If you are up for an adventure and enjoy hiking off the beaten path, one unique excursion is to spend a day tracking down the ancient Roman roads near the city of Antalya. Many of these roads are still intact and offer good trails to hike through portions of the Turkish mountains. I will highlight three of the best sections of Roman road, which are accessible from Antalya.
Antalya was once the ancient city of Attalia, and the region around it features multiple prominent ancient ruins, including Termessos, Aspendos, Sillyon, and Perge. Further north, near the modern city of Isparta, are the ruins of Sagalassos and Pisidian Antioch. Thus, it is no surprise that in many farmer’s fields, you will see random bits of ruins, roads, or aqueducts which have gone untouched for thousands of years.
To get to these roads, I recommend renting a car (ideally one with 4x4 wheel drive). It may be possible to get a taxi to take you to the general area, but most of these roads are way off the beaten path down long stretches of dirt road. My colleague and I rented a Dacia Duster and had a lot of fun with the drives as well as the hike!
“St. Paul’s First Footsteps”
near the Antalya Airport and Perge Archaeological Site
This section of Roman road is easily accessible from Antalya as it is only a 10-minute drive (5km/ 3.1 miles) from the Antalya Airport and could be easily paired with a visit to Perge, which is only 15 minutes away (9.5 km / 6 miles).
While not a very lengthy section of road, it is a unique feature that cuts right through a ridge and is even distinguishable on Google Earth. When you reach it, you are able to walk along the ancient cut paving stones, which still bear the mark of chariot and cart grooves. Perhaps most significant about this section is that it was likely the first Roman road the apostle Paul would have taken on his first missionary journey! The road would have run from the harbor on the shore directly into the city of Perge (see Acts 13). Thus, if you are up for the excursion, you can have the knowledge that you found and walked in St. Paul’s first footsteps.
Getting to the site: Parking for the site is located at 36°54’47.7 N, 30°50’02.1 E. To get to the site, drive along with İncikpınar Cd. There will be a dirt road leading you out to a farmer’s field and hillock where you can park at the coordinates. From there, see the map below! Walk south from the road, across the field, and you will come to a small stream. You’ll see a ridge straight ahead, and to your right, you will see the remnants of an ancient wall/aqueduct. Hike along the ridge to the left, and you will see a goat path that takes you up. I would encourage you to have Google Earth up to make for the distinct line of the road (see image below). From there, just push through some brush, and you’ll find it fairly quickly!
This next section of road is located near the modern village of Kovanlık and is about an hour’s drive (42 km/ 26 miles) from the city center of Antalya. It is also only 20 km (12 miles) from Karain Cave and 33 km (20.5 miles) from Termessos.
On Google Maps, the ruins of the ancient waypoint stop are marked as “Maximianupolis.” This section of road is quite extensive and goes up far into the mountains. You can hike up the trail and find an ancient Roman mile-marker. As you come back down, you can imagine the relief of weary travelers as they finished their mountain trek and saw the stopping point where they could break and get some much need rest.
Getting to the Site: The start of the road is located at 37°10’32 N, 30°35’57 E. If you put in “Maximianupolis” to your mapping system, it should get you relatively close. You will drive through the modern Kovanlık along the Kovanlık Köyü Yolu road. From there, you will turn off left and onto dirt/gravel roads. Multiple dirt tracks will get you close to the ruins, and drive until you feel comfortable. We used our 4x4 drive and got up close to the ruins to park. From there, you can easily pick your way to the Roman road, which starts out as rubble, but eventually, you can see large paving stones with their distinctive chariot grooves.
Road Cutting through the Mountains to the Ancient City of Adada
The last section of road is located about 2 hours north of Antalya (123 km / 76.5 miles) and 1 hour south of Eğirdir (46 km / 28.5 miles). This road is a rather long excursion from Antalya, but it could make for a great hiking stop on your way up to camp near Eğirdir and the lake. It could also be a great detour if you are venturing up to tour Pisidian Antioch.
Winding its way along the mountain ridge, this section of Roman road is truly a marvel to hike and an incredible example of the sheer ingenuity of Roman architects. Once you reach it, it will cling to the mountainside and take you deep into the mountains.
Getting to the site: The road runs into the ruins of the ancient city of Adada. It is marked on Google Maps as Adada Kral Yolu. There are two ways to get to the main section of the scenic road. See the map below (section of road circled in red).
The first is to trail blaze to it from the ruins of Adada. It is possible to follow broken ruins and remnants of the road to the still intact and beautiful portion. However, the route from Adada to the road is less than ideal as there is no clear trail, and it is basically up to your own tracking and intuition. Thick vegetation can make some portions quite challenging, and it may take you 30-40 minutes to reach the actual road. At 37°34’00” N, 30°59’15” E, the distinguishable road begins from the Adada side. You will see red and white painted stripes on the rock, marking the trail. From there, it is straightforward to hike along the beautiful road. You can make your way across farmlands to the main Aksu Sütçüler Yolu road and hitch-hike back up to Adada.
The second (and recommended route) is to park along the main Aksu Sütçüler Yolu road right before you enter the modern village of Sağrak (see map). When you park at 37°33’44” N, 30°58’38” E, you can see the Roman road running down from the mountain. A brief stroll through several farmers’ fields will bring you to 37°33’54” N, 30°58’59” E, where the Roman road begins to be distinguishable. Keep your eyes peeled as you walk through the fields as you should spot some large rocks painted with a distinctive red and white stripe to mark the trail. You can hike deep up into the mountains and decide if you want to push on through the brush to Adada or hike back down the way you came.
Have fun exploring! If you enjoyed hunting down these roads, amazing ancient cities also offer great hiking routes and are only a short distance from Antalya. The two best ones for hikers are Termessos and Sillyon.
— By Caleb Bowman