Verdant riverside town
The exceptionally beautiful delta at Dalyan, or Fish Trap, has been determinedly resisting development for almost three decades. The hotels proposed along Iztuzu, the magnificent beach at the delta’s mouth, were opposed by Turkey’s pioneering environmentalists who campaigned successfully to protect this major nesting site for endangered loggerhead turtles; today’s visitors reach the beach by the regular boats which run through the reeds and the netted fish gates which are manually lowered as boats pass through. These boats set out from Dalyan, a workaday but charming town, which is located a few miles upriver. Other boats head upstream from Dalyan for bird-rich Lake Köyçeğiz, where a traditional but increasingly touristy kaplıca – a thermal spa with mud baths – stands by the lake shores at Sultaniye. The cliffs opposite Dalyan are home to crumbling tombs with colonnaded portals; the classical site of silted Caunos, a one-time port city, lies a half-hour walk from the far bank.
Dalyan is an established tourism destination, but unlike former fishing ports like Marmaris it has not been transformed out of all recognition in the process. Dalyan remains as much a characterful farming centre as a touristic one, and the low-key waterfront is lined by delightfully sited restaurants. There are a few serviceable hotels, notably the riverside Dalyan Hotel, but the majority are unexceptional; better, given the proximity of local facilities and restaurants, to go self-catering as so many returning family groups do. My favourite villas are the quirky Ömer’s Houses.