The Lycian Way Trail is legendary for lovers of all things littoral. Although the 500km trail along ancient pastoral tracks and through idyllic Aegean villages has been here for centuries, it was only really put on the map in 1999 by British walker and writer, Kate Clow. You can walk the whole Lycian Way in 20 days, with some transfers to trailheads, passing through archaeological wonders like Olympos and the sunken city of Simena, as well as Mediterranean coastal landscapes that stop even the most hardened hiker in their tracks. Or choose between East and West sections over a week, although the Lycian will always lure you back for more.
Highlights of the Lycian Way Trail
There are two aspects of Olympos to explore while walking the Lycian Way Trail, the first being the ascent of the iconic Mount Olympos (2,365m), and the second being an exploration of the ruins of the same name. The archaeological site of Olympos is the remains of one of the most important harbours dating back to the 3rd century BC. The ruins are near the famously stunning Çıralı beach, perfect for an evening swim after a day of delving into history and hiking trails. Mount Olympos is the dominant peak of the Bey Dağları range, and also reachable by cable car, but you can also summit it on foot, weather depending, as it can have snow on top even in summer months, although it usually clears by June. Both of these Olympian beauties are protected by Olympos Beydagları National Park.
Simena and Kekova ruins
This coastline along the Lycian Way Trail is one big archaeological arcadia, and Simena is another of its great sites, an ancient harbour town where today’s houses have been built between the ruins. Now just a village really, also called Kaleköy or just Kale, it can also only be reached on foot or by boat. One of its very special spots is Kekova Lagoon, also known as the Sunken City, just across the bay, with half-submerged ruins that fell into the sea when an earthquake hit in the 2nd century. It’s popular with boat trips, but the joy of a walking holiday is that you get to walk and wake up there.
This is a ghost town, abandoned by Christian inhabitants during the War of Independence in 1923. You walk straight through the ruins along the Lycian Way Trail, a poignant place and one that makes you contemplate the many political upheavals that Turkey has undergone over the centuries. Kayaköy is now a protected, open-air museum with about 500 preserved houses and three churches. The largest of them is the Basilica of Panayia Pyrgiotissa, dating back to 1888. Dive back into contemporary Turkey and wash off the history at nearby Ölüdeniz Lagoon, one of the country’s most famous white beaches.
Sidyma is another site that captures the history of the Lycian Way Trail and one that is definitely off the beaten trail, except by those followed by mules and shepherds. The ancient town of Sidyma can be seen in its ruins of tombs, bath houses, homes and city walls, as well as a theatre. Once boasting capacity for around 3,000 spectators, its only spectacle today is a natural one, with views across the hills of the Lycian Way Trail, as well as the nearby inhabited village of Dodurga.
The beauty of Göynük Gorge hits you as quickly as a Turkish coffee, its 350m-high walls stretching its beauty out for 14km. Walk through pine trees on the gorge’s floor, across the boulder-strewn riverbed and, depending on the season, you may have to do a bit of paddling as the river starts to rise, usually in spring and late autumn months, with some exquisite natural pools for a full immersion.
Do I have to walk the complete Lycian Way Trail?
You don’t have to walk the complete Lycian Way Trail but you can if you want and, if you have 20 days to spare, this really is one of the most fascinating and fun walking adventures. You can also break it down into two sections, east or west, each taking eight days:
The West Lycian Way Trail
The West Lycian Way is a megadose of Vitamin Sea. It starts at Kayaköy, and clings to a dramatic coastline bedecked with pine forests and brimming with turquoise beaches. With your luggage transferred for you, and accommodation in traditional coastal villages, the finale is at the ancient ruins of Patara where you can take a celebratory swim at the absurdly beautiful Patara beach, also a breeding ground for endangered loggerhead turtles, between May and October.
The East Lycian Way Trail
The East Lycian Way is the tougher of the two sections, climbing higher than the western section and further inland but also includes Mount Olympos and its nearby ruins. It gets off to a spectacular high from the get go, with a trek through Göynük Gorge on day one of your hiking days. Stay at coastal gems such as Çıralı and Adrasan, or trek up to the heights such as Musa Dağı Pass (650m), with views that will definitely want you to come back and do the rest of the trail sometime soon. The love of Lycia lingers for a long time. If you do want a bit more, there is also a 14 day hiking holiday option.
When is the best time to hike the Lycian Way Trail?
We can organise all of our walking tours along the Lycian Way between April and the middle of June or between September until the end of October. This is because it just gets too hot during July and August to take on these hikes. If you are a keen swimmer, you may want to opt for the autumn months with sea temperatures still sublime, at around 25C in October.
More Turkey anyone? We have plenty more holidays to offer in this magnificent country, such as the St Paul Trail in the Taurus Mountains, the lesser-known Carian Trail on the Aegean Coast or the iconic and unmissable Cappadocia and Göreme National Park. Turkey suffered a terrible tragedy after the 2023 earthquake and now it’s time to start going back and giving back. Don’t hesitate to contact us for more information on any of our Turkey walking or cycling holidays.