Iztuzu beach in Dalyan is that rare thing in the Mediterranean a 5km arc of golden sand stretching from the base of a pine-clad mountain to a river delta, with not a single house, shop or hotel in sight.
During the day people swim, walk, lie in the sun to the sound of the crumping waves but at night a barrier comes down and the beach is claimed back by nature, in particular by hundreds of loggerhead turtles, one of the oldest surviving species in the world, which lay their eggs there from May to September.
Iztuzu is the second most important site for endangered loggerheads in Turkey, and with its hinterland of briny lakes and reed-fringed river channels, arguably its most beautiful beach. But when I first visited it in 1990 I was chilled by the sight of a great slab of concrete - the foundations, I later discovered, of a government-approved1800-bed holiday village.
The story of how a handful of Turkish and European conservationists, galvanized by English 'Turtle Lady' June Haimoff, saved Iztuzu from development is remarkable.
For several summers Haimoff had lived in a wooden hut on the beach, alongside families from the town, and had watched the huge females digging their nests (even saving one from a knife-wielding local man who wanted its shell for a cradle) and had rescued hatchlings that were disorientated by the artificial lights and noise from the settlement.
Eventually the huts were dismantled but, unknown to the conservationists, permission was given for the much more damaging holiday complex instead. When bulldozers arrived on the beach Haimoff sent a frantic telegram to the WWF. Prince Philip, as president of the WWF, asked the Turkish Prime Minister to delay the project, to allow an environmental impact study to be carried out.
This was done, the Prime Minister acted, and in the summer of 1988 the beach, along with the area's red pine and sweet gum forests and marshlands, was given SPA (Special Environmental Protection Area) status and the building project cancelled.
News of Dalyan and its turtles spread fast and soon the town became a tourist hot spot. I myself have been back many times, usually in non-peak times, but until I was asked to assess it for an Open Spaces award I had no idea that the beach was so heavily visited - up to 5000 people in a single day in the high season.
Many of these are day trippers who arrived on large boats, are transferred to river boats to visit the various sites around Dalyan, and finish off with a swim on Iztuzu.
But despite this influx, the protection, which includes a demarcated nesting zone where digging, using umbrellas, or lying is forbidden and a 1-mile exclusion zone for speedboats and jet skis, is working: a 21-year monitoring programme of the turtles, currently being undertaken by a team from the University of Pamukkale, shows that the population is stable and that the number of nests is slightly increasing. The students locate the nests, put metal cages over them to prevent foxes or dogs digging them up, and are on hand when the hatchlings emerge.
The tourist facilities at either end of the beach are sympathetically designed to minimize environmental impact. The cafes, cabins, sunbeds (which are nearing their permitted maximum of 850) and boardwalks are made of wood, the roofs from reeds; brackish water is used for the showers, toilets and cafés, and the waste water is removed daily.
There are plenty of litter bins, with separate containers for recycling waste at the delta end; and the Belediye, (Municipality) which manages the facilities, uses the revenue from the sunbeds, beach entry fees and cafes to clean the shore daily, to provide jobs for local people and for services in the town.
DALYAN ROCK / KING TOMBS
The ancient rock tombs of the Kings have become another symbol of Dalyan after the famous sea turtles or Caretta Carettas.
Although there are many rock tombs around the area, the most famous are those which look directly onto the town of Dalyan from the opposite side of the river. These tombs are the resting places of the Kings of Caunos. They are carved in the style of Lycian rock tombs.
Believing that the souls of the dead were transported to the afterlife by a winged siren-like creature, the Lycians often placed tombs on cliff faces. There are two types of tombs to be found in Dalyan. Simple chambers, cut into the rock face like a room and more elaborate temple tombs. Many tombs were built with false walls placing valuables behind them so as to fool robbers, eventually this was to no avail as all the tombs were emptied of their treasures.
The eternal King Tombs, which have been standing there for thousands of years against the harshness of time and carrying the mysteries of the past to the future, have been carved in the gigantic rocks, at some points with an angle of 80 C to the sea, forcing the limits of your mind.
Iztuzu beach in Dalyan is a 5km arc of golden sand stretching from the base of a pine-clad mountain to a river delta. On one side of the beach are the warm crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean; on the other side is the clear freshwater coming from Lake Koycegiz. Truly one of the last unspoilt wildernesses of the world, the beach is in an environmentally-protected area, with not a single house, shop or hotel in sight.
The beach is one of the last remaining nesting grounds of the Loggerhead Caretta Caretta turtles and for millenia, they have been coming to the beach to lay their eggs.
Step back in time and explore the ruins of this ancient town, dating back to the 9th century BC. The most compact and beautifully-kept ancient city surrounded by olive trees, pomegranates, red berry bushes. According to legend, Kaunos, son of Miletos, founded the town while escaping the love of his sister. Traces of Hittite, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine civilisations can be seen. There is also a well-preserved amphitheatre with 34 tiers and seating for 5000 people as well as a bath house, temple, basilica, meeting hall and a lot of sculpture bases plus 360 degree views over the region. Goats, donkeys, sheep and lambs also enjoy the area! Excavations are still on-going.
SULTANIYE & MUD BATHS
Cleopatra, the ancient Queen of Egypt famed for her beauty, is said to have regularly visited the mud baths of Dalyan. That the baths have been used since Roman times is evident in the now submerged ruins of ancient masonry.
Rich in calcium, sulphur, iron, nitrates, potassium and other mineral salts, the springs can reach 40 degrees Celsius and are beneficial for rheumatism, skin disorders, gynaecological complaints, liver complaints, nervous and digestive disorders and for convalescence after surgery. They are also reputed to increase male potency.
Give yourself a body pack of mud- as the mud dries, your skin tightens and wrinkles disappear! Regular weekly visits guarantee a fresher, younger looking skin. Follow this with a cleansing bathe in a hot sulphur pool afterwards.
Saklikent (Hidden City) Gorge is the second largest (18 km-long) gorge in Europe and the longest and deepest gorge in Turkey. Only 20 minutes from the resort. It is a spectacular, magical place; the water-sculptured walls soar high above keeping the gorge cool and shady.
Explore the canyon on wooden board walks and wade through icy cold water from the melted snow waters coming down from the Taurus Mountains. Take submersible shoes!
Take a classic tour around Dalyan. Cruise to Iztuzu Beach, Koycegiz Lake, Kaunos, Sultaniye Hot Thermal Springs and Mud Baths. Enjoy breaks to swim, take in the mud baths and explore ancient ruins.
You can also take a moonlight trip along the river and see the stars and moon reflected silver on the water. The Lycian rock-cut tombs opposite Dalyan are illumined at night and take on a mysterious air.
Explore the area with an adventurous jeep safari. You’ll visit secluded coves where you can swim and drive through pine forests and fields of olive trees. You can also drive to the top of Radar Hill. When you look down from the 600m height, a striking panoramic view of the Dalyan region is laid out . On one side is the delta, channels, the coast and the city of Dalyan , up further, the Köyceğiz region and the Sandras Mountains, while to the west you can see the island of Rhodes, the sparkling Mediterranean sea and beautiful coves.
This picturesque and serene lake is fed by springs and several streams. Reed beds edge the shores and the lake is an important site for wintering water birds and more than 150 bird species inhabit the lake environs and the reed-beds along the canal that joins the lake to the sea. Gliding along the lake in the early morning, you can experience its tranquility.
EKINCIK & CAVES
This is a natural bay of breathtaking beauty surrounded by scented green forests and small farms. You can swim and snorkel in the crystal clear waters and also try water skiing or the banana boat.
The best way to get really clean! Have an invigorating massage and a cleansing scrub while your muscles soak in the relaxing warmth.
ABOUT THE LOGGER HEADTURTLES
These beautiful coloured turtles got their name because of their oversized head which looks like a log and can be as wide as 25 cm. They are among the largest marine animals, weighing on average 113kg and can live about 50 years. The adult female may travel thousands of kilometres to return to the beach where they themselves had hatched to lay their own eggs. Hatching after 60 days, the 5cm hatchlings scurry to the sea facing many predators on their way.
The turtles are a threatened species, facing dangers from sharks, fishing nets, pollution, boat propellers. To safeguard the turtles, the nesting areas on Iztuzu beach are protected-the beach is closed in the evenings during the laying season and sunbathers cannot lie on the buried nests.
CRABBING & SEA FISHING
Dalyan means ‘fishing weir’ in Turkish and the name reflects the variety of fish to be found in the area.
Dalyan has both fresh and salt water fish, including grey mullet, carp, bas and, sea bream.
You can also try your luck crabbing;
the area is home to the tasty blue crab.
TOUR TO YUVARLAKCAY
This tour is for nature lovers who want to experience the beauty of nature and see some stunning scenery. We stop at Yuvarlakcay gorge and Toparlar waterfall and if you’re brave, you can swim in the clean icy fresh mountain waters. We stop at a restaurant where you can can eat delicious fresh trout fish and tandir (tandir is lamb roasted in a traditional village oven).