Travel: Exploring the treasures of Turkey

A walker stops to admire the view of Oludeniz beach on The Lycian Way, Turkey's Turquoise Coast

A walker stops to admire the view of Oludeniz beach on The Lycian Way, Turkey's Turquoise Coast

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A WALKING holiday along part of the Lycian Way offers spectacular views, historic sites, lovely beaches – and time to relx, finds Alison Gray

A spring walking holiday in Corsica that led us from the mountains to the sea, following old drovers’ paths, first got us hooked on the concept of trekking breaks. That set the bar pretty high, so where to next? The Lycian Way along Turkey’s Turquoise Coast sounded suitably poetic and was surely centuries old.

The ancient theatre at Kas

The ancient theatre at Kas

We chose Glasgow-based Macs Adventure to help us manage our itinerary, and before you could say Istanbul not Constantinople, we were on a flight to Dalaman, heading for the first stage of our eight day walking tour along a section of ancient routes between the cities of Fethiye and Antalya.

Macs organise self-guided walking and cycling holidays which means that while they provide support and back-up, including organising airport transfers to your accommodation and arranging to move your luggage between hotels, it is up to you to decide when to set off on your day’s walk or cycle and you have to sort out your own lunches and dinners.

This semi-autonomous arrangement suits us quite well – you’re free to do your own thing, but with Macs’ help. And the most crucial element of that assistance are the Route Notes, which should on no account be mislaid, lost, or worst of all, unconsulted.

We learned this the hard way, on day one. After a fantastic breakfast at the charming Villa Rhapsody, featuring the house speciality – yoghurt with fresh figs, peaches and bananas, topped with a sprinkling of museli, accompanied by predictably good coffee, we set off confidently – this was a warm-up walk with destination Olu Deniz Beach a mere 8km away.

The ruins of the ancient city of Patara

The ruins of the ancient city of Patara

In hindsight I blame the fascinating history of Kayaköy. Just 500m into the walk we came upon the so-called ghost village of abandoned properties. After the First World War, in a population exchange agreement, Greek Christian citizens who had peaceably shared the village with their Turkish neighbours for generations were forced to go to Fethiye harbour for deportation and Muslim Turks were expelled from Greece. It’s a story that fascinates everyone who visits and the history of the place is fictionalised in the 2004 Louis de Bernières novel Birds Without Wings.

Imagining the lives lived here and gazing at the buildings, including two sizable churches, one of which is closed for restoration, we forgot to look at our guide and wandered off in completely the wrong direction.

About two hours later, lesson learned, we refused to take a single step until we had laid eyes on the all important red and yellow way-marked signs of the Lycian Way, and cross checked the direction with our notes.

Walkers are also talkers, it seems, as we caught up with some of our fellow guests at Villa Rhapsody in the evening over a delicious homemade moussaka prepared by our host Jeanne. Slightly shame-faced we confessed our directional misdemeanour to a lovely couple from Canada who promptly admitted they had done exactly the same thing.

Now that our legs were warmed up it was time to take on a slightly bigger challenge with a 14.35km hike billed as taking between five to six hours. The grade given in the notes is moderate but regular Munroists will not find anything out of their comfort zone, although it is perhaps worth noting that walking in full sunshine for a whole day is unusual for the Scottish walker who should take precautions – plenty of water, hat, and sunscreen.

The terrain is a clear rocky trail for the most part but vigilance is required – you need to keep an eye out for red and yellow way-marks at all times as on some stretches of the Way these can be quite faded.

During this walk you’ll see an example of a Lycian House Tomb as well as evidence of illegal excavation – vase necks, jar handles and pieces of ancient terracotta. You’ll also see a ruined church and close to the end of the walk, during the descent, there is the opportunity to take a short diversion to see Afkule monastery, an incredible ruin, carved into the side of a cliff. It’s like the Treasury at Petra, but more dramatic as it seems about to tumble into the sea.

Day four saw us bid a fond farewell to Villa Rhapsody and embark on the next stage of our adventure via a couple of sets of remarkable ruins. Xanthos is the smaller of the two, a compact set of historical remains, featuring a stunning amphitheatre and information boards that reveal that a tenth of the artefacts from the site are in the British Museum. The second option is a much more Turkish affair in the sense that the Turkish government has supported the restoration of some of the buildings we saw at Patara, a much larger scale set of ruins which we spent two hours exploring, but we could have happily spent the whole day there.

We had stopped off on our way to Kas, pronounced Cash, a place we had never heard of previously and that we now seem to see on every travel section’s “must-visit” list. Now we can understand why – it’s a cosmopolitan little harbour town with a relaxed laid-back atmosphere. At night the winding streets are lit by craft stalls, bars, cafes and restaurants, but there’s no hard sell.

Our first route in Kas – Three Beaches Walk – turned out to be our favourite of the whole trip. We reached the first beach of the day after about two hours of walking. We admired the azure blue water, but decided to wait until we got to the second beach before having a swim. This turned out to be a very good plan as the set up at the second beach was ideal with loungers, a relaxed bar, a protected swimming area and even a restaurant emerging from the dusty trail before us. Packs were downed and boots were off before you could say cold beer. After a couple of hours of sunbathing – who says a walking holiday is all graft? – we had the option of taking a water taxi back to Kas or we could complete the last 5km stretch of the walk along the coastline. We were tempted by the easy option but resolved to finish what we started and reluctantly shouldered our packs once more. Still, we made it back in time for sundowners at the slightly down at heel rooftop bar we discovered that nevertheless had the best view of the sunset from the town. There were lots of good dining options but perhaps the best representation of what’s on offer comes from Sarko where we enjoyed a plate of meze featuring minced aubergine, tzatziki, green beans, beetroot and a basket of bread before a whole sea bream was expertly filleted for us at our table and served with a few peppery rocket leaves, a couple of potato wedges and a slice of beef tomato. Accompanied by a bottle of very drinkable sauvignon blanc, the bill came to 136 TL, or around £35.

If you’ve done the West Highland Way, give its Turkish cousin, the Lycian Way, a try.

Turkey’s Turquoise Coast with Macs Adventure (www.macsadventure.com) is available April to mid-June and mid-Sept to October. Prices start from £490pp including, seven nights’ bed and breakfast in a guest house or seaside hotel, baggage transfers, transfers to and from Dalaman Airport, a transfer between Kayaköy and Kas, transfers to the beginning of walks on days five and six, route notes and maps, information pack, organisational assistance and backup support.

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