Friday, April 1, 2016

The Lycian Way: Useful information

I have here tried to provide some useful information about The Lycian Way / Likya Yolu trail, if you are interested in travelling to Turkey to walk the trail, either part of it or whole. I will also try to update this page if I should remember more useful tips that it is nice to know about. Otherwise, if there is anything else you are wondering about, use the comments field and I will try to answer as good as I can.

When
There are two large factors controlling at what time of year is the most ideal to walk The Lycian Way, it is the heat in Turkey in the summer (July - August) and that there will be snow in the highest part of the trail in wintertime (December - April). Not that it will not be possible to hike in the Winter during this period, but it demands more equipment, that you have to carry more food over a longer period (the places that lie at the highest places will for the most part be deserted in this period), as well as a higher degree of preparation and experience. If you are well used and acclimatized to walk in very high temperatures, then you can also consider walking the trail in the hot months of the year.

View of Yedi Burun from Alınca.

There are usually very good conditions to walk in the spring months between April and July, but melting snow could cause some problems where the trail crosses riverbeds (for example, when the trail crosses the river at the bottom of the Göynük gorge) in the early months. The fall months between August and December are also a good period to be hiking in, but the later in the year you go, the more the water sources may dry out. With regard of the heat, I would recommend to start in the beginning of October.

Accommodation
With the exception of the section between Demre / Myra and Finike, none of the different sections of the trail demands a tent. You could argue about that there are not any accommodations between Göynük and Geyikbayırı, but just outside of Çitdibi there is a climbing centre and both from there and from Hisarçandır there are bus connections. So if you want to hike the trail without a tent, you will except the given sections find several accommodations without problems (if there is a bed available when you arrive and has not booked is an altogether different matter).

Depending on how large the place you come to is, you will find several types of accommodations. The most usual type is a so-called pansiyon, easiest translated as a guesthouse. These offer simple and good accommodation, often with both dinner and breakfast included in the prize. Pay heed to that this may not be the case for the ones located in the larger towns, here are usually just the breakfast included. You will usually find hotels only in the large towns you get to (as Kalkan and Kaş).

Accommodation. Example of one of the tree houses you can stay at in Olympos, from Kadir's Tree Houses.

In between, you may have the opportunity to spend the night in a bungalow (as at Patara Green Park next to Pydnai on Patara beach). In the area around the ruins of Olympos the usual accommodation are so-called tree houses, either in small wooden cabins standing on the ground or perched on stilts. The possible types of accommodation are many. Of places to recommend are Özlen's Pansiyon & Restaurant in Pydnai and Kadir's Tree Houses in Olympos (I stayed at many good places, but these two were my favourites).

When it comes to camping, there is no problem; this is widely accepted in Turkey. However, if you choose to camp, then pick a place near a water source.

Food and supplies
If you aim to prepare most of the food you eat on the trail yourself, then you have to be prepared to carry more food over a longer period. There are a lot of stores on the trail, but the assortment varies very from store to store. In the large places you pass, you will not have any problem getting supplies, but the stores existing in the small places will a have very limited range of goods. Be advised that there are not any places to buy food from between Göynük and Geyikbayiri, so buy what you need in Göynük. The same goes for the section between Demre / Myra and Finike.

Most of the guesthouses (pansiyons) you get to may also prepare food for you upon request, even if you are not staying for the night.

Food and supplies. A typical Turkish breakfast. Tomatoes, cucumber, eggs, olives, cheese, white bread and jam. Usually served together with the traditional tea.

Water
The Turkish word for water is su. Public water sources and springs are usually safe to drink from, unless they are marked with 'içmeyen su'. In the villages you will get to, there are as usual always a public water source and in addition, you shall also find water at a mosque. Outside the villages, there are also sources along the roads that connects the villages with each other. You should be more careful about drinking water you find in the nature. Alongside the trail, you will also find several cisterns and wells, both with and without equipment to get the water. Be critical of the water quality of these. These will become more and more dry throughout the fall.

It is recommended to bring water purifiers. Fill up with what you need for the walk before you go. The section between Demre / Myra and Finike is the most problematic on The Lycian Way when it comes to water, more about that later.

Water. A typical water source along the trail. Here from a spring in Çukurbag.

If you are allergic to hornets, wasps and / or bees, be extra careful around a water source, as they attracts them and you may find large swarms around the water sources (this may however be useful in locating water, as you can follow the insects to water). This is especially true for the various water sources you get to in the first sections of the trail, since the area around Faralya and later are widely used for beekeeping. If you need to fill water where there are lots of wasps or bees, the trick is to approach the water extremely slow and calm, not in threatening movements, this worked fine.

Difficulty
How you grade a route is really a question of definition, and a subjective one as that. I am of the view that the difficulty of The Lycian Way is not defined by the topography of the landscape route goes through. The trail contains sections that are steep and also sections that are steep over a long period, and at times with a bad surface to be walking on; but even when that is the case, the trail is not hard to walk. In my eyes, Likya Yolu is a medium difficult route. If there is anything making the trail hard due to its location, it will be the heat.

There are also just a very few sections that are exposed. The most 'notorious' part is just before you get down to Limanagzi, here some easy scrambling down towards the beach are required, the section is secured by rope and should not offer any problems (even though it is almost defined as a 'death-defying experience' in the guidebook). I think the guidebook is making too much of a fuss about this section, something that can seem frightening to some. The most important is that you are conscious of what you can and does, and takes responsibility self for what you feel you can manage. If you feel that it is not possible, then there is another and simpler route that you can turn around and go back for. If you go to Bel by Gey, there is also an exposed section of the trail (I went to Bel by Sidyma and therefore cannot say anything about the difficulty of that part).

What is making the trail difficult is navigation. The waymarking are mostly good, but in between it is very bad, I will go in more detail about this later.

Difficulty. The section on the trail demanding most cautiousness was according to the guidebook this passage down towards Limanagzi. There is also an exposed part if you go to Bel through Gey.

Maps and guidebooks
The founder of The Lycian Way is Kate Clow and she has in addition written a guidebook for the route. This can be ordered from Culture Routes Society in Turkey. The guidebook contains detailed descriptions with elevation profiles of the various stages of the trail, which in the book is separated into 29 stages. In addition, the book contains practical information about the trail and Turkey, historical and cultural information, together with a short dictionary of useful words with translations. The guidebook is also providing supplementary information about the different historical places and ruins you get to.

There is a map included with the book, but that map is not good enough for navigation and is more useful as an overview map for planning purposes. From the following website, Trekking in Turkey, you can buy three maps that covers the western (1:75 000), central (1:70 000) and eastern (1:54 000) part of The Lycian Way. Unfortunately, the map of the eastern part of the trail does not cover all of the trail, so the trail after Göynük is not on the map (I had however no problems finding my way on those stages, though I had good weather while walking them). What must be said about the maps is that in Turkey official map data are subject to the military and are not public. So the maps you get will not be based on proper map data from Turkey, but is instead taken from Soviet military maps and the information on the maps are manually added (using Google Earth among other things). Hence, the problem will be that a lot of the contours and the borders between the forests and the mountains are inaccurate. Even so, the maps were still useful to me during my walk, but if you carry a gps, they are not necessary.

Maps and guidebooks. A collage of the three different maps you can get of the trail.

Updates to the book and the trail is found at the following page: http://cultureroutesinturkey.com/the-lycian-way/route-updates/. From the same website, you can also download an app that will both give you the trail on a map, as well as supplementary information and an overview of accommodations on the route.

Navigation
The Lycian Way uses the same red and white blazes as the GR (Grande Randonne) trails uses to waymark where the trail is going. In addition, there will at road- and path-junctions be yellow signposts that show you the direction to the next and previous place on the route and approximately how many kilometres there are to the place (these numbers will deviate from those given in the guidebook). The trail sometimes shares the same path with other trails, so you will experience several variations of waymarks along the trail.

Navigation. This is how the typical yellow signpost you see on the trail looks like. The signpost shows the direction to the next and previous place on the trail, with a number indicating how many kilometres to the place. Here from the route up towards Beycik with Tahtalı Dağı in the background.

For most of the time, the waymarks are good and easy to follow, especially in the most popular parts of the trail and closest to the biggest places. In between however, is the waymarking really bad, which is the reason why I am of the opinion that the biggest problem on the trail is just the waymarking. Expect to be taking the wrong turn a couple of times (for myself, I felt like I almost went the wrong way at least one time each day). There are several reasons for why the waymarking is not good enough.

On several sections, the markings are completely absent and you can experience that the trail is not following any clear path. Sometimes the waymarks also is pointing in the completely wrong direction. It also happens that the volunteers that has marked the route has not been able to found or know where the original trail is going and because of that reason has marked the wrong track. Often, the old markings has not been removed, something that can cause confusion. Local entrepreneurs has a tendency of changing the route so that you are diverted to pass by their shop, restaurant, accommodation and so forth.

That being said, it should not scare you away from hiking the trail. There is very little chance that you will go lost for many days in the wilderness, in most of the areas you will get to a path or a road that will lead you to a place where there are people living. Even so, I would recommend using a gps with the trail on it on your walk; this will make the navigation a lot simpler, remove unnecessary frustration and make it so that you can enjoy the scenery better.

Navigation. An example of the failed waymarking on the trail. This is on a forest track on the way down the Göynük gorge, just before you go down on a footpath leading down to the valley bottom where you crosses the river. Here are the arrows and the waymarks telling you that you should continue further along the forest track, when the trail actually is going to the right on a small path (outside the picture).

Demre / Myra to Finike (and Finike til Karaöz)
The stage between Demre / Myra and Finike is by many the greatest obstacle on the trail, where the trail is going high up in the mountain between the towns of Demre and Finike. On this 35 kilometre long stage, you start almost at water level and hike up to 1800m and down again, and there are no accommodations or places to get food under ways. If you walk with a tent, these factors are no obstacles at all. And if you walk with a very lightweight backpack on a good day and is in good shape, you can possible walk the complete section in one day. What I have to underline is that the stage is very beautiful and that I recommend that you do not skip it.

What is making this stage difficult is the access to water sources. Especially in the dry months late in the year. Then the water sources are drying out and you cannot expect to find water underway. To carry with you what you need of water for the walk and food, will increase the weight of your backpack significantly (but it can be done, one I met begun the hike over the mountain with 9l of water in his backpack, a mere 9kg of extra weight). A small thing to consider, there are nomads and farmers in the mountains you walk in and they need water they as well. There is no reason why you should not ask for help.

Another solution, if you are willing to pay a little bit extra as I did, is to cut down upon the days you spend in the mountain. This can be done by walking up to Belören and then arrange transport down again to Demre / Myra or wherever you wish to go. For then to arrange transport back up again to the village, which is located next to road going down to Demre, the morning after with what you need of water for the rest of the walk.

This is otherwise the stage where it can be most serious to go the wrong way, so pay close attention to the waymarks. Unfortunately, there are parts of this route that is badly marked, especially in the stony area below Kirk Merkdiven that you get do after Alakilise. Together with some other sections after the highest point of the stage. Pay particular attention to the waymarks where a large red arrow is pointing to the left, here the trail is going higher up again to the left shortly afterwards and not down on the most apparent path.

Demre / Myra to Finike. Just before the highest point on the stage between Demre / Myra and Finike. You can see the sun reflected in the greenhouses around Demre. On the open area further down in the valley are the ruins of Alakilise.

Coming down from the mountain is like walking out of the frying pan and into the fire, since the stage between Finike and Karaöz is a 30km long walk on a beach and road. Here is the guidebook actually recommending to take a dolmuş (bus) to Mavikent on the other side of the beach and walk from there on (I walked the whole way).

How to get to the start of the trail
Getting to the start of The Lycian Way is not difficult. You can get to Fethiye either by taking a plane to Antalya and bus from there (taking about five hours and more), or you can take a plane to Dalaman that is closer to Fethiye. The official start of the trail is just below Ovacık, near the road going down to Ölüdeniz, and is easily reached by dolmuş from Fethiye (it goes to Ölüdeniz and back). The bus drivers know where the start is, so there is only to say that you want to go to the beginning of the trail, and then they will put you off at the correct place and point you in the proper direction.

I will however recommend starting from Fethiye, if you got an extra day to spare. This path is marked as The Lycian Way, but is officially not so. The path is pleasant and you will get to experience the ghost town of Karmylassos on the way. To get to where the path starts from in Fethiye, all you need to do is get to the road that passes by the ruins of the castle in Fethiye, Telmessos, where you shortly after will find the first signpost.

Hike the whole or just parts of the trail
The trail is passing by numerous places with bus conditions to the larger places and town, so either just hiking a certain stage or skip between stages of the trail is not a problem. You are not bound to hike the whole of the trail to experience the highlights of the trail in other words.

If you only have a few days available, my recommendation is the first four days of the trail, from Fethiye to Bel. These were the days I enjoyed the most on the trail. Of the individual stages, my favourites were Saribelen to Gökçeören, Myra to Finike, Ulupınar to Yayla Kuzdere, and Göynük to Hisarçandır Kale. Of the historic places you pass, Olympos was the most impressive in my eyes.

Animals
There are both poisonous snakes and scorpions in Turkey so be aware of where you place your feet and hands. Be cautious when turning around rocks on the ground, scorpions may be hiding beneath them. There are wild pigs out in the nature and they can actually be aggressive.

The biggest problem concerning animals in Turkey is the stray dogs. Mainly, they will back off and stay away from you, but it is possible to meet aggressive dogs (you can read about my encounter with a dog here). Often throwing rocks and use a twig to hit with help, sometimes the sight of the rocks will do. Sometimes however, it does not. I cannot say that I am an expert on dogs / stray dogs, so they might arrest me here, but after what I have heard it is important to show the dog who is in charge. This may sound intimidating, but I like better to warn about it than that one will experience it the hard way. That being said, I have still not heard about any really ugly stories on the trail.

View of the Lycian mountains from Antalya. You get down to Geyikbayırı after crossing the pass you see just to the right of the distinct peak to the right in the picture.

Blogs and links about The Lycian Way
Here are couple of blogs and links about The Lycian Way.

Blogs and tales from other people that has hiked the trail:
Hike the Lycian
Amy & Jim
Toad less raveled
Traveled Earth
John Hayes walks: The Lycian Way
A Lycian Adventure

Public information about Likya Yolu:
Culture Routes in Turkey
Trekking in Turkey
Lycian Way on Trekopedia

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