The walking in Turkey is exceptional; epic landscapes, often with fine beaches, romantically sited ruins and remarkably welcoming locals, make for magnificent hikes between April-June and September-November, especially where waymarked trails complete with dedicated guidebooks have been established or where reliable GPS codes for routes can be downloaded.
Many of these paths were on the point of being lost to the undergrowth when redoubtable walkers like Kate Clow, creator of the famous Lycian Way (Lykia Yolu) long-distance footpath, hacked them back into being with the help of heroic volunteer groups. The way-marked Lycian Way runs 500 kilometres from Fethiye to Antalya, switchbacking between sea and mountains.
The recently completed Carian Trail (Karia Yolu) similarly covers the region between Marmaris and Milas, including the Bodrum and Datça Peninsulas. I have recently walked some of this route’s hilly northern stretches between Milas and its conclusion at Karpuzlu (Alında) in the excellent company of the trail’s creators, Yunus Özdemir, Altay Özcan and Dean Livesley, staying in village houses along the way. The section through the Beşparmak Mountains by Bafa Lake is especially idyllic, with Kapıkırı, the village at the foot of the mountain, also an excellent base for inspirational day walks.
Extremely hardy and experienced hikers might attempt these long-distance routes in their entirety, though the irregular availability of overnight facilities and fresh water supplies, not to mention the closely packed contours, certainly constitutes a challenge; it generally makes more sense to select day walks along the trails, as many visitors do, often taking in the ‘spur’ routes which have sprouted organically along many sections.
Self-guided walking is a developing sector. Good packages are available which include airport transfers, accommodation with evening meals and daily luggage transfers. Guests are also provided with detailed walk directions, a Garmin GPS loaded with the relevant coordinates and a local mobile phone.
No such long-distance trails run through Cappadocia, but this topographical wonderland in Turkey’s geographical heart excels as a centre for day walks. The volcanic landscape is corrugated with numerous valleys, or gorges, with flat and wide beds which are dry outside the winter months. These perfect pathways lead between the walls of high-sided gorges, sometimes via surreal natural tunnels or arches, or are flanked by the vineyards, the legendary apple orchards or vegetable plots which flourish in the famously fertile silt. They are adorned, furthermore, with rock-hewn churches, monasteries and pigeon cotes marvellously evocative of the region’s troglodytic traditions. Cappadocia-based operator Middle Earth offers guided walking itineraries, though entirely independent walking is perfectly manageable in the region, as these guide notes to Balkan-Pancarlık and Pigeon Valley show.
The altitude of the high Kaçkar Mountains means this region in northeast Turkey is busiest in high summer. This is a cluster of peaks strewn with glaciers, lakes and high meadows, a land of bagpipes, fondues and distinctive headdresses which anticipates the intact and spirited highland cultures and traditions of the neighbouring Caucasus Range. Experienced hikers, using Kate Clow’s excellent guidebook to the Kaçkars or the downloadable GPS codes, can arrange their own itineraries while walking operators run a range of guided programmes.
The northernmost stretch of the international Abraham’s Path runs through southeast Turkey, linking compelling sites like Gobekli Tepe and Sogmatar, though this is definitely not one for high summer. Long treks across the exposed Kurdish plain, with stays in village homes at night, are arranged for the spring and autumn. This is one for the future, however, given the current security climate.