A small town in Mugla Province of Turkey, Dalyan attracted international attention in 1987 when the Iztuzu Beach, the breeding site of loggerhead sea turtle sea turtle (endangered species) was subject to a luxury hotel construction by developers. David Bellamy, June Haimoff, Peter Gunther, Nergiz Yazgan, Lily Venizelos and Keith Corbett were among the famous faces mobilized for the conservation of the site. The beach was declared as a protected area following these international reactions.
A fantastic view of the Dalyan Canal will take you to the Mediterranean after about half an hour boat ride. The canal and surroundings house 80 million years old species Caretta Caretta Turtles. There are also some other species such as crane, jay, kingfisher or sparrow.
Dalyan is a minimum two days of vacation also to visit the ancient Lycian Tombs carved into hills. It is a quick ride from Dalaman Airport that has about an hour of direct flights from Ankara or Istanbul.
The Beautiful Town of Koycegiz
Desperately in need of a week-long respite from the fast pace and incessant traffic of the big city, I decided to head to the south coast for a well-earned break. In between two busy tourist centers, Marmaris and Fethiye, and less than fifty kilometers from the little town of Dalaman is the peaceful town of Koycegiz. It is more like a sleepy village, hidden from the busy tourist path by the surrounding pine forests and its huge, serene lake. The lake is fed by abundant streams pouring down from the mountains winter and summer, and its own overflow runs into the Mediterranean via a narrow fjord-like channel, on which lies the village of Dalyan, famous for the great loggerhead turtles (Caretta Caretta).
Dalyan is named after the net fisheries which are traditionally used here to catch fish in the main channel and its maze of offshoots which form the delta.
In the restaurants of Dalyan, you can enjoy delicious mullet astonishingly cheaply, and take boats to the beach of Iztuzu, the ancient city of Kaunos, the rock tombs, to Sultaniye mineral springs or to the mud baths higher up near the lake. The mud baths might not smell too pretty, but they are said to cure rheumatism and aid in the treatment of gynecological ailments as well as reducing stress and increasing sexual potency.
The long sandy beach of Iztuzu stretching for seven kilometers at the mouth of the channel is the breeding ground where the turtles come to lay their eggs. The nesting area has now been cordoned off to protect the eggs and young turtles but swimming and sunbathing are permitted during the day. The seven kilometers of white sand and the emerald-colored sea is an attraction all by itself. Even in high summer, the place is quiet, a refreshing retreat from the madness of the summer holiday season.
Indeed in every season, it is the perfect place to relax, recoup and inhale huge lungfuls of fresh mountain air. Koycegiz is a little fishing town nestling on the edge of the lake at the western end of the Toros mountain range. Surrounded by orange groves and cotton fields, the pretty town is a quiet retreat. Situated right on the edge of the lake, it is the perfect starting point for fishing trips and canoeing, windsurfing and swimming in the spring and summer months. In autumn and winter, there is mountain hiking, treks to the nearby waterfall, and endless fresh air to breathe.
The range of activities that some of the pensions have on offer is sure to leave you breathless. Television watching is not really considered a sport in Koycegiz at all. People much prefer to be sociable and chat with their guests or play cards or backgammon.
Some of the pension owners have boats moored on the lake during the spring and summer months to take their guests on full-day cruises around the lake and through the canals. On one such trip, we stopped at the ancient city of Kaunos, which is said to be over 3000 years old, established around the 8th century BC, and explored the ruins of the metropolis for an hour or so. Kaunos was built by Kaunos, the son of Miletus, whose sister fell in love with him, causing him to be banished from the kingdom. The main buildings of interest here are an amphitheater, a temple, a palaestra (a type of gymnasium), Roman baths and stoa. A short walk away from the city proper, in the cliffs overlooking Dalyan, are rock tombs, most having facades in the form of Ionic temples.
The Sultaniye mineral springs on the lakeshore are well worth the stop. Pools carved out of the rocks hold the hot water to bathe in, which is usually around 38 OC, unless the level of the lake creeps up to blend with the spring water.
The distinct sulfuric smell is said to be a wonderful cure for asthma and other lung ailments. The mineral-rich hot water is very relaxing and soothing to sit or swim around in for hours at a time, but you can not wash with any kind of soap here as it ruins the pH balance of the water. Further down the road, there are hot streams coming straight out of the side of the mountain and flowing into the lake. It is this water that the locals and visitors alike drink for the treatment of all kinds of ills and pains. It can not harm you, even if it does not really help much!
Wandering off by yourself to discover the lost treasures of the village is highly recommended. The local markets on Monday are a colorful sight to see as well. The one most important feature of the town is that there are no carpet or souvenir shops. Sitting in the shady tea gardens or restaurants on the promenade, and watching the fish leaping in the lake is the most popular activity in Koycegiz.
If it is all too sleepy for you, you can rent a boat and paddle around in the middle of the lake, fishing or enjoying the warm sunshine and fresh air, or take a cruise across the lake to one of the historical ruins nearby. It is also possible to rent bicycles and pedal yourself around the town.
All in all, Koycegiz is a great place to relax any time of the year. It has not been overrun by mass tourism and it is quiet and pleasant enough to make it possible to enjoy the Mediterranean coast at its best.