THE HIPPY TRAIL - part I
Istanbul to Tehran across Turkey, Iranian Azerbaijan and the Alborz Mountains
> Journeying +7 months from Istanbul to the Himalayas where part I covered Turkey and northern Iran <
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. We discovered that the "original" Hippy Trail was never a single thread across the Near Orient, but a web of selected routes. Beyond Turkey and Iran, it would typically continue through Afghanistan or through the southern parts of Pakistan to reach the Himalayas in Kashmir, North India, or Nepal. At that time it was all about dropping out of straight society and avoiding authorities, while using cheap transportation and living on local food. It must have been fascinating!
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. We can confirm that it's still possible to press on via hitched rides, cheap buses, and slow trains. And, still, we managed to travel on almost no money. We saw that the “hippies” on the hippy trail of today are not counter-culture-hipsters or beatniks, but rather hardcore travelers who spend anything between two months to one year to do the entire route.
The first leg of this journey covers Turkey and Iran. Arriving in Istanbul, one of our personal favorite mega-cities from where we've kicked off several longer journeys, we travel across Turkey's coast down to the Aegean cities and ancient temples. From there, we push south to the Lycian Coast, exploring historic sites, pristine beaches, limestone villages and mountains along the way. Then, we cross north-east to Cappadocia, from where we continue to Kayseri, Nemrut Dagi and Eastern Turkey. In Iran, we travel mostly off-the-beaten-track by exploring Iranian Azerbaijan, which was part of the old Silk Road. For one thousand years, this route 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. We then continue to Iran's Alborz Mountains, the highest chain in the entire Middle East, and do a stopover in Tehran.
Continue to 'Hippy Trail II' for leg two on this journey. Also see our 'Persia' page covering a journey across classical Iran, our 'Kurdistan' page for the remote Kurdish provinces in East Turkey and Iran, and our 'Persian Gulf' site which is about an island hopping adventure in that part of the country. Oh, and then we climbed 'Damavand', the highest mountain in the Middle East.