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The Great Affair’s Guide to: Trekking the Evliya Celebi Way.

Posted on Dec 2, 2013 | 35 Comments

“The walking of which I speak…is itself the enterprise and adventure of the day.”

– Henry David Thoreau

Ever since completing half of the Camino de Santiago trail across northwest Spain last year, I’ve had a thing for pilgrimages.

There’s just something about walking, about moving at your own momentum and carrying everything you’ll need along the way on your back – it is simplicity and self-sufficiency at their Thoreau-inspired finest. There’s something about getting to know a country through its back roads and rural lanes, taking it all in step by step. You’re literally at ground level, and the terrain you are traversing is both exterior and interior.

But the thing I love most about pilgrimages is that they’re more than just long walks. The routes I am drawn to – the Camino, the Shodoshima 88-Temple Circuit in Japan – have a story to them; they are rooted in centuries-old cultures and religions you get to learn about naturally, slowly, building on one layer of understanding after another.

This autumn, I’m grateful to have walked my third pilgrimage: the Evliya Çelebi Way, a 22-day, 330-km trek across the Anatolia region of northwest Turkey. While I so enjoyed sharing stories and lessons from the path with you, today I’d like to get a little more practical. What follows is a round up of information I hope you’ll find useful, should you be interested in walking the route yourself (referred to from now on as the EÇW). And if there’s anything I haven’t covered here, please leave your question in a comment!

Evliya Celebi Way in Turkey

Table of contents

A little background
The guidebook
The starting and ending points (and how to get there and back)
When to go
Packing list
Accommodation
Food and water
Money, money, money
Navigation and trail finding
Helpful Turkish phrases
Safety
A final note on not giving up

A little background

Although as a walking route the EÇW was only established in 2011, the path it follows is based on the 1671 journey of Evliya Çelebi as he completed his hajj from Istanbul to Mecca (on horseback, I might add). Çelebi was a prolific Ottoman traveler and writer who is still very much ingrained in the consciousness of Turks today. For instance, even though many of the people I met hadn’t heard of the EÇW itself, whenever I described what I do as a travel writer, they would often say, “Ah, so you’re a modern Evliya Çelebi!”

Evliya Celebi Way

A statue of Evliya Celebi himself in his ancestral hometown of Kütahya.

If you’re looking to experience a different side of Turkey – a Turkey far removed from the hustle and bustle of Istanbul – then I cannot recommend this journey enough. It is a wonderful taste of rural life in the Turkish countryside, where shepherds still take their flocks out to graze every day, farmers park their tractors in the village square for their afternoon tea break, and men and women alike ride donkeys to gather firewood for wood-burning stoves, often their homes’ only source of heating.

You’ll also feel as though you’re walking back in time. A few kilometers outside Iznik, the path leads directly by an obelisk built in the 1st century AD. That’s 2,000 years old! And past the village of Altıntaş, woodsy tracks turn into crumbling Roman roads, complete with faint wheel ruts carved into the stone. It occurred to me somewhere around Iznik that it isn’t only Evliya Çelebi’s footsteps we’re following in here, my friends. Get ready to have your mind blown by some incredible history.

Evliya Celebi Way history

The Dikilitaş obelisk outside Iznik, also known as Beştaş (Five Stones).

Evliya Celebi Way history

Close-up of the obelisk’s Greek lettering. This trail is a must for history geeks.

Quick note about doing the route by horse: It may go without saying that I did the EÇW on foot, but it’s also quite popular to do as Çelebi himself did and follow the route on horseback. The Akhal-Teke Horse Company, based in Cappadocia, offer horse tours of the route every September – read more about it on their website, where the EÇW is listed as the Great Anatolian Ride.

The guidebook

Good news for the indecisive: there’s only one! The Evliya Celebi Way: Turkey’s First Long-distance Walking and Riding Route was written by the two women who established the route – Kate Clow and Caroline Finkel – and costs £16.44, or about US$27. (Note that the book is only available on the UK version of Amazon, so make sure to visit amazon.co.uk).

Evliya Celebi Way guidebook

Yours truly with the route’s guidebook…this was on day 1 and spirits were clearly still high.

Kate is an expert on cultural walking routes in Turkey – since establishing the Lycian Way in 1999, she has helped form several other routes across the country. Caroline is a Scottish historian and writer based in Istanbul with a doctorate in Ottoman history. Between their combined expertise, you couldn’t have found two better people to establish the EÇW.

What made the entire book a worthwhile purchase for me was a three-page glossary at the back. The words included are beautifully specific and tailored to what you’ll need while walking. There are sections on trailfinding, architecture, food, people, weather, etc. I can’t even tell you how many times I flipped back to the glossary – and I think having it all in the same place, as opposed to having to dig through a dictionary, really helped me pick up more Turkish vocab than I would have otherwise (more on language later!).

There is also tons of context included, letting you know when a village first appeared in historical records and especially if it was mentioned in Evliya Çelebi’s notes from his own journey. So while the guidebook isn’t perfect when it comes to directions, there are definitely other reasons it’s worth bringing with you.

Evliya Celebi Way glossary

What was that about a language barrier?

The starting and ending points (and how to get there and back)

The EÇW begins in Hersek, a village near the city of Yalova, and ends in Simav. Here’s an idea of what your route will look like (bear in mind I did as the guidebook suggested and walked to Kütahya, caught a bus to Uşak, and continued walking from there to Simav):

Evliya Celebi Way map

See Yalova right next to Hersek? That’s where you’ll catch the ferry to from Istanbul.

I found Hersek to be very easy to reach via ferryboat from Istanbul:

  • Catch a ferry from Istanbul’s Yenikapi terminal.
  • The ferry company is IDO – http://www.ido.com.tr/en.
  • The ticket is usually 15 Turkish Lira (TL) one-way, or about US$7.50.
  • Ferries depart from Yenikapi several times a day – currently 8.30, 11.30, 15.30, 18.00, and 20.00 – and the journey takes 75-90 minutes.

Once you’re in Yalova, exit the ferry terminal and follow the road to the dolmuş parking lot (a dolmuş is a Turkish minibus that operates like a shared taxi; destinations are displayed on little placards behind their windshields). Look for ones heading to Altıntaş – it’ll cost 3 TL ($1.50) and take 20-30 minutes.

In Altıntaş, there are ATMs and small markets (or bakkals) where you can stock up on cash and food for the first few days of the journey. And from Altıntaş, you can catch another dolmuş to Hersek for 1.75 TL (or a taxi for 15 TL, but there seemed to be a dolmuş departing every hour so there’s really no need to take a taxi).

And now about the return. The EÇW ends in the town of Simav, from which it couldn’t be easier to get back to Istanbul:

  • Head to the otogar (or bus terminal) to book your ticket.
  • The bus company is Kütahyalılar – http://www.kutahyalilar.com.tr.
  • The ticket costs 60 TL ($30), which includes water, tea, coffee, and snacks along the way.
  • Buses currently depart three times a day – at 8.00, 11.15, and 21.15 – and the journey takes around 9-10 hours, including stops.

When to go

I began walking on the 23rd of October and finished in the third week of November, and while the sun was plenty warm during the day, boy did it get COLD at night by the end – i.e. in the 40s F/5-7 C.

In the guidebook, Kate and Caroline write, “July and August may be too hot for walking, unless you are well acclimatized or only plan to walk forested sections.” Between my own experience and what the guidebook recommends, it sounds like February-July and September-November are ideal times to consider walking.

And in terms of weather, I only had one day of rain. There was a bit of heavy fog and cloud cover at times, but otherwise the skies cooperated with my mission. Thank you, weather gods!

Evliya Celebi Way weather

Standard weather on the Evliya Celebi Way = nothing but crystal blue skies, baby.

Packing list

My backpack was big. Probably too big. But I really did use everything I brought, so I think the only way I could have cut down on weight was by bringing a lighter tent and sleeping bag.

Evliya Celebi Way backpack

Yes, my backpack could in fact support its own weight.

Here’s a list of what got crammed into my pack (and in case you’re curious, I always travel with this 70+10-liter Kathmandu backpack):

Equipment:

  • 1 tent (I brought this one by Ozark Trail)
  • 1 sleeping bag
  • 1 small camping burner*
  • 4 propane fuel canisters*
  • 1 set of cooking equipment (two pots, two plates, two cups, and a potholder)*
  • 1 pocketknife with cutlery attached*
  • 1 compass*
  • 1 small flashlight*
  • 1 lighter*
  • 1 small towel*
  • 1 travel first aid kit
  • Antibacterial wipes*
  • Toiletries + sunscreen
Evliya Celebi Way equipment

A few things that came with me on the Evliya Celebi Way.

Clothing:

  • 1 pair of rain-and-wind-proof pants*
  • 1 pair of tennis shoes (which worked just as well as hiking boots)
  • 1 pair of flip-flops (your feet will thank you!)
  • 1 Sunice hiking pullover (mine wasn’t fleece, but was still warm)
  • 2 tank tops
  • 2 t-shirts
  • 1 long-sleeved t-shirt
  • 1 long skirt (which I wore at night in family homes)
  • 1 winter hat*
  • 1 pair of gloves*
  • 1 scarf
  • 1 pack-away raincoat
  • As many pairs of socks and underwear you’ll need between washings
Evliya Celebi Way clothing

Another reason to wear tennis shoes instead of boots: They dry quickly when you’re too lazy to take them off before fording a stream.

And because I’m a glutton for punishment:

  • Laptop + charger
  • Camera + 2 lenses
  • Sketchbooks
  • Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard + Evliya Çelebi’s An Ottoman Traveller
  • Watercolor paint kit, pens, and pencils
  • Notebook + guidebook
  • Wallet + passport
  • Cloth bag to use as a purse when staying in larger towns
Evliya Celebi Way equipment

Even my trusty old MacBook Air made the trek.

What I wish I’d brought:

  • Headlamp
  • English-Turkish dictionary (to help with words not included in the glossary)
  • Pedometer (to keep track of the guidebook’s directions)

* All of the asterisked items were bought in Istanbul, so don’t feel like you need to have every piece of equipment when you arrive in Turkey. Just across the Galata Bridge from Sultanhamet, by the Karaköy tram stop, are several outdoor stores carrying major brands like Colombia and Jack Wolfskin. I went to Atlas Outdoor (http://www.atlaskamp.com), where the total cost of my purchase was 250 TL ($125).

A brief note on laundry: Two of the families I stayed with very kindly offered to do a load for me (I’ve still yet to determine if this was more for their benefit or mine), but other than that I was left to wash things in hotel sinks at night and let them dry overnight. I also remembered an old Camino trick of hanging any damp t-shirts or socks from my backpack to dry as I walked the next day.

Accommodation

I thoroughly enjoyed the variety of accommodation along the EÇW and the fact that I didn’t often know where I would be staying that night. If I was due to reach a bigger town, I could generally count on finding a hotel, but otherwise it was a bit of a mystery – whether I would end up camping or be invited to stay with a family. Here’s a look at the different types of accommodation available:

Evliya Celebi Way accommodation

Because who doesn’t love a pie chart?

Camping

While four nights might not seem worth lugging a tent and sleeping bag for throughout the entire trip, I’m glad I had them. I could have camped a lot more but the people I met just wouldn’t hear of it. When they saw that I was a woman hiking alone – especially with how cold it had gotten – they insisted I stay with them. As you can imagine, I didn’t need much convincing.

Evliya Celebi Way accommodation

Camping in the abandoned village of Eski Çelebi.

But I loved camping when I had the chance to (even if I was fairly terrified after nightfall) – from pitching my tent below the village mosque of Kidzerbent to sleeping in the abandoned village of Eski Çelebi. I also liked knowing I could stop at any point during the day and set up camp, and that I didn’t have to worry about making it to the next village. To explain this a little better, I’m borrowing a line straight from a New York Times article by former Frugal Traveler Matt Gross, about the time he walked from Vienna to Budapest:

“Often, I wished I’d left my tent and sleeping bag at home, but they helped in two ways: If I really needed (or wanted), I could camp, and carrying the tent made me appear self-sufficient. Many of my hosts might not have been so spontaneously generous had I not looked prepared to go it alone.”

Most towns have a muhtar, or a kind of village headman or mayor who is in charge, and the easiest place to find them is at the kahve (teahouse). Chances are you’ll begin to recognize them by the little pin they wear on the lapel of their blazer (literally every muhtar I met wore a blazer – it must be their unofficial uniform). As you’ll read in the guidebook, it’s best to ask the muhtar for permission before you camp.

Hotels 

Several times along the way you’ll pass through larger towns and cities where it’s possible to stay in a hotel. I found them all to be clean, basic, and incredibly affordable – often just 30-40 TL ($15-20) a night for a private room with hot shower, wifi, and breakfast included.

Evliya Celebi Way accommodation

My room at the Otel Güngör in Yenişehir…not bad for $25 a night, right?

Here’s a sampling of places I stayed:

  • Iznik – Kaynarca Hotel and Pansiyon, 35 TL/night (+90 224 757 1753)
  • Yenişehir – Otel Güngör, 50 TL/night (+90 224 773 2230)
  • Kütahya – Otel Günes, 40 TL/night (+90 274 216 1113)
  • Domaniç – Önder Otel, 35 TL/night (+90 274 661 4015)
  • Simav – Huzur Otel, 30 TL/night (+90 274 513 9438)

Something else to keep in mind is that a big town is often not far away. For instance, just before reaching the village of Hacikara one night, I was desperate for a little wifi and a shower, so I caught a bus into Inegöl (30 minutes and 3 TL), found a hotel, and then took another bus right back to where I left off the next morning.

Muhtar’s guest rooms

It happened twice that a village had a room for visitors (misafir odasi, or guest room). In Dırazali, about 4 kms outside of Iznik, there was a cozy guest room in the same building as the muhtar’s office, which included a table and chairs, sofa, bunk beds, and attached sink (the toilet was just downstairs).

And in Şenlik, the last village you’ll stay in before reaching Kütahya, it’s possible to sleep in a building across from the mosque – the lovely muhtar even set up a twin mattress for me, lit a fire in the stove, and gave me fresh fruit. Hello, luxury!

Evliya Celebi Way accommodation

My guest room in Dırazali.

Homestays

There’s one Turkish word you absolutely have to learn: misafir, which means “guest.”  Many of the families I met insisted I be their misafir, and I soon learned it was of little use trying to reimburse them. They would share their dinner and breakfast with me – as well as keep me plied with endless amounts of tea – and set up on a sofa bed for me to sleep on. As nice as it was to have a roof over my head each night, what I loved most about these homestays was simply getting a glimpse of their way of life. 

Evliya Celebi Way accommodation

My favorite homestay was with a family whose one-roomed house was lit only by a kerosene lamp.

Food and water

Most villages have a small, one-roomed bakkal, or market, stocking items such as eggs, bread, pasta, cheese, sausage, soup packets, chocolate, and single servings of Nescafé – which pretty much sums up my diet when I wasn’t eating with families.

You’ll come across bakkals regularly enough that you won’t need to carry a huge amount with you. I generally tried to have 1-2 days worth of food on me, as well as crackers, biscuits, mixed nuts, etc. for snacks. I also carried a pack of Maggi chicken stock cubes, which I would mix into a pot of pasta for my own take on instant noodles, and I was given a ridiculous amount of fresh fruit from villagers – apples, grapes, pomegranates, ayva (or quince), oranges, etc.

Evliya Celebi Way food

A neatly stocked bakkal in the village of Sariçam.

Evliya Celebi Way food

I already miss the typical Turkish breakfast = bread, cheese, olives, tomatoes, and tea.

Another thing you might see available in some bakkals is tost, a pressed sausage-and-cheese sandwich usually served with ketchup and mayonnaise. Obviously it isn’t the healthiest snack on the planet, but I usually had it whenever I came across it, as it made for a nice change from pasta.

When you hit the bigger towns, especially those mentioned above in the section on hotels, there will be plenty of restaurants to choose from. I rarely paid more than 10 TL ($5) for a meal. Options include pide, a kind of Turkish flatbread pizza, and köfte, or minced meatballs usually served with flatbread, grilled tomatoes, and a grilled green chili pepper. Here are a few places to get a tasty meal:

  • Iznik – Köfteci Yusuf (+90 224 444 6162)
  • Inegöl – Sefa Inegöl Köftecisi (+90 224 715 4046)
  • Cerrah – Köylüm Pide Dünyasi (+90 224 724 2648)
  • Kütahya – Ahmet Bey (+90 274 513 20 90)
  • Şaphane – Piknik Restaurant (+90 274 551 2242)

And in terms of water, I only ever carried a 1.5-liter bottle with me. One of the great things about the EÇW is that all along the route, you pass yalaks (watertroughs) and çeşmes (drinking fountains). I never found the water undrinkable and filled my bottle every chance I got (from the spout, not the trough!). Also, if there is a stretch of trail with a noticeable lack of yalaks, the guidebook is good about letting you know this.

Evliya Celebi Way water

A typical concrete yalak on the Evliya Celebi Way.

Evliya Celebi Way water

Çeşmes tend to be much prettier than yalaks and often have cups attached. So thoughtful, ay?

Evliya Celebi Way water

No water shortage here, my friends.

Money, money, money

Just to sum up the hotel and food sections and give you an idea of how much you’ll need total, I spent 682 TL ($340) over the course of 27 days, which averages out to around $13 a day. This includes everything – the ferry to Yalova, bus back to Istanbul, any other dolmuş or bus rides, hotels, meals, and groceries.

Something to be aware of is that this figure is far lower than it should be – again and again I was overwhelmed by the generosity of the people I met. I don’t think I paid for a single cup of tea in the villages, and many of my meals were provided by the families who invited me to stay with them. When you’re budgeting for the trek, it may be wise to plan to spend a little more on food just in case.

Navigation and trail finding

Unlike on the Camino or the Shodoshima circuit, there is no waymarking on the EÇW. Although there are a few yellow signposts at times, the last one I came across was in the village of Baçhekaya – i.e. there are no signposts for the last 12 or 13 days of the walk, so don’t think you’re going crazy for not seeing them. This made the EÇW an entirely different experience, where getting lost swiftly becomes part of your daily routine.

Evliya Celebi Way signposts

One of the few signposts you’ll see on the Evliya Celebi Way.

The guidebook says a GPS is essential. As I only got the idea to do this trek after I left the US, I went shopping for a GPS in Istanbul and was astounded by how much they cost there – somewhere in the range of $300-400. In the end, I decided to do the EÇW without one. If you decide to go with a GPS, there is a file of over 500 waypoints that you can download from the website and plug into your GPS (and even if you don’t get one, you can still upload the file into Google Earth for a peek at the route before you arrive).

The route section of the guidebook is divided into suggested stages for each day’s walk, and gives how many kilometers you’ll cover as well as an estimated number of hours you’ll spend walking (it is quite generous and includes time for breaks). On average, you walk around 15 kilometers a day, which takes 6-7 hours to cover. Like the glossary, the directions included are specific, but I found they were not always easy to follow. Here’s a look at how one set of directions reads:

Cross the asphalt diagonally and scramble up the bank on the W/far side, to the ridgetop. Head R/N for 900m across rough hillside with sparse fields, following the ridge to join a tractor track. Turn L and follow the tractor track for 200m and then turn R/NW. Descend to a gully and ascend across a hillside, over the ridge to a junction with tractor track just below.

Two tips from my own experience: Firstly, it is possible to do the route without a GPS – but it’s absolutely essential you have a compass. Mine was $7 from the Atlas Outdoor shop I referenced above, and I would not have made it to Simav without it. There were a few times when I was lost in the woods, and I literally just pointed the compass in whatever direction I needed to be walking in and walked.

Secondly, except for sections in the forest, there was often an asphalt alternative, and if need be – for instance, if nightfall was approaching or if I’d just had enough of being lost for the day – I would retreat from less clear paths and take a paved road to the next village. I also asked farmers and shepherds for directions whenever I could, who could at least point me to the next village; in this way, each day’s walk was often a series of smaller victories, where I was happy simply to make it from village to village.

Evliya Celebi Way asphalt

Clear beautiful asphalt…sometimes you just gotta take it.

Helpful Turkish phrases

It wasn’t often that I came across someone who could speak any English, but this also meant that I learned more of the language than I ever have anywhere else in the world. As something of a language buff, I was thrilled by the challenge. Like I mentioned above, the guidebook’s glossary is fantastically useful, but here are a few words and phrases to get you started:

  • Hello = merhaba
  • How are you? = nasılsın
  • Good (in response) = iyim
  • Thank you = teşekkür ederim
  • Thanks (informal) = sağol (sounds like ‘sow’)
  • Welcome = Hoş geldiniz (literally “It’s nice you came”)
  • Your response to hoş geldiniz = Hoş bulduk (literally “I find it nice”)
  • I’m sorry, I speak very little Turkish = Maalesef, çok as Türkçe (with çok being pronounced like ‘choke’)
  • Tent (for explaining when you want to camp) = çadır (pronounced chadur)
  • Food = yemek
  • How much? = Ne kadar?
  • Where? = Nerede?
  • Walk (for explaining what exactly it is you’re doing to people) = yürümek or gezmek

A couple other useful sites:

Safety

Just about every person I met along the EÇW warned me about dogs – köpek in Turkish – as well as bears, wolves, and wild pigs. I’m relieved to say I never had a problem with any of the above, nor were there any close calls. The dogs are definitely not friendly, but the worst ones I came across were always on chains. Otherwise, they’re sheepdogs, and their shepherd is never far away to call them back. I also started carrying a stick with me after a few days, just in case I needed to fend off any unwelcome encounters.

Evliya Celebi Way dogs

Proof that not every dog on the Evliya Celebi Way needs defending from. Look at that face, will you?

As a woman walking alone, I had a few other concerns on my mind, and well, there were a couple of tricky moments – it happened twice that pairs of teenage or 20-something guys followed me out of a village, but nothing serious ever came of it. As I’ve written about in regards to traveling in India, it’s important to listen to your gut and discern whether or not a person can be trusted. When I felt even remotely threatened, I walked as fast as I could and wasn’t afraid to raise my voice to let someone know they should leave me alone.

A final note on not giving up

Something to be aware of about the EÇW is the lack of what I’m calling “pilgrim culture” around the trail. In Spain, the 400,000 people who walk the Camino each year are called peregrinos, and the large number of pilgrims means you develop an incredible sense of camaraderie along the way.

In Japan, pilgrims are called ohenro-san and they always wear white kimonos. I bought a white kimono jacket from the main temple that immediately let locals know what I was doing – just in case the massive pack on my back didn’t. Although I never met another walking pilgrim on the Shodoshima 88-Temple Circuit (only scores of Japanese doing the circuit by bus), it was still nice to know that what I was doing was defined and understood.

The role of a walking pilgrim doesn’t really exist in Turkey. Every person I met said the same thing – “But that’s so far! And so difficult! Aren’t you afraid? Don’t your shoulders hurt?” As the trail is so new, they didn’t understand what I was doing – and more importantly, why I would bother – and having to explain this countless times certainly made me question the whole endeavor at times.

But here’s the thing: It is possible, and it’s a chance to push yourself on every level.

Evliya Celebi Way

Meeting two lovely women, Arife and Fatimah, on my first day of the walk.

Now that I’ve finished, people sometimes say how brave I was to do the trek alone. Believe me – if you could have seen me huddled in my tent at night, jumping at every noise and crackle in the woods, you would not have pointed at me and said, “That is the picture of bravery.” But what made it all worth it to me, what kept me walking day after day, was the extraordinary kindness I was shown.

Apart from the occasionally snarky shepherdess – like the one who shooed me away when I tried to ask her for directions – so many people went out of their way to help me, and what I missed in sharing the journey with other pilgrims was made up for in discovering new friendships along the way.

If you get to a point where you’ve had enough of the trail or can’t take being lost anymore, take a day off. Find a nice hotel, get a shower and good meal, and maybe call home to your family or friends for a little de-brief session. I took several days off, either just to explore an interesting town or to work on a project, and each time I returned to the trail refreshed and ready for a new week of challenges – and with a renewed sense of belief in what I was doing.

My mother asked me an interesting question about the EÇW – What one truth did you discover that would make me want to take the time, energy, and emotional challenge of this trek? – and well, I’m not sure I’ve processed the experience enough yet to know what that one truth is. But what I do know right now is that I’ve never felt a greater sense of accomplishment in myself, or an even greater sense of gratitude for those who helped me along the Way.

Here’s one last look at some of the people who made the Evliya Çelebi Way for me – and who I have no doubt you will cross paths with there as well.

Evliya Celebi Way

An early breakfast in Mahmudiye before my fourth day of walking.

Evliya Celebi Way

Making friends at a kahve (teahouse) in Orhaniye.

Evliya Celebi Way

Ramazan and Umahan, whom I met as they were gathering mushrooms in the forest.

Evliya Celebi Way

Yakup, the muhtar of Dırazali.

Evliya Celebi Way

Two little beauties in the village of Kızılhisar.

Evliya Celebi Way

My welcoming committee in Kidzerbent.

Evliya Celebi Way

Nothing like a lively game of football to make me feel at home in Kidzerbent.

Evliya Celebi Way

Hüseyín from the village of Vakıf.

Evliya Celebi Way

Sunday morning at the teahouse in Gürlek.

Evliya Celebi Way

Two old friends from Gürlek who walked with me an HOUR out of their way. Unreal.

Evliya Celebi Way

Learning how to tie a headscarf in the village of Şehitler.

Evliya Celebi Way

A kind-hearted gold cleaner in Kütahya.

Evliya Celebi Way

One last wave from my tomato farming friends, Asje and Gönül.

Okay, what did I miss?! Please leave a comment below if you have any questions about the Evliya Celebi Way that I didn’t address here.

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  • Wow, this is an incredibly thorough and I’m sure useful guide as well. Love the photos, and the pie chart is rather neat as well! I wonder though if it is possible to continue on the trail through to Mecca? That would certainly be interesting as well. Although it would surely have to wait until the situation in Syria is improved. Thanks for the info. I never really thought of pilgrimage routes in Turkey as you had said. Surely one knows there had to be some! It is on my list of things to do now, although that list is growing in perpetuity.

    • Thanks so much, Anwar! Really glad you enjoyed the guide, I had a lot of fun putting it together. That’s a great question about walking to Mecca – once the situation in Syria improves, I’m sure one could do it. Anything’s possible these days, right? 🙂 I just looked it up on Google Maps and it seems like it’s around 3,800kms from Istanbul to Mecca – so as long as you’ve got around six months to spare, you should be able to make it! While I was doing this last trail, I also got the idea to walk from Istanbul to India, as both countries mean a lot to me. But again, I would most likely have to go through Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc. One day, hopefully!

      • Hmm it would be a good use of 6months perhaps. Turkey to India would be incredible, imagine the changing landscape and all the places you would get to see. I do hope such a journey is possible, the people in those countries certainly deserve a better situation that currently exists in many of those areas. I love India too in all it’s chaos. Heading downtown tomorrow to hopefully get my India visa processed, trying to go there at the end of December or early January for a few weeks. Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family.

        • I know! Thinking about all the landscapes to explore and people to meet along that route is definitely quite exciting. Fingers crossed it’ll be possible to walk it one day soon. And best of luck on your Indian visa! I understand the joys of that process all too well 🙂 Where are you planning to visit while you’re there? As always, you know I’d love to hear more about it.

  • What an awesome thing you did and what a detailed guide you wrote up. I’m impressed and humbled. You’re much gutsier than I am. I’ve always found Turks to be hospitable and the fact that half the time you had homestays somehow testifies to that. What pilgrimage is next?

    • Thank you, Mark! That’s such a great point about having homestays half the time – I’d always heard a lot about Turkish hospitality, but it’s another thing altogether to experience it for yourself, isn’t it? I was truly humbled by everyone who opened their home to me, and it’s something I look forward to repaying one day when I have my own home. They really taught me what the kindness of strangers looks like!

      And in terms of what’s next, funnily enough I was just researching a pilgrimage in Brazil yesterday 🙂 It’s called the Caminho da Fe and covers about 300 miles in southeastern Brazil: http://gobrazil.about.com/od/cyclinginbrazil/a/caminhodafe.htm. Hope you’re enjoying your time there, can’t wait to hear and read about it!

  • Did you see any of the horse trekkers on your journey? What is a typical Turkish villager’s kitchen like? Do they have modern appliances? And I love that you were a little scared at night. I had started seeing you as superhuman, in terms of courage and strength, as I’ve been following your journey. Knowing you had fears but pressed through them is inspiring.

    • It’s so great to hear from you here, Susy, and I loved your questions as well! Sadly I never came across any of the horse trekkers – I believe the main tour company from Cappadocia offers trips in September, so I must have just missed them, and a few people told me that other horse groups had come by a couple of weeks before me. It definitely would have been fun to cross paths with them!

      In terms of a typical village kitchen, they are fairly simple – a few cabinets, sink, fridge, oven and range. What I loved about their cooking style was that every home has a wood-burning stove (or “soba” in Turkish) in their living room, the top of which they also use for boiling water for tea, frying eggs, even toasting slices of bread for breakfast. This was the biggest difference I noticed, apart from a lack of microwaves and dishwashers!

      And yes, I was absolutely scared at night! Fear was a huge part of this journey, and I’m actually working on an essay about that right now 🙂 Every person I met along the way asked me the same question – “Korku?” which I finally learned means ‘afraid’ in Turkish. I found it really interesting that that was such a common question.

      Thanks so much again for saying hello, and I hope all is well with you in the beautiful Bay Area!

  • Kim

    An amazing adventure Candace. I’m so proud of you. We need to meet up somewhere in the world soon and share our adventures. XO

    • Thank you, my love! And YES, a meet-up needs to happen pretty much as soon as possible!! What are your plans for after your epic cycling adventure in Vietnam? Any ideas about where you’re headed next? Perhaps our Mexico writing retreat can still happen at some point 🙂 xo

  • Like you, I got hooked on the Camino after completing the Northern route in August. This route seems like a step beyond, but really exciting and different (I also speak Spanish fluently and am used to the culture after six years here, which helped). Just curious – did you see other pilgrims?

    • I’m so thrilled you walked the Northern route this summer! The friend that I did the Camino with and I have often talked about going back and doing that route – I am now officially off to stalk your blog and read about your experience 🙂 And thanks so much for bringing up an excellent question – I did indeed mean to mention that I never saw any other pilgrims. I heard about a couple other walking pilgrims that had come through weeks earlier, and then I think I missed the September crowd of pilgrims on horseback. I’m thankfully in touch with the route’s founders, so I’ll be sure to ask them how many people do the route each year. Thanks for reading, Cat!

  • This is such a wonderful resource my dear, and it is very evident that you loved your time on the EÇW. You have definitely sowed a seed for me, and I have no doubt I will one day be setting out in your footsteps! It truly is an amazing achievement, and just like Kim, I too am very proud of you. You never cease to amaze me xxx

    • Thank you so much, Hannah! I so appreciate your kind words about the guide, but what I loved hearing even more is that you’re considering doing the walk yourself one day. I think you and Lee would truly enjoy the countryside rambles – and hopefully with Lee’s jungle expertise, get lost a little less than I did 😉 Sending lots of love your way, keep soaking up life in the chateau for me! xxx

  • This is a wonderful post – you must have put so much work into it – well done

    • Thanks so much, Natalie! I really appreciate that. The guide did indeed take a fair bit of time to put together, but I truly loved working on it – there’s not a lot of information out there about the trek, so I wanted to help as much as I can to encourage other people to consider it 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  • a brilliant blog. you must be the first person to walk the Way in toto. i have ridden it all, and walked and ridden long sections but, despite being a co-author of the guidebook (all shortcomings of book and trail acknowledged, but unavoidable for various reasons), i have never walked it all as you have. nor do i like to camp alone (despite being 60ish). i am so sorry we could not meet, and now you are off elsewhere. ah well, if you return to Turkey, Kate and i will be there. your blogs are the best advertisement for the trail that we could hope for. thank-you sincerely.
    we hope your experiences will encourage others to follow in your footprints and in Evliya’s hoofprints—email us, everyone, if you have such plans or need help from us.

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Caroline! It’s wonderful to hear from you and have your voice included here as one of the route’s founders. It would have been so great to meet you and Kate in Turkey, but I know I will absolutely be back one day and look forward to meeting you both then. As you’ve probably picked up here, the EÇW is one of the best experiences I’ve had anywhere in the world, so I’m incredibly grateful to you both for taking the time to establish the trail and put the guidebook together. I can’t imagine having gotten to know Turkey any other way.

      PS – Thank you for your email as well! I’ll be replying to it by the end of the week 🙂

  • Kerem

    hey girl,

    i did burst into laugh when i saw the “Nothing like a lively game of football to make me feel at home in Kidzerbent.” picture. the finger sign that the little boy is showing is actually a bit rude in turkey – probably they wouldn’t have tought that they would be famous on the internet when they gave the pose, ha!!

    Loved your site, congratulations on your walk!

    kerem, from istanbul.

    • Thanks for your comment, Kerem! Thank you as well for enlightening me about the finger sign – I’m not at all surprised 🙂 I imagine there is much that I miss due to the language and cultural barriers…even still, I loved my time in Turkey and can’t wait to return. All the best for 2014!

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  • Sophie Bijjani

    Amazing entry!
    I spent the summer backpacking in Turkey and it is totally true that they are such an hospitable people! Although I did walk parts of the Lycian way, your blog made me wanna go all the way back to do this whole trail!

    I’m looking for a similar experience this summer, have you got any suggestions of such trails where it’s quite easy to find food along the way and that are “relatively safe” for a single woman ? (This is one thing I liked about most European countries and Turkey, there’s always a village nearby so you don’t have to carry so much food on your back)

    Again, awesome blog, it is a pleasure to read you and it does make the reader want to get walking around!

  • Yep, i can just stand it out again, the hospitality is huge in Turkey, i cannot imagine another country in the world with that amazing people..
    Great that you did the Evliya Celebi Way. I did Sultans Trail in 2012 (only the Turkish Part, 330 km) and also felt like a pioneer, but we went with a guide but still it was adventurous in the end as the marking was still in progress and we marked parts of the trail the first time. I also met Caronline Finkel who scouted and researched the Evliya trail. I hope through your article a lot more people will find out about it and walk it!!
    There are a lot more trails in rural Turkey now, which are developed by a society called “Cultural Routes Turkey”. Check out their website for more information. I think these projects are great & deserve support.

    • Thanks so much for getting in touch, Laura! It’s wonderful to hear from you, and to hear about your time on the Sultan’s Trail. I just went and read a bit about it, and imagine that would be quite the journey to walk the whole way from Vienna to Istanbul…I’ll have to bookmark this one as a possible future adventure 🙂 It’s great you’ve met Caroline as well! Unfortunately we narrowly missed each other in Istanbul, but we’ve since had a chance to skype and I really look forward to meeting her one day. And lastly, thank you for suggesting the Cultural Routes society – Caroline actually put me in touch with Huseyin, and it’s been really helpful being able to direct people to him. I’m right there with you on wanting to promote these trails – I absolutely loved my time on the ECW and am so glad you had a great experience in Turkey as well!

  • Mackenzie Austin

    Hi Candace!

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I saw in the comments that you talked about the Caminho da Fe in Brazil and I had actually been researching that as well. I was wondering if you had come across any good information in English for the Caminho da Fe and if you were considering doing the Caminho any time soon. I think I’m going to do it this summer!

    Thanks so much!

    Mackenzie

  • Hi Candace,
    Thanks for the thorough and informative post. Just got into Kütahya myself today albeit from the east (spent the last few days on and off the Phrygian Way) and now plan to head north from here on the ECW towards Istanbul for Easter.
    I´m using my phone for GPS Navigation and wonder if you would have a list of places (villages) that are along the way. That would suffice probably to navigate the route with the help of the satelite footage I use. When I go to the Download link of the GPS data you link to I get a password question, that I cannot answer without the guide – and the guide in English is hard to come by here on the road.

    Greetings from along the way,
    Fr. Johannes, peregrinus
    http://www.4kmh.com

    • Thanks so much for stopping by, Johannes! It’s wonderful to hear you’re planning to walk the ECW up to Istanbul – I’ve just sent you an email regarding the GPS data, and can’t wait to hear how your time on the way goes. All the best to you!

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  • Adrea Mehl

    Wonderful blog, Candace! If you had only 4 days to spend on the trail, which part would you suggest? I will be in Turkey mid September with my 2 twenty-something daughters. Thanks for your feedback.

    – – adrea

  • Alper Tunga Yilmaz

    hi Candace,

    Thanks for the information. I have walked around 150 km in Lycian Way, this time I want to walk EÇW. But I dont have much time maybe 5 days between 2nd and 7th of October. I am from Turkiye so I know about the area in my opinion the best plart of this route is between Yalova and İznik. Between İznik and Yalova there is a motorway passing through the villages which you have probably seen in Kızderbent. This way leads you from Yalova to İznik. Did you follow this way at all times?

  • Sara Para

    hi candace!

    I absolutely loved to read your very comprehensive story about your adventure. I always wanted to travel alone, and I decided that this summer I will finally take the step. I have okay experience with trekking, but it’s the first time i would do it alone, and to be honest, I am scared, also a bit of Turkey, the dogs, the culture and language I don’t know and speak. Would you recommend an easier ‘trekking’ such as the Camino as a starter, or do you think I should just go for it.

    Also, I would have to travel in summer (July), so maybe not so recommended?

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