I stared out at all of the boats and yachts on the vivid sapphire blue water and wondered – what the hell am I doing here on the rocky ground, when I could be gently swaying on a boat? The Turkish Mediterranean coast is some of the most lovely in the world. Most people who come to this area come for the Mediterranean – not only the body of water, but the lifestyle. They spend lazy days on a boat island hopping, eating fresh seafood and mezes, soaking up sea breezes, afternoon swims, and colorful sunsets.
Yet I’m here to hike, exert myself, sweat, eat tuna from a can, and tend to my blisters along the Lycian Way. Even though that sounds uncomfortable, I love hiking, so I’m happy to be seeing this rugged coastline by foot. However, I do wonder – is it possible to have it all – land and sea? Can you hike the Lycian Way by boat?
When my friend and boat captain, Osman, first brought up the idea of following us from Kas to Demre in his boat, the Selin-3 , I was a bit skeptical it would all work. But as Betsy, Warren, and I shared a beer with him and looked at the map the ideas started to become a reality – a plan was hatched. We would do a 4 day cruise on the Selin-3, but instead of us being on the boat as it moved from place to place – we would hike from village to village and he would pick us up. The Selin-3 would serve as our moving ‘campsite’ in a way – we would stay on it overnight, eat dinner and breakfast, and Osman would pack us a lunch and water for our hike that day. As a local who grew up in the area, Osman knew every inch of the coastline and how it intertwined with the Lycian Way trail making our rendezvous easy. Plus, since we were coming back to the same boat in a new place, it meant we only had to hike with what we needed for the day and could leave our heavy packs behind on the boat.
Using a boat to hike this portion of the Lycian Way (from Kas to Demre) is a perfect way to experience
the Lycian Way AND the Mediterranean.
As the sun came up over Kas we left a few things on the boat in the harbor and I started to take my first steps on the Lycian Way (Likya Yolu in Turkish). Even though I could have left practically my entire backpack on the boat and just taken a little day pack of things I needed, I opted to remove about 10 pounds from my pack and leave it on the boat, but still carry the majority since I needed to get used to hiking with a backpack again. Within the first hour I could already tell my shoulders and back were not happy about this new weight it was taking on. I knew my body would eventually adjust – unfortunately it would be a painful process.
The hiking was mostly along the rocky coast with gorgeous views of the coastline ahead of us. There was one section which had me holding my breath – we had accidently got on the lower trail which was much more treacherous than the high trail according to our book. It left us scrambling very slowly across jagged boulders with steep drops into the sea. One wrong step and you could do some serious damage. The rocks looked like porous sponges, but they were definitely not soft!
We stopped for a rest in Ufak-dere, a picturesque little cove, where we ran into a local man who invited us for cokes and bread. It was a perfect little lunch spot – especially since the owner had a obsession with 80’s music. I found myself singing along to “Ice, Ice Baby” as I gave my feet a rest.
After about 6 hours of hiking, we rounded a corner and there in the distance on the water we could see the anchored Selin-3 – a welcome site that made my heart soar in delight! As if we were hiking royalty, Osman picked us up in a little raft and whisked us off to the boat where we promptly dropped our packs, put on our swimming suits and took a dip in the Mediterranean! It was super to be back on the Selin-3 – it was like an old friend to me – and so was Osman. He fed us a Turkish feast and I promptly fell asleep under the stars.
We saw the sun rise from the Mediterranean as Osman was shuttling us back to shore for our next 5.5 hour hiking day. I’m not a morning person, even when I am in an idyllic setting like this, so I was a bit slow to get my body and brain moving in my groggy, sleepy, jetlag haze. Yet this is another thing I knew would improve the more days I was on the trail and used to the hiking routine. Luckily all I had to do was follow Warren and Betsy. I was getting a bit better at finding the markings for the trail – however I mainly relied on the veteran trained eyes of Warren. We did get lost once as we climbed up towards the ruins of Apollonia, and we each fanned out looking for a marker with no luck. I finally got my phone and took a look at the GPS to try to get us back on track.
We hiked past many ruins, old tombs and crumbling walls as we descended back down to the coast where once again Osman was there to meet us. The views of the ruins from the boat were even better – then again maybe the cold beer also was a factor in making them better. There were sarcophagi right out on the beach, a stunning, yet strange, site to see on a beach. You can sunbath with the dead. In addition to the random sarcophagus along the beach and in the water – you could also find turtles and wild bores here too!
That night we ate like royalty as Osman grilled us chicken and made us various meze salads from his mother’s recipes. His cooking was just as I had remembered it from last year when I was on his boat – delicious and plentiful. Just what hungry hikers need.
We picked up a new hiking friend along the trail, Andreas, who was German, Italian, and spoke fluent Spanish. There was a lot of Spanish being spoken between Warren, Betsy, and Andreas which meant I had a lot of time to simply listen to the foreign chatter and think. However it’s actually hard to really think and meditate on this trail for me as it’s so treacherous you really have to concentrate on every step. I still didn’t have my hiking legs underneath me.
The water was completely still as we hiked into Ucagiz. My hips hurt as we walked the rocky coastline but I enjoyed the winding, narrow trail and scenery. I carried a heavier pack again today in an effort to continue to get used to the hiking as we only had one more day on the boat before I had to take the training wheels off. Ucagiz was perfect for a rest and a cold drink. Once again sarcophagi were strangely found scattered in all areas of the town next to garbage bins and in parking lots. This mixture of ancient relics and modern day village intertwined sort of felt like a Sci Fi movie set.
We hiked to Simena, a town I had actually been to before. The approach into Simena was gorgeous. Up a steep hill through ruins and beautiful views of this Cliffside town as well as a great view of our boat and captain waiting for us for lunch! As we ate lunch and drank beer on the boat, Osman steered us towards the Sunken City or Kekova. Now an island, Kekova was once joined to the mainland but it suffered a series of earthquakes and these geological influences rendered it a city six meters below the sea. So not only were we hiking through ruins on the Lycian Way, we were also floating above them on the Selin-3.
After lunch we did a short hour walk to digest our food and get a little further on the trail so we had a better starting point for the next day. The best part is we walked this last hour without our packs. For the first time I was able to keep up with Warren and have a conversation with him while hiking, which in turn boosted my confidence a bit. That night we had a fish fry on the boat for our last dinner on the Mediterranean. We invited Andreas to join us on our big boat and he provided the dessert – a chocolate bar from Columbia with crushed coffee beans on top! The fastest way to my heart – chocolate, coffee, and gin. Two out of three aint bad.
The next morning was painful for me – it was painful because we were leaving the sea and our perfect little floating ‘campground’. We were heading towards Demre and would be bidding Osman and the Selin-3 goodbye. One of the things I love most about traveling for as long as I have been is when I get to come back to a place and renew old friendships – and this is exactly what the last 3 days was for me. Sure, I had been in this area of Turkey before, but this time I felt so much more connected to it thanks to having to hoof it on my own two feet. Seeing Osman again and how his business had grown was also a perk – plus any time I get the chance to eat Osman’s cooking is a delight.
After a delicious breakfast and coffee, Osman pulled the boat right up to the trail and we walked off the plank onto the Lycian Way again. I tightened my backpack straps and watched the boat pull away as the sun rose and the long shadows disappeared. This quite possibly was the best way to experience the Lycian Coast by sea and by land.
More Lycian Way Info:
Hike the Lycian Website
Read Warren and Betsy’s Daily detailed journals of our hike and get tips on lodging and route.
Learn more about the Selin-3
No need to carry tents and food – contact Osman directly for info on how you can hike and boat the Lycian Way for 4 days – +90 532 540 7040