I FIND MYSELF ALONE on an empty beach talking to a dog.
He’d been pretty loyal on the steep track down, pausing if he came to a junction or bounding ahead if he was absolutely sure of the way we’d go. Now that we were at the beach his attention was set on figuring out what he could have for lunch.
With a total of one person to scrounge off, even the dog was feeling it: December is pretty quiet along the Lycian Way, one of Turkey’s few waymarked hiking trails.
You can walk the 509km along Turkey’s Mediterranean coast between Fethiye and Antalya in any season, but in winter there’s not many who do.
The tracks are in good order but few facilities are open November-April in the small villages along the way. And while I managed to walk a section during a week of no rain, winter can be uncomfortably wet.
On the three-day stretch I completed between Ovacik and Bogazici, I saw two other hikers — Turkish women who passed me as I walked towards Bogazici to catch a minibus back to Fethiye. They were hiking in the opposite direction and filming their trip with a handheld camera.
They put me in front of the lens to ask how I felt as a woman walking alone. I hadn’t even thought about it.
Outside villages the sum of human encounters I had was sidestepping two beekeepers midway through a honey extraction and a group of English-speaking Turkish tourists on mopeds who offered me water and oranges and wanted to hijack my plans and take me for an excursion to another beach.
Most of the time I was alone to enjoy the view stretching the coast and watch woodpeckers and tits fly off as I approached. Between settlements, the track was thick with the call of birds and the rustling of lizards crawling through autumn leaves.
Essentials for the Lycian Way
The start of my route at Ovacik is accessible by regular dolmuş (fixed-fare minibus) service from Fethiye. Turkey’s extensive bus network also runs to each terminus of the full Lycian Way. More transport information is available at Turkey Travel Planner.
A bus runs on the main road between Antalya and Fethiye all year, though with less frequency in winter. Other sections of the trail are accessible from Kaş and Olympus. Infrequent dolmuş services stop at many villages on the trail, but hitching a ride to the main road is easily done.
Spend your nights at family-run pensions, campsites with treehouse beds (private cabins built at tree height), or take your own tent for a night away from civilisation. Expect to spend 12-25 EUR per person per night along the trail, which typically includes dinner and breakfast.
On the hike
The Lycian Way is well signposted, but the walk does traverse a range of terrain including some rough and steep climbs through loose stone. Some of the trail is classified as difficult, but the first few days from Fethiye are suitable for people of moderate fitness.
Packing and planning
Resources are thin on the ground in winter, so if you hike off-season take lunch supplies and at least 1 litre of water to last between villages. No matter what time of year you go, wear hiking boots, pack sun protection, and take a cellphone for emergencies.
The Lycian Way guidebook by Kate Clow is recommended for its comprehensive walk notes, supplemented by updates from her website, Trekking in Turkey.
Stay another day in Fethiye to explore Kayaköy, a ghost town where the shells of hundreds of unoccupied Greek houses are being slowly overtaken by vegetation. Further along the trail, consider climbing the hills above Bogazici to the Lycian ruins at Sidyma or hiring a kayak at Kaş to visit the sunken city of Kekova.
Before you trek the Lycian Way, check out 10 Things To Know About Turkey.
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Emma Philpott is a New Zealand journalist who cycled from London to Istanbul through very rural parts of Europe, and is dead set on exploring more of Turkey before continuing cycling through Russia, Mongolia and China in 2011. Her travel website is at www.rolling-tales.com.