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The Lycian Way: Turkish 'ghost trail', leading to Alexander the Great's time

If you look for a journey along the Mediterranean Sea, then do not miss a trip along Turkey's longest hiking trail - the Lycian Way, known also as the "the trail of ghosts".

The Lycian way is a 509 km way-marked footpath around the coast of Lycia in southern Turkey, from Fethiye to Antalya. It was researched, designed and implemented by the Brit Kate Clow. Kate was a passionate walker. In the mid of 90-s she submitted the idea of creating a long-distance footpath which Turkey didn't have at that time. She put that idea into a competition run by a Turkish bank. Her proposal won and she spent the next five years walking and waymarking the route.

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What you will get there is too worth to miss: gorgeous coastlines, friendly local people and wonderful camping sites. The start point is at Oludeniz and it is 2 hours from Dalaman airport. The end point is near the international airport at Antalya. There is good public transport all along the trail and opportunities to swim, canoe or paraglide.

Keep in mind that the the route is graded medium to hard. It is easier at the start near Fethiye and gets more difficult then. The trail passes through many hilly areas – you can ascend and descend up to 1000 m. per day. Yes, this is challenging! And you could feel pretty exhausted at some point. But all the efforts are worth!

Important to notice - some parts of the route are very remote! The cellular networks are not fully available. So, make sure you are in a good condition before starting the hike and be careful at every step to avoid injury. If you do not feel very prepared, better do not do this trek alone and take a friend with you! After all, ain't it much more fun to have a travelers as companions!

Although there are some trekkers who do the whole trail in one go, most people prefer to do it in sections. Some sections are inevitably more popular than others. Some short sections of the trail near towns can be regarded as suitable for day walks.

On the first part of the route and in Patara, Kalkan, Kas, Myra, Finike, Adrasan, Olympos, Cirali and Tekirova you can stay in pensions or small hotels. On other nights, you may stay in a village house or camp out. The best time to try Lycian Way is between May andOctober. (On the off-season, the trail becomes extremely deserted, and there are barely any hikers along the route. That makes it more dangerous for not enough prepared hikers).

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When planning your trip, here are some advices what to bring and what to avoid. Do not miss hiking pole! During the trek, you will ascend hundreds of meters and correspondingly descend the same amount. This can put a tremendous impact on your knees. If you have weak knees, a hiking pole is a must.

Take care of your foots. You will need pair of hiking boots or shoes which are firm with good traction. The terrain along the Lycian Way is mostly rocky and disastrous for hikers with improper footwear. Try to pack light bag. Bringing 20 kg bg is here is hard mission to carry on. Choose proper dresses. The trail is mostly narrow and covered with thorny shrubs. So, it is a good idea to get a pair of pants. Pack a jacket too - it gets chilly at the nights.

Bring lots of bottled water! You can refill your bottle from taps in most villages, but there are usually no drinkable water in between these places. Same time you won't have troubles with the food. The villages around sell bread, cheese, nuts, meat.

The trail is mostly without litter, except for areas used by the Lycia Marathon which were not subsequently cleared. Once rubbish-strewn, it is very hard to clean the trail up, as it mostly lies in remote and rugged territory.

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The guidebook is not so necessary as the trail's waymarks are clear, but if you want, take one. The Lycian Way is punctuated by waymarks, painted red and white, and are usually about 50-100 m apart.

Though the Lycian Way goes through the Turkish wilderness, there isn't much wildlife to worry about. There are stray dogs, here and there snakes and domesticated dogs. Dogs are not a trouble - just keep calm and they will not pay attention to you. You will see a lot of greenhouses and fruit trees along the Lycian Way. Wild fruit trees are a common sight – there are oranges, lemon, lime, mandarins, persimmons and grapes. As such, you don't need to carry much snacks – just simply eat the fruits!

You will find that the locals are very friendly people! They could invite you to their own homes for a meal or for some tea. Once in the past, the Lycians were independent, warlike people, with a developed art style and a high standard of living. Their strategic position gave them opportunities for sea-trade and even piracy. After Persian rule, the Lycians welcomed Alexander the Great and absorbed Greek culture. Later Lycia became a province of the Roman Empire. The Romans developed many cities and ports. From the 4th Century, Christianity took hold and, as the Roman empire crumbled, many Byzantine monasteries were founded in the Lycian hills.

The Lycian Way passes about 25 remote historical sites. It's not a single footpath that has been intact since times immemorial. Instead, it's a collection of ancient paths, mule and caravan trails, forest and backcountry roads. For many sites these paths are the most convenient way to reach them. Others can be better appreciated by arriving over the original old road.

One of the most famous sites is the sarcophagus of Captain Eudemos. The captain's tomb is in the ancient city of Olympos. (Actually, Olympos was one of the principal cities of the kingdom of Lycia) Then come the flames of the Chimera that flicker from a hillside of bare rock. This is the natural phenomenon that gave rise to the Greek myth of the fire-breathing monster slain by Bellerophon.

You could see also the semi-submerged ruins of old Simena, displaced by an earthquake in the second century BC. Do not miss Xanthos - the capital city of the Lycian Federation. It was made famous to the Western world in the 19th century by its British discoverer Charles Fellows. It is very old - finds date back to the 8th century BC, but it is possible that the site may have existed during the Bronze Age or during the first centuries of the Iron Age. Next to it is Letoon - the sacred cult center of Lycia. Xanthos-Letoon is one of the most remarkable archaeological sites in Turkey and has been registered in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. Another great site is Myra that was once a leading city of the Lycian Union and surpassed Xanthos in early Byzantine times to become the capital city of Lycia. Its remains are situated about 1.5 km north of today's Demre, on the Kaş-Finike road. Most of the ancient city is now covered by Demre and alluvial silts, for it is located on the river Demre Cay in a fertile alluvial plain. The city is well known for its amphitheatre (the largest in Lycia) and the plethora of rock-cut tombs carved in the cliff above the theatre.

Sidyma is a site that is interesting not only for its ruins, but for the lovely village, with very friendly villagers, that has been built among the ruins. It has a temple-type monumental tomb with an ornately carved ceiling. And Cyaneae is famous for its many sarcophagi, the most of any Lycian site (there may be over 300 of them). Same time Patara is snother of the six principal cities of Lycia, the major naval and trading port. An extensive city with many ancient structures, including what may be the world's oldest lighthouse. Located right next to Patara Beach, voted one of the best beaches in the world.

Tlos is best-known for its fortress-topped acropolis, with its rock-cut tomb-covered sides and its 360 degree panoramic views.

And at the end - the most rewarding part of the trip are the breath taking views of the sparkling blue Mediterranean Sea. Just like the Lycian Way itself, the higher you get, the more amazing it becomes. So, do not hesitate to go out of your comfort zone and try this gorgeous adventure!

Written by: Biserka Borisova

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