Vienna, Austria to Istanbul, Turkey
Start: St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna
End: The tomb of Suleiman the Magnificent in Istanbul
Distance: 1,375 miles (2,212 km)
Time: 15 weeks
Surface: Long Distance Hiking Trail
The Sultans Trail offers 2,200 km of hiking from Vienna, Austria to Istanbul, Turkey, divided into 115 stages of approximately 20-30 km each.
No special skills are required nor any special gear.
When Süleyman Kanuni, better known to history as Suleiman the Magnificent, conquered great swathes of Europe at the head of his Ottoman army, he was stopped at the gates to Vienna. He tried to conquer the city again three years later, in 1532, but called. Sultans Trail was built to trace his progress from his base in Istanbul to the city of Vienna, but today it is a path of peace, not war. It is a hugely ambitious attempt to link and celebrate the diverse nations that this multi-use hiking and cycling trail passes through: Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey.
The trail can be hiked at any time of year, although it would make sense to avoid the Turkish section in mid-summer and the mountainous Bulgarian section in mid-winter. in many places it is possible to find hotels, guesthouses, or basic accommodation. In more rural places, you may have to ask around to see if you can stay in a private house. Note, for certain sections you will need to be self-sufficient and carry a tent.
The trailheads are St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, whose bells were cast out of captured Ottoman cannons, and the tomb of Suleiman the Magnificent himself in Istanbul. The route passes through major cities, including Bratislava, Budapest, Timisoara, and Sofia and showcases not only some of the best scenery of this part of Europe, but its culture and history too. It also takes the visitor through rural areas that don’t normally get too many visitors, in an attempt to regenerate the local economies and give them a financial boost, which also gives the long-distance hiker a chance to go to places that are definitely off the beaten path.