Skirting the captivating turquoise waters of the Mediterranean coast is the Lycian Way. This is Turkey’s first long-distance hiking trail. The trail spans some 509 km through highlands, rural villages, coastal cliffs and secluded beaches. It connects popular holiday resorts from Fethiye to Antalya. If you were to trek the walkway in full from start to finish it would take you around 29 days. You follow the contours of the Teke peninsula through divided sections. This 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. It will lead you 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 on the Lycian Way
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. This is because they are unique to the Teke peninsula of Turkey. They also 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: Xantos
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. Xantos is linked with the close-by site of Letoon. The Xantos-Letoon sites are the only sites on the Lycian Way route on the Unesco World Heritage site list. This is because the two neighbouring settlements exhibit the most comprehensive examples of Lycian architecture. They also housed the most important unveiled inscriptions of the Lycian language.
Sadly you can no longer see some of the most elaborate artifacts belonging to Xantos. They were shipped to England by Charles Fellows and you can now view them in the British Museum. The most famous of these is the Neried Monument. This large tomb is believed to have been built for Arbinas, a Xanthian ruler.
Nevertheless you will still find a wealth of intriguing structures and carvings at Xantos. Stone tombs, a Byzantine street and mosaics are some of the intriguing artefacts you can explore.
Found on the western part of the Lycian Way 46 km outside of Fethiye. This part of the Lycian Way leading to Xantos is largely asphalt and not very challenging. So many trekkers choose to use the local dolmus bus services to access the site. You can alight at the bus stop in the village of Kinik by the main bridge and go on foot (about 1.3 km) to the ruins. If you are determined to get your step count up then this part of the route is an easy section to tackle.
You will feel a mystical quality at this site which is entwined with sacred legend. It has origins in the worship of the Anatolian mother-goddess Eni Mahanahi and 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. At the spiritual centre three temples were erected. One to the Goddess Leto, and a further two: one to each of her twin children Apollo and Artemis.
You will see various architectural structures at this site. These include an amphitheatre, a Basilica, and a nymphaeum connected to a sacred spring and porticoes which rise out of amphibian filled water. The ties to water were of great importance. Nymph worship was predominant in the area until the 1st century and the Letoon springs were believed to influence fertility.
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 so there is not much to see. You can also use the local dolmus bus services to access this site. The bus stops at the Letoon junction. From here you will trek 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. The towering rock-cut tombs in the hills of this ancient site are an impressive sight. The largest amphitheatre of Lycia is also located at Myra.
Further to these spectacular ruins you can visit the Museum of Lycian Civilisations. The museum is located near the site of 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. Reportedly 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. He was famed for 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.
This route is in the Lycian Way’s central section in what is now known as the town of Demre. Myra comes at the end of at least a 2-day long hike. You should only try this section if you are more experienced. We do not advise this section for novices as there are limited places for refilling water and the terrain is tricky. Also the section of the route leading to the site has no accommodation. Camping is the only option you have when embarking on this section of the Lycian Way (Finike-Myra distance 19km)
Central Lycian Way- Olympos
The ancient site of Olympos tells the story of yet another one of the six major cities in Lycia. This was determined by its’ depiction on the Lycian Union coinage. The city’s geographical situation alongside the Akcay river and close to the sea means it 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. This park has over 74,000 acres (30,000 hectares) of coastal cliffs, beaches, and mountains. For us the site of Olympos and connecting sections of the Lycian Way are particularly enthralling. 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 and ruins of a granary. You can see two well-preserved tombs further along the river. One has 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” it’s quite a sight to behold. The Chimaera Burning Stone is a naturally occurring phenomenon caused by natural gas. The gas emits 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. This creature was said to have 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 after walking any sections of the Lycian Way contact us. Our professional team will be happy to assist. You can also visit our properties page to browse our fantastic collection. We can also advise you on more interesting sites to visit and help you plan your itinerary.