Dalyan, Turkey – Land of Lavish Lycean Tombs & Lucky Loggerhead Turtles

The small town of Dalyan is tucked into a bend of the very bendy Dalyan River on Turkey’s southwest coast, about 50 miles east of Marmaris and 35 miles west of Fethiye. The whole area, around 300 square miles, was established as a Special Environmental Protection Area beginning in the late 1980s. Although the protected status revolves largely around the endangered loggerhead turtle, which nests on a local beach, the area encompasses wetlands, fresh water lakes, rivers, a brackish water zone and rich agricultural lands.

Click to see our Magnifcent Turkey tour,
which includes a visit to Dalyan.

Serene in the lap of splendid nature, Dalyan has only to raise its gaze the slightest degree to bring splendid culture and history into its fortunes. Probably the area’s most famous attraction, the 4th century BCE Lycian tombs hang over the river and town from the sheer face of a scrubby mountain. They are best viewed from the river and opportunities for boat rides are plentiful.

Lycian Tombs, Dalyan, Turkey

Lycian Tombs, Dalyan Turkey

Cross the river from Dalyan by row-boat, walk at a leisurely pace for about 40 minutes and you’ll find the extensive ruins of the ancient city of Kaunos, This was a major port before the bay silted up, but now the ruins are about 5 miles from the sea. City walls tumble around the acropolis, from which you have long views over the river valley and estuary. The 5000-seat Roman theater does a lot to convey the bygone grandeur of Kaunos, as does the Byzantine basilica. The rest, including temples, an agora, and baths, take some imagination to appreciate.

theater at Kaunos, Dalyan, Turkey

theater at Kaunos, Dalyan, Turkey

Loggerhead turtles nest on the 3-mile long Iztuzu Beach, popularly known as Turtle Beach, about a 40 minute boat ride from Dalyan town. The beach is closed 8pm-8am to protect turtle activity but welcomes human activity during the day. Because of its protected status, there is no large-scale development on the beach, or anywhere nearby, just a small café, showers and changing facilities. Despite being a popular spot for tourists and locals alike, the scene is low-key. There’s plenty of room to spread out on the long sandy crescent, which separates the river delta from the Mediterranean. The mesmerizing setting and warm, placid sea cast a drowsy spell. It’s a turtle’s life.

Iztuzu Beach, Dalyan, Turkey

Iztuzu Beach, Dalyan, Turkey

Upriver from Dalyan on Lake Köyceğiz, the Sultaniye thermal baths are a fun diversion, as well as therapeutic and beautifying, so they say. Paint yourself in mud, rinse off in the lake and then take a soak in the hot mineral pools.

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