UK to Turkey via Overland Transport (Train + Ferry) Adventure

As I mentioned in my previous post on Athens climbing Jon and I travelled out to Turkey 'overland' i.e. not flying. I try my best to keep my emissions of carbon to the minimum*. Avoiding flying is not always easy, my desire to travel to see beautiful and exciting places conflicts with not wanting to cause damage to the environment along the way.

Prior to flying to Morocco earlier this year I had not flown for several years, so it was with excitement a slight feeling of guilt when I heard of my prize winning: a place on the Petzl Roc Trip in Turkey, accepting the prize would involve flying for the second time this year.

Travelling overland via train has become a regular exercise for me to get to European climbing destinations. European trains are fast, effective and reasonably priced when booked in advance. In recent years I've travelled to Chamonix, Ceuse and Chuilla in Northern Spain all with relative ease via train. I actually find train travel much more enjoyable and fulfilling than the non-experience which is flying. Train travel allows for time to sit-back, unwind and experience the changes in scenery, culture, food (and beverages!) along the journey. Also train journeys are a good time to finish off some work (or write a blog post!), most trains have power sockets for laptops and some have free wifi.

However, looking at the location of Turkey on the map it seemed a very long way indeed from North Wales! An altogether more involved overland journey then Western Europe destinations. For this reason I had pretty much written off reaching Turkey overland and resigned myself to flying until I chance meeting with Jon Morgan while walking into Ceuse this year. In-between heavy breathing and a lot of sweating during the 40min uphill walk with heavy sacks Jon revealed that he had successfully travelled to and from Turkey overland, being a mountain guide and a doctor I figured Jon must know a thing or two! Excitedly I got Jon to sketch out his travel itinerary for me.

Luckily I managed to convince Jon Leighton that this trip was a good idea. Always up for a good train-travel-adventure, Jon agreed to join me.

There are two main routes overland to Turkey from Western Europe, Man in Seat 61 was an invaluable resource for planning the journey:

1. The landlocked train option linking Eastern European city's:
Bangor > London-Paris > Munich > Budapest > Bucharest > Istanbul > Ankara > Antalya
Bangor > London-Paris > Munich > Zagreb > Belgrade > Sofia > Istanbul > Ankara > Antalya

2. The ferry hopping option: Bangor > London (train) > Paris (train) > Milan > Bari (train) > Patras (ferry) > Athens (bus) > Rhodes (ferry) > Marmaris (ferry) > Antalya (hire car)

We decided to go for the ferry hoping option as this gave us the opportunity to break the journey with some climbing around Athens. We also thought mixing up travel with ferries would be quite exciting.

Our actual route map see link below for live zoomable version

The ferry hopping option got us to Athens in three days of traveling from London where we stated climbing for a week. Then a further night ferry, a short afternoon ferry then a 4hr hire car journey saw us in Geyikbayiri campsite where we joined the Petzl Roc Trip.

It felt immensely satisfying to reach our destination in Turkey via overland travel. The journey itself was varied and interesting, and never boring. It's given me memories of people and places which I won't forget. It has also widened my horizons to the possibilities of overland travel; I had almost written off ever being able to justify flying to China to meet my work contacts, however the Trans Siberian Express could be another adventure...

Here are a few sights from the journey I would never have the joy of experiencing had we flown:

Milan Train Station

Small Streets of Bari, Italy
Local shop in Bari, Italy. Selling Italian Essentials!

Getting Ready to Board Ferry in Bari for Greece

Boarding Overnight Ferry from Bari to Greece (17hrs)

Breakfast up on deck, nearly arriving in Greece

Passing some Greek Islands

Leaving Greece for Rhodes Island then onto Turkey, now got the whole ferry cooking thing down!

Rest day on Rhodes Island

Clearest Sea I've ever seen on Rhodes

More old little side streets in Rhodes

Obligatory Seafood Dish with some Dolmathakia (stuffed vine leaves) on Rhodes 

Arriving into Marmaris Turkey to the sight of a ridiculous boat! Don't think it counts as overland slow travel if you have your own helicopter waiting on the roof!     

I should mention that due to work and time constraints was with a guilty conscious we opted for the quick option of flying home :-(. At least we reduced our flying by 50%.

* Travelling via train emits 80-90% less carbon then flying [Source:]. The international 'safe' level of emissions per person is around 2T/yr to contain global temperature changes at or below 2 deg C which will 'hopefully' keep runway climate change and subsequent rise in sea levels at bay. Return fight from London to Málaga will emit 2/3T of carbon per person. 6.5T to Auckland Australia or 2T to New York. [Source: Only Planet, Ed Gillespie 2014]