Walking the Carian Trail in Turkey

Situated as it is at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Turkey is largely made up of the Anatolian plateau, which over the centuries has been inhabited by a vast and diverse range of civilisations, leaving a goldmine of ruins and sites for archaeologists and historians. As with the Lycian Way, the Carian Trail, which was completed in 2013, is a way of linking ancient sites across the modern provinces of Muğla and Aydın with remote communities, and introducing walkers to an entirely different aspect of Turkey, a world apart from major coastal resorts such as Marmaris.
Named after the Aegean region of Caria, which arose in the 11th century BC and was mentioned in Homer’s Iliad, the trail is divided into five sections: the Bozburun Peninsula, the Datca Peninsula, the Gulf of Gokova, the Carian Hinterland and the Muğla Environs, across some 850km, making it the longest walking route in the country. It passes through the remains of many ancient cities, including Amos, Loryma and Hydas, and the island of Sedir to which Cleopatra and Mark Antony are said to have swum.
The trail for the most part follows the coast around the southwest corner of Turkey, taking you through rugged, unspoilt rural beauty composed of mountain foothills where goats ramble, and shady pine forests where waterfalls tumble; valleys knitted with almond groves and olive terraces, and traditional villages now able to make a small income from tourism.
You will walk through wonderfully diverse and under-populated terrain, along old trails and paths, some of which are said to have been laid by Alexander the Great, with exquisite views of the sea, distant islands and peaceful bays. There are myriad opportunities to cool off with a dip off a sandy beach, explore ruins such as Greek amphitheatres, or settle down for a mezze platter and a glass of mint tea, and of course the next magnificent view is just a bend in the trail away.

Practicalities

A typical Carian Trail walking holiday. lasts a week, during which you can tackle a substantial portion of the route, averaging around 12km a day with daily elevations of around 450m. The terrain varies from cobbled paths to old mule trails and steep, rocky footpaths, so although it’s suitable for casual walkers, the Carian Trail is not to be underestimated. You’ll need a reasonable level of fitness and suitable footwear; foldable poles are always a good idea.

The Bozburun Peninsula tends to be the most popular section for first-timers, with a number of short and spectacular hikes, numerous ruins and an excellent range of both boutique hotels and places to eat. The seaside town of Bozburun itself is well known for its boat-building industry: master craftsmen apply the finishing touches to traditional gulets here, while during the summer months boats of all shapes and sizes bob gently at anchor in the deep blue sea.
Walking holidays on the Carian Trail are tailormade, allowing you to pick and choose your travel dates according to your availability. However, as with most Turkish walking holidays, it’s best to avoid the scorching July and August when the coastal resorts fill up, and the mercury can easily hit 35°C. Instead think of spring, and particularly autumn from September onwards, when the weather is reliably pleasant and any rainfall is light.
These are self-guided trips across two centres, with seaside accommodations in Bozburun and Akyaka, and luggage transported between them. As with the Lycian Way, the route is shown with red and white waymarkers following the French Grand Randonnees convention, but to ensure you stay on track as well as transfers to the trailhead for daily walks, you’ll be provided with detailed information packs including comprehensive maps and road notes.

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Alex Pazderski from our travel specialists The Natural Adventure Company on walking the Carian Trail in Turkey:

Carian charm

“This is such a special walking route, not just for the amazing views but the history of it, the vibrant local life and the fact you’re never far from a secluded bay where you can stop for a swim in the clear turquoise water. The Carian Trail is long, it’s around 700km in total, but we think the Bozburun section is the best for the landscape and the historic ruins. You’ve got a great mix of scenery, opportunities for swimming, the Aegean cuisine and the unspoilt local culture.”

Terrain

“In terms of terrain, the Carian Trail is fine for casual walkers in good health, because you’re mostly on well-used paths with a safe surface. It is rocky, and steep in places, but nothing too difficult.”
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Christine McIntosh] [Food: Frank Smith] [Places: Joe Bloggs]
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