Alexandra Paulus

In mid-April 2019, my husband and I, both from Germany, but currently living in Ankara, walked from Fethiye to Kabak Beach and then a little beyond. Our dog Zeytin (Turkish for olive since, when we met her, she was small and black) came along, of course. We adopted her from a tiny mountain village above Lake Egirdir in Turkey’s Isparta province (another great location for hikers), so she practically grew up in the mountains. She is a mid-sized mix and, most importantly, incredibly active. At 10 months, we had taught her how to come back to us when we call her, so we could let her off the leash in nature. It is hard to tell who enjoyed the hike more: Zeytin or us.

Some practical information on how we organized our the trek:

  1. Choosing when to go: The practical reason for hiking in mid-April was that the Easter holidays allowed us time off work. Also, on the Lycian way at that time of year temperatures are still moderate, there are comparatively fewer people around, and plants are green and lush. The latter is particularly true when compared to the fall, which is an equally lovely time to walk (and the ocean is a lot warmer), but the summer heat has dried up large parts of the flora.
  2. Picking a segment of the trail: Since it was only mid-April and we were looking to walk with daypacks only, the segments of the trail closer to Antalya that are at higher elevations were disqualified by the possibility of snow. Moreover, we looked for a segment with pensions underway (that would accept our dog). Another segment we could have walked (and that we, to be completely honest, liked even more) is walking from Kas to Demre, but we had walked that bit already and wanted to explore something new. Finally, the prospect of relaxing at Kabak Beach after the hike sounded quite tempting, so off we went.
  3. We made reservations for accommodation that would allow dogs by calling them, some even speak English (information on accommodation here: http://cultureroutesinturkey.com/the-lycian-way/accommodation/).
  4. We used the Trekking in Turkey app (http://cultureroutesinturkey.com/society-news/new-trekking-in-turkey-mobile-application-is-released/). It has a map, descriptions of the segments and GPS data.
  5. Getting to Kabak Beach: Since we live in Ankara, we drove to the final destination of our trek and left the car there. Egirdir Gölü, our dog’s homeland, makes for a lovely stopover about halfway (we can recommend Fulya Pension, owned by Ibrahim who also owns Charly’s Pension http://www.charlyspension.com/). Since the weather was not ideal, we actually made another stopover in Termessos, the ancient site in what is probably the most picturesque scenery on the Turkish Mediterranean coast overlooking the bay of Antalya. The following day we drove to Kabak Beach. The dirt road leading down to the beach is very steep and not ideally maintained, but fortunately, our Volkswagen T2 managed. In Kabak Beach, where we had not made a reservation in advance, we spent the night in our van at a lovely spot by the dirt road (that is practically deserted at night) underneath pine trees with a view of the ocean.

Zeytin is enjoying the first night at beautiful Kabak Beach

Day 1: Fethiye – Ölüdeniz Beach, 14,6km, 578m climb, 666m descent

First, we had to get from Kabak Beach to Fethiye. This was easier said than done with a dog: The dolmus driver in Kabak Beach was kind enough to allow us on his dolmus (since it was a dolmus, which literally means “filled up”, we had to wait a while until there were enough passengers). We could have walked up to the main road, but it is quite a steep and unpleasant walk.

Once on the main road, the other passengers took another dolmus to Fethiye, but unfortunately that dolmus’s driver declined to take a dog on board. So our only option was to hitchhike. Luckily, Mustafa, whom we had met earlier by the beach, saw us and gave us a lift to Fethiye. This was ideal because he dropped us off right at the start of the Lycian Way.

The beginning of this first segment, which is not “officially” part of the Lycian way, consists of much walking on or next to asphalt and through villages, so Zeytin was on the leash for much of this first segment. The first half of this segment thus continues unspectacularly. At least our dog was entertained by her first tortoise sighting and she was torn between terror, curiosity, and fascination.

Ascending to Kayaköy between Lycian rock sarcophagi

Making our way through Mediterranean villages and Lycian rock sarcophagi (the Trekking in Turkey app provides some historical background on the history of the Lycian people) scattered in the countryside, we reached the site of Kayaköy just in time for Lunch. The former Greek village is now deserted and serves as a witness to the complicated Turkish-Greek history. Usually, visiting historic sites with dogs in Turkey is not a problem, so we wandered through the ruins until reaching a viewpoint with vistas over the village and the Mediterranean.

The now deserted Greek village of Kayaköy

From the site of Kayaköy, there are two options to continue the trail: The shorter route that continues in the mountains to Ovacik, and the more scenic option that first descends to Ölüdeniz beach and then ascends again. We chose the latter option because we were there for the hiking and the views after all.

Beautiful views over the Mediterranean coast and fresh genista bushes

After one last ascent to the small mountain ridge atop Kayaköy, the trail begins to descend to the ocean, with spectacular views of the scenery. Finally, the trek felt like the Lycian Way proper, reminiscent of other segments we had walked before: Spectacular views of the ocean, a small trail along rocks and the characteristic small meadows with pebble walls, road or asphalt nowhere in sight. Instead of people, we encountered – to our dog’s entertainment – quite a number of goats. The heat, of course, was unforgiving and felt more like July than April. Finally, we caught a glimpse of the famous Blue Lagoon of Ölüdeniz. While it must be horribly crowded in the high season, it attracts tourists for a reason: The setting is spectacular, and the sheltered bay makes for a bathtub-like swimming experience.

The Blue Lagoon of Ölüdeniz was a sight we did not want to abandon too soon, so we spent the night here

Zeytin remains skeptical of the ocean

Since the first hotels and beach clubs we saw were not terribly crowded, we decided to spend the night by the sea in Ölüdeniz. After a few hotels politely declined allowing a dog on their facilities, the Lagoon “Boutique” (the term is used quite inflationary in Turkey…) Hotel allowed us in. With very basic hotel facilities, the private beach (where our dog was also allowed) quickly convinced us to stay. During the day the hotel also serves as a beach club and was thus quite busy with British and Russian guests, but as sunset approached it quieted down. By the time we enjoyed dinner and Turkish white wine on the terrace overlooking the Ölüdeniz lagoon, we had the place to ourselves.

The perfect end to a hiking day: Turkish white wine with a view of the Blue Lagoon

Day 2: Ölüdeniz Beach – Faralya, 19,7km, 930m climb, 672m descent

On the second day, we walked until the city center of Ölüdeniz (which proved all our prejudices about Ölüdeniz right and should definitely be avoided), wanting to take a cab until the upper part of Ölüdeniz where the original Lycian Way start. Unfortunately, no cab driver accepted a canine passenger, so we had to walk.

The unnecessary 3km walk along a highway was the low point of this trek

What followed was the least pleasant part of the entire hike: The GPS trail in the app simply follows a rather steep, completely sun-exposed four-lane highway without a pedestrian footpath, not at all ideal for dogs who have to tread on hot asphalt. As a consequence, by the time we reached the official start of the second Trek (close to the Sultan Motel) we were already exhausted. To our frustration, after following the trail for a while we passed a signpost that pointed towards a footpath to Ölüdeniz center. As we did not take this path I have no knowledge of the quality of the trail, but I highly recommend checking this opportunity out.

Spectacular views over Ölüdeniz at the start of the second day

Once we had reached the proper trek, we were quickly recompensated with spectacular views over the Blue Lagoon. In the beginning, we met a number of locals enjoying a picknick with a view plus the usual goatherders. After that, it was only hikers. The trail continuously climbs by the coast until it reaches its highest point, changing from Mediterranean to alpine terrain. At the top, where we enjoyed fresh orange juice in a strategically located tea garden.

Alpine terrain at the highest elevation of the trek

Consequently, the trail does not follow the coastline anymore but diverts inland. Here, what must have been the original Lycian Way was blocked by an enormous rock avalanche, possibly due to an earthquake. Trail signage in this area was not as abundant as in other parts, so sometimes we did not find the trail and had to walk on the road.

Trees growing among the massive rock avalanche

Subsequently, the trail continued – mostly without views of the ocean – through little mountain villages. We reached Faralya in the afternoon and stayed at George House. They have a lovely garden that is overlooking the beautiful Butterfly Valley (Kelebek Vadisi), great for reading a book after the hike and enjoying the sunset. They very kindly accepted our dog but assigned to us the first floor of a (normally probably residential) house a little further away from the garden and dining hall.

Stunning view of Butterfly Valley from the garden of George House pension

Day 3: Faralya – Kabak Beach: 11,3 km, 453m climb, 740m descent

The next morning started with a little challenge: We had trouble finding the right way. The description and the owners of the pension had indicated that we should first follow signs for Kelebek Vadisi (Butterfly Valley) and then for Kabak Beach. However, we got a little lost because there is a number of different little trails close to the trail to Butterfly Valley. When the trail to that valley suddenly descends very steeply into the valley, the trail to Kabak continues not very steeply along the mountain slope. After that initial bit we had no trouble finding the correct path.

Around here we had trouble finding the way – this is what the right way looks like

A quick note on Butterfly Valley: Initially we had considered visiting the valley without the backpacks, on the afternoon of the second or morning of the third day. However, we decided against it since the trail is extremely steep (we were told that some sections require using a rope) and thus did not seem fit for taking a dog. The trail holds spectacular views of the valley. What is more, there were many boats taking tourists to the valley, so it is probably less secluded than Faralya itself.

Panoramic view of Butterfly Valley

Instead, we followed the Lycian Way for this third, relatively short segment.

Zeytin is contemplating the view

The trail traces the coastline and sometimes requires very modest rock-climbing skills. Zeytin quickly showed us that her skills in this domain surpass ours by far. The trail then descends along a few seaside villages until it reaches beautiful secluded Aktas Beach. We had this paradise of white pebbles and crystal-clear water all to ourselves. Nearby Aktas Beach Camping which overlooks the beach made for a good lunch spot.

Magnificent and deserted Aktas Beach

The remaining part of the trail winds along the coast, sometimes through what feels like private gardens, and finally to the main street that leads to Kabak Beach. Once again we could have waited for the Dolmus, but since it was such a short hiking day we decided to walk the last bit and enjoyed the descent with ever better views of the beach.

First view of Kabak Beach – again

We spent the night at the beautiful Sea Valley Bungalows hotel, the only property in Kabak Beach with a beach view. We really enjoyed the combination of beach-front terraces, a good restaurant, a peaceful garden and bungalows that felt outright luxurious after the hike – and the fact that they accepted our dog, of course.

Day 4: Lazy Day

This is basically what we did on the fourth day

Day 5: Kabak Beach – Cennet Bay – Kabak Beach, 8,4km, 593m climb + descent

After Kabak Beach, the Lycian Way ascends very steep mountains and continues far from the coast. This makes for spectacular views, as we had seen on our drive to Kabak Beach, but we were looking for something closer to the ocean with swimming opportunities. So on our fifth and last day, we walked along the coastline to Cennet Bay (Cennet Köyü). We were very glad that we chose this moderate day trip because it provided ample opportunities to take a swim on a very hot and stuffy day.

Cennet Bay was a relatively large beach, and we actually enjoyed the smaller beaches on the way more.

The coastline between Kabak Beach and Cennet Bay

While not our favorite part of the Lycian way, we really enjoyed this five-(okay, four-)day hiking trip. It held a great combination of different terrains ranging from mediterranean to alpine as well as cultural sights like the Lycian sarcophagi and Kayaköy as a reminder of more recent Turkish history. The Lycian Way being the Lycian Way, the views were simply stunning, we had ample opportunities to take a swim in the Mediterranean, and the guesthouses along the way were also really nice, particularly in Kabak Beach. We easily could have spent a few more days to explore the area and might just come back again.

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