Dalyan, Turkey: Essential Guide & Best Things to do

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Located on the southwest coast of Turkey is the picture-perfect town of Dalyan. Dalyan, Turkey is unique in that it is surrounded by an environmentally protected area.

It is an example of Mother Nature’s finest qualities with its meandering river, golden beaches, lovely lakes and of course its towering mountains.

Among the natural beauty, you will also be dazzled by its rich history and abundant wildlife. Once an old fishing village (the name Dalyan translates to ‘fish trap’) this piece of paradise is a place where visitors come to take in nature’s finest.

This is Dalyan in a nutshell but read on for a more detailed guide to this amazing piece of the planet. 

Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Turkey (Travel Guide)

6 Things to Do in Dalyan, Turkey

loggerhead turtle

1. Iztuzu Beach

One of the most beautiful beaches in all of Turkey is Iztuzu Beach, which is also known as Turtle Beach. It is unique in that is stretches out like a long peninsula, with a freshwater delta from the Dalyan River on one side and saltwater from the Mediterranean on the other.

To make it even more picturesque, this piece of paradise is surrounded by stunning pine-covered mountains. There are beach facilities with toilets, cafes, and sunbeds but if you walk far enough down the stretch of beach you will most definitely find a sandy patch to call your own. 

This two and a half-mile stretch of sandy beach is not only a place for sun worshipers but is also the nesting grounds of the endangered Caretta Caretta sea turtles. The Caretta Caretta (also known as Loggerhead Turtle) is one of the oldest surviving species in the world.

These turtles can measure up to 4 feet in length and come to Iztuzu Beach to nest from May to September every year. The greatest threat to the turtles is right on the beach. Back in the 80’s hotel developers tried to build on the land to cash in on Dalyan’s growing tourism industry.

The local community banded together and since 1988 this beach has been deemed protected status and is part of the Koycegiz-Dalyan Special Environmental Protection Area. As part of the conservation efforts, the beach is heavily monitored and is closed to the public from 8 pm to 8 am each night. 

At the southern end of Iztuzu Beach is the Sea Turtle Research Rescue Rehabilitation and Information Center. The center has saved countless Caretta Caretta and Green Turtles and at any given time, you will be able to see some being treated for injuries from propellers, fishing hooks, and nets.

Conservation efforts were spearheaded by British born June Haimoff. She has fought tirelessly against the corporate takeover and although she is now in her 90’s she is still fighting to make the beach a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

If you decide to take a boat tour make sure that the boat promotes the Kaptan June Foundation, as these boats are fitted with propeller guards that protect the turtles. 

Iztuzu Beach is about 7 miles from Dalyan, Turkey and there are two ways to get there – by road or by water. The local dolmus (minibus) does regular trips from Dalyan across the mountain dropping you off near Kaptan June’s Rehabilitation Center on the south side of the beach.

Getting to the beach by water is the more popular route as water taxis leave the town center and takes you through the delta with amazing views of the Lycian tombs. There you will be dropped off at the north end of the beach. 

Spend a day exploring the natural wonders and historic gems of the Dalyan Delta on this action-packed full-day cruise. Set sail for the beaches and bays of the Adaköy peninsula, where you can cool off with a dip in the Mediterranean before cruising on to the Dalyan River. Spot loggerhead turtles at İztuzu Beach, soak in the mineral-rich mud baths and view the Lycian Kings’ Tombs in Kaunos.

Dalyan Rock Tombs

2. Dalyan Rock Tombs

One of Dalyan’s most prominent features is its ancient Lycian Rock Tombs that watch over the town. They are visible from the waterfront so taking a water taxi will give you the best views of these incredible pieces of history.

The Lycians believed that if they placed the king’s tombs on the highest peak they would be closer to God and the souls would be transported from the tombs to the afterlife quicker. This group of six tombs date back to the 4th century BC.

The largest tomb was not completed due to the invasion of Alexander the Great. They are certainly jaw-dropping with their intricate chambers and their towering columns.

If you are lucky enough to view them at sunset you will have the opportunity to capture photos with the glow of the sun gleaming off the rock and if you come at night you will be able to see them lit up, giving them a majestic presence over the town. 

Ancient City of Kaunos near Dalyan Turkey

3. Visit the Ancient City of Kaunos

The Ancient City of Kaunos was founded by Caunos in the 10th century BC and was once one of the most important port cities of the commercial region in the Ancient Age.

The original town actually lies beneath the water as it was destroyed by an earthquake many years ago. Due to safety risks diving isn’t permitted among the ruins but if you ask your water taxi to wander in the direction of the ruins you will be able to see glimpses peering through the clear blue waters.

The Ancient City that you still can visit is about a 20-minute walk along the riverside from the Lycian Tombs. 

The city was constructed on terraces that sprawl down Dalyan’s hills. On one side sits religious structures like Baselius Kaunios Temple, Apollon Sanctuary and Demeter Sacred Rocks. On the other side is the larger terrace and was called the Upper City.

Here there were several important structures but the most prominent today is the Roman Bathhouse and the impressive theater. The theater is so well preserved that local concerts are still held at this incredible site. 

What eventually brought this ancient city to its demise was an epidemic of malaria in 15th century AD. It completely wiped out the population and Kaunos was then abandoned.

Kaunos was founded by a British archaeologist in 1842. Excavations in the city began in 1966 where numerous sculptures, coins and ornaments have been excavated. 

Heather Halpern at the Dalyan Mud Baths

4. Mud Baths

One of the other reasons that make Dalyan, Turkey so special is that it is the home to thermal springs and mud baths. Popular since the Roman era when the springs were used as a spa, it is even said that Cleopatra once visited the mud baths of Dalyan.

Located on Koycegiz Lake, the mud baths are just a short boat ride from the center of town. The hot springs can reach temperatures of 104 degrees Fahrenheit and are rich in iron, calcium, potassium, sulfur and several other minerals.

It is said that the hot springs and mud baths have numerous health benefits, from arthritis to wrinkles.   

Entrance into the facilities costs 6 TL which is about $1 US. There are a series of stations you go through as you work your way through the spa. The first pool is full of sulfur so it smells a little bit like rotten eggs.

Here you are able to reach the bottom and remove clumps of mud. You are supposed to lather the mud all over your body so that the minerals in the mud can have a positive effect. Once you are covered in the grey clay-like mud you are to then sit in the sun so that the mud can dry.

It feels like the mud is stretching your skin and perhaps this is where the idea of removing wrinkles comes in to play. Once you are ready to escape the heat you are then to head to the showers and wash the mud off of your body.

Once you are clean you are then supposed to go to the thermal pools and relax in the soothing hot waters. 

I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the mud baths. It was a unique experience and I felt just as relaxed as having been to a modern-day spa. 

Spend a day cruising Turkey’s famous Turquoise Coast on this full-day boat trip, including hotel transfers and lunch. Take in the highlights of the Dalyan canal and enjoy a dip in the mineral-rich mud baths. Then take in the view of the protected Iztuzu Beach, famous for its large population of loggerhead turtles.

Dalyan Turkey Viewpoint

5. Hike the Mountainous Trails

The region around Dalyan has no shortage of amazing hiking trails which are said to have the most incredible views over the Dalyan vista. In recent years Dalyan has become home to one of the best hiking trails in the world called the Dalyan Eco-Trail.

The Eco-Trail initiative was spearheaded by local resident Murat Demirci. He wanted to increase hiking and cycling tourism in the region while preserving the area’s natural beauty.

As this region is Turkey’s first official special protection area, these hiking routes take advantage of the relatively untouched nature.

Routes have all been clearly marked and at certain points, along the trails, they offer a choice of taking an easier or more difficult route. All routes are available to download on the ECO Trails website. 

A few of the more popular routes are:

  • The Dalyan Radar Hill Walk: This walking route starts from Iztuzu Beach Road and ends approximately 5 and a half miles away at Radar Hill. 
  • The Dalyan, Cadir Village, and Ekincik Cove Walk: This walk starts when you cross the Dalyan River with a small boat. It brings both nature and history together offering you amazing views. 
  • Koycegiz’s Plateau: This hike is more strenuous where you can beat the summer heat by climbing up in the mountains and through the plateaus. The Sandras reach a height of 7500 feet. 

River Boat trip in Dalyan

6. Take a Boat Trip

One of the most popular things to do in Dalyan, Turkey is to take a boat trip. In doing this you can visit places like Iztuzo beach, the ruins of Caunos or just spend an hour or two cruising the river to Ekincik Bay. 

The boats line up along the river in large numbers at the beginning of each day, so flagging one down is an easy task. Be sure to haggle when you ask around for prices and be sure to clarify what it is you are paying for. Settle on your stops and length of time to ensure there is no confusion on either end. Then enjoy!   

Want to spend a day exploring the natural wonders and historic gems of the Dalyan Delta? Book this action-packed full-day cruise from Marmaris. Set sail for the beaches and bays of the Adaköy peninsula, where you can cool off with a dip in the Mediterranean before cruising on to the Dalyan River. Spot loggerhead turtles at İztuzu Beach, soak in the mineral-rich mud baths and view the Lycian Kings’ Tombs in Kaunos, then tuck into a delicious lunch (included) on-board.

As you can see there is so much to do in this relatively unheard of destination. Dalyan truly encompasses a taste of Turkey’s undeniable history, beauty, and wildlife. It is a spot that I highly recommend visiting when traveling around this incredible country.

Dalyan Turkey beach

How to Get to Dalyan, Turkey

The nearest airport is Dalaman Airport (DLM) and is about 40 minutes away from Dalyan. Istanbul is approximately 460 miles away, which is about a 2 and a half hour flight. Izmir is much closer at 184 miles.

There are several domestic flights daily so finding a cheap flight can be fairly easy. From the airport, you can catch a taxi which costs approximately 100 TL or $17 USD. The cheaper option would be to catch a bus that leaves from the domestic terminal and only costs 17 TL.

The bus won’t take you directly into Dalyan however but instead will drop you off in Ortaca. From there you can catch a dolmus (minibus) into town for a minimal amount.

Taking an overnight bus is another option and a little more economical. There are buses that run across the entire country and since I have taken one myself, I can safely say that it was comfortable and clean. To get the best fare and most up to date schedule try using Busbud.  

Getting around Dalyan is relatively easy because the town itself is pretty small. There is no official public transportation but minibusses (dolmus) are available and cost about 12 TL for a ride to the beach.

With Dalyan being in the center of numerous waterways, water taxis are also available for hire and usually cost 15 TL from the town to the beach. Standard taxis usually charge around the same within the town. 

Where to Stay in Dalyan

The most popular place to stay in Dalyan, Turkey is the Holiday Calbis Hotel. With 896 reviews and a 10/10 rating, I don’t think you can go wrong with this place. It has a pool, sun deck, free wifi and is close to all of Dalyan’s best attractions. 

For something that is a bit more upscale, the BC Spa Hotel is a 4-star property with a 7.9/10 rating. It features a pool, onsite restaurant, bar, full Turkish spa, fitness center and free wifi. 

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About Heather Halpern

Based in Edmonton, Canada - I caught the ‘travel bug’ many years ago when I was a competitive rhythmic gymnast and haven’t been able to quench the thirst for exploring the world. Even though I live a pretty regular life with a full time job, I aim to take at least one overseas adventure a year. This means, I skimp, save and try to live the happiest life possible throughout the year so that I can experience my one true love…travel!

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