Hiking the Carian Hinterland 1 (Carian Trail, Turkey)

Hiking the Carian Hinterland, Turkey

“The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.” ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Carian Hinterland is one of the five sections of the 800-km-long Carian Trail that runs through Southwestern Turkey.

If you like the idea of combining hiking and Turkey and you have some two weeks of time, this is our tip: hike the Carian Hinterland. Depending on your level of fitness and speed it may take 8-13 days (we took 11). Simply fly to Bodrum, take a bus to Bozalan and hit the trail.

Hiking the Carian Hinterland

The Carian Hinterland section runs across the Latmos Mountains and for the large part is a very little visited region. Hospitality abounds, the trail traverses dramatic landscapes and passes some fantastic historic sites. For hikers who like to combine wilderness and culture, this trail is for you.

Below are impressions from my diary. Distances are approximate; we don’t track the trail but refer to the kilometers given in the Carian Trail Guidebook). Also, this section is so long that I divide it up in two blog posts. Here is part 1, day 1 – 5. (If you just want the practical information, scroll down to the bottom of this page).

Part 1 starts at the lowest point of the green line and goes up until the first bends of the big loop westbound.

01 Bozalan – Karacahisar

18,7 kms

The trail starts with a steep climb up the winding alleys of Bozalan village, which we had passed on our Ceramic Gulf section to Bodrum only a few days earlier. A man passes by with his horse packed with gear. Dogs bark from gardens, often chained (poor creatures), sometimes not. They can make a lot of noise but are never aggressive.

We hit the countryside, round the hillside and take in views. The last stretch zigzags up an impressive rock corridor through a cleft in the cliff. It takes us right into the forest, its ground carpeted in flowering rock roses. It’s gorgeous. The soft pine needles are kind to our feet – mine wearing new shoes, bought in Bodrum.

Throughout the countryside are small and big cisterns.

A good finish of the first climb of this day.

02 Karacahisar – Gökçeler

15 kms

Here, the GPX trail partly differs from the Carian Trail Guidebook. We follow the GPS and it guides us through a gorgeous, wild canyon. The trail requires two river crossings for which we take off our shoes and go barefoot. The current is strong.

In Gökceler’s ‘kahve’ – teahouse – we ask if they know a place to camp. This seems to become a village decision and the verdict is the schoolyard (there is a public toilet outside the mosque). We pitch our tent and return to the kahve for more tea because the temps are plummeting and hovering just above 0 degrees Celsius.

The owner has meanwhile arrived. “Sleep inside, much warmer,” he insists and asks somebody to fetch more wood for the stove while he lavishes us with tea.

We take the tent down and roll out our mats in the kahve instead, grateful not having to pack up in freezing temps the next morning.

Stopping for a ‘chai’ at a ‘kahve’ is very much part of hiking the Carian Hinterland.

Following the river shore and crossing the water twice brought us into a beautiful canyon.

03 Gökçeler – Milas

16 kms

As we exit a village, we pass the point where farmers deliver their cows’ milk. It is rush hour. The milk is brought in metal containers of 20 or 40 liters, transported in the bed of a pickup truck or on a tractor. The lid is taken off, the heat steaming up from the still warm liquid, the milk is poured into a basin connected to the electronic weighing scale. The amount delivered is registered by hand in a large logbook and the farmers are off again.

We continue on country roads that cut through olive groves and walled fields planted with wheat. Clearly pesticides are used – no flowers to be seen. At last we head into the forest for a nice climb uphill through pine trees. The trail meanders around the hillside, going down to cross a water stream with cascades. The waterway is hidden under tangled vegetation which makes us scramble underneath, trying not to get caught in the vines.

04 Milas – Kargicak

21,4 kms

The ancient ruins of Labraunda encompass a number of civilizations and is a beautiful site more than worth a visit. The site is vast, containing parts of temples, ‘androns’, remains of columns, paved stairs, etc. It is hard to express in words how impressive it is; Labraunda requires photos.

The site was more a sacred precinct than city and was dedicated to the cult of the Carian Zeus, ‘Zeus Labraundos’. From the 4th century BCE coins have been found with Zeus depicted wearing robes and carrying the ‘labrys’ – double-headed ax. The site was connected to Mylasa by a 14-km-long sacred road made of paved stone blocks, also continuing eastwards to the city of Alinda.” (From: Carian Trail Guidebook)

Why walk on to a village if you can wild camp? We settle for a spot – not as flat as Coen would have liked but next to a stream and with enough wood for a fire.

Over the past weeks we have settled into a wild-camp routine, sort of. Coen sets up the tent (always his priority), I take a bath (my priority), he inflates the mattresses, I gather firewood, he takes his bath, I organize the rest of our stuff inside the tent and sort out the food for tonight and tomorrow.

At 7 it is getting dark. We cherish a quiet evening around the fire, building it up in size and heat. Clear sky, lots of stars visible as the moon had set very early.

05 Kargicak – Ketendere

16 kms

As we sit on a veranda of an empty government building enjoying our lunch, the blue sky turns grey and ominous. What are we going to do? Stay or move on? Ketendere is another two-hour walk but it does have a kahve where we may find a shelter for the forecasted rainstorm.

An elderly couple arrives, climbing the staircase with difficulty – especially old village women sometimes walk at a 90-degree angle from the hips. They love to talk but we don’t get far, not sharing their language. However, we do understand they are inviting us for tea.

Their home is around the corner. Downstairs they keep chickens and a cow. We walk up the stairs and take off our shoes on the veranda. A small, meticulously kept kitchen and living-cum-dining-cum-sleeping room are next to each other.

Thus we share tea with biscuits with Fatma and her husband Mustafa. It is served on the floor, on a table-cloth and we sit around it, our feet folded underneath us. As we sip the hot liquid, the heavens explode to throw all their water on Planet Earth for ten minutes before closing the taps again. Are we lucky to be inside!

The sky clears, giving us a window long enough to walk to Ketendere before the heavens turn open those taps for the second time.

Read More: Hiking the Carian Hinterland part 2

We find thousands of empty cartridges on the trail. This man says he is from ‘security’. Whatever that is supposed to mean.

Tea while sheltered from a rainstorm. Thank you, beautiful and kind ‘trail angels’

Practical Information on Hiking the Carian Hinterland part 1

  • Water: Throughout the trail are enough water sources, whether streams, fountains, springs, cisterns or local homes. When necessary we added water purification tablets. Do note we hiked early March, later in the season water sources may dry up.
  • Food: You’ll daily come across a village with a teahouse and small shop.
  • Gas: Milas is a particularly good town to stock up (plus it’s a very pleasant place to be with an old town worth wandering about and some sites to check out). In the old town are an Aygas and a Likidgaz shop where you can find small gas canisters and there are various Migros supermarkets.
  • Time: Calculate time for sightseeing (if you love old stones): Beçin, Milas, and Labraunda are all worth visiting.
  • Trail: As mentioned in the text above, day 2 is different on the GPX trail than in the book.
  • Accommodation/Camping: Wild camping, like everywhere on the Carian Trail, is easy. There are hotels in Milas and if you need other accommodation along the way, ask the villagers. They are very helpful. We were invited into peoples’ homes and once slept on the floor in a teahouse (as mentioned in the text above).

Practical Information on the Carian Trail

  • The Carian Trail is an 850-km-long hiking trail along the Southwest Coast of Turkey. Find all info here.
  • We use the Carian Trail Guidebook, by Yurus Özdemir, Altay Özcan, and Dean Livesley. Find it here.
  • We are hiking without laptops. The pictures are snapshots I take on my iPhone and new on this hike is a foldable keyboard. After a day of diary typing, I can say I’m very happy with this purchase.
  • Here’s the hiking gear list with what we’re carrying on our backs for the next two months.

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