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My notion of Turkey as a holiday destination used to be limited to all you can drink package holidays, mounds of kebabs and bored housewives running off with handsome waiters. That all changed when I found myself on a walking adventure up the mountains and round the coves of the spectacularly beautiful Lycian Way in the South West of the country.

The 335-mile stretch of stunning natural beauty is relatively unknown; the focus of Turkish tourism initiatives for the past few decades has been the easily milkable cash cow of mass market beach holidays. In the last few years however the powers that be have recognised that Turkey is capable of attracting grown-up adventurers willing to splash their cash on hiking, history and brilliant scenery. The Lycian Way is central to this new agenda. Because of the hugely varied scenery you can focus in on one type of activity or terrain but if you’ve got the time and energy there’s nothing stopping you from yomping along the whole thing; it would take around a month and you’d need some pretty impressive outdoor skills and equipment. Poorer in both time and ambition I signed up to a walking tour taking in some of the best bits.

Starting off at the western end of the trail near Kayakoy our first walk took us through forests and over some pretty hair raising hills. Treading carefully in my newly purchased - and for my level of experience - necessary, walking boots I was pretty hesitant at first. It was only after the first hour that I dared to take my eyes off the path. I couldn’t help myself stop, stare and take pictures of the tandem paragliders soaring over the coastal lagoons. What an amazing view must have had of what we experienced on foot. Picking our way over vertiginous mountain passes we took in waterfalls, huge bushes of fabulously fragrant wild herbs and the odd intrepid German hiking family. The final stop for the day was the beach. The whole walk took around three hours and setting off early afternoon we arrived just in time for sunset, the perfect end to a pretty draining day. I’d have happily done it all again but over the next four days we packed in so many different sights that repetition wasn’t an option.

Over the trip we covered a head spinning mixture of mountain scenery, fields strewn with ancient bits of broken pottery and long abandoned cities. Kind of like a hiking version of Indiana Jones. Although the ache in my legs never quite went away, the stiffness disappeared each morning with the anticipation of a new opportunity to trek, hike, walk and scramble. And as a bonus, pretty much every destination ended with sea and sand.

Right round the coast you’ll find the type of pure turquoise waters you can’t believe aren’t photo shopped.  A great way to merge a bit of history with some fun on the high seas is by taking a sea kayak tour over the underwater city of Simena. Once a busy fishing village, a huge earthquake in the 2nd century AD submerged many of the houses and as you paddle past, the staircases eerily descend into the water. On land you can visit Simena’s castle and necropolis where sarcophagi are surrounded by ancient olive trees and if you’re really into eerie, head west inland for around seven miles for the fire-breathing mountain. Yep, you read that correctly. Olympos National Park is home to the legendary Mount Chimaera. Climb upwards for around half an hour and gawp in amazement as small fires seemingly spontaneously combust. It looks like something from a Harry Potter set but they’re actually a natural phenomenon created by the methane which seeps through vents in the rocks. Nevertheless, it’s a truly bizarre sight you’re never likely to forget.

Although this was the most mind blowing sight of the trip, one of the quirkiest was Andriake on the southern stretch of the Lycian Way. Piles of long discarded sea shells gave a clue to its ancient trade. Purple. One of the most valuable commodities in the world until the advent of modern dyes, extracting minute amounts of purple liquid from crushed up molluscs was the smelly but highly lucrative industry on which Andriake was built. You’d never get that kind of insight on an all-you-drink package tour.

If you’re into walking and some Spring or early Summer sun, the Lycian Way is a great way to discover a less well known but extremely rewarding side of Turkey. You can do it on a budget or in some style but however you choose to travel, bring some decent walking footwear, a camera and a swimsuit.

Accommodation

If you are planning a trip in this part of the world, the first thing to bear in mind is organisation. Unlike the package holidays Turkey’s famous for, other than in a few major resorts you won’t find big hotels along most of the Lycian Way. There are lots of good alternatives though if you’re prepared to do your homework. Camping is doable along much a lot of the route and there’s a variety of guest houses from basic pensions to luxurious, rather chi chi hideaways. One of my favourite stays was two nights in the basic but idyllic bungalows of Cirali Blue & White Hotel a few hours’ drive from Antalya. On the edge of town and a short walk to the type of beautiful beach I’d come to take for granted, it’s family owned and really friendly. The grounds are dotted with orange and lemon trees and the fruit grown on site is used in the gorgeous home cooking.    

Food 

Although we walked right along the coast, seafood didn’t figure very strongly on the menus. Instead it was a daily diet of fresh salads, dips, some great bread including the pizza-like Lachmacun and the odd bit of roast goat. Vegetarians are well catered for and only the fussiest eaters would go hungry.

Travel

We flew into Dalaman for the start of the Lycian Way and flew back out from Antalya; you can go direct or via Istanbul. The coast is stunning so you could also incorporate some sailing into your holiday, either hiring a private boat or a group tour. Before you go make sure you look at the Turkish government website to check if you need a visa. British passport holders do and it’s cheaper if you pay in advance.

Useful Websites

Because of the current situation in Turkey it’s vital to read the UK government’s official travel advice for the country. Things are liable to change but the site is regularly updated: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/turkey

Culture Routes in Turkey: Some great tips on Lycian Way routes, what to bring, where to stay etc http://cultureroutesinturkey.com/the-lycian-way/

The official website for Turkey E-visa: https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/


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Fire breathing mountains and the colour purple
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