Dalyan, Turkey.  Wondering what to do upon your visit?  Well look no further, I’ve got your back.

Dalyan is what might typically be considered a package holiday destination.  A place for lying in the sun all day and then gorging on local cuisine of an evening.  Backpackers don’t like package holidays do they, they’re so boring, restrictive and lacking in adventure.  Once upon a time I might have agreed, but having not long returned from a week in Dalyan I am now inclined to argue that not all package holidays are the bore fest they’re made out to be, some, with the right company, can be amazing!

Around a month ago I watched my sister get married to her long term boyfriend of some 12 years.  The wedding took place in Dalyan, Turkey.  It’s some turn around for my sis and I as we pretty much despised each other for the best part of 24 years.  I didn’t shed a tear or anything, but I did feel a small sense of pride on the day and gave my sis a congratulatory fist bump (we’re not huggers).  Set at a restaurant that overlooked the river and some incredible mountain tombs, the wedding was a great occasion for our family, my new brother in laws family, and some 30 odd friends that made the journey out to the Dalaman coast.

Things to do in Dalyan

Anyway, getting back on topic, owing to spending a week in Dalyan we had plenty of time to explore the area and so here are my top tips for an incredible experience in Dalyan.

1.  The Beach

Things to do in Dalyan – #1 hit the beach.

A beach is a beach yes, but not when you have to make your way to the beach via and boat and a series of canals, and not when there is a chance of seeing turtles.

Iztuzu Beach is a sight to behold, or at least it was upon our visit in late September. It stretches for what feels like miles, has golden sand and the water is bath like (once you finally get your shoulders under). The water is also quite shallow making it family friendly, but on that note, there were very few families around upon our visit, in fact the beach wasn’t overly crowded at all. Maybe it was our month of arrival that saved us from the summer holiday crowds.

Normally I am not a beach person, I much prefer a pool (with a bar) over the beach, but even I have to admit that Iztuzu wasn’t half bad … and there was a bar :)

Dalyan

2.  Rock Tombs and the ancient city of Kanous

As mentioned above, my sis’s wedding took place opposite a set of incredible tombs and ruins.  Cut into the rock upon the other side of the river (Dalyan Çayı River) from where the wedding took place, they looked like something out of an Indiana Jones film. Dated 4th – 2nd century BC, you unfortunately cannot set foot within the tombs, but even just to look at they are spectacular, and even more so when lit up at night.

One place where you can set foot though is the ancient city of Kanous which ‘hides’ behind the tomb housing rocks and cliffs.  Formerly a sea port, the city now sits some 8km from the coast owing to earthquakes and the consequential change in the landscape.

Mythology tells us that the city of Kanous was founded by King Kanous, the grandson of Apollo.  The king had a rather messed up sister call Byblis who developed a strange and very unsisterly love for her brother.  As such she wrote him a love letter, detailing her feelings and desires towards him.  He, being a man, decided not to face the issue head on but picked up his belongs and moved elsewhere with a few of his followers.  Byblis was not overly happy with her brothers decision to flee.  At first she set out to find him, but then when she could not she became suicidal.  It is said that the river Çayı was formed from the tears she shed.

Kanous was a city that saw eras of Roman and Persuian rule, but due to invasion and a malaria epidemic (15th C AD) Kanous become completely abandoned.

Dalyan

Dalyan

Dalyan

3.  Jeep Safari

I can’t remember a time when I have laughed so hard.  Take 40+ guests, cram them into 4 jeeps, drive them all over Dalyan and give them water pistols, empty bottles and buckets to fight with.  That’s the recipe for a beautiful sort of carnage.

Brilliantly led by a group of ex army guys, our safari took us all over the Dalyan region.  From looking out over Lake Köyceğiz to diving into freezing cold river streams.  Having lunch (included) as a quaint riverside restaurant, visiting a set of hidden tombs and then climbing to the highest point of the Dalyan region (where the beach photo from above was taken).  Lastly they take you down to the beach and let you visit the very sad but well run Beach Turtle Sanctuary.

The tour is a full day tour, but at the cost of roughly £30 and including lunch its very very good value.  Extra food and drink can be purchased at extra cost during the lunch break, but its hardly needed.

4.  Mud baths

Now this one is a bit of a cheat as I never made it to the mud baths, but the people who I met that had couldn’t recommend it highly enough.

Another attraction reach by awesome river boat, the baths and the mud within are said to make you look 10 years younger once lathered onto your skin, dried, and then washed off in a 40 degree sulphur pool.  Lets face it, if they’re good enough for Jack Nicholson, David Bowie, Robert Maxwell and Cleopatra (the pharaoh, not the girl group), they should be good enough for you.  Its on my to do list for my next visit to Dalyan.

Dalyan River Boats

5.  Eat, drink and shop

Fillet steak for the equivalent of £10 … need I write anymore than that?  OK how about free bread pretty much everywhere you go.  Still warm when it hits your table and then dipped in to all manner of meze, carbs have never tasted so good.  For sea food lovers there is fresh fish every day. My cousins order some of the biggest tuna steaks I’ve ever seen alongside garlic chilli prawns.  Sea bass was also a group favourite as we dined most evenings overlooking the river.

With food in your belly, there are also plenty of friendly bars in Dalyan where you can treat yourself to an after dinner cocktail.  There were the usual tourist bars showing the latest European football, but there were also a number of more traditional bars where you can even have a puff on a traditional pipe if smoking is your thing.  For those that don’t drink, fear not fore the shops in Dalyan stay open into the early hours of the morning.  Knock off goods are everywhere, alongside an abundance of tea lights and coloured glass ornaments.  Everything is good value at present, with a rate of 3 Lira to £1 or there about’s (correct as of Oct 2013).

Dalyan restaurants

So there you have it, adventures to keep even the most active travellers happy.  Yes we did our fair share of beer drinking and lounging by the pool too, but in between beers we were a very active group.  I’ve been less active on backpacking trips I’ll admit.