Our journey from Bodrum to Fethiye was supposed to be two simple bus rides along the western coast. However, the spontaneity and adventure in us meant we headed off route and towards Dalyan about half way along the route. Not knowing or hearing anything of the place before our visit, apart from seeing a giant lake on google maps, a quick search showed quite a few unique sights and activities to keep us entertained for a few nights. We turned up at the BC Spa Hotel late afternoon and managed to get a very reasonable price for a short stay. It was conveniently located just on the edge of the centre and had a riverside restaurant for us to enjoy breakfast by the water every morning. On entering our room we were pleasantly surprised, not just by the wooden cottage interior and excellent facilities, but by the sheer size on 2 floors, it was more like a house!
The evening was spent walking along the beautiful riverside where the ancient tombs (more on them later!) above the river were lit up peacefully. We spent some time discovering the small town filled with restaurants, bars and craft shops. To my surprise, many were tailored for British tourists selling Sunday Roasts, English Breakfast and lots of pubs! This was probably the most British-infused place I have seen in Turkey, though having never heard of it myself, I was puzzled how this was. I suspect the daily boat tours from the nearby tourist resorts have something to do with the influx.
The next morning we had booked a boat tour of the entire Dalyan area and beyond. The river extends into the magnificent Köyceğiz Lake on one side, and on the other Iztuzu Beach, an isolated spit of land branching out to the warm Mediterranean Sea. In between the snake-like river winds past various sights and attractions along the banks, and the boat tours all start and finish at Dalyan centre. Our small boat first set sail east and stopped by at the Natural Mud bath for some fun. It was an experience that I’ve never done before and something incredibly unique that everyone needs to try! You enter the ‘mud pool’ to cover yourself completely in you guessed it, mud. A sort of clay like texture that sits at the bottom of the pool, your feet sinking to the bottom as you trek through it. After making yourself look like a creature from guardians of the galaxy, we all awkwardly stood in the sun and waited for the mud to set. It all felt very weird as us humans decided to put ourselves through this activity! After a shower to get all the mud off, and with our brand new refreshed baby skin we sank ourselves into the natural thermal pool for a complete sanitation. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take our phones so we didn’t get any pics, but the memories of being caked in mud and drying in the sun will stay with me forever!
The next stop on our trip around Dalyan was Köyceğiz Lake, we sailed into the centre, the engine was turned off and for those of us who wanted to, we were given the chance to dive in for a swim and exploration. I’d rather enjoy the scenery around though as we were secluded with nothing for miles, just the faint outline of mountain peaks in the distance. The peace and quiet of floating about in the middle of the lake with nothing but spectacular scenery surrounding us was incredibly relaxing. After a nice short stop we docked at one of the riverside restaurants for lunch. There was a choice of chicken or fish with meze side dishes, excellent to say it was included in the price of the tour ticket! Heading the opposite way down the river, we carried on our journey through the reed beds where rare species of birds landed for us to get a quick glance of them. We then eventually arrived at the Lycian Tombs embedded into the rocks high above the ground. Our guide stopped for a few moments to explain the history and stories around these amazing but mysterious sculptures while we took photos and videos from the water. The tombs, some still unfished, were carved into the rock face to place the honourable dead and their treasured belongings, so they could be taken to the afterlife by angels. Now the insides lie relatively empty after years of looting.
Continuing down the river we then docked by Iztuzu Beach, we didn’t actually think the tour included this, neither did we think we’d have time but we were given an hour to stretch our legs, swim in the amazing sea or relax on the pristine beach. The area is so remote that turtles lay their eggs here, it wasn’t the season for this but we did see a huge turtle poking its head through the water as we disembarked our boat! It was definitely one of the top beaches I have stepped foot on.
On return to our boat, it had disappeared! So after waiting a while and asking some of the other boat men, we were placed on another tour for our last part of the journey back to Dalyan. Retracing our steps back inland we rested at our final stop for the day, the ancient city of Kaunos. This ancient city is relatively untouched, and accessed by a 1km walk from the river. What used to be an important port town with a huge harbour is now very secluded from anywhere as natural processes have meant the water level has decreased hugely and now only the smallest of boats can travel the River Dalyan. Though this makes Kaunos so unique, the silence while walking around, the goats that randomly walk by and even a flock of sheep being herded through the city create a feeling of nature that is miles away from the modern world. The greek-style theatre dominates the city and with a dramatic backdrop it deserves to. Other features of the city include a fountain house, early Byzantine basilica church and many formations that still hold much mystery as the excavations are fairly new and lots of work is still to be done on this magnificent historic site.
We sailed back to Dalyan where the sky had now darkened and had an incredible Sunday Roast Dinner at Heybe Restaurant. To say it was cooked in Turkey with limited roast dinner staples available, they defied the odds and brought out a 3 course Sunday masterpiece that any Brit would be proud of!
What I thought was going to be a relaxing couple of days in the some remote town turned out to be a packed couple of days exploring all (which was a lot!) Dalyan had to offer. The mix of activities, sights and bustling town was a pleasant surprise and anyone heading to West Turkey should consider a visit.