Skirting the captivating turquoise waters of the Mediterranean coast is the Lycian Way, Turkey’s first long-distance hiking trail. The trail spans some 509 km through highlands, rural villages, coastal cliffs and secluded beaches connecting popular holiday resorts from Fethiye to Antalya. The walkway from start to finish takes around 29 days to trek in full, following the contours of the Teke peninsula and is divided into numerous sections which means you can try a 3 or 4-day hike or even a one-day excursion.
The walkway repeatedly appears in top 10 lists for the world’s greatest walking trails and will lead adventurers through a mix of beautiful coastline, intriguing ancient Lycian sites, rural farming villages and wild Mediterranean terrain. If you are looking for a Turkish cultural experience- this is it!
Sites of Historical Significance
While the Lycian Way connects a vast number of fascinating ancient ruins there are some major sites which are certainly worth exploring. Many of the sites of ancient Lycia are featured in the Unesco tentative list as they are unique to the Teke peninsula of Turkey and bring to light a wealth of information about the Lycian civilisation, it’s traditions and Indo-European language.
Another major significance of the Lycian union is that it is the first known democratic federation in history which is said to have inspired the democratic systems we are familiar with today. In this system, principle cities had 3 votes while the others had 2 votes or 1 depending on their size. Here is a brief introduction to some of the interesting places which had major roles to play in Lycian society:
Discovered by the British archaeologist Charles Fellows in 1839 the city of Xantos was the capital city of the Lycian Federation and dates back to the 8th Century BC. Linked with the close-by site of Letoon, Xantos-Letoon are the only sites on the Lycian Way route that are on the Unesco World Heritage site list as the two neighbouring settlements exhibit the most comprehensive examples of Lycian architecture and housed the most important unveiled inscriptions of the Lycian language.
Sadly some of the most elaborate artifacts belonging to Xantos were shipped to England by Charles Fellows and can now be viewed in the British Museum, the most famous of which is the Neried Monument, a large tomb believed to have been built for Arbinas, a Xanthian ruler.
Nevertheless a wealth of intriguing structures and carvings still remain at Xantos including tombs, a Byzantine street and mosaics.
Location: Found on the western part of the Lycian Way 46 km outside of Fethiye. As the part of the Lycian Way leading to Xanrtos is largely asphalt many trekkers choose to use the local dolmus bus services to access the site. The bus stops at the village of Kinik by a main bridge and from here it is about 1.3 km on foot to the ruins. Of course for those who are determined to walk this part of the route is an easy section to tackle.
The site has a mystical quality and is entwined with sacred legend; from origins in the worship of the Anatolian mother-goddess Eni Mahanahi to Greek mythological tales of nymphs and Gods.
Purportedly named after one of the national deities of Lycia Leto, the ancient site of Letoon was an important religious sanctuary for the Lycian people. Three temples were erected at the spiritual centre, one to the Goddess Leto, and a further two: one to each of her twin children Apollo and Artemis.
Other architectural structures found at the site include an amphitheatre, a Basilica, a nymphaeum connected to a sacred spring and porticoes which rise out of amphibian filled water. The ties to water were of great importance as nymph worship was predominant until the 1st century and the springs were believed to influence fertility.
Location: Found on the western part of the Lycian Way route, 65 km outside of Fethiye. Similar to the Xantos site the route to Letoon is largely on asphalt many trekkers choose to use the local dolmus bus services to access the site. The bus stops at the Letoon junction and from here it is about 1 km on foot to the ruins.
The site of Myra was one of the six principle cities in Lycia and eventually overtook Xantos as the capital in the 5th century AD. Impressive rock-cut tombs tower in the hills of this ancient site and the largest amphitheatre of Lycia is located at Myra.
Further to these spectacular ruins are the Museum of Lycian Civilisations is located near the site in what is modern day Demre the building itself is a converted ancient granary and holds many artefacts of the Lycian Union.
A trip to this area would not be complete without a visit to the St. Nicholas Church. Yes that’s right, if you didn’t already know Father Christmas was actually born in Turkey in the ancient city of Patara between 260 and 280 AD. He served as a beloved Bishop in Myra and became known throughout the land for his generosity to the needy, his love for children and his concern for sailors and ships. It is this charitable nature that allowed his legend to develop into the character we know and celebrate today.
Location: Found on the central part of the Lycian Way in what is now known as the town of Demre. Myra comes at the end of at least a 2-day long hike with limited places for refilling water and trickly terrain- patience and experience is necessary. Another point to note is that the section of the route leading to the site has no accommodation so camping is the only option when embarking on this section of the Lycian Way (Finike-Myra distance 19km)
The ancient site of Olympos tells the story of yet another one of the six major cities in Lycia (as determined by its’ depiction on the Lycian Union coinage). Due to the geographical situation of the ancient city alongside the Akcay river and close to the sea the city served as a centre for trade and was a pirate refuge for many centuries. The ruins of the city are today encompassed in the Beydaglari Coastal National Park which has over 74,000 acres (30,000 hectares) of coastal cliffs, beaches, and mountains. This makes the site of Olympos and connecting sections of the Lycian Way particularly enthralling as the historical remains are in a truly spectacular natural setting.
A necropolis on the south side of the river contains striking chamber tombs cut into the rock. Beyond the necropolis lie remains of a small overgrown Roman theatre with an elaborate entrance and a Roman church. There is also a Hellenistic quay, ruins of a granary and further along at the mouth of the river are two well-preserved tombs, one with a poetic inscription in memory of an ancient ship captain together with detailed carving of his beached boat.
Approximately 13km west of the site of Olympos high in the mountains is another unmissable spectacle known locally as “Yanartas” which literally translates as “burning stone”. The Chimaera Burning Stone is a naturally occurring phenomenon caused by natural gas emitting from cracks in the limestone and serpentine mountainside, creating flames that dance above the rocks. Unsurprisingly these flames are subject to myth and have apparently been burning for thousands of years. In Greek Mythology the Chimaera was a fierce fire breathing creature made up of a lion, a goat and a dragon who terrorised Lycia until slain by the hero Bellerophon and then fell and got trapped in the earth.
How can Kalkan Holiday Property Help?
If you are searching for a quality holiday property to stay in before or after walking any sections of the Lycian Way please get in touch and our professional team will be happy to assist. We can also advise you on more interesting sites to visit and help you plan your itinerary.