The Sultans Trail is a long-distance hiking and cycling trail from Vienna to Istanbul. It is 2.500 kilometres long (1,550 mi). The trail passes through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey.
The Sultans Trail is inspired by an event that took place in the year 1529. That year siege was laid on Vienna by Sultan Süleyman, also known as Kanuni Sultan Süleyman or Suleiman the Lawgiver and Suleiman the Magnificent. He led the armies of his Ottoman Empire to conquer Belgrade and Budapest before he set out for Vienna, where his invasion stopped at the Siege of Vienna in 1529.
Süleyman started his campaign, from Istanbul, on May 10 and arrived at the gates of Vienna, after 141 days, on September 23, where he immediately laid siege.
It was to be the Ottoman Empire’s most ambitious expedition to the west, but the Austrian garrison inflicted upon Süleyman his first defeat.
A second attempt to conquer Vienna, in 1532 also failed, due to stubborn resistance of the garrison of the town of Köszeg (Güns), which was on the warpath.
In 1566, at the age of 60, Süleyman led his army towards Vienna again. This campaign also failed and he died of natural causes near Szigetvár in Hungary.
Some hundred years later (in 1683) the Turkish grand vizier, Kara Mustafa, would undertake a final attempt to conquer Vienna. But he also failed. The Ottoman, however, continued to rule over south-eastern Europe for many centuries since, until the empire finally dissolved in the early 20th century. Further reading here.
In contrast to its past, the Sultans Trail nowadays is a path of peace, a meeting place for people of all faiths and cultures, and is primarily a cultural endeavour.
The trail starts at the Stephansdom in the centre of Vienna (the bells of which were ever cast from the metal of the captured Ottoman cannons) and ends at the tomb of the Sultan Süleyman in Istanbul.
The trail can be walked all year round. Albeit that weather conditions tend to make summer and winter periods harsh. Best times for walking are early spring (April-June) and autumn (September-November).
Along the trail, one can find various accommodation facilities like hotels, hostels, pensions or private rooms. Possibilities for camping vary by country.
The trail tries to avoid asphalt as much as possible, using country roads and tractor tracks. Walking the trail does not require special skills, equipment or preparation except for some sections in Bulgaria that pass through mountainous areas.
The Sultans Trail has been developed by volunteers from the Netherlands-based NGO Sultans Trail – A European Cultural Route. You can support our initiative with a donation here, or with a money transfer to “Stichting Sultans Trail”, bank number NL60 TRIO 0254 640 060 (BIC: TRIONL2U).