The Asian part of Turkey is so big that we have chosen highlights for the journey and set realistic sub-goals. This way we keep our motivation high, even if our progress on our 1:1’100’000 map is very slow. Between the various highlights, we look for the most promising connections, but the most exciting encounters and experiences always happen quite unexpectedly along the way.

Aktiviere Karte Deaktiviere Karte

After Istanbul, our first major destination was Pamukkale, located precisely to the south, with its photogenic sinter terraces. We skipped the exit ride from Istanbul and took the ferry across the Sea of Marmara to Yalova instead. On major (to get ahead) and minor (to enjoy) roads we rode via Iznik to Eskisehir. In the towns and villages we had to shake many hands, were questioned with curiosity and talked into many phones. For example, the president of the bicycle club of Bilecik was informed by a friend via WhatsApp that two touring cyclists were in town. Because he was not on site, after a quick call, he sent his girlfriend over for a face-to-face visit. 🙂

At the beginning of July, the Islamic Feast of Sacrifice was taking place: Each family was expected to sacrifice an animal for the occasion, with the meat distributed among family, relatives and close acquaintances, and traditionally among the poor and hungry. In the backyards hung sheep or cattle without fur and without head, people with their meat wolves stood on the street and were busy. Fortunately with us hungry ;-)cyclists no sheep but ayran, pide and tahini cubes were shared from a picnic.

From Eskisehir we chose the direct way to Afjonkarahisar, which led us through the Phrygian Valley. Here we were the only tourists for miles and we could admire rock tombs and portals from the 8th to 6th century BC. Through the hinterland we approached the sinter terraces, tourist crowds and hot temperatures of Pamukkale. The campsite was located at a swimming pool with a lot of crowds – quite unusual for us. Walking on the terraces, we were impressed by the crowds almost as much as by the beautiful white pools. We had a blast, enjoyed the warm water of the sinter terraces and of course took many photos.

Now the journey continued eastward via the lake Salda Gölü and a wonderful (nameless) pass to Beysehir. Konya was the next big city on our route. There we wanted to visit a bike mechanic (David’s bike cracked while pedaling) and get information about hiking possibilities in the Ala Daglar National Park. The outdoor store, from which we hoped for maps or information about hiking, was unfortunately closed. But we were very lucky with the bicycle repairman! The targeted bike store bikes and art opened its doors right away. The mechanic sat himself on David’s bike, ruled out the suspected diagnosis of a broken bottom bracket bearing and made ad hoc a comprehensive service including changing the smallest rear sprocket. Because we were so excited about the service and the professionalism, my bike was then allowed to undergo the same spa program. My rear hub’s bearing grease was spontaneously changed, as it ran sluggishly, and the mini hole in the tire was patched, which we had never found. If someone wants to do something good for his bike: the trip to Konya takes 3 months and has a lot to offer :-). The service takes about 1.5 hours per bike, so there is still enough time to visit the Mevlânâ and Tiles museum.

From Konya, a lot of flat land awaited us, unfortunately with quite a strong headwind (up to 40km/h). It didn’t help much that our bikes were like new… we had to pedal hard and take turns riding against the wind every 5km. On the first evening on the plain we were allowed to spend the night very uncomplicated at a gas station (like a harvester driver and his mechanic too). It was not a silent night but a great experience and lived charity of the gas station attendant. The second night we spent at the salt lake Tuz Gölü at Eskil. What sounds very romantic was in reality dusty and sticky. The next morning we “showered” in the public toilet facility of Eskil and washed our clothes. No, public toilet facilities do not have showers. But because the toilet is just a hole in the ground anyway, you can use the bottle shower (= PET bottle with holes in the lid as a shower – made by David) to shower over it.

On the third day, the headwind blew the hardest and we were very happy that we nevertheless made it to Aksaray. Here we wanted to camp (after asking around) at a nice but completely littered spot by the river. We were still clearing away the trash for the area of our tent, when suddenly a drunken man on a non-functioning motorcycle drove down a slope to us. He got stuck in the reeds and fell under the motorcycle. At first we laughed… but when the man didn’t give us any feedback, David had to put the bike and the rider upright and get them out of their awkward situation. David tried to convince the man that it was better to push the bike out of the reeds rather than to start it again. After guessing the name of the drunk motorcycle driver (Mustafa), the two of them pushed the motorcycle up to our spot. I meanwhile got one of the men we had asked about camping. So at least someone could talk to the drunken Mustafa. He staggered around in a circle, thanked us profusely and said that we were angels sent from heaven;-) Finally Mustafa sat down on the bike and rolled down the next hill into the little stream, where he got stuck again. The man who was brought suggested that we spend the night further up the river, because here a lot of alcohol would be consumed in the evening. We made off and they called a mechanic for the bike that was still stuck in the creek…

Although we could hardly find any info and certainly no maps about the Ala Dağlar National Park, we took the extra loop on the way to Cappadocia (our second main travel destination). The extra kilometers were rewarded with an impressive panorama! In the first days we saw from the national park mainly the official campsite. We were both ailing, had sore throats and David had to sleep off his fever. Because of our long stay, we came into lively contact with the camping “neighbors”, which was very entertaining and enjoyable. We were allowed to taste delicious Turkish food and fresh fruits from time to time.

Even on site there was no information about the hiking possibilities. Finally we found some routes on the platform “wikiloc” and decided on the last day of our stay to try the ascent of the Emler (3723m)… We shortened the start by hitching a ride, which was a stroke of luck: the co-driver knew the area very well and explained us all the turns on the route in detail. The ascent of the Emler was technically easy but more exhausting than expected.

The next morning we were still having breakfast when the co-driver from yesterday came by to give us a copy of the Turkish hiking guide “AdimAdim Ala Dağlar” incl. map and fresh apricots from his garden. We had a great pleasure with the fruits and especially with the professional hiking guide, with whom (now) the planning of an autonomous multi-day trekking would be possible! Since we have seen how luggage and food are transported, a guided multi-day trekking would no longer be an option for us: The overloaded packhorses are often mercilessly chased over hill and dale.

Trekking in Ala Dağlar National Park

  • Website with some routes:
  • Hiking guide with excellent map: AdimAdim Aladaglar in turkish (ISBN: 978-625-00-9302-3). The hiking guide should be translated into English soon. Our copy will shortly be in Switzerland and is available for lending.
  • Overnight stays:
    • Camping is possible at the official national park hut TDF Dağ Evi in Demirkazık.
    • There are various accommodation options Çukurbağ.
    • In the high mountains there are designated campsites where camping is possible.
  • Provisions:
    • The nearest grocery stores/supermarkets are in Çamardı.
  • Difficulty:
    • Varying (Emler: T3).
    • No markings, trail mostly visible.

For the trip from Ala Dağlar National Park to Cappadocia we needed two days. On the way we could already visit some rock formations and dwellings in Soğanlı. Here in Göreme we will now stay a few days, living in a cave room and exploring the landscape of Cappadocia.