Seven Brothers Monastery hike (Agean, Turkey)

We had heard there was a walk to the Seven Brothers Monastery on the slopes of Mt Latmos. We asked at our guesthouse for some information or a map but nothing was forthcoming. But a quick search of Google helped me find two blogs that were really helpful: Eric and Sylvia’s photo blog (written in 2000) and George and Marta’s blog (written in 2011). I took screen captures of both blogs to use as written and visual guidance. In this post, I will add to the previous bloggers’ works by providing an update on how to walk this trail. I can confirm that not much has changed since Eric and Sylvia’s blog 15 years ago other than that the trail is now sign posted in places and forms part of the Karia Way hiking trail.
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We start our adventure by driving to Golyaka. Here we parked near the small village store, from which you can buy the usual cold drinks, snacks and ice creams. Both previous blogs mention a pension through which you can hire a guide and park for free. This pension has a ‘for sale’ sign on it and a chain across the driveway. It looks run down and neglected so I suspect the option for hiring a guide from there is no longer available (though other places might offer this service instead). We walked up the road from the corner after the shop where the pension used to be keeping the minaret on our right. The road goes straight uphill. Follow it up to the ridge on which the minaret stands (you do not have to go to the minaret, just go to that ridge) and follow the road there uphill to the edge of the village.
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Here you will find a sign marking the Karia Yulu (Karia Way) and Yediler (Seven Brothers Monastery). The monastery is 3km (2 miles) from this point.
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The trail follows a rock fence through fields littered with a healthy (or unhealthy if you are the farmer) quantity of boulders and stones. It’s a stark contrast to the rain forest hiking I am used to at home where trails are lined with dense forest and the surface usually squishy with mud.
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As we climb ever upward we are rewarded with incredible views back over the village and Lake Bafa. It’s easy to imagine this as part of the Agean Sea, as it was back in the Byzantine period. The village almost clings to existence there on the ridge with its pretty blue-topped minaret and red-roofed houses. I imagine it must be a fairly isolated existence living there with your small herd of livestock and food garden.
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We miss this cross painted on a rock on the path. We do not yet know that we are supposed to be following any markers and take the most obvious trail at a junction. This is NOT the correct path.
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This is correct. Notice the red and white paint stripe on the rock; follow these the whole time. Paths with red crosses are incorrect. This is our first time hiking in Turkey and so is our first time dealing with this style of trail marking (I noticed it in Hungary too but there the paint was marked on trees not rocks).
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You might still see these two rough benches under the trees at this junction. Turn right following the red and white paint, not straight ahead where the cross is. This is one of the only difficult navigation points on the trail. You might be used to the red and white (or other coloured) paint markers so might not have difficulty or even notice this point. But I am including it because we missed it and got a little geographically embarrassed.
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The trail slipped up over this rocky shelf. It’s typical of Mt Latmos and I think it’s absolutely beautiful for walking. I much prefer this landscape to the jungles at home.
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A few gates block our path but are easily opened. The gates here are a rough affair, with any materials available quite obviously being all that is necessary to keep the livestock in the correct paddocks.
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Throughout the walk we come to places where we can see the monastery. It’s almost a tease that we have to walk so far around (not that 3km / 2 miles is far). But it’s just there in the gully. And we have to go up a spur before dropping across to get there. A tease. But worth it for the pleasure of hiking here under Mt Latmos.
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And have I mentioned the views? Nice hey.
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After about 2km (1 1/4 miles) the path goes between two rock walls. This feels very much like we are hiking up some Byzantine road, rather than a hiking trail in the 21st century (mind you, this part of Turkey feels more like the 1950s than 2010s). The occasional pine or olive tree shades us from the sun but this hike is mostly exposed and hot. I pity anyone walking here in the summer. It’s already mid-autumn and the temperature is in the high twenties or low thirties.
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Heat aside, it’s stunning. And I am grateful it’s not winter with the violent storms that season is said to bring here. Storms that result in the mountain being known as an angry old man.
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After 3km (2 miles) you will reach this sign. It points back to the village and forward to the next village. The monastery is no longer signed. Go straight ahead here between the rock wall in the direction where you can see the back of my mum’s shirt in this photo. This path will take you to the monastery.
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The Byzantine monks who lived here sometime between 300CE – 1,000CE must have experienced a harsh and austere life. I imagine the summers were torturous for the scorching heat and the winters bitterly cold and wet. I don’t think it snows here but apparently electrical storms are common during the winter months so being surrounded by all this rock would be pretty rugged.
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There’s the remains of a building perched impossibly atop a huge boulder. I wonder whether it was isolated like that in the Byzantine times or whether the rest of the rock fell away over time. Perhaps this was a chapel. I’m not sure because I can’t find enough information online and am not interested enough to invest in one of the books we later found for sale in Kapkiri.
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The site is interesting and we spend about half an hour just wandering around taking photos. We debate pushing on for another 3km (2 miles) on the Karia Way but decide instead to return the way we came. As always, the return journey is faster and easier than the way up. The navigation is easier and we make good time.
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On our return to the village we come across some turtles. They are so funny when they walk. While they carry their homes on their backs, it does not seem a natural thing for them to do.
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Passing the mosque we see a large group of men sitting drinking tea in the shade of a large tent-like structure. It looks like all the men of the village are there drinking tea. They are friendly and wave. I wonder what they are all doing. We’ve seen this more often: men drinking tea in a huge group as though they are having a town meeting. It’s not Sunday or anything. At the bottom of the hill near the car we see what looks like half the village’s women walking along the road carrying cold bottles of soft drink (soda / pop) in plastic bags. We can’t help but wonder who they bought these for and why they had to go get the drinks. All wear the same outfit we will come to recognise as village woman attire: baggy pants, long dress-like top and head scarf. The outfits make the women all look much older than their years. Especially when combined with the aging effects an outdoor existence has on their skin. It’s definitely another world here; one I find myself a little surprised to find.

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