The popularity of the Lycian Way, which was launched 11 years ago and runs along the Tekke peninsula into the Mediterranean on Turkey’s south coast, has inspired other Turkish and international trail-builders to set up long-distance routes across the country. Trekking trails in Turkey are still in their infancy: the unregulated creation of crazy enthusiasts. They can experience bureaucratic resistance or maintenance problems (translated as: sometimes you will get lost!). However, the locals are friendly and can be relied on to feed or house you if needed. The main problems are lack of high-resolution walking maps, lists of accommodation and rescue services. I recommend wherever possible using a GPS (most trails have been waypointed) and taking, at the minimum, a sleeping bag and mat (a tent is more of a liability than an asset during Turkey’s long summers).
Already established are five trails that cross parts of Turkey, and several cross-border international trails.
The Lycian Way
Steep mountains rise from a wooded shore intercepted by small bays along this 509km route from Fethiye to Antalya, which gets more difficult and steeply inclined as you go along. Stop in pensions and hotels in Patara (and admire its 12km beach), Kalkan, Kas (great views), Myra, Finike (with its ridge walk), Adrasan, Olympos (climb Mount Olympos), Cirali and Tekirova along the way, or camp.
Visit the Lycian Way page for details. Fly to Dalaman or Antalya. On Foot Holidays (01722 322652) has a trip covering around 45 miles over six days, following waymarked mule tracks through ruined citadels, camel farms and orange groves. From £690, including accommodation, some meals and luggage transfers.
The short Istiklal (Independence) Trail, close to the Black Sea in northern Turkey, follows the undulating and remote route used by liberating armies during Turkey’s war of independence in 1919, from Inebolu to Kastamonu.
St Paul Trail
The St Paul Trail runs on spectacular paths in the high Taurus mountains and, across 500km, connects Roman cities which St Paul visited in south-central Turkey, between the ancient sites of Perge and Aspendos to Yalvaç.
The Kaçkar Trails
In north-east Turkey, between Çamlihemsin and Yusufeli, the Kaçkar trails are a network of paths through the mountains, some criss-crossing the mighty glaciated Kaçkar range at heights of up to nearly 4,000m, others climbing from traditional villages to summer pastures.
Best July–Sept. Guidebook, GPS points via trekkinginturkey.com.
Yenice Forest Trail
The newest network, the Yenice Forest trails in north Turkey, is contained within the huge expanse of Yenice, a mature woodland with a huge variety of trees on rolling countryside cut by small canyons. The trails are suitable for biking and horse-riding as well as walking. Easily accessible from Istanbul and Ankara, Yenice Forest is close to the historic town of Safranbolu. This traditional town of stone and timber houses, centre of the saffron crocus harvest, is an excellent base for excursions through the forest; the two are connected by a short journey on a steam train.
International Trekking Trails
Three other major new routes stretch from Turkey across the borders into other countries
• The Sultan’s Trail (email email@example.com, waymarked) follows – approximately – the 1529 route of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent in his expedition to the gates of Vienna from Istanbul via Hungary, Croatia, Serbia and Bulgaria. It is not yet fully complete.
• The Via Egnetia (email firstname.lastname@example.org) from the Albanian city of Dürres and traverses Macedonia, Greece and western Turkey before reaching Istanbul.
• The Abraham Path (30km open in Turkey, GPS points) links Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Israel, from Urfa to Jerusalem.
Both the Via Egnetia and the Abraham Path are ambitiously inspired by cross‑cultural co-operation and restrained by historical impediments on the ground (such as old roads or itineraries). Work is therefore slow and painstaking, and the trails may not be the most pleasurable or scenic way to get from A to B.