Trekking the Turquoise Coast of Turkey

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14600A, International


  • Trek for five days along the turquoise Mediterranean coast on Turkey's first long-distance footpath
  • Visit the cliff dwellings of Cappadocia and stay in a "cave" hotel
  • Experience the sights, sounds, and tastes of exotic Istanbul


  • All in-country transportation, including two in-country air flights
  • All lodging, most meals, entrance fees, and tips
  • Expert bilingual guides throughout the trip


DatesMay 9–24, 2014
StaffRochelle Gerratt

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Trip Overview

The Trip

Occupying the whole of classical Asia Minor and a small portion of Europe, Turkey bridges two continents and two cultures, the Orient and the Occident. The history, religions, and traditions of the people of this region represent the numerous cultures that have flourished in Asia Minor over ten millennia. The minaret-spiked skylines, temples of pagan worship, and the treasures of Christianity are interwoven in the timelessness of this land. Today, Turkey is a new country in an old land, rich in history and fascinating modern contrasts.

Our adventure begins in fabled Istanbul, one of the world's most scenic cities and the only capital city in the world that straddles two continents. We will spend our first three days there, taking in its riches: museums, historic buildings, monuments, and mosques. We then fly to Cappadocia to hike among fairy-tale chimneys and visit the cave dwellings and an underground monastic settlement. On the way to our trek, we stop in Konya to visit the famous Mevlana Museum, which is devoted to the life and teachings of Jelalladin Rumi, a revered poet and founder of Sufism who lived in the 13th century.

We also spend some time along the Mediterranean Sea in Antalya with a “free day” to relax or explore on your own the ruins of the Old City with its ancient harbor. The highlight of our trip is our five-day trek on the Lycian Way, the first long-distance footpath constructed in Turkey. This well-maintained trail snakes its way over bare hillsides and through scented pine forest. The limestone mountains rise steeply from the wooded shore and tiny bays, giving us beautiful views of the turquoise Mediterranean. During our trek our bus will transport our luggage to every evening's lodging. We'll be staying in hotels and seaside cabins. On our last day, we will be transferred to the Izmir airport and fly back to Istanbul.


Note: Itinerary is subject to change due to weather conditions or other factors.

Day 1: We will meet at our hotel in the heart of the Old City for a group orientation meeting and lunch at 11 a.m. We'll start our tour with Sultanahmet Square, which was the Hippodrome of the Byzantine Empire. Next we'll visit the Blue Mosque, famous for its six minarets and beautiful Iznik tiles, built in the classical period of the Ottoman Empire. It is one of the best examples of classical Turkish art. We will enjoy our welcoming dinner after our visit to the Blue Mosque. Our overnight will be in Istanbul.

Day 2: A full day tour of the Old City starts with our visit to Topkapi Palace, the imperial residence of the Ottoman sultans (emperors), which was built in the 15th century by Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror. Lunch will be in a restaurant well known for its traditional Turkish cuisine. We'll then visit the marvelous underground cistern and end our day with the Grand Bazaar, the most attractive shopping center in the world with more than 4,000 shops. We will see contemporary arts and crafts, as well as masterpieces of traditional Islamic art and architecture. Our overnight will be in the same hotel.

Day 3: We'll walk to the Spice Bazaar with its domed and vaulted shops selling spices and herbs, then on to the pier for a Bosporus cruise on a public ferry. Starting the trip from the Golden Horn, we'll sail through the waterway separating the two continents, Asia and Europe. We will enjoy an afternoon break at the café known as the Pierre Loti, which commands a superb view of the Golden Horn. Then, we'll finish our tour by visiting St. Sophia, one of the greatest marvels of architecture constructed as a basilica in 536 A.D. by Emperor Justinian. Our overnight will be in the same hotel.

Day 4: We'll transfer to the Istanbul airport to take a morning flight to Kayseri in the Cappadocia region. From there, we'll drive to a little-visited valley to see a beautiful corner of Cappadocia. This will introduce us to typical Turkish village life. Christian monasteries located on the skirts of the hills are unique for their wall paintings. We will have lunch in a restored village house in a nearby village. Then we'll drive to Kaymakli Underground City, which was dug as deep as five layers below the ground and for centuries was used for hiding by Christians. Our tour finishes with a spectacular view of Uchisar. Our overnight will be in a boutique "cave" hotel in Goreme.

Day 5: In the morning, there is an optional opportunity of hot-air ballooning at an additional cost. We'll visit the open-air museum of Goreme, which was a very important monastic settlement in the early Christian ages, and see a number of churches hollowed out from the rock with religious paintings on their walls. Then we'll drive to Cavusin to visit a monastery and St. Baptist Church, famous with its unique wall painting of Salome's dance. The tour continues with lunch and a visit to Avanos, a center that has produced pottery since ancient times. After a short hike of four miles on flat terrain in Devrent Valley, we'll visit Pasabag, one of the most beautiful areas of the region with hermitages hollowed out of volcanic tufa. Our overnight will be in the same hotel.

Day 6: We will walk from our hotel for two miles through some of the most beautiful valleys of Cappadocia. We'll explore less visited churches carved into the rock formations and sample local dishes at a family-run restaurant. Afterward, we'll have an easy walk of three miles down the Rose Valley in the afternoon back to our hotel. Our overnight will be in the same hotel.

Day 7: Checking out of our hotel, we'll drive to the Ihlara Valley to walk all day by the river for six miles past vineyards and orchards of walnut, quince, and apricot trees. Ilhara Valley was a favorite retreat of Byzantine monks. We will visit several of their painted churches chiseled into the overhanging rocks. After visiting Selime monastery, we'll end our day in the lovely town of Guzelyurt.

Day 8: After a traditional breakfast at a local village house, we'll spend most of the day driving to the Taurus Mountains. On the way, we'll stop to visit the Sultanhani caravanserai, an overnight stop for merchants and camels on the Silk Road via Anatolia. Then we'll move on to Konya to see the Mevlana Museum (famous for the Whirling Dervishes). Mevlana (Jellaludin Rumi), a great poet and revered teacher of Sufism, lived in the 13th century. We'll continue on to Urunlu, a picturesque village in the Taurus Mountains where we'll check into a village house. There is a famous cave nearby called Altinbesik. If we have time we will see it that day or leave it until the next morning.

Day 9: After spending our morning exploring Urunlu village and local life, we will continue to Antalya. This is a “free” day to relax or explore on your own the old section of Antalya, with houses built in the Ottoman Period, and the nearby ancient harbor. Visiting the Antalya Archaeology Museumis recommended. You can also take an optional tour of Perge and Aspendos archaeological sites at an additional cost. Lunch and dinner are on your own this day. Our overnight will be at a hotel in the old district.

Day 10: Today we'll drive to the village of Beycik where we begin our five day trek along the Mediterranean. We will take the cable car to the top of Mt. Olympos at 7,756 feet and hike down to the village. Today’s hike is 7.5 miles with an elevation loss of 4,000 feet.

Day 11: We drive to Cirali and take a short boat trip to Maden Beach, then walk back to Cirali. We will have time to relax at the beach and swim. Our trek today is 7 miles long with little elevation change. We stay overnight at individual bungalows at a lodge right on the beach.

Day 12: Today we visit the ruins of the ancient site of Olympos. We hike for 6 miles with little elevation change and spend a few hours exploring the ruins. We will have swimming time in the afternoon. After dinner we will walk to the eternal flames of the chimera. We stay at the same beach-side lodge.

Day 13: This morning we drive to the small village of Hoyran and walk from Kapakli to Simena. We have lunch at Simena and explore the castle ruins. We overnight at a small hotel perched above the Mediterranean with stunning views. Our hike today is 5 miles long with little altitude gain.

Day 14: We drive to Appolonia, which is known for its superb necropolis with its pillar tombs. The ruins of Appolonia consist of an acropolis, a well-preserved Byzantine church, and a small theatre. We walk from Appolonia to Aperlae. Our hike is 6 miles, descending 1,000 feet. We spend another night at our charming hotel in Hoyran.

Day 15: We spend much of the day driving from Hoyran to Sirnce. Along the way we visit the ancient sites of Aphrodisias or Kibyra on the way, depending on whether our group prefers to visit a well-excavated major archaeological site or a newly excavated, less crowded site. We overnight at a lovely boutique hotel in Sirince where we enjoy our farewell dinner.

Day 16: This morning we visit Ephesus, one of the most famous and well-preserved sites of the ancient world that figured prominently in early Christianity. We then visit the Church of St. Jean and Mother Mary’s house, where Mary is said to have spent the last years of her life. In the late afternoon we take a one-hour flight to Istanbul from Izmir. This is the end of our trip.



Getting There

The trip starts with a group meeting at 11:00 a.m. on the first day in our hotel in Istanbul. You may want to consider arriving in Istanbul a day or more before the start of our trip to orient yourself and take advantage of the many special sights and activities that Istanbul offers. Lunch on the first day will be the first meal provided. All lodging and meals are provided except for lunch and dinner on our "free" day in Antalya. Our trip ends after arriving at the Istanbul airport on May 24. The last meal provided is lunch on the last day. If you would like to continue touring Turkey after the Sierra Club trip has ended, please ask the trip leader for suggestions, such as tours sailing in a yacht (gulet) on the Mediterranean or visiting other archaeological sites.

Accommodations and Food

For the first three nights of the trip we’ll be staying at a luxurious hotel in the heart of Old Istanbul near such famous attractions as the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya. For our three nights in Cappadocia we stay in a “cave” hotel carved out of the surrounding tuff formation. The next night is at a modest hotel in a nearby small farming village. Our two nights in Antalya are at a small hotel in the old section of the city. The five nights we spend during our trek are in comfortable lodges near the Mediterranean. Our last night of the trip is spent in a small village up in the hills in a village that was mainly inhabited by Ottoman Greeks from the 19th century. All of our accommodations are locally owned. All rooms are double-occupancy. If you come alone you’ll be sharing with another person of the same gender. Single occupancy is available at additional cost.

The food will be delicious with a variety of many fruits and vegetables. Turkish food is fresh, locally grown, and homemade. The cuisine is an amalgam of the many groups absorbed into the Ottoman Empire. Ingredients and recipes come from Greece, Persia, Arabia, the Balkans, and the steppes of Central Asia. Vegetarians will be accommodated and any other food limitations or allergies should be shared with the leader as soon as possible.

Trip Difficulty

This trip is designed for anyone who will be comfortable on a trek where we'll be hiking most of the day for six days in a row. Good general physical condition -- as well as hiking stamina -- is important. On average, we will spend from three to seven hours a day hiking with a day pack for a distance from three to eight miles per day. Elevation changes include a 4,000-foot gain on Day 10, a 1,000-foot loss on Day 13, and minimal elevation gain and loss on the other days of the trek. There will be plenty of rest stops during the hikes. Most of the time, we will have shade, but there are sections of the trail in full exposure of the sun. In general, we expect temperatures to be in the 60s and 80s during the day, and in the 50s at night. However Cappadocia is at a higher elevation (4,500 feet) and temperatures there may be in the 40s at night. Overall, the spring weather should be very pleasant with many wildflowers.

Equipment and Clothing

A pair of broken-in hiking boots is essential for hiking. Otherwise comfortable walking shoes will suffice for city walking. Although there is no dress code in Turkey, we recommend that you dress modestly in long pants in Istanbul. Shorts are okay for hiking and touring ruins. For visiting mosques, please make sure that your shoulders and knees are covered, and women may want to bring a head scarf to cover their head. For the trek, bring raingear, swimwear, and one or two walking sticks. The leader will send approved participants an extensive packing list.



  • Atil, Esin, Turkish Art.
  • Bernieres, Louis De, Bird without Wings. (Especially recommended!)
  • Bilgen-Reinart, Porcelain Moon and Pomegranates: A Women's Trek through Turkey.
  • Eyewitness Travel Guides, Turkey.
  • Kinsler, Stephen, The Star and the Crescent.
  • Lewis, Bernard, The Emergence of Modern Turkey.
  • Mango, Andrew, Ataturk.
  • Pamuk, Orhan, My Name is Red.
  • Pamuk, Orhan, Istanbul.


The country has no shortage of environmental issues and a fledgling conservation movement is attempting to address them. Ancient archaeological sites are a natural attraction to tourists whose spending supports the economy of nearby residents, but the settlements become vulnerable to population growth as everyone wants a share of this growing economy. It is difficult to achieve a balance between protection of the sites and the development of the economy. Air pollution is a real blight, especially in winter because of burning of lignite for heating. A special problem for Turkey, again related to energy, is the use of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits as a tanker route to transport Caspian oil from Russian ports to Western Europe. There have been several major accidents over the past few years in these narrow channels. The giant sea turtles on the Mediterranean coast are endangered in Turkey.

During our trip, we will have an opportunity to learn about the fauna and flora of the Cappadocia region from a naturalist who will accompany us on our hike in the Ihlara Valley.

Sierra Club is an environmentally focused entity. We are concerned about conservation and sustainability of resources both locally and globally. Our work is accomplished by volunteers, aided by a salaried staff, encouraging grassroots involvement. Our outings seek to empower participants toward environmentally understanding parallel concerns at home and abroad.



Rochelle Gerratt loves Turkey for its rich archaeological history, fantastic scenery, friendly people, and amazing food. She enjoys designing and leading natural history trips in the United States, Central and South America, Europe, and the Mideast. Rochelle has been leading international trips for Sierra Club Outings since 2000. This will be her sixth trip to Turkey. Her trips feature scenic hiking, good food, and authentic cultural experiences. An avid traveler, Rochelle works as a career coach when she is home. She looks forward to sharing Turkey's treasures with you.

Associate Leader:

Kathie Fowler

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