Hiking the Highlights of Antiquity

Bafa Lake and Region

Enduring a succession of conquerors and dynasties from the Hittites, Carians, Greeks and Romans, to Byzantine emperors, Crusader soldiers and Ottoman pashas, it is no wonder that this region of Turkey is a cultural treasure trove deeply steeped in history. From monasteries to frescoes, painted caves, castles and fortresses, the mountains where Endymion eternally sleeps will make a history buff out of you by the time we are done!

Overview

The region

The isolation of the Latmos Mountains has attracted Christian hermits and monks alike. Toward the end of the Byzantine Empire, no less than thirteen churches and monasteries had been built – at times quite hidden – within the labyrinthine tangle of giant boulders and caves. The most famous was the monastery of St. Paul the Younger (10th century). Ancient city walls, columns and remains of watchtowrs scatter the landscape and even romantically inhabit islands on Bafa Lake. It is these mountains that are the setting for the Greek myth of moon goddess Selene, who fell in love with the beautiful sleeping shepherd Endymion, having asked Zeus to grant him eternal youth and beauty. A shrine to Endymion remains to this day.

Look forward to

The trio of ancient ruins Priene, Miletus and Didyma, while less frequented than their publicity-grabbing big brother Ephesus, are at least as historically significant and impressive. The breakfasts coming out of the Agora Pansiyon’s kitchen are absolutely splendid, true köy kahvaltılar (village breakfasts) with homemade bread, local honey, jams and table olives fit for a king.

Highlights

  • Learn about the myriad of historic cultures of Anatolia
  • Visit the ancient sites of Ephesus, Priene, Milet and Didyma
  • Puzzle over the iconography of prehistoric cave paintings
  • Hike through deep canyons, bizarre rock formations and fragrant pine forests
  • Gain insight into traditional village life
  • Visit nearby Milas on its vibrant market day

Day-by-Day Itinerary

Day 1
Welcome to Turkey! Arrival in Izmir or Bodrum, airport pick-up and transfer to Bafa Lake and the Agora Guesthouse in Kapıkırı Village. The Latmos area is the site of the myth of Endymion and Selene. Depending on your arrival time, you can explore the ruins of ancient Heraclea, upon which the village is built – the Athena Temple, the city walls, and the agora – before dinner. Orientation session and welcome dinner at the guesthouse.

Day 2
Wake-up to an amazing homemade Turkish breakfast with  freshly-baked bread, homemade jams and local organic olives and cheeses. Today’s hike is easy with 4 hours of walking and an altitude
gain of approx. 250 m. The route takes us through neighbouring Gölyaka Village and through the bizarre and at the same time wildly romantic rock formations in this mountainous region. We continue to the imposing ruins of the Seven Brothers (Yediler) Monastery perched high on a cliff above Bafa Lake with its well-preserved Byzantine fresco gracing an overhang. We also visit Kerdemlik cave to marvel at its prehistoric rock paintings and puzzle over their meaning. We enjoy a marvelous panorama over Bafa Lake during our lunch picnic and on our descent. We end the day with a boat trip to the Twin Islands in the afternoon. Bafa Lake is a nature reserve and a paradise for many bird species. The Twin Islands is a great place to go swimming. Dinner at the guesthouse.

Day 3
After enjoying another delightful Turkish breakfast at the guesthouse, we leave for one of the cultural highlights of Turkey: Ephesus. Ruled over the centuries by Greek, Persian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman
empires, there is much to see of the city’s former splendor. Over 300,000 people lived there at its height in the second century A.D. Its famed Temple of Artemis is known as one of the Seven World Wonders. The Temple of Hadrian and the Library of Celsus are also highlights. As we tour through them we are gripped by how powerful and majestic this city must have been in ancient times. Return to the guesthouse for dinner.

Day 4
After breakfast we will leave on an excursion to the nearby city of Milas (ancient Mylasa), whose original character is still tangible in its  traditional neighborhoods with tea houses and specialty shops like the “pickle seller” or “filo pastry seller”. We will visit its vibrant weekly market, the go-to location for the local inhabitants’ household needs: from fresh fruit and vegetables from local

farmers to household items and clothing, a remarkable diversity of local products are on offer. Lunch in town. We will drive to visit the mountain village of Çomakdağ (population 1,200) in the afternoon. Time has stood still here. The old stone houses exhibit skilled traditional craftsmanship on the carved wooden motifs on  windows and doors. This village is over 500 years old, and the local women still wear their beautiful, colourful traditional costumes. Another amazing dinner with local specialities by the women of the family back at the guesthouse.

Day 5
Today we will depart on an excursion day to the antique cities of Didyma, with its imposing Temple of Apollo and its former oracle; Miletus, with its spectacular 15,000- seat theatre and known as the origin of the Greek philosophic and scientific traditions; and dramatic Priene, isolated and windswept, situated high above the  Büyük Menderes river delta. Return to the Agora Guesthouse for another delicious Turkish culinary creation by our hosts for dinner.

Day 6
After another rich breakfast of homemade delicacies we have the perfect start to our day exploring Dilek National Park, a mountainous peninsula of lush, green forest with walking trails, stunning views, and swimming beaches. We begin our hike in the picturesque village of Doğanbey and head up into the mountains. Having arrived at the summit, we are rewarded by a dreamy view of the Aegean and the Greek island of Samos Island. We stop for a picnic and descend through a canyon to swim in an azure cove. Today’s walking is moderate, about 6 hours in total with an ascent up to the summit of 950 m. Dinner at the guesthouse.

Day 7
Free day to wander the village, go to the olive grove, or just relax in the hammock with a good book. We are happy to advise you on activities. As this will be the farewell evening, guests can also choose to help with the preparations for an extravagant barbeque. A local musician will accompany the dinner on his saz and serenade guests late into the night.

Day 8
Return day and transfer to Izmir or Bodrum airport. Farewell!

Included in the Price

  • airport transfers on arrival and departure days
  • three meals a day (breakfast, lunch & dinner); water, coffee & tea
  • English-speaking, local guide
  • all entrance fees to visited sites
  • 7 nights at the Agora Guesthouse, based on double occupancy with your own facilities
  • Children and infants 0-6 years old are free, children 7-12 years old receive a 50% discount

Excluded: return flights to Izmir or Bodrum, personal expenses & drinks

  • moderate
  • 7 nights
Booking Code: BAFAHIST
Region: Bafa Lake, Ephesus & Dilek National Park
Duration: 8 days
When to go:
Group size: 12 max, guaranteed departure starting at 4 people
Price per person: 842 €
Single Room: add 70 €
  Enquire now

Spring & Autumn