Gerga: hiking to one of Turkey’s most mysterious sites

Don’t you love a bit of mystery? We do! And we got what we came for when visiting Gerga, a sanctuary or cult-site hidden in the Latmos Mountains of Caria. This stunning mountain range with its out-of-this-world boulder rock formations is reason enough to plan a hike in the area, but adding Gerga to that hike adds a dash of culture and maybe even occultism to your day. Very little is known of Gerga, but that just doesn’t matter once you reach your destination and absorb the magic of the moment.

Getting there isn’t a walk in the park, though, and many fail to find it on their first attempt. In this article, we’ll tell you how to get there, and why you need to go.

The Mystery Of Gerga In A Nutshell

The Mystery Of Gerga In A Nutshell

Gerga: a mystery waiting to be uncovered

You won’t find a lot of information on Gerga, and when you do, most sources are in Turkish, or they repeat the same content you’ve already seen. Still, being persistent pays off, and after some digging, at least some of our questions about Gerga got an answer. The most reliable sources to find out more about this intriguing place are the ones written by the researches who visited this site. Two of them were French, Cousin, and Laumonier, a third one British, Bean. Their stories combined reveal a little of the enigma around this place. Gerga is described as a ‘Carian-Hellenistic’ village, a necropolis, or a sanctuary, and it may be a bit of all.

Picture Perfect Gerga

Picture Perfect Gerga

The only obvious thing about it is the relatively easy way to identify the name of the place, Gerga, as you’ll find it over 20 times, carved in the rocks and buildings. The inscriptions are mostly in Greek – or at least a version of it – and Latin, and appear as Gerga, Gergas, and Gergakome. Then again, even the name is a topic of discussion among researchers. Some believe Gerga and Leukai Stelai, mentioned in Herodotus’ texts are the same, and Gerga is the name of a God, rather than a place.

In his piece ‘Two Carian Notes’, Richard P. Harper claims that the name Gerga means “The Sanctuary of Kar”, connecting it to the nearby site of Alabanda and the myth of Alabandos, son of Kar. He is also inclined to support the theory that this place has evolved over different centuries, explaining why there are several hypotheses on the name and even different versions of the same name.

Again, There's An Inscription Inside

Again, There’s An Inscription Inside

Whatever the name and the history of this place, you can’t help feeling fascinated as soon as you start walking around. As if the enigmatic atmosphere is absorbing you. Often, reading the information boards on-site is a fulfilling experience. But somehow, here in Gerga, the lack of information works well, and even enhances your senses. The setting is spectacular, as you are surrounded by almost outer-worldly boulders and structures and artifacts that spur your imagination.

The View From In Between The Monoliths Besides The Temple Tomb Door

The View From In Between The Monoliths Besides The Temple Tomb Door

The most apparent structure on-site is a small temple or temple-tomb, with the name Gergas above the entrance door. This building is entirely made out of stone, including the imitation-woodwork roof structure. The first room has an almost square plan of 4,70 x 4m. The back wall, however, is interrupted by an opening to a smaller room that extends outside and measures 2,40 x 2,80m. This niche was probably intended to house the tomb itself, with the main room acting as pronaos.

Quite A Setting, Right?

Quite A Setting, Right?

Look At That Roof! All Stone!

Look At That Roof! All Stone!

Near the temple-tomb are two pointed stelai of over 3 m high, also containing the word Gergas. In between used to stand a colossal statue, which is now overthrown. Almost right next to the second stela stands what looks like an altar. None of the sources indicate what it was used for, other than Laumonier, who assumes that “in more modern times, this bloc was used for the production of olive oil”. The original purpose remains a secret.

Amazing That This Stela Is Still Standing!

Amazing That This Stela Is Still Standing!

Stela And Altar At Gerga

Stela And Altar

Other notable structures at Gerga include a few smaller square, roofed structures with an open front that could either be tombs or fountain houses. Some of those also feature the word Gerga, or even ornamental lion heads. The terrace of the city is supported by a massive wall that is still standing. And in between, there’s nothing but nature, boulders, and distant views down to the reservoir below.

The Roof Of The Temple Tomb And The Reservoir Below

The Roof Of The Temple Tomb And The Reservoir Below

One Of The Other Structures. Do You See The Lion Heads?

One Of The Other Structures. Do You See The Lion Heads?

There were also several statues at Gerga, but none of them are still standing. One of those statues – or at least a part of it is now exposed at the Izmir Archaeological Museum. The torso of ca. 3 tonnes is over 2m high and more than 1m wide. It has the word Gerga inscribed on its chest and is believed to be part of a colossal statue of more than 7m high.

Click here to see a picture of the torso

How to get to Gerga

If you want to arrange a magical mystery tour to Gerga, it will take some effort. Part of the reason that this place is still relatively untouched probably has to do with how difficult it is to find it. In theory, it is possible to go to the site by car, as there is a dirt track that passes just above it. But we strongly believe that this is not the right way to experience the charm of this place.

You need to walk to fully grasp what this area is all about. Take in the silence and the delicate sounds of nature. Admire the surroundings and feel the effort visitors to Gerga must have gone through back in the days to reach this extraordinary site.

En Route To Gerga

En Route To Gerga

We hiked to Gerga from the village of Alabayır. You can easily reach the village by car, following the sign to Gerga from the D550 near Eskiçine. Before you drive down to the starting point of your walk, consider having a look around the corner, just past the village, where an old Roman bridge awaits. After that, head back to the village and take the road towards the mosque. Keep to the right just before reaching the mosque. Then, drive further down into the direction of the valley and the reservoir. You’ll hit a dead-end and will have to park your car.

Roman Bridge Near Alabayır

Roman Bridge Near Alabayır

What A Place For A House!

What A Place For A House!

After that, walk around the last house in the village, where you will see a sarcophagus. Further down, there’s a millstone at the beginning of your hike. The entire hike is on the right side of the valley, mostly on goat tracks. Make sure you have dressed appropriately, including sturdy walking shoes and clothing that covers your legs to protect you from the sometimes thorny bushes.

A Sarcophagus Near A House In Alabayır

A Sarcophagus Near A House In Alabayır

Man On A Donkey On The Dirt Road Just Above Gerga

Man On A Donkey On The Dirt Road Just Above Gerga

Expect obstacles such as gated areas (just unlock the gate and lock it back), barb-wired fences and cows on the path. Nothing to worry about, though it may be confusing and difficult to find the right track from time to time. If you do not have a GPS to guide you to the exact location of Gerga, you may want to consider using the guidance of a villager before you head to the track. While this wasn’t our intention, one villager’s parents decided against that and sent their son with us. About 1,5h and 3 km later, we were in Gerga.

The Setting Of The Hike To Gerga

The Setting Of The Hike To Gerga

The Rough Guide to Turkey features an alternative route where you approach Gerga from the Incekemer bridge near the main road connecting Muğla and Aydın, after which you’re in for a 1,5h walk uphill.

✔️ Have you been to Gerga? Then please head over to our Turkey Trip Planner to leave a review. Alternatively, if you plan on visiting, you can add the site to your bucket list.
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Sources: A. Laumonier, Archéology Carienne - G. Labarre et H. Bru, Chronique d’Orient

We said it in our introduction, this hike is not a walk in the park. Make sure you are well prepared. Bring enough water and food, and dress accordingly.

The thing with these off the beaten path locations is that you won’t find any reviews about them, or at least not TripAdvisor. Just in case you’re planning on exploring more of the Aydın province, you may want to explore your options on that topic. If you have any questions, send us a message through our contact page, or leave a comment on our Facebook page.

Clicking these links will take you to pages of places and products we love and we’ve tested. If you happen to book or buy something, we may earn a small commission from it, at no extra cost to you. So here’s a thank you for adding some coins to the tip-box! 😉

Check out nearby places such as Alabanda and Alında, or pop-in at that other cult site, Lagina to visit Hekate.

Clicking these links will take you to pages of places and products we love and we’ve tested. If you happen to book or buy something, we may earn a small commission from it, at no extra cost to you. So here’s a thank you for adding some coins to the tip-box! 😉

We still love to use Booking.com when searching for the perfect hotel or vacation rental in Turkey. Unfortunately, the website isn’t accessible from within Turkey without the use of a VPN. If you don’t have a VPN, and you’re already in Turkey, Hotels.com is a good alternative.

Clicking these links will take you to pages of places and products we love and we’ve tested. If you happen to book or buy something, we may earn a small commission from it, at no extra cost to you. So here’s a thank you for adding some coins to the tip-box! 😉

We couldn’t find any information about public transport to Alabayır. If you are relying on buses, your best option would be to catch a bus that serves the Aydın, Yatağan or Muğla route and ask the driver to drop you off near the Incekemer bridge. Then follow the route as described in Rough Guide.

If you have your own transportation, follow the brown sign to Gerga from the D550 Aydın – Yatağan road until you reach Alabayır.

When searching for flights, we like to use Skyscanner. It’s easy to use, and reliable. Find the best flights to Turkey and domestic flights that will take you all around the country here.

Do you prefer some good old road tripping? Once you get used to the unconventional driving style in Turkey, you’ll love to hit the road. After all, it’s all about the journey, and you may expect some very scenic rides! Renting a car in Turkey is easy. If you’re looking for an established car rental company that allows pick-up and drop-off at different airports, check out Europcar. They have offices all over Turkey.

Clicking these links will take you to pages of places and products we love and we’ve tested. If you happen to book or buy something, we may earn a small commission from it, at no extra cost to you. So here’s a thank you for adding some coins to the tip-box! 😉

We said it in our introduction, this hike is not a walk in the park. Make sure you are well prepared. Bring enough water and food, and dress accordingly.

The thing with these off the beaten path locations is that you won’t find any reviews about them, or at least not TripAdvisor. Just in case you’re planning on exploring more of the Aydın province, you may want to explore your options on that topic. If you have any questions, send us a message through our contact page, or leave a comment on our Facebook page.

Clicking these links will take you to pages of places and products we love and we’ve tested. If you happen to book or buy something, we may earn a small commission from it, at no extra cost to you. So here’s a thank you for adding some coins to the tip-box! 😉

Check out nearby places such as Alabanda and Alında, or pop-in at that other cult site, Lagina to visit Hekate.

Clicking these links will take you to pages of places and products we love and we’ve tested. If you happen to book or buy something, we may earn a small commission from it, at no extra cost to you. So here’s a thank you for adding some coins to the tip-box! 😉

We still love to use Booking.com when searching for the perfect hotel or vacation rental in Turkey. Unfortunately, the website isn’t accessible from within Turkey without the use of a VPN. If you don’t have a VPN, and you’re already in Turkey, Hotels.com is a good alternative.

Clicking these links will take you to pages of places and products we love and we’ve tested. If you happen to book or buy something, we may earn a small commission from it, at no extra cost to you. So here’s a thank you for adding some coins to the tip-box! 😉

We couldn’t find any information about public transport to Alabayır. If you are relying on buses, your best option would be to catch a bus that serves the Aydın, Yatağan or Muğla route and ask the driver to drop you off near the Incekemer bridge. Then follow the route as described in Rough Guide.

If you have your own transportation, follow the brown sign to Gerga from the D550 Aydın – Yatağan road until you reach Alabayır.

When searching for flights, we like to use Skyscanner. It’s easy to use, and reliable. Find the best flights to Turkey and domestic flights that will take you all around the country here.

Do you prefer some good old road tripping? Once you get used to the unconventional driving style in Turkey, you’ll love to hit the road. After all, it’s all about the journey, and you may expect some very scenic rides! Renting a car in Turkey is easy. If you’re looking for an established car rental company that allows pick-up and drop-off at different airports, check out Europcar. They have offices all over Turkey.

Clicking these links will take you to pages of places and products we love and we’ve tested. If you happen to book or buy something, we may earn a small commission from it, at no extra cost to you. So here’s a thank you for adding some coins to the tip-box! 😉

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Check the weather

Never wonder about the weather in Turkey again. The Turkish climate is as diverse as the country with significant differences between the regions.

This page contains the current weather and weather statistics for all regions in Turkey.

Prepare your trip

How to order a tourist visa for Turkey?

What about public transport?
Can you skip the line at Istanbul Airports?

General Turkey travel information, essential to help prepare your trip, on one page!

LISTS & REVIEWS

Bookmark your favorite places, find other destinations nearby, get directions from your location, and read or leave reviews.

Our Turkey Trip Planner wad designed to do just that. You'll find all our favorite spots in one place, including scenic road stops.

Map of Turkey

Do you like to see things on a map? On our interactive tourist map of Turkey, you'll spot nearby points of interest right away. We've done the heavy lifting for you. Just click on the icons to go to each post.

Enjoy our practical and inspirational map of Turkey!

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Gerga: hiking to one of Turkey\'s most mysterious sites