Looking for a new approach to the Lycian Way in Turkey? Amelia Stewart recommends swimming it – at least parts of it!
I’ve always wanted to do a swim trek. So it was with great anticipation I found myself beside the warm clear sparkling waters off the southern coast of Turkey with nine other people donning swimsuits and all manner of swimming paraphernalia (I’d never even heard of drag pants and hand fins before). Soon we were ‘greased up’ and ready for a week of swimming, sunning, boats, eating, lazing, exploring, dancing… and a bit more swimming.
Our journey started in Kas; a pretty coastal resort about 170km south-west of Antalya where the mountains drop into the Mediterranean. It is part of the Lycian Way; an ancient 500km footpath that stretches from Fethiye to Antalya with numerous ruins, castles, tombs, and sunken cities peppering the route.
We were looked after by two excellent swimming guides. Ryan, a huge hulk of a man who could free dive to 25m with ease and startle divers as we pushed through their air bubbles overhead. When I felt tired I could hold onto his ankles and he would tow me through the water for great lengths of time.
Typically we'd swim 3km in the morning and 2km in the afternoon, taking about two to two and a half hours and one and a half to two hours respectively, depending on your speed. It wasn’t an endurance race though, and at any time you could stop and get on the boat. Not that anyone did. It helped that we were divided into three groups, according to our capabilities, so everyone swam at the pace they wanted to.
A traditional Turkish gulet became our base for the day. Gulet’s are perfect for lounging on, with plenty of space, numerous sun decks, and a cheerful, experienced, local crew constantly preparing delicious snacks and glasses of hot apple tea for us.
Our route took us along the coast to Ugagiz, where we docked on the little island of Kekova and trekked up to the imposing castle of Simena with its fantastic views of the surrounding islands covered in thyme scented trees and grazing goats.
From here we swam to the ancient sunken city of Aperlae and peered through the glass bottom in our gulet down to the ruins. The city flourished between the 3rd and 4th century before being abandoned and falling into the sea. Remains of houses and their contents littered the sea-bed including stairs, archways, amphorae, statues and countless other abandoned artefacts.
Elsewhere in our journey we swam over plane and boat wrecks, alongside turtles, and into caves. By the end of it, we couldn’t stop swimming. When the boat dropped anchor for a long lazy lunch of traditional home-made Turkish food, including fresh fish and delicious salads, we’d still be in the water, diving and hanging out with noodles (bendy things you can wrap around your body to comfortably float in the water). There followed much sunbathing, fishing for calamari, reading and relaxing before heading off to start the afternoon’s swim; perhaps another 3km swimming past tombs embedded into a cliff face or striking out across open sea from island to island.
The highlight was 5km, open water crossing from the Greek island of Meis back to Turkey; an exhilarating swimming experience being buffeted by cross currents, dodging boats and enthralled by the deep blue waters.
Amelia Stewart is Managing Director of Simoon Travel, a company dedicated to providing tours that reflect the culture and nature of countries, while combining adventure and quality service. For more details on the tours they offer, visit their website at www.simoontravel.com.