Hiking the Muğla Environs (Carian Trail, Turkey)

“Ruins are more beautiful than adorned castles, for ruins are the cathedrals of time.” ~Ben Caesar

When a trail exists of five sections, not all of them can finish at the top of your list. As such, the Muğla Environs Section won’t be our #1 of the Carian Trail. However, don’t scrap it from your list immediately; this trail did have some worthwhile surprises.

To be fair, part of the reason this section didn’t have the same impact as the others had to do with factors outside the trail itself. Days of rain, which threw our itinerary around – we started going from north to south and then took the bus to walk up the other way – and so we hiked no more than two consecutive days. As a result we never felt really immersed in the trail.

The Muğla Environs is the shortest section of the Carian Trail, with only 110 kilometers. Five or six days are enough to cover it in a leisurely manner, while four is doable too. The downside of this section, we found, is a large part of the trail consisting of roads, whether paved, gravel or forested. That makes for quick but not particularly inspiring walking.

Hiking the Muğla Environs

On the upside, we absolutely loved the ruins of Stratonikeia and spent part of the morning exploring them. The Değirmendere Canyon was the second part of the Muğla Environs Section that we absolutely loved.

As I did for the previous sections, Bozburun Peninsula, Ceramic Gulf, and Carian Hinterland (part 1 and part 2), here’s the breakdown of this section with short descriptions from my diary for each day. Kilometers are approximate, as given in the Carian Trail Guidebook or GPX trail. (If you just want the practical information, scroll down to the bottom of this page).

The construction of a new dam right on the trail, and we walked on a super dusty road with trucks plying back and forth.

01 Stratonikeia – Çaybükü

24 kms

Stratonikeia – According to the ancient geographer Strabo, the city was founded by the Seleucid king Antiochus I Soter circa 281-261 BCE. The city was built over the Carian settlement of Idrias, and named after his second wife Stratonice who was also his stepmother. Under the Roman Empire, Stratonikeia was recorded as a free city and became very rich and prosperous. During the Byzantine period the city had its own bishop, subordinate only to the city of Aphrodisias.” (From: Carian Trail Guidebook)

What a great start of a new trail section. We fall for the vast site of Stratonikeia. The sky blue, the sun warming us, a few women already at their stalls ready to serve us tea, for which we’re not allowed to pay.

Masave perver,” they say (‘hospitality’).

If I weren’t carrying my home on my back for the next 350 kilometers I would buy some jars with Zehra’s pickled vegetables and jams (she’s one of the women selling tea).

She lived in Istanbul until, last year, decided to swap big and dirty city life for a tranquil existence here, in the countryside and among stones that have many stories to tell. Maybe, if you’re silent enough, you can hear them…

02 Çaibükü – Akyaka

6 kms

After 1,5 hours we pick a teahouse in the village of Bahçeyaka. We hardly ever forgo the opportunity to drink tea on this trail. We like village life, the quiet place of tea houses where even at 9 am the old men of the village gather to drink their tea and converse.

The weather forecast is ominous and we change plans. A hitchhike and a bus takes us to Akyaka where we settle in the Orkide Pension just before the sky opens its taps.

Hitchhiking to Akyaka.

03 – Akyaka

Rain and sick.

04 – Akyaka – Ula Gölegi

20,7 kms

As tomorrow is another rainy day is forecasted, we settle for a day walk. With the luxury of only a day pack, we climb five kilometers steep up into the mountains that rise right behind the village of Akyaka, from sea level to 800 meters over the course of five kilometers.

With only our Platypus filled with 2 liters of water each, lunch and a snack, the kilometers fly. We take the bus back and can’t believe it’s only 2 pm when we’re back on the couch again.

05- Akyaka

Rain.

DIY pot holder and alcohol stove.

06 – Ula Gölegi – Mugla – Desgirmendere Canyon

22 kms

The Karabaglar coffeehouses (kahvesi) traditionally acted as community centres for the many families residing on the “Yayla” pasture during the hot summer months. The coffeehouse complexes included bakeries, mosques or mescids, open-aired prayer areas, butchers, barbers, and tailors. Produce was sold in open bazaars in the gardens under the shade of monumental plane trees.“ (From: Carian Trail Guidebook)

Instead we got to see an agricultural village that was completely, utterly flooded. It took quite some creativity to get out of this without soaked shoes and feet. Thank you, kind farmer who eventually guided us out onto a dry road again!

From here on it gets only worse, with now dry edges along the mud pools which are ankle-deep.

Hiking the Muğla Environs, Carian Trail Turkey (©Karin-Marijke Vis)

07 – Değirmendere Canyon – Bayir

32 kms

Except for the flooded village, the trail was so easy yesterday that we added extra kilometers. This means we now have two stages left, one of 14 kilometers and one of 18 kilometers.

Another easy day of walking and we combine the two. A 32-km walk is a first for us and at the end of the day our feet are killing us.

Time for a serious junk-food attack of potato chips, ice cream and ‘metro’ chocolate bars and lots of tea at one of the many tea houses downtown Bayir.

We take the bus back to Akyaka, where we’ll prepare for the last stage of the Carian Trail, the 240-km-long Datça Peninsula!

Practical Information on Hiking the Muğla Environs

  • The Muğla Environs is not only the shortest section (110 kms), but also the easiest. With lots of roads (forest/gravel/paved) this may be a good section to start the 850–km-long Carian Trail and warm up those muscles.
  • Calculate time for the Stratonikeia ruins – they are worth it. So is the above-mentioned canyon, e.g. plan an afternoon of swimming in the transparent waters and lazing in the sun.
  • Food: Akyaka, Muğla, and Bayir are the towns to stock up on supplies.
  • Water, on the other hand, is plentiful on the trail (we walked here halfway March).
  • Gas: You can buy gas canisters in Muğla.

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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