Dalyan is a small idyllic town that is situated in the Aegean region of Turkey’s South West coast, an area otherwise known as the Turkish Riviera. The town is conveniently located between the larger resorts of Marmaris and Fethiye, and is only a short 25-30 minute taxi ride from Dalaman International airport. A short river taxi ride from Dalyan takes you through the stunning Dalyan River delta to Iztuzu Beach; a gorgeous 4.5 km long sand bar which forms a natural barrier between the fresh water delta and the Aegean Sea.
The Dalyan tourist industry has grown steadily over the years but careful planning and eco laws have enabled Dalyan to retain its small town charm. Dalyan is a very relaxed family friendly location and is a world away from the hustle and bustle of larger resorts such as Marmaris, Bodrum and Fethiye. There are almost no package holiday tourists in Dalyan since most of the accommodation is privately owned and rented.
The Dalyan River (also known as Dalyan Çayi, or Dalyan Creek in English) flows from Lake Köyceğiz, through the Dalyan River delta and out to the Mediterranean Sea at Iztuzu beach. The Dalyan River delta has some of the most beautiful scenery in Turkey. Above the river’s sheer cliffs are the weathered façades of Lycian tombs cut from rock, circa 400 BC. The ruins of the ancient trading city of Kaunos are a short boat trip across the river from the Maraş area of Dalyan.
Dalyan was thrust into the eye of the world’s media in 1987 when it came to light that developers wanted to build a luxury hotel on Iztuzu beach. Given that the beach is a nesting place for the endangered loggerhead sea turtles, this created a major international storm. David Bellamy joined forces with other conservationists such as June Haimoff, to lobby for the beach and its hinterland to be declared as a protected area. They succeeded in 1988.
Iztuzu beach is serviced an abundance of river taxis that run from early morning until early evening. The end of the beach that houses the turtle sanctuary is reached by using the local Dolmuş service (local mini-bus service). Since Iztuzu beach and the surrounding area became a protected nature reserve, the public cannot go onto the beach between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. in order to minimise disruption to the nesting turtles. This rule is in place from the 1st of May until the 31st of October. The nesting areas on are also marked by wooden stakes.
The word Dalyan means, “fishing weir” or “fish trap” in English. Fish such as Sea Bass, Sea Bream and Grey Mullet make their way up the Dalyan River to Köyceğiz Lake to spawn, and on their return some are caught in the “dalyans”. Today most of the fishing takes place out in the open sea, and many of the original fishermen have turned their hand to the river taxi business.
Dalyan is also a highly fertile and productive agricultural zone. Cotton used to be grown intensively, but has now largely been replaced by pomegranate. You’ll see many pomegranate orchards on the outskirts of Dalyan. In the area around Köyceğiz many other fruits (citrus fruits) and vegetables are grown, which are all on display in the Dalyan market on Saturdays, the day when villagers come from miles around to sell their products. Köyceğiz also has a market which is on Mondays. Köyceğiz is accessible by road and by river taxi. The Fethiye market is on Tuesdays and the Ortaca market on Fridays.
The locals say that once you’ve been to Dalyan you’re almost certain to come back. From experience, it’s hard to argue with that sentiment. Enjoy some rest and relaxation at Villa Claddagh, in this little piece of paradise on the Turkish Riviera.