The magnificent beach at Olu Deniz on which handgliders regularly come in to land

A confection of Turkish delights in Dalyan 

Guest travel writer Marion Ainge falls for the natural beauty of Turkey’s Turquoise Coast

Our small boat drifts silently along the Dalyan River delta’s scenic, narrow waterways, enclosed by craggy mountains. Huge 2,000 year-old Lycian tombs, hewn high into the rock face, stare down at us. Any treasures left inside are long gone. Our route winds and snakes through bends and turns. We wave to people lunching at wooden tables set on reedy, fertile banks as we pass tiny clusters of multi-hued houses. It’s a magical journey.

In Dalyan within the Mugla province on the south west coast, where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Aegean, the sun shines all year round and temperatures rarely fall below 18 degrees C, making it ideal for an out of season holiday, at a good price, too.

Situated just a half an hour drive from Dalaman airport, Dalyan is breathtaking in its natural beauty. Not overrun with tourists and situated on the Dalyan River, where colourful boats bob on the pretty, tree-fringed quayside, it is relatively quiet and peaceful.

The perfect destination for families, couples and outdoor enthusiasts, offering hiking, cycling, climbing and camping opportunities plus optional organised activity packages, there’s lots to do and see in Dalyan.  Food is fresh and delicious, people are warm, friendly and hospitable. Already,  I make a date to return to Dalyan.

Our base is the charming, family-run, Dalyan Live Spa hotel, a character property with indoor and outdoor pool. Nothing is too much trouble here, where guests are made to feel special. For breakfast, we savour delicious home-made produce such fresh pomegranate juice, olives, plus lemon, pumpkin and kumquat jams and preserves.

In this region, a host of natural attractions, wildlife and historic sites includes the ancient city of Caunos and the award-winning, undeveloped Iztuzu Beach, where loggerhead turtles nest. Plenty of interesting bars, cafes and shops, plus reasonably-priced pensions and hotels.

Our visit to a former city sea port, the 3,000 year old, well-preserved Caunos, reveals a Greek and Roman-style theatre, impressive Roman bath, Basilica, temple, harbour building and fountain. 

Riverboats link Dalyan with the four-mile long Iztuzu Beach which has shallow, silvery turquoise waters and is home to the protected loggerhead turtle nesting grounds. No sunbeds, parasols or ice cream vans on this beach! Nearby is the Sea Turtle, Rescue, Recovery and Rehabilitation Sanctuary Centre, where the injured are treated, nursed back to health and then released into the sea.

Just an hour’s drive from Dalyan, is the resort of Fethiye, established as a firm favourite with British tourists. Stunning beaches, crystal, azure waters and year round sunshine has tempted around 3,000 British folk to take up permanent residence in this area.

Strapped to an instructor, the pluckier members of our party prepare to run off the side of Babadag mountain. I can hardly look down as they take to the skies and experience the thrill of a half hour paraglide, 1,962 metres down, floating past slopes of fragrant cedar forests, then landing on the white, powdery sand of Olu Deniz beach, alongside the Blue Lagoon. For lunch, we feast on succulent, open oven-roasted lamb and barbecued meats with fresh salad.

Our hotel, the chic, boutique Fethiye Yacht Boheme, is adjacent to the old town and merely a stroll to the harbour, where we board a typical wooden boat owned by the Princess Serap boat tours. 

Our party tucks in to a veritable breakfast banquet, making a selection from around 30 dishes, comprising a meze of olives, meats, cheeses, stuffed vegetables, salad, potatoes, warm bread, and, of course, Turkish tea, served in small, fluted glasses. We dock and walk along a jetty to explore, Sovalye, one of the many tiny islands dotted along Fethiye Bay.

Through the clear water, we spot a small, tangerine-coloured octopus making its way along the sea bed. It takes around 45 minutes to explore the island, following the coastline of sand and shingle bays. Around 4km of the designated Natural Park, the Saklikent Gorge is accessible to able walkers.

We traverse the narrow, purpose-built walkway, then, like mountain goats, pick our way over slopes and rocks. I slip, ankle deep into the ice cold water in an attempt to access the best views across the canyon and fast-flowing river.

Zip wire, bungee jumps, river tubing and rafting activities are available. Restaurants, built on platforms over the river, even offer tree house accommodation for the night! High above the Xanthos Valley is the shady, lush Yaka Park, which boasts a waterfall and bubbling stream fed from a fresh water spring.

The owners offer a free drink to anyone who can spend five minutes up to their neck in the icy water!  At this oasis of calm, we enjoy a delicious lunch of fresh trout with meze, roast potatoes and salad. Nearby, is the deserted town of Kayakoy. This ghost town, which attracts many tourists, has been uninhabited since 1923, when residents were deported for political reasons. Around 350 crumbling, mainly roofless houses stand alongside churches, fountains and cisterns. Some of the dwellings have been re-purchased, restored and re-occupied.

At Sultaniye Spa, alongside Koycegiz Lake, the mud bath is believed to have medicinal benefits re rheumatism and arthritis. I suffer none of these, as yet, so I sit on the edge, touch the murky, gritty bed with my toes and watch others frolic and play like puppies, before they clamber out covered in squelchy, oozy mud which dries almost to chalky white in the sunshine.

On the adjoining site of an ancient Roman bath, we swim in warm thermal waters. Fed by a sulphur-rich, hot spring, prolific in sodium, chloride and calcium, it is said to aid ailments such as gout, liver disease and hypertension. There’s also a claim that, apart from putting a spring in your step, a dip here leaves a bather looking 10 years younger.

Maybe I just didn’t stay in there long enough!


Trip arranged by Turkey Specialist Eco Turkey Travel tel: 020 3119 0004

Flights: Turkish Airlines www.turkishairlines Marion travelled from Heathrow Airport (via the Heathrow Express link); Regional flights are available.