This amazing hiking trail, a staggering 800km (500 mi) long, is one of Turkey's growing network of long-distance walking routes through areas of immense historical interest and extraordinary natural beauty. You can find out more about all these hiking trails on the Cultural Routes website.
It all started in 1999 with the Lycian Way, dreamt up by the intrepid British traveller Kate Clow and taking in the shore and mountains of one of Turkey's most fascinating regions. By now, the Lycian Way is well-established and profusely signposted along its length of 510km (320 mi). It has gained much praise and brings new interest to the area and to a new form of tourism.
In recent years, several further long tracks have been added in many locations. Examples include the Saint Paul Trail, heading inland from Perge to Yalvak for 500 km/310mi, the Hittite Trail(s) focusing on the remains of that great ancient culture in the Central Anatolian uplands (236km/145mi in total), the 170km/105mi Abraham's Path around Urfa in the far southeast of Turkey, or the Evliya Çelebi Way, following the steps of that famous 17th century traveller from the Gulf of Izmit (not far from Istanbul) on the Marmara Sea to Simav, deep into Anatolia for 650 km/400mi (and further distinguished as Turkey's first long-distance horse-riding route). Turkey also shares in some cross-border tracks, among them the Via Egnatia walk following that important Roman road via Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to Albania (still under development), and the epic Sultan's Trail from Istanbul to Vienna (2200km/1370mi through Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia and Austria)!
Less linear but no less attractive networks of pathways have also been created in many areas, e.g. in the Kaçkar mountains in northeastern Turkey and the Küre mountains above the Black Sea, or around Olympos and Çıralı on the Lycian Way.
The idea of a Carian Trail that has now come to fruition had been floating around for a while. The ancient region of Caria, named for its inhabitants, the Carians, is in the southwest corner of the Anatolian peninsula, roughly concurrent with the modern Turkish provinces of Muğla and Aydın. It is a greatly varied region, including substantial mountain ranges, rolling hills, a major lake and an extraordinarily convoluted coastline made up of innumerable inlets and peninsulas. The area has only two highly developed tourism hubs, around Bodrum and Marmaris, while the remainder is largely untouched and unspoilt. Ideal walking territory!
Most importantly, Caria contains a vast number of major and minor archaeological sites, nearly all in very attractive locations, and the new Carian Trail passes many of them.
It starts at ancient Alinda near Karpuzlu, and then leads westwards over the majestic Latmos (Beşparmak) mountains to Herakleia ad Latmus, an ancient city set in a surreal rocky landscape on the shores of Lake Bafa. From there it turns southeast, crossing hill country and more mountains, to reach the mountain shrine of Zeus Labraundos, the most important sanctuary of the ancient Carians. Passing through Milas (ancient Mylasa and temporary Carian capital), it skirts the citadel of Pecin Kale and continues south to the shores of the Gulf of Gökova (or Ceramic Gulf). Here, the traveller has the choice of joining a westward branch into the Bodrum peninsula, taking in ancient Halicarnassus (modern Bodrum) and some of the sites surrounding it.
The Carian Trail proper turns east, following the shore via ancient Keramos to the easternmost extremity of the Gulf, where ancient Idyma or the island city of Kedreai beckon. Again, a long side trail branches off, this time inland to the north, leading via Muğla (ancient Mobolla) to the lovely site of Stratonikeia (sounds familiar?).
The regular Carian Trail continues to follow the spectacularly beautiful shoreline, first south, then west, eventually leading into the long and narrow Datça peninsula. Passing through Eski (Old) Datça, the enticing former Greek village near the modern resort town of Datça, it eventually reaches the huge and rich site of Knidos, one of the foremost ancient cities in the area. This stretch of the trail will also offer grand views over the Aegean and the nearby Greek islands of Kos, Nisyros and Symi. It rounds the peninsula and returns to Datça.
The trail picks up again further east, to follow a complex figure-of-eight course through the Bozburun and Loryma peninsulas, the most remote and most untouched part along the entire southwestern shoreline of Turkey. The sites it touches here include ancient Amos and Phoenix, as well as the magnificent Rhodian fortress of Loryma. The Carian Trail (currently) ends on the Bay of Marmaris. There are suggestions to expand the trail eastwards at some point, to lead via Kaunos, another major archaeological site, and Göcek to Fethiye, where it would join up with the Lycian Way.
The trail has been marked with signposts and/or paint-marks every 50 metres along its entire length, to make sure that walkers can follow it easily. Walking the Carian Trail, either for its full length or in sections should make for an unforgettable trip. The beauty of the terrain, be it wild slopes or fertile plains, the conjunction of vistas across shorelines, sea, hills and mountains, and the cultural heritage of the area, along with the traditional hospitality of its inhabitants and their delicious cuisine, will combine into a unique experience.
We were very excited to see this great idea finally become reality. Caria has long been one of the core areas on our itineraries - every year, we run multiple tours in the area and many of the ancient sites listed above are not just among the highlights of our tours, but also among our personal favourites.
To walk on the Carian Trail with expert guides do please join our Walking and Cruising the Carian Coast, taking in some wonderful stretches of the Carian Trail, all combined with the pleasures of a gulet cruise along this stretch of Turkey's turquoise coast.
Get your walking shoes ready!