About an hour’s drive from Fethiye, just west of Dalaman Airport and east of Marmaris, sits one of our favourite little towns, Dalyan. Whilst we knew of its existence and proximity to Fethiye, before we moved here in 1998, we’d never visited Dalyan.
And when we did finally go a couple of years later, it was a case of, “Why has no one ever said to us, you really must go!”
Things To Do In Dalyan
Of course, since that visit, all those years ago, the riverside town of Dalyan has become a regular feature on our calendar and will continue to be so in the future. We’ll tell you more about that as we go through our list of things to do in Dalyan.
Because, whether you’ve chosen Dalyan for your holidays, a short break or just a day trip, there’s all sorts of activities to keep you occupied.
Some of these suggestions we’ve got for you are all about what we get up to when we’re in town. Others, we’re yet to do ourselves but they’re definitely on our list for future visits. So, let’s get started: Our top things to do in Dalyan. And, by the way, these are in no particular order.
Shopping At Dalyan Market
You know us; we love shopping at markets! So a wander around the Dalyan Saturday market is a must for us.
Granted, the stalls to attract the tourists are there just like at our local Fethiye Tuesday market, but a wander through the fruit and veg stalls just to soak up the atmosphere is a favourite pastime.
And, as with lots of other local markets around this part of Turkey, you can get yourself a tasty gözleme to keep those hunger pangs at bay.
Dine At The Riverside Dalyan Restaurants
A central part of life in Dalyan is, of course, its river. The Dalyan Çayı. This is the meandering stretch of water that connects the lake at Köyceğiz to the Mediterranean Sea.
Dalyan restaurants are pretty numerous and it would be remiss not to have at least one meal on the banks of the river. Choose a selection of meze plates from the fridges and graze on classic Turkish delicacies whilst watching the river boats chug along the waterways.
Most of the riverside restaurants offer views across the water to the magnificent Dalyan rock tombs; the Kings’ Rock Tombs. You can also catch a sunset – this is where life on the river slows down a little…
Hop In A Boat
A Dalyan boat trip of some description is a must. In the summer season, as in nearby Akyaka, there are daily excursions along the river. Use the people’s taxi boat to head to the protected area along Iztuzu Beach or head in the opposite direction to Köyceğiz and its Monday market.
We love the taxi boat to Iztuzu Beach – buy a return ticket and the boat leaves when it’s full.
Of course, we all know the fame of the Dalyan mud baths. Dalyan boat trips will make a stop here so you can get yourself all smelly and muddy
If you’re a family or a group, you can also book private daily trips to take you around the bays and the lake.
Hit The Beach
If you know the area and you were telling people about the top things to do in Dalyan, a day on Iztuzu Beach is always going to be up there.
Famously known as Turtle Beach, Iztuzu Beach is a long stretch of compact sand that forms part of the river delta. A protected area, it is a major nesting ground for Caretta Caretta (loggerhead turtles). Sun loungers, umbrellas and simple snack bars keep you going.
Head there by taxi boat or go by road. If you go by road, you’ll be at the far end of the beach where you can also visit the next of our top things to do in Dalyan…
A visit to DEKAMER is a must if you are in Dalyan. This is the Sea Turtle Research & Rehabilitation Centre and some of their work has been groundbreaking.
Visit injured turtles and learn about the challenges faced by Caretta Caretta and Chelonia Mydas (green turtles). Once rehabilitated, the turtles are released back into the water. DEKAMER is staffed by volunteers and researchers from Pamukkale University. Drop the centre a donation on your way out so they can continue their important work.
You can also visit neighbouring Kaptan June’s Hut where you can learn more about the turtles and Kaptan June herself. It is she who spearheaded the campaign to protect Iztuzu and its nesting turtles by preventing a 1,800 bed hotel development in the area in the late 1980s.
It is thanks to her that this beach is as it is today and her team campaigns to this day to make sure it stays that way. You can keep up to date with them on Facebook.
Take In The Views From On High
Radar Tepesi (or Radar Hill) offers amazing views towards Dalyan centre, across the whole estuary and out to the Mediterranean. We’re yet to head up here, but, in season, there are organised trips you can take and restaurants you can visit. It’ll be out of season when we’re there so we plan to hike or drive.
Take A Trip To Sülüngür Gölü
If tranquil is what you’re looking for, Sülüngür Lake in Dalyan surely epitomises this. Just a couple of kilometres away from the tourist centre of Dalyan town and you’re in peaceful bliss. It’s a pretty stroll if you like to wander on foot.
Picnic tables or lakeside restaurants and cafes give you plenty of opportunity to while away a few very relaxed hours. In summer, you can boat along the lake.
Run, Run, Run
A little extension to the Dalyan summer season and, for us, definitely up there for things to do in Dalyan. If you’re in town at the end of October, you can take part in – or watch – the Dalyan Caretta Run. 5k, 14k and 21k are the distances with the 14k and 21k routes following the stunning shoreline of Sülüngür Lake. What could be better?
As with other running races in Turkey being the reason for our visit to other cities and towns, it’s the Dalyan Caretta Run that means Dalyan is at least an annual visit for us. Whilst the town itself might be compact, there is still so much more for us to explore…and lots for us to revisit, too, of course.
Across The River From Dalyan
We love to take the little rowing boat across to the other side of the river to what feels like a world away from Dalyan town.
In years gone by, if you wanted to drive to the other side, it was a lengthy (but beautiful) round trip of Köyceğiz Lake.
These days, if you want to take your car across, there is a car ferry from Dalyan, but, if you’re on foot, the ‘taxi’ rowing boat is a lovely way to cross the Dalyan river and only takes around 5 minutes. A few lira bags you a return trip.
Once you’re over the other side…
Dalyan Rock Tombs & Kaunos
Ahh, so peaceful. We’re now in the land of pomegranate groves and citrus fruits. Stop to quench your thirst at one of the roadside stalls selling freshly squeezed juice before getting up close and personal with the Dalyan rock tombs.
Unlike Fethiye’s Lycian rock tombs, you can’t currently enter the site so you’ll need to admire from the road below.
Around 3km along the road from where you alight your rowing boat, you’ll come to the ancient ruins of Kaunos. Depending on the time of year you visit, you can have these ruins almost to yourself. Just you, history and views of the Mediterranean beyond.
Just beyond Kaunos is the village of Çandır. There is a culture house here where you can learn more about the area. We hope to walk to Çandır later this year, as, aside from a visit to Kaunos, this side of the Dalyan Çayı is relatively unexplored for us.
Do you believe in the power of mud? If so, Sultaniye is where you come for what is otherwise known as the famous Dalyan mud baths. Just about anyone who books a day trip to Dalyan will visit the mud baths…and guess who has never been. Yes, that’ll be us!
The odour of sulphur, caking yourself in mud; no thanks. The thermal waters are slightly tempting so maybe, one day, we’ll make the effort to visit the Sultaniye thermals.
Day Trips From Dalyan
If you’re staying in Dalyan for a few days or longer and you’re looking to explore further afield, there are lots of places you can easily visit as a day trip under your own steam. Some, you’ll need your own transport for, but others are accessible by public transport.
Ekincik is a beautiful cove that you can drive to and the scenery along the route makes the journey worthwhile, too. It’s a few years since we were last here, pre Dalyan car ferry days. If you want to go the long way round, your route takes you all around Lake Köyceğiz.
If you’re in Dalyan in the cooler months, it’s possible to hike to Ekincik.
If markets are not your thing, Köyceğiz town is still very much worth a visit when you’re in Dalyan.
A leisurely lunch by the lake is a must when we’re there. Get there in the morning so you can witness the lake at its mirror-like best.
Yuvarlakçay has crystal clear, icy cold water to cool you down in the summer.
Lots of natural shade from the trees and various riverside restaurants. You can get here by public transport from Dalyan in the summer months.
Akkaya is a lush valley with the Dalaman River running through it.
Visit the Akkaya Garden Restaurant and sit in bird’s nest seating amongst the trees. You can wander around the gardens and grounds. Different activities are on offer including booking yourself a boat trip to the ‘beach’ further upstream.
Akyaka, as far as we’re concerned, is always worth a visit. One of our favourite places. Part of the Cittaslow movement, this is a place to chill.
If you like peace and quiet, avoid weekends in high season as the town is immensely busy with summer day trippers from nearby Muğla. Give yourself an hour to get there if going by car. If you’re going by dolmuş, the Ortaca to Muğla bus will drop you at the turn off for Akyaka.
Göcek is always pleasant for a little wander and only around 30 minutes from Dalyan. Not a place for the usual souvenir shops so if you like shopping, you’ll find some handmade crafts and clothing here.
Although the marinas of Göcek are full to the brim with yachts of the rich and famous, the harbourside restaurants are chilled and reasonably priced.
Fethiye – Of Course
And, what about our hometown? If you’re staying in Dalyan, there are lots of must sees in Fethiye.
Easily accessible by public transport – and the Dalyan travel companies also run organised day trips, too. The drive from Dalyan to Fethiye is around 1 hour. Slightly longer by dolmuş.
Things to Do In Dalyan – Afternotes
And that’s just about it for our guide to Dalyan. Obviously there are lots of other things you can get up to in and around the town.
There are bars (M&M Rock Bar is a favourite for us), restaurants and cheaper eateries galore to keep you fed and watered. There’s also a good smattering of shops for those of you who like souvenir hunting.
And, as for Dalyan hotels, thankfully, you’re not going to find any huge complexes here. Nor will you find high rise! Most Dalyan hotels and pensions are small, family run affairs and, if you book an ‘apart hotel,’ the rooms will be equipped with cooking facilities. Great for cooking all those foodie treats you couldn’t resist buying on the market.
- Dalyan is a 35 minute drive from Dalaman Airport.
- If you are arriving to the town by bus from elsewhere in Turkey, get off the bus at the otogar (bus station) in Ortaca. There is a regular dolmuş from Ortaca otogar to the centre of Dalyan. Journey time is 15-20 minutes.
- Read our article for more detailed travel information if you are arriving to Dalyan by bus from Fethiye.