This is the nearest ‘major’ trip from Yenice Vadi, being just over an hour away, and one of the most popular. The prime attractions are the delta itself, with the famous Lycian rock tombs (pictured above), the ancient city of Kaunos, the mud baths and sulphur springs at Sultaniye, the massive (5,200 hectares) freshwater Köyceğiz Lake, and the famous Iztuzu (Turtle) beach.
The best way to enjoy Dalyan is to hire a boat. This is best done in advance (we can arrange this for you), but you can always just drive to Dalyan, and either hire a private boat for the day, or just join one of the group tours. Whichever you choose to do, you will board your boat at the harbour in Dalyan, which has a car park virtually next door - there are usually plenty of boats just sitting there waiting , and you can negotiate with the boat owner which sites you wish to visit, and how long you want to spend at each, which is particularly relevant at Kaunos. The boats are part of a co-operative, which means that there is pretty much a fixed price, so don’t bother going from boat to boat looking for the best price.
The full trip starts off at the harbour, goes down the delta past the rock tombs, drops you at one end of Kaunos, picks you up at the other and then goes on to the beach. Then back into the delta for lunch, on to the mud baths, and back through Köyceğiz Lake. As well as the lunch provided (if arranged), the boats all sell drinks. There are also cafés at Kaunos, on Iztuzu beach, and at Sultaniye. You can of course just choose to do only some of the sites, and the boats are happy to cater for your requirements.
The theatre at Kaunos
The trip starts by heading downstream, where you will very shortly see the stunning Lycian rock tombs (c400BC) on the cliffs above and to your right. Soon after the tombs, the boat will dock at what seems to be the middle of nowhere. This is actually the start of the path up to Kaunos – about 10 minutes serious uphill walking. Don’t be put off, the walk is well worth it, and there is a café at the entrance to Kaunos, where you can have a drink, eat an ice cream, use the toilets, and admire the stunning view over Kaunos, with the delta beyond. You then walk down through the site to the lower entrance, to meet up again with your boat.
(Alternatively, the boatman may just stop at the lower entrance - this allows you to walk in to the original Kaunos harbour area, but still with a serious walk up if you wish to visit the baths, the theatre, and the church.)
As you sit at the entrance café, way up to your left is the citadel, with fragmentary walls remaining.
Looking out over Kaunos, there are great views of the harbour – and it is very easy to see how it has all silted up, and why what was once a thriving port slowly died.
The earliest settlement here was in the 9th century BC. Although it was originally Carian, it was very closely allied with Xanthos (Lycian), and over the centuries was subject to different rules and different influences, including Greek, Roman, and Byzantine.
Although the site is not as spectacular as Ephesus or Aphrodisias, it is still fascinating.
The first main structure is of course the theatre. Dating from the 2nd century BC, this is in good condition, and it is very pleasant to sit here, and imagine the scene some 2000 years ago. The view from the top seats is also stunning.
Mosaic floor in the Byzantine church
Other buildings that sit around the top part of the site include a Byzantine church (beautiful mosaic floor) and Roman baths.
Once you have wandered around this plateau at the top, then start on the path down. This will take you to a temple, and an agora, and on to the original harbour.
The upper part of the walk is on the original paved streets, which gives you a wonderful feeling, you are walking the exact same paving stones as people did 2000 years ago.
Caretta Caretta (Loggerhead Turtle)
After Kaunos, the boat takes you down the delta to the sea at Iztuzu beach. This is famous for being a nesting site for the Loggerhead Turtle, hence its nickname as 'Turtle beach'. Following an environmental battle in the 1990s, development was banned, and it is now a conservation area.
The beach itself is a beautiful 4.5km long stretch of sand between the sea and the delta (depending on the tide, sometimes the boat will be able to cross the sandbar and go out so sea, but will more normally moor behind the beach).
Enjoy a swim in the sea (very gently shelving as is most of this coast), but take flip flops, as the sand is very hot, and there are some very spiky types of seaweed.
When you have had enough of the beach (and maybe a cooling beer in the café), rejoin the boat. This will then take you back inland to Ala Gölü, a large lake, where you will stop for lunch. While the BBQ is being prepared, take a swim in the waters, and find the hot springs that create wonderfully warm patches of water, and indeed have been supplying the mud baths since well before Roman times. Also keep your eyes peeled, you may well see giant turtles here. There are also some further rock tombs visible here, though these are only square cut holes in the cliff.
After a delicious lunch, time to head back upstream, past Dalyan, and into Köyceğiz Lake, for the trip to the mud baths.
There are a couple of different places for finding mud. The one just upstream of Dalyan is the more commercialised, and where the coach trips tend to visit.
The quieter and more historic one is Sultaniye. This dates back to Roman times, where as well as being a health giving spa, it was a sanctuary to the goddess Leto (Roman columns still sit around the baths).
Start off with a mud bath. Wade into the most disgusting looking grey mud, smother yourself, and then sit in the sun to let it dry off, before washing it off under a shower. Then have a refreshing dip in the lake, before heading to the sulphur pools. There are three of these, one outside, and two inside (one of which is ladies only). As well as the smell of sulphur, the natural water is at a temperature of 40 degrees (c) - so you probably won't spend too long bathing!.
The idea is that the mud and the chemical content of the water have healing properties for all sorts of complaints - a board on the wall lists the most wonderful list of ailments that will be cured.
A word of caution. Although as tourists we are probably doing this for fun, there will be people there who are treating it almost as a religious pilgrimage, to try to cure fairly serious skin problems, and possibly even staying there – so please be sensitive.
The trip back to Dalyan crosses just one corner of Lake Köyceğiz, which is a massive lake, covering an area of some 5,200 hectares. Very cold, very clear, very deep (up to 60 metres), and makes you feel as if you have at last washed off all the mud, sulphur, etc. A lovely refreshing swim to finish off your day, before you arrive back at Dalyan.
Upon disembarking, you may want to spend a short while wandering around the delightful shops in Dalyan, and have a drink or maybe even eat by the river, overlooked by the tombs in the cliffs across the water (spotlit after darkness).
Getting there by car
From Yenice, take the southerly route back to the main D550, and then take this south towards Dalaman. At the traffic lights at the bottom of the hill, take the D400 still towards Dalaman. After passing the signs for Köyceğiz, you will come into Beyobası where you will see 'Dalyan' signposted off to the right. This takes you through fairly slow country lanes to Dalyan - keep going until you reach the harbour. Should you wish to stick to more major roads, continue on the D400 to the traffic lights at Ortaca, where again 'Dalyan' is signposted to the right. Total distance is approximately 75 kms, allow 1.25 hours by car.