Everything sounded perfect in the guidebook. Spectacular scenery, historic ruins, affordable inns spaced at comfortable intervals with clearly marked footpaths, a trail rating of “easy,” and a simple description of how to get to the trailhead. Based on this, we extended our trip in Turkey a few days to allow sufficient time to trek a portion of the Lycian Way. The Lycian Way is a long-distance footpath in southwestern Turkey that follows the Mediterranean for 500 kilometers from Fethiye to Antalya around the coast of ancient Lycia. The Sunday Times has listed it as one of the world’s top ten walks.
In the end, everything on our trek went well, but getting to the trailhead caused some consternation. Our first indication of difficulty was when we checked into our Fethiye guesthouse, told the owner about our plans and he said, “Why would you do it that way? It’s much easier if you do it the other direction. How will you get to Alinca?” I showed him our guidebook that described Alinca as a short taxi ride from Esen. “But that’s 30 kilometers and I don’t think you can even find a taxi in Esen.” Given that he organized treks himself, I chalked his protestation up to self-interest and retained faith in the guidebook. We planned to leave our bags in Fethiye, visit Kas for a few days, take a bus to Esen, somehow get to Alinca and then walk back to Fethiye. In Kas we asked several people if we could get a taxi from Esen to Alinca and everyone said no. I Googled other travel blogs to see if anyone had done it and found one blogger who had done it, albeit with much waiting and difficulty. With all this uncertainty, we decided to charter a taxi from Kas to sidestep the whole Esen taxi question.
On day one, our Taxi driver dropped us off for a 15-minute visit to Xanthos, a UNESCO world heritage site and the ancient Lycian capital. Lycia was a region in Anatolia in what are now the provinces of Antalya and Mugla on the southern coast of Turkey. It was a federation of ancient cities in the region and later a province of Rome. The Lycian League was the first federation in the world with democratic principles and it later influenced the United States Constitution. The city ruins were empty, except for the grazing sheep in the amphitheater, and we quickly walked the site. We were interested to read that Roman senator Brutus (one of Julius Caesar’s assassins) conquered Xanthos and having all just watched HBO’s Rome series, the image of actor Tobias Menzies stayed in our minds. Our driver honked the horn a few times and we jumped in the taxi to Alinca.
After a bit of searching we found the trail marker and started our first day of hiking. We followed mule trails over limestone and granite rocks, through olive and pine trees, while keeping the Mediterranean on our left. The trail is well-marked with red-and-white painted trail markers hastily swiped over large stones (see image). In places where there is some doubt as to where the trail goes, the wrong fork is marked with a red “X.” While the trail was rated “easy” by our guidebook, I’d say it was moderate; anytime you have to use your hands, I think your rating slides into the moderate category. We’d heard that this was Turkey’s first long-distance footpath and it was indeed beautiful. The large granite cliffs and boulders reminded us of Yosemite back in northern California. Within the first couple hours we passed by some grazing goats, one of which was in a tree -- four feet off the ground – munching leaves and small branches. After about four hours of hiking we descended upon the small village of Kabak, where we would spend the night. We asked directions from some men working on leveling a road. Their dog was a large Sheppard with a giant spiked-collar. The metal spiked collar is the traditional collar worn by Turkish Shepherd dogs while guarding their herds and the collars protect the dog and aid in fighting against wolves and bears. Every blacksmith has his own style; this one had six 8-inch spikes radiating from the dog’s neck. We quietly slipped past and found a pension in Kabak.
The second day we rose early, had the traditional Turkish breakfast of olive, cheese, bread, tomatoes, and cucumber, and starting climbing the trail amongst olive groves and stone fences. Every so often we saw a tortoise slowly making its way across the trail. We climbed to a ridge and followed it most of the way to Faralya. The views of the Mediterranean were stunning. We saw the Greek Island of Rhodes off in the distance as well as the picture perfect bay of OluDeniz. After only four hours, we arrived in Faralya and checked into George House hostel. From there, we had some lunch and then climbed a trail a couple hundred meters straight down into Butterfly Valley to see the beach. The trail was extremely narrow and steep and at three or four sections a rope was needed to negotiate the trail. We made it down in about an hour and – because the beach was closed off that day -- we hiked right back up. From the top we congratulated ourselves and admired the granite cliffs and turquoise Mediterranean Sea.
The hike to Faralya and then the climb down to the beach constituted a full day for us. My wife’s trendy Sketcher shoes looked nice but were not ideal for hiking over rocks and boulders. We decided to skip the third day and head straight back to Fethiye. I was anxious to let our guesthouse owner know we really enjoyed hiking the “wrong direction” on the Lycian Way.