Walking in Turkey is increasingly popular among both Turks and travellers, and a growing number of local and foreign firms offer walking holidays here. The country is blessed with numerous mountains, from the Taurus ranges in the southwest to the Kaçkars in the northeast, which all provide fabulous hiking opportunities. Hiking is also the best way to visit villages and sights rarely seen by holidaymakers, and it will give you a taste of life in rural Turkey.
Hiking options range from challenging multi-day hikes, such as the 500km Saint Paul trail from Perge near Antalya, through rural western Anatolia, and ending near Lake Eğirdir, to gentle afternoon strolls, such as in Cappadocia.
For more information on hiking in Turkey, visit Trekking in Turkey (www.trekkinginturkey.com) and Culture Routes in Turkey (www.cultureroutesinturkey.com).
Bar a few well-known and well-maintained trails, most are not signposted and it's recommended to hire a guide, or at least seek local advice before setting off.
Weather conditions can fluctuate quickly between extremes, so come prepared and check the local conditions.
For half- and full-day walks, Cappadocia is unbeatable, with a dozen valleys that are easily negotiated on foot, around Göreme as well as the Ihlara Valley. These walks, one to several hours in length with minor gradients, are perfectly suited to casual walkers and even families. The fairy chimneys are unforgettable, and walking is the best way to do the landscapes and sights justice – and discover areas that travellers usually don't reach. After all, there aren't many places in the world where you can walk between a string of ancient, rock-cut churches in a lunar landscape.
Culture Routes in Turkey has developed two iconic waymarked trails, the Lycian Way and St Paul Trail, plus several new long-distance routes, which range from the Evliya Çelebi Way – tracing the route of the famed Ottoman traveller – to the Carian Trail in the south Aegean. The routes are best tackled in spring or autumn and you don't have to walk them in their entirety; it's easy to bite off a small chunk. Consult the website (www.cultureroutesinturkey.com) for information, guidebooks and maps covering the trails.
Chosen by British newspaper The Sunday Times as one of the world's 10 best walks, the Lycian Way covers 509km between Fethiye and Antalya, partly inland, partly along the coast of ancient Lycia, via Patara, Kalkan, Kaş, Finike, Olympos and Tekirova. Highlights include stunning coastal views, pine and cedar forests, laid-back villages, ruins of ancient cities, Mt Olympos and Baba Dağ. Kate Clow, who established the trail, describes it in detail in the walking guide The Lycian Way.
St Paul Trail
The St Paul Trail extends 500km north, from Perge, 10km east of Antalya, to Yalvaç, northeast of Eğirdir Gölü (Lake Eğirdir). Partly following the route walked by St Paul on his first missionary journey in Asia Minor, it's more challenging than the Lycian Way, with more ascents. Along the way you'll pass canyons, waterfalls, forests, a medieval paved road, Roman baths and an aqueduct, and numerous quaint villages.
St Paul Trail, by Kate Clow and Terry Richardson, describes the trail in detail. Eğirdir is a good place to base yourself, with an activities centre geared towards walking the trail.
Turkey is home to some seriously good mountain walking.
Mt Ararat Turkey's highest mountain, the majestic and challenging 5137m Mt Ararat, near the Armenian border, is one of the region's top climbs and can be tackled in five days (including acclimatisation) from nearby Doğubayazıt. You'll need to be cashed up and patient with all the bureaucracy – the mandatory permit needed to climb was not being issued during 2015 and 2016.
Kaçkar Mountains In northeastern Anatolia, the Kaçkars offer lakes, forests and varied flora, at altitudes from about 2000m to 3937m. There are numerous possible routes, ranging from a few hours to multi-day treks crossing the high passes over the mountain range.
Cappadocia The starkly beautiful Ala Dağlar National Park (part of the Taurus Mountains) in southern Cappadocia offers superb multi-day trekking opportunities, while 3268m Hasan Dağı (Mt Hasan) can be summited in one challenging day.