Dalyan is an extraordinary coastal town. It has historic ruins which wouldn’t be out of place in an Indiana Jones movie. The area features stunning rivers and deltas perfect for lazy boat trips and exploring the coastline. It was even the site of a famous legal and conservation battle about loggerhead turtles versus property developers. Spoiler alert: the turtles won. Both a significant holiday destination and a sleepy fishing village, this is our Turkish resort guide to Dalyan.
Situated 24km from Dalaman, in many way Dalyan is a laid-back little town. Home to around 5,000 permanent residents, the population swells to tens of thousands in the Summer. It is an excellent base for visiting the neighbouring attractions and incredible natural features. These include the ancient site of Kaunos, the freshwater lake of Köyceğiz with hot springs and the Iztuzu beach.
In the Summer the fertile waterways bring an armada of boats from Marmaris and Fethiye, eager to explore. It offers a real breath of fresh air from the major tourist centres.
Now known as ‘Turtle Beach’, it has a long stretch of soft sand. Relax under the warm Mediterranean sun and swim in calm, shallow waters. Perfect for families with little children.
Dalyan became (in)famous in 1986 with a controversial legal battle between developers and conservationists. Developers planned to build a luxury hotel on nearby Iztuzu beach, a renowned hatching ground for loggerhead turtles. At loggerheads (!) for years, the conservationists won their legal fight, an the beach is now protected by statute. As a result, the town has since marketed itself as a bastion of ecology (take it with a pinch of salt when you see all of the usual tourist stuff in the town centre), and you’ll see the turtle motif everywhere! If you don’t come back from holiday with a turtle soft toy, key-ring or t-shirt, something has gone very wrong.
The maze-like river, the Dalyan Çayı, is at the heart of the village. Many hotels, ‘pansiyons’ (B&B) and restaurants line the river’s east bank. Naturally travelling by boat is the only way to navigate from site to site. Boats heading downstream pass the spectacular fourth-century BC temple. The ancient Lycian tombs are hewn into the cliffs and date back to the Roman period. Just stunning, particularly at sunset.
Wonderful bays and coves are created as the river wraps around numerous islands. If all you want to do is find a beautiful remote beach and not move for several hours, Dalyan is for you.
Food and Drink
Both the old village and the town centre have a choice of restaurants, bars and cafés. Unlike other resorts, the nightlife is much calmer. Some bars will stay open late, but there are not scores of nightclubs as you might find across the water.
If you’re a sucker for a local market, you won’t be disappointed. Every Saturday a loud, vibrant market takes over the streets. Practise your negotiation skills with the Turkish street-sellers and find a bargain! When you have finished shopping, park up in a local restaurant and enjoy the area’s most popular menu item, Gözleme (filled pancake).