Hiking the Ceramic Gulf (Carian Trail, Turkey)

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” ~John Muir

After our 10-day hike on the Bozburun Peninsula – our introductory section of the 800-kilometer-long Carian Trail – we returned to Marmaris. We were ready for a day of rest, which prolonged into a three-day stay because of heavy rainstorms.

This gave us plenty of time to sleep, eat proper food, and drink good coffee. We were more than ready for the next stage and swapped our planned Carian Hinterland section for the Bodrum Peninsula (Ceramic Gulf) after we learned that the interior was going to be plagued by an unusual attack of cold weather with freezing temps.

The most beautiful domed cistern we encountered on the trail.

“The Ceramic Gulf, or Gulf of Gökova, is the stretch of the South Aegean Sea that lies between the Bodrum Peninsula in the north and Datça peninsula in the south. At the entrance lies the Greek Island of Kos, not much more than a stone’s throw away from the Turkish mainland. The gulf took its name from the ancient city of Ceramos which was situated halfway along the northern shore at the modern settlement of Ören.” (From: Carian Trail Guidebook)

This blog post is about hiking the Ceramic Gulf from Akyaka to Bodrum (Bodrum Peninsula), which covers 139,2 kilometers. (If you just want the practical information, scroll down to the bottom of this page).

The eastern section Bodrum Peninsula trail.

The western section of the Bodrum Peninsula trail.

Hiking the Ceramic Gulf (Bodrum Peninsula)

This is what we liked:

  • Very doable hiking distances
  • The diversity of the trail, switching back and forth from traditional villages inland to the coast – the latter varying from secluded coves to small coastal towns (still very quiet in February) and the massive tourist resort of Bodrum.

What we didn’t like (so much) about this section:

  • Some sections have a bit too much road (dirt/forest or asphalt) to our liking.
  • What we’d like to see added to the Carian Trail Guidebook (and/or GPS trail) are specific GPS waypoints for water sources. They are generally mentioned in the book; however, it’s hard or impossible to determine whether you have to walk an additional 1 or 5 (or more) kilometers to the next water spot. We find this particularly relevant when wanting to camp in the outdoors rather than in the village. In that sense, the book seems more geared toward overnighting in villages/towns than in the wilds (which is not a bad thing by any means, just not our preference).

Our impressions of our Bodrum Peninsula Hike

01 Akyaka – Wild Camp outside Tunali

15,2 kilometers

The sea is smooth as glass. The Datça peninsula stretches across the opposite side of the Ceramic Gulf. Its mountains, as well as the islands in front of the peninsula, protrude from the water surface in a myriad of blue and grey tinges that fade away in the distance.

In the west, the sun is setting behind the clouds, setting the sky ablaze in orange and purple shades, later to explode in passionate reds. From those clouds, a streak of rain is filling up the sea with more water.

The birds stopped twittering, the frogs croaking, the people working. Our world is silent, only interrupted by a record-breaking short call to prayer emanating from the mosque in Turnali. We have found ourselves a great camping spot and what a privilege it is to be here.

Across the Ceramic Gulf stretches the Datça Peninsula, which will be the last section of our Carian Trail.

Just outside Turnali we found a viewpoint to pitch our tent.

02 Turnali – Akbür

21,7 kilometers

From a distance we spot the village of Sarniç, typical for this region with white-plastered, square houses and red roof tiles. They are interspersed with the older houses, built of stones. Old or new, many sport the convenient sun boilers on their roofs to provide the owners with hot water/showers.

Walk to a mosque in such a village and you’re bound to find the teahouse, we have learned. In Sarniç this is no different. And, like any other teahouse we have stopped at, they are frequented by the men of the village. They pass their time sitting around square tables playing a game with Rummikub tiles.

They hardly look up when two weary hikers enter their second home and order tea. The teahouse doesn’t sell food so I buy bread around the corner, which we eat with peanut butter and honey.

03 Akbük – Ören

15,5 kilometers

De kilometers pass slowly, or so it feels. Even before two hours of walking we have our first short ‘halva break’ – meaning a five-minute rest of feet while we gorge on the sesame-paste sweet treat called ‘halva’. After four hours we reach asphalt and the village of Alatepe. No minaret signaling a mosque and (thus?) no teahouse.

Farmhouses have stables for two or three cows, a patch of land for some goats, barking dogs, tractors, unkept terrain about to burst with spring flowers, the mishmash of utensils, tools and what-not that typically go hand in hand with farm life.

People greet when we pass their homes. “Welcome,” they say.

04 Ören – Day of rest

0 kilometers

“Hardly anything remains of the ruins of Ceramos which was situated on this site. The town is a popular holiday resort with Turkish people during the summer months. It has not been affected by mass tourism and development.” (From: Carian Trail Guidebook).

We have finished breakfast and packed part of our gear when I’m finally awake enough to take in my surroundings. My god, it’s beautiful. A flat, sparkling-blue sea right in front of our tent and sun rays that warm my body from a cold night. We’re camped in a garden-cum-campground (we’re not sure) of locals who had a late night and kept me awake and one of whom is now offering us a cup of tea.

Why not stay?

Indeed, why not?

And so we do.

05 Ören – Wild Camp outside Bozalan

22 kilometers

We get up late, take the bus to the head of the trail which happens to be next to a mosque. And thus a teahouse. It being 9.30 am, I can’t miss up on the opportunity to enjoy a Turkish coffee.

The advantage of a late start: I can buy fresh bread, which is like the French baguette – delicious when fresh, tough when a day old. It costs about 25 euro cents. I buy a fresh one across the road and leave the one I bought yesterday along the side of the street for stray dogs.

The disadvantage of a late start: The sun is long up and burning, right onto the hill we have to climb. Without any shade and part of the trail having been bulldozed, it’s a hot and somewhat uninspiring start of the hike today.

06 Bozalan – Beach Camp at Çakilliyali

14,4 kilometers

Summarizing each day with a subtitle, The Day of …, I call this the Day of Perfect Hiking.

From the inland town of Bozalan we descend swiftly to the coast. From the green fields the first flowers are greeting us in yellow, white and purple tinges. Spring is awakening in this part of the world. From grasslands we return to the forest, a bit uphill and then downhill following a stream. It’s bliss to be here, on such a beautiful day.

Silence, quietude, a forest that energizes, the pine needles soft as velvet under our feet, the soft murmuring of the stream and its water cooling my body as I splash it on my face, head, and neck.

More about this beautiful day in this post.

07 Çakilliyali – Ciftlik

20,9 kilometers

It’s one of the tougher days of this section with three uphill headlands to traverse. The trails are rocky, lots of the bushes full of thorns. I’m amazed how our Pinewood clothes continue to cope with this rough vegetation and don’t seem to be able to rip no matter how thick the thorns. Our feet have hardened and just take the rocky surfaces as they come.

The tough sections are rewarded by secluded coves. Incredibly that these uninhabited, unexploited bays with pebble beaches still exist so close to the massive resort town of Bodrum.

08 Ciftlik – Bodrum

21,5 kilometers

Hard to believe we are about to finish our second section of the Carian Trail. I dub this stage the Teahouse Section because I think most days we encountered one.

A (shortened) paragraph from the guidebook today, typical for the lands we’ve traversed this past week,

“Turn left, continue down the road towards Kisebükü, the view looks down on a ruined church and harbor. The road winds inland, turn left at the bottom and then left again heading towards the shore. The trail reaches the beach near a domed cistern. Turn inland by the ruined settlement and follow the ascending path. The trail steadily rises winding up through the pine trees. The path levels through the forest before descending into the valley by a circular cistern and stone houses.”

09 Bodrum – Pedesa

8 kilometers (one way)

Not an official part of the trail but an ‘extra’, so to speak. Our Airbnb happens to sit right in the middle of the 8-kilometer uphill climb to Pedesa. The 4 kilometers up are boring on a rocky dirt road (next time: take the bus).

The ruins of the acropolis, however, are worth a visit. We stroll among the remains of buildings dating from the 2nd millennium BCE to the end of the Byzantine period before heading back down to town in search of coffee.

Time to get our list of chores done and prepare for section 3: the Carian Hinterland.

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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