From Europe to the Himalayas along
THE HIPPY TRAIL

Part I

Part I covers the journey from Istanbul to Tehran across Central Anatolia, East Turkey, Iranian Azerbaijan and the Alborz Mountains.

A journey through Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and parts of India to reach the Himalayas, isn’t that a thing of the past?' That was our initial thought as we got the gist of doing the classic Hippy Trail. We are children of the 1980s, but we know the “Hippy Trail” term and concept. During our childhood and later this term kept conjuring up images of wild, free, and near-broke but optimistic youths traveling in minibuses, trucks, and on motorbikes on dusty paths across the Near Orient.

 

So, we started to study different possibilities and routes to take us overland from Europe to the Indian Subcontinent, and got hooked on the idea.​

Our journey along the Hippy Trail took place in the 21st century and we spent +7 months traveling from Istanbul through Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India, and into the Himalayas. Our experience is that the thrill remains! Still, there is plenty of mystique, good times and uniqueness attached to the far-flung lands of the Near Orient.

 

Locations part I: Turkey, Kurdistan and northern Iran; the entire journey took +7 months


The first leg of this journey covers Turkey and Iran. We start in Istanbul from where we've kicked off several longer journeys and travel across Turkey's coast down to the Aegean cities. The route goes through Üsküda, Sirince, Selcuk, Izmir, Gökova, Köycekiz and down to Daylan. From there, we push south to the Lycian Coast exploring pristine beaches, limestone villages and mountains along the way. Obvisously, this part of Turkey is done off-season which is much more charming. Highlights on this stretch are Ekinick, Dalaman, Fethiye, Patara, Kas, Ücagiz, Finike, Demre and Cirali - and also a four day trek on one of the most beautiful stretches of the famed Lycian Way. Along the way from Istanbul to Antalya we explore numerous ancient temples and historic sites,ancient temples and exploring historic sites,including Ephesus, Troy, Assos, Treos, Pirene, Pergamum, Miletus, Kaunos, Amuntas, Tlos, Letoön, Sidyma, Xhantos. Pinara, Myra and Olympos.

 

Then, we cross north-east  to Cappadocia via Akseki, Yarpuz and Konya. The latter is the islamic heart of Turkey and a must-see place. After a rendevouz with a snow storm (but also good wather), we continue east to Kayseri, Malatya, Nemrut Dagi, Diabakir and finally Dogubazazik. For more on the remote Kurdish provinces in East Turkey see our 'Kurdistan' page or our climbing adventure on Mount Ararat in Turkish Kurdistan.


In Iran, we travel mostly off-the-beaten-track from Iranian Azerbaijan to Tehran along Jolfa, Tabriz, Mausuleh, Kandovan, Zanjan, Lahijan and Rasth. These places was part of the old Silk Road where for one thousand years traders would transport not just silk but all manner of exotic gods such as jade, gunpowder and rhubarb – while also “carrying” many ideas, beliefs and technological advances from the invention of paper to the great religions of Buddhism and Islam. Finally, before arriving in Tehran, we do some trekkking in Iran's Alborz Mountains - the highest chain in the entire Middle East. For more on Iran see our 'Persia' page, our island hopping adventure in the 'Persian Gulf' or our climb of 'Damavand', the highest mountain in the Middle East. Also view our page on the 'Kurdish regions' of Iran. Iran is one of our alltime favourite destinantions and we've spent much time here beyond our Hippy Trail itinerary.

Continue to 'Hippy Trail II' for leg two on this journey from Tehran through Iran and Pakistan to India.

Selected pics from this part of the journey:

Our route during leg 1......
Our route during leg 1......

...on the Hippy Trail covering Turkey and northern Iran.

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Istanbul: Gate to the Middle East
Istanbul: Gate to the Middle East

Istanbul simply is instantly likable. We have been here several times and slept in dorms, on the roof of buildings, and in lovely small hostels with views towards the Blue Mosque as in the picture. Its a great place to start a journey because nowhere else you you feel so dramatically the mix between European and Middle Eastern culture, and sense the real start of the journey as you cross the Bosphorus strait.

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Anders enjoying an Istanbul hamam
Anders enjoying an Istanbul hamam

Intantly upon arriving, we took to one of Istanbul's hamam which are famous throughout Turkey. This one was built more than four centuries ago. There is nothing better than a good nap in a warm hamam and a tea at the end of the bath before a big journey.

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Local fishermen at the Bospherus strait separating Europe from Asia, Istanbul
Local fishermen at the Bospherus strait separating Europe from Asia, Istanbul
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Istanbuli musician
Istanbuli musician
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Street scene in Üsküdar, Istanbul
Street scene in Üsküdar, Istanbul

During the planning of the journey we stroll throuh many interesting quarters and districts. Istanbul has much more to offer than Sultanahmet: the heart of Old Istanbul. On the European side, Nisantasi and Tesvikiye are interesting, while many locals prefer to live on the cheaper Asian side of which Üsküdar and Kadiköy are the two hubs. Üsküdar, for instance, has a handful of pretty Ottoman mosques and dirt cheap local eateries.

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Pergamum, North Agean
Pergamum, North Agean

Next, we continue through Turkey's North Agean to visit good beaches, dramatic cliff-top scenery and remote fishing villages, but we think that the real highlight is its many ancient ruins. Some of the best are in our opinion: Troy, Assos, Treos, Troas and Pergamun, with the latter being the absolute highlight. It used to be a pre-emiment medical centre of Ancient Rome, being also on of the Middle East's richest and most powerful cities.

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Sirince hill village...
Sirince hill village...

..is a delight off season, where we stroll around a perfect collection of stone-and-stucco houses with red-tiled roofs. It used to be a Greek city founded by slaves in the 15th century, and today mostly fruit farmers live here, many of them producing local fruit wines.

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Kiosk owner in Selcuk
Kiosk owner in Selcuk

Selcuk is a decent stop-over when traveling from the north to south Agean. It has some of that provincial backwater charm. There is a nice basilica, the Basilica of St. John, and a hilltop citadel in the city. The town is locally known to be a nestling place for storks who return to the same spots year after year, with eggs being laid in April or May - when we visited.

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Church of the Virgin Mary, Ephesus
Church of the Virgin Mary, Ephesus

Obviously, we visit this top ancient site on our journey across Turkey to Iran and onwards.

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Great theater, Ephesus
Great theater, Ephesus
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Bazaar in Izmir
Bazaar in Izmir

Next, we do a stopover in Zimir during the travel down the cost, simply to soak up the atmosphere, have some food and enjoy some people watching. The bazar is big and booming.

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Friday prayer in Izmir
Friday prayer in Izmir
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Breakfast in Izmir hostel
Breakfast in Izmir hostel
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Selcuk mosque
Selcuk mosque

Beautiful mosque on the way south.

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Market in Selcuk
Market in Selcuk
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Prirene
Prirene

Another big sight! By the 8th century bc Priene was a member of the Ionian League, whose central shrine, the Panionion, lay within the city’s territory. Priene was sacked by Ardys of Lydia in the 7th century bc but regained its prosperity in the 8th. Captured by the generals of the Persian king Cyrus (c. 540), the city took part in several revolts against the Persians (499–494).

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Miletus
Miletus

Before 500 bc, Miletus was the greatest Greek city in the east. It was the natural outlet for products from the interior of Anatolia and had a considerable wool trade with Sybaris, in southern Italy. Miletus was important in the founding of the Greek colony of Naukratis in Egypt and founded more than 60 colonies on the shores of the Black Sea, including Abydos, Cyzicus, Sinope (now Sinop), Olbia, and Panticapaeum.

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View over Gulf of Gökova during hike
View over Gulf of Gökova during hike

On the way we do several half-day stops to do some hiking.

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Lunch in Köycegiz
Lunch in Köycegiz

A lovely little and sleepy lakeshore town where most locals are famers depending mostly on citrus fruits, olives, honey and cotton for their livelyhood. Along the lakeshore are several tea and coffee gardens where locals mingle.

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Köyceğiz Gölü coastal lake
Köyceğiz Gölü coastal lake

Baffa Gölu is a splendid lake, and so is Köyceğiz Gölü. The latter one is one of the larest coastal lakes in all of Turkey. Sourrounded by pine-clad hills, the lake lies tucked away from the warm miditerranean ocean.

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Crossing the Daylan river
Crossing the Daylan river

Daylan is a laid-back river-mouth community with a strong farming and fishing pedigree. Daylan is a tidal river, where refal and levrek fish swim upstream to spawn in the lake. For centuries the locals have utilized this migration by erecting "dalyanlar' or fish traps (thus the town's name). We found Daylan to be an excellent base for exploring the sourrounding fertile waterways and mountains. It simply is one of the most unusual environments in all of Turkey.

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View towards Daylan's giant swampy delta
View towards Daylan's giant swampy delta

A good day hike links Daylan with Ekinick, a remote harbour with a good beach. Along the way we had the opportunity to visit ancient Kaunos at our own pace. The route is extremely scenic and with an excellent trail, from where we had superior views over larg tracts of wild coastline. Also, we had great views of Daylan's swampy delta, home to a variety of wildlife.

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Kaunos tombs
Kaunos tombs

Founded around 9th century BC, the cliff-side tombs of ancient Kaunos, which peer down on the pretty willow trees and bougainvillea, are very impressive.

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Dinner in Ekincik village
Dinner in Ekincik village

Isolation is the strenght of this remote fishing village where we would find genuine peace and quiet. The are a few good fishing shacks serving fresh seafood. We found a breezy terrace right on the ocean where we had exquisite seafood - the stuffed crab was a speciality.

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Road towards Dalaman
Road towards Dalaman

Most of Turkey is rural and remote. In many places, sheep and goats moan the small roads. We took many sideroads. Here, on the way from Daylan towards the Sarigeme Peninsula.

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View of Iz Tuzu
View of Iz Tuzu

This 5km sandbar is one of the last nesting sites in the Mediterranean of the loggerhead turtle.

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Turtle alert
Turtle alert

On the way to Iz Tuzu.

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Playing at Iz Tuzu beach
Playing at Iz Tuzu beach

Between May and September female loggerhead turtles come ashore at night to lay their eggs. We were here during April and the water was very chill. The scenery however was astonishing with dramatic cliffs penetrating the ocean floor.

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View towards Fethiye and Beydaglari Mountains
View towards Fethiye and Beydaglari Mountains

The Turkish shore between Fethiye and Antalya has been dubbed the Turquoise Coast as a tribute to the allure of the blue sea and green pine forests. We came here to arrange four days of trekking on the Lycian Way - one of the world's best walks.

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