (331miles), following ancient Roman roads, and sometimes clambering up barely visible goat tracks to peaks that rise nearly 6,500 feet at Mt. Tahtalı (one of the many high mountains known in antiquity as Mt. Olympos). Upsides include breathtaking views, innumerable ancient ruins, and a chance to accept hospitality in villages little touched by tourism or time. The downside is that backpacks can be heavy and hills steep; and while most of the path is well marked, finding the trail can occasionally be difficult. If you lose it, go back to the last marker you saw—they’re positioned 50 to 100 yards apart—and try again. Despite government support, the track has no legal status and is subject to adjustments due to road building, landslides, and fencing by landowners.

It would take a month to walk the Lycian Way from end to end, but there’s a lot you can do without a tent. Because the trail crosses many towns and highways, it's easy to break it up into day hikes, and you can cover about half of it while staying in pansiyons that have sprung up along the way. Kate Clow, the Englishwoman who first designed and mapped the Lycian Way in 2000, recommends several popular walks near Olympos in her book The Lycian Way (the route’s only guide and a source of good maps). The website www.cultureroutesinturkey.com, which Clow founded, provides updates and detailed information. Several tour companies also offer guided trips along the trail.

The best times to walk are spring, when days are long and wildflowers are out, and autumn, when the seawater is warm and the weather cooler. Summer is too hot; in winter there may be some perfect days, but the weather is not reliable enough to make advanced plans.

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