Dalyan is a fairly small town located in Muğla Province located between the tourism districts of Marmaris and Fethiye on the south-west coast of Turkey. The town is within the administrative district of Ortaca.
Dalyan is home to numerous foreign nationals from England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany and the Netherlands. It is a tourist destination that has remained pretty well pristine with good building codes, environmentally protected areas and one of the few beaches that has not been turned over to private management. Dalyan is for the individual that prizes nature above man-made entertainment and development.
Dalyan achieved international attention in 1987 when German developers wanted to build a luxury hotel on İztuzu Beach, a breeding ground for the endangered loggerhead sea turtle just 15 minutes from Dalyan. The incident created major international storm when it was focus of conservationists such as June Haimoff, David Bellamy, Peter Günther, Nergis Yazgan and others.
Dalyan means “fishing weir” in Turkish. Bass, Sea Bream and Mullet swim upstream from the sea into Köyceğiz Lake – where another large town called Köyceğiz is located. The fish spawn in the lake and when returning to the sea are caught in the traps or ‘dalyans’.
Its main attraction economically is as a tourist destination, but the region around Dalyan is a highly fertile and prolific agricultural zone. Cotton used to be grown almost exclusively, but has now largely been replaced first by citrus and lately by pomegranate.
In the area around Köyceğiz many other citrus fruits and vegetables are grown. These are always available in the open air market on Saturdays in Dalyan, Ortaca on Friday and in Köyceğiz on Monday, when villagers come from the area to sell their products and produce.
On the other side of the river from Dalyan are sheer cliffs that contain the time-weathered façades of Lycian tombs cut from rock back in 400 BC. The ruins of the ancient coastal port city of Kaunos are accessible via a row boat trip across the river.
The ancient city of Kaunos was an important sea port, the history of which is supposed to date back to the 10th century BC. Because of the formation of İztuzu Beach and the silting of the ancient harbor (from approx. 200 BC onwards), Kaunos is now located about 8 kilometers from the coast.
The Lykian city had two ports, the southern port at the southeast of Küçük Kale and the inner or trade port at its northwest – presently Sülüklü Göl. ( English: Lake of the Leeches) that could be closed off by chains. Due to the silting of the delta and both ports, Kaunos gradually lost its important function as a trade port, but when the malaria epidemic of the 15th century AD hit Kaunos it was completely abandoned.
It wasn’t until 1966 that the excavations of ancient Kaunos began and continue up to the present. Read more about Kaunos at: wikivoyage.org
South of Dalyan on the Mediterranean coastline is the site of İztuzu Beach – a popular area for sunbathing and swimming. This is the beach that British adventurist and conservationist, June Haimoff saved from being developed into high-rise all-inclusive beach hotels. It is the breeding ground of the Caretta Caretta turtle and is now protected by mandate of the Turkish government.
The development project was finally stopped in 1988 when the beach and its surrounds were declared a protected area – Köyceğiz-Dalyan Special Environmental Protection Area.
There are regular boat and minibus (Turkish: dolmuş) services to the beach. The road to the beach is quite scenic, offering views of Sülüngür Lake and nearby Gökbel. There is another beach at nearby Ekinçik Bay and in the other direction a remote one at Aşi Bay.
South of Ortaca is another beach called Sarigerme Beach which is mainly used by the visitors to the all inclusive resorts that have been built there. There is now an 18 hole golf course in Sarigerme for guests staying in the hotels, but not much else aside from the evening entertainment provided by the all-inclusive hotels.