Travel + Leisure (USA)
AN EPIC JOURNEY ON THE TURKISH RIVIERA
WITH ITS UNRIVALED COMBINATION OF ANCIENT STRUCTURES, SCENIC BYWAYS, TRANQUIL VILLAGES, AND MYTHOLOGICAL TALES, THE LYCIAN WAY IN SOUTHERN TÜRKIYE IS AN EXPLORER’S DREAM.
The Lycian Life
Türkiye’s first long-distance hiking trail, the Lycian Way, offers a spectacular way to explore the magic of the Turkish Riviera. Traversing the awe-inspiring wonders of the Teke Peninsula, from the rugged coastal mountains to the rock-cut tombs dating back some 2,000 years, the trail stretches 336 miles, from Fethiye to Antalya, revealing a unique slice of the Mediterranean in modern-day Türkiye.
Planning the Journey
Considered among the most beautiful long-distance treks in the world, the Lycian Way attracts around 30,000 enthusiasts every year. Some spend about a month tackling the entire thing, while most opt for shorter, multi-day segments. The terrain combines old shepherds’ paths, mule trails, and caravan routes that require average fitness but no climbing. Non-hikers can always opt for a cruise to experience the beauty and history of the region. You can approach the walk from either direction, but a popular pick is to start in Fethiye and head towards Antalya. Either February–May or September– November are the best periods to enjoy the venture, as the weather in those months is warm and mostly dry. This is a perfect off-season destination as well, thanks to the warm winters in and around Antalya.
A Warm Welcome
Walking the Lycian Way offers memorable encounters with the locals, many of whom offer places to stay and tastes of their local cuisine along the way. Communities you come across might include the beach huts of Butterfly Valley, the yoga camps of Kabak Valley, the stylish villas of Kalkan, and the pansiyons (B&Bs) and small hotels of Kaş, Kaleköy, and Adrasan. Pitching a tent at a peaceful beach is also an option.
Tales of the Trail
Set amidst ancient lands, the Lycian Way is dotted with historic landmarks that bring this region’s incredible history to life. As an indigenous ancient Anatolian nation, Lycians were the founders of an early federative democracy known as the “Lycian League,” which comprised 23 cities that flourished during the first millennium BC. Their proportional election system inspired many Western writers and scholars, laying the groundwork for the American Constitution as well. Among the remarkable landmarks they built is the Bouleuterion (the Parliament Building) in the capital city of Patara and the breathtaking temples at the UNESCO recognized Xanthos-Letoon. The Lycians also created monumental tombs that range from rock pillars and sarcophagi to funeral chambers cut into soft limestone cliffs to resemble little houses or temples. Today, the Lycian landscape boasts hundreds of these tombs—otherworldly silhouettes greeting you throughout your journey from the tops of mountains or jutting from the harbors.
Dive Into History
To learn more about how Lycians lived, peruse the cultural artifacts and artworks on display at the Museum of Lycian Civilizations in Andriake, which was the port of Myra and once one of the largest ports in the Mediterranean. There, a rich collection of terracotta objects, jewelry, and fabrics are displayed in a beautifully restored old granary. When exploring the visually striking tombs of Myra, do not forget to visit the nearby St. Nicholas Church in Demre. The church is the seat of the patron saint of sailors and children, who was born in Patara in 330 AD—and is known in modern times as Santa Claus.
Close to Legends
As you approach the final leg of your journey, you’ll be greeted by Mount Tahtalı, or Mount Solyma, once considered “the seat of the gods.” At the majestic mountain’s foot, on a river mouth joining the Mediterranean, sit remains of the ancient eponymous city of Olympus. In addition to such mythical splendor, the area has for decades been a favorite of backpackers, thanks to its collection of treehouses and small inns offering eco-friendly boutique accommodations in a scenic valley and along the Çıralı coast. If you wish to get even closer to the heart of legends, trekking up to Yanartaş, or Burning Rock, after sundown is a must. This cluster of flames emanating from the rocky slopes of Mount Solyma is an amazing natural phenomenon, one that has inspired several myths. It is believed when the heroic Bellerophone rode his winged horse Pegasus to defeat the fire-breathing monster Chimera, he turned his foe into the rock here. Today it serves as a popular and easily accessible sunset spot—one that perfectly encapsulates the overall serenity of the Lycian land and a day’s adventure well lived.
HIKING NOT YOUR THING? TRY ONE OF THESE EXCELLENT EXPLORING OPTIONS:
Another way to explore the Turkish Riviera’s Lycian history and amazing natural terrain is on one of the mini-cruise journeys departing from the ports of Fethiye, Kaş, or Antalya. Alternatively, you can join week-long adventure tours that combine unforgettable activities like sea kayaking near Kekova Island and the sunken city of Simena with canyoning in the Taurus Mountains, scuba diving in Kaş, or mountain biking or trekking along secluded sections of the Lycian Way. These activities offer an invigorating athletic experience all while reducing your carbon footprint.