The growing but still beautiful riverside resort of Dalyan, 24km west of Dalaman, is home to around five thousand people. It makes a good base for visiting nearby attractions like the ancient site of Kaunos across the river, İztuzu beach at the river mouth, and the beautiful freshwater lake of Köyceğiz with its shoreline hot springs.
Dalyan first came to prominence in 1986, when controversy erupted over a proposed luxury hotel on nearby İztuzu beach, a hatching ground for loggerhead turtles. Conservationists succeeded in halting the scheme, and now the beach is statutorily protected between May and October, when eggs are laid. In the wake of this campaign, the town styled itself as ecologically correct, but with its mess of identikit restaurants, trinket shops, T-shirt vendors and loud bars, it’s now, riverside location apart, little different from other mainstream resorts. You’ll notice the turtle motif everywhere, from the turtle statue in the main square to restaurants and pansiyons being named after the creatures.
Life in Dalyan revolves around the Dalyan Çayı, which flows past the village between Köyceğiz lake and the sea. Many choice pansiyons line the river’s east bank, and the boats that put-put up and down it are the preferred means of transport to the major local sites. Craft heading downstream pass a series of spectacular fourth-century BC “temple” tombs in the west-bank cliffs.