Ultimate Guide to Visiting Dalyan – Turkish Venice on the Mediterranean Sea
One of the most beautiful towns in Mugla province of Turkey is the hidden gem known as Dalyan. It is located between Marmaris and Fethiye, but unfortunately, or fortunately, due to the popularity of these two cities, Dalyan has been a wonderful hideaway for those who know about it. Which makes it a great place to visit on your next trip to Turkey’s Turquoise Coast.
Just 40 minutes away from the center of Dalyan is Dalaman airport. Proximity to it makes a trip here not expensive and doesn’t take a lot of time. But you can always add Dalyan to this seaside 7 days Turkey itinerary when traveling from Bodrum to Antalya and see everything in one trip.
Dalyan is very special in terms of geography and its lagoon system is a natural wonder that everyone should see. It consists of lakes and canals decorated with reeds and has a habitat that is as beautiful as it is amazingly biodiverse. The ancient city of Kaunos rising from the delta, the king tombs on the slopes, and Caretta turtles spawning on Iztuzu Beach make Dalyan an even more special place.
When you arrive, there are plenty of options for commuting to town such as renting a car, taxi service, or taking a bus that runs every 15-30 minutes from Dalaman airport to Dalyan. I talk about all of it below as well as cover the best things to do in Dalyan, its rock tombs, boat tours, resorts, and give travel tips that help to plan your Dalyan holidays.
Quick Dalyan Travel Tips
Planning your trip to Dalyan any time soon? Here are the first-hand resources and insider tips that you’ll need!
Apply for E-Visa
- Turkey E-Visa for individuals – check if you need it
Airport in Dalyan to Fly to
- Dalaman airport – well connected with many cities in Turkey & many European cities
Best Airport Transfer
- HolidayTaxis – Turkey’s leading airport transfer provider
Best Car Hire
- DiscoverCars – more on why below
Top Places to Stay in Dalyan
- Midas Pension – by the river with incredible views for mid-budget
- Yalicapkin Cottage – private cottage on the delta with a pool away from everything
- Arp Dalyan – home-style hotel with outdoor pool, breakfast, views of tombs & canals
- Yagmur Hotel – a budget hotel in style opposite the Lycian tombs
- Dalyan Holiday Hotel – family-run Inn with a homie feel for budget travelers
Top Dalyan Tours to Join (if you don’t want to explore on your own)
- Dalyan Bout Tour with Sea Turtle Watching (from Bodrum)
- Dalyan Mud Baths & Turtle Beach (from Fethiye & Oludeniz)
- Dalyan Bout Tour (once you are there in the city)
Why You Shouldn’t Miss Dalyan on a Trip to South-Western Turkey
From natural wonders, historical sites, and a local atmosphere with delicious food, Dalyan offers tons of things to see, do and experience. Being a small, sleepy town nestled on the banks of the Dalyan River, in the heart of a protected natural and historical reserve, it is one of the most atmospheric places on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey.
In just one day you can see rare turtles, visit healing hot springs, admire ancient tombs on sheer cliffs and go boating around the numerous straits and canals that gave Dalyan another name “Turkish Venice”.
In fact, the local population moves around Dalyan mostly by boats rather than on foot. For tourists, this type of transportation is as popular as ferries in Istanbul or boats in Bodrum, so you shouldn’t miss using it too.
One of the most famous things Dalyan is famous for is a beach with a hilly area and rugged vegetation inhabited by huge sea turtles, listed on the IUCN Red List that lay their eggs here every year. Seeing these turtles is once in a lifetime experience.
Dalyan hot springs are known far outside Turkey and give a separate reason why to visit the town. The water in local springs contains radon, sulfide, and calcium chloride which serve as a great source for people with disorders of the musculoskeletal system and skin diseases.
With a well-developed infrastructure for a comfortable pastime for tourists and unique places to visit, Dalyan should be on the list for everyone who tours Western Turkey.
Things to Know Before Visiting Dalyan
The city of Dalyan is located in the delta of the river of the same name between the picturesque resort of Marmaris and the fashionable Fethiye but at the same time not far from the cities of Bodrum and Kemer.
With its great location, Dalyan is a must-visit spot on a day trip from Fethiye or Marmaris which many people choose to check out. Although coming to the area on your own and staying in one of the apartments or hotels for a day or two is a much more interesting experience. Also, I highly recommend you make a stop here on a road trip to Pamukkale or when road tripping along the Turquoise coast.
And when you do, remember these tips to make the most of your trip:
How Much Time to Spend in Dalyan, Turkey
Dalyan is small but it is vast and places of interest are scattered out a bit on different sides. Ideally, you’d want to spend 2, possibly 3 days there if you appreciate deeper exploration and want to see some gems of the region, including a hike to local hills for incredible views of the Dalyan Delta.
However, if short on time, even the most important things fit into one day if you start a day very early and end it late.
1 Day is enough to tick all main touristy attractions off the list when you can see both the delta and Iztuzu Beach by taking a boat tour and trying a blue crab in the evening in one of the restaurants. If you make arrangements with the captain, he can even take you to the ancient city of Kaunos and the mud bath.
If you decide to extend, 2 or 3 days of time are great to fit in more activities, do some kayaking, climb local hills for views, spend some time in mud baths, visit a nearby Turkish village, sip some beer at sunset over the delta, and eat dinner under eucalyptus trees that are common to this area.
Is Renting a Car in Dalyan Necessary?
Even though the town of Dalyan is small and very walkable, there are a few places within driving distance that are better reached by having a means of transportation. If you’re only going to stay in the center, you don’t need to rent a car because there are minibusses and boats to the most touristic places such as Kaunos Ancient City and Iztuzu Beach.
Otherwise, you do need to have a vehicle or use a taxi to move around, so renting a car is your best bet, considering the fact that car rentals in Dalyan and Dalaman areas are quite affordable.
If you want to have a sense of adventure and drive to the most beautiful hilltops for incredible views such as Radar Tepesi and Çandır Tepesi, I recommend you rent a 4WD as the roads to them are difficult.
To hire a car in Dalyan, I advise you compare current deals between DiscoverCars and LocalRent.
I use both these companies to rent cars in Turkey, although if renting in Dalyan/Dalaman area, the first company in my experience works much better as it also offers excellent insurance packages. LocalRent is great for car hire directly in Dalyan city and if you plan to drop it off in another location.
But I also suggest you read my post about renting a car and driving in Turkey to understand which rental company works best for you personally.
Rent a Bike if You Don’t Have a Car (or Travel on a Tight Budget)
If you are visiting Dalyan not on a day tour from another city but on your own on an independent trip and you are on a very tight budget, do not hesitate to rent a bike and cycle around.
I’d say even if you plan to rent a car, still rent a bike for a few hours as having it offers a very different sense of adventure. Plus, bikes are very affordable and can be parked anywhere.
I recommend that you check Tusco Quadbike and Bike rentals, located at this address. It is a bit outside the main area of the town, yet very close and prices with service are wonderful.
Come in Spring or Autumn for the Best Experience
One of the best tips to know before coming to Dalyan is that spring and fall are the best times to visit, as the temperatures are very warm, and you can still do all the summer activities without the extra flux of people that visit the town in the summer months.
In the early spring, you can witness how everything blooms and nature awakens. In the late fall, there is even a bit of foliage on the hills.
Although Winter is Also a Good Time to Visit
Dalyan in Turkey has a comfortable climate at any time of the year. In winter the temperature there rarely drops below 12C degrees, and in summer it rarely rises above +29C. At the same time, coolness always blows from the river. Although I am convinced that spring and autumn are the best seasons for a trip, winter in Dalyan is quite favorable too.
On winter days, the temperature almost never drops below +12C degrees. It creates perfect conditions for relaxation in Dalyan mud baths and exploring the town in comfort.
The rather mild climate also favors the growth of vigorous vegetation. For example, in the vicinity of Dalyan, there are about 100 species of palm trees and an amber tree, which is quite rare in nature and it starts blooming in late winter.
Do Not Confuse the Turtles Swimming in the Canals with Caretta Turtles
You may see turtles swimming in Dalyan canals. Do not confuse them with Caretta because that’s a different type. Those turtles are a freshwater species called the Nile Tortoise.
They usually come in front of Dalko fish restaurant every morning around 8 am because they are used to being fed there. But you can see them swimming in other canals too.
It is a good idea to start the day with the feeling of freshness and greetings from turtles, so walk in that area around Dalko early in the morning for this unique experience. With the beautiful morning light, you can also take nice photos.
10 Best Things to Do in Dalyan, Turkey
Go on a Boat Tour!
Why I put an exclamation point by the word ‘tour’ because this activity is really one of the most exciting things to do in Dalyan. Part of the Dalyan delta is a very lively place with bars, restaurants, and houses that take up space along the canal. Seeing them from the water as well as cruising through the labyrinths is an incredible experience.
You can hire a private boat to move as you want or join a daily tour.
To find a boat tour in Dalyan, go to the middle of the town. You will find all the boats along the Dalyan River. You can go and talk to a few of the captains and negotiate a price to get the best deal. They offer plenty of options such as all-day tours, that can be personalized and private, or open to the public.
The all-day tour is the one with the most stops and usually lasts between 8-10 hours. This one goes up to the Sultaniye Thermals and Mud Baths in the Köyceğiz Lake, down to overlook the Dalyan tombs (Kaunos), and last the unforgettable turtle beach called Iztuzu Beach. You can enjoy the beach or visit the turtle center that Captain June (recently deceased) opened to protect these endangered species.
The boat may also stop at Candir, which is where the Romans and Greeks used to place the urns with the ashes of their deceased. It’s a few kilometers from Kaunos City since they believe the dead should be far away from their living areas.
When choosing a boat tour, we always go with Captain Gokhan. He is our go-to guy, and he even allows pets if you want to take your fur babies for a ride. On his Instagram, you can see some of the tours he does and contact him for your visit.
Take a Journey to the Past in the Ancient city of Kaunos
Kaunos was a city of ancient Caria in Anatolia, a few kilometers west of Dalyan. The ancient city used to be a very important seaport, but due to the area being dried out, the beach is now 8 km away from what was once a big trade post.
According to mythology, King Kaunos (founder of the city of Kaunos) was the grandson of Apollo. He had a twin sister who was insanely in love with him romantically. When he found out about this after reading a letter she wrote for him, he fled, and it is said that the Dalyan river emerged from the sisters’ tears before going completely crazy.
This river separated the Lycians and Carians from the Kaunos people. Herodotus wrote in his book histories that there were differences between all three groups such as the Kaunos men, women, and children would drink wine while socializing.
Kaunos had many invasions and therefore influences, from Greeks, Persians, Romans (part of Alexander the Great empire), the Byzantine empire, Muslim Arabs and more. But it was in the 15th century when the Turks took over Kaunos and a malaria epidemic made many of them flee the city. Later, an earthquake devasted the city and over the years it got covered by vegetation and sand.
Kaunos became the lost city, and it wasn’t until the 19th century when the archeologist Hoskyn found a law tablet and brought attention back to the area.
All this history makes the Kaunos Ancient city a must-visit.
The best part? Due to the lack of attention from tourism, you can visit these ruins and be alone in a civilization that has been there since the 9th century BC. You will see an amphitheater that now has olive trees, roman baths, the entire ancient city structure, and wild donkeys wandering around.
You can get there from Dalyan, by walking to the ferry port and hopping on the ferry either with your vehicle or on foot. Let it take you across the river and walk/drive up as the road signs indicate. Within a few minutes, you will find yourself at the door of these incredible historical sites.
At the entrance, you have the ticket office and a small coffee place where you can get water, cay, and snacks. The entrance fee is currently 14 TL and free if you have a museum card pass.
Spend Time on the Famous Iztuzu Beach
Let me tell you the bad news before you head to the 5400-meter-long Iztuzu Beach. The sea there is actually wildly choppy with heavy winds. So you won’t be able to enjoy the beach in terms of swimming or sunbathing. But the good news – you don’t really come there for it anyways.
Fortunately, there are still sheltered sections at both ends where it is possible to have a little fun and relax but the main reason you visit Iztuzu beach is different.
This beach, a long sandy stretch of land, is one of the most important areas for the future of loggerhead turtles, locally known as Caretta. Being such a vital natural spot, it is important to follow the time restrictions for visitors as the turtles are nesting, being born and making their way to the beach from May to September from 8 pm-8 am.
You should go and enjoy this beautiful paradise, and while you are there don’t miss the place where Captain June lived and where she created the Turtle hospital.
Captain June was an English woman who came to Turkey on a trip but then after seeing endangered species of turtles in Dalyan, she opened a Turtle Center with a goal to protect them. She died recently but Dalyan and Captain June go hand and hand together. Turkish people adored her and many Brits now visit this area because of her.
Whenever you are in the area, pay it a visit too where you can see Caretta turtles close. The location of the Turtle hospital is here next to Captain June’s hut mentioned above. Entrance to the hospital is free but donations are appreciated.
Iztuzu beach is actually considered one of the top 10 best beaches in Europe. And even though you can’t swim there, it is a unique place where one side opens to the salty sea and the other side opens to fresh water, blending two ecosystems, which is perfect for Caretta mothers to lay their eggs.
Drink Turkish Tea or Beer Opposite Kaunos King Tombs
Two symbols that identify Dalyan are the Caretta turtles and mysterious Kaunos Rock Tombs. If you can see the first one on Iztuzu Beach, Kaunos Rock Tombs are clearly visible from many parts of Dalyan, including the town center, although at a distance.
I visited different rock tombs in many ancient civilizations in Turkey, including Myra Necropolis in Demre and Lycian Rock Thombs in Fethiye. There was a belief that the higher the tombs, the closer they were to God. That’s why we find the graves of important people on the rocks as high as possible.
A feature that distinguishes the Kaunos Rock Tombs from the others is that they have facade architectures reminiscent of Hellenistic temples. And seeing them is fascinating from any angle, including the one in the center of Dalyan.
For a unique place to hang out and from where to get a pretty view, head to Kaunos Tea Garden. There, grab one of the tables by the water and have a cup of tea in front of the royal tombs. Another such restaurant is La Boheme Dalyan with sensational food and cocktails. Although you can see tombs from a farther distance there.
Roll in Therapeutic Mud Baths
Let’s be honest, mud spas are not for everyone. Many people will have zero interest in them. But they are worth mentioning a few words as at the end of the day, mud baths are one of Dalyan’s most well-known activities.
As you know, hot springs are said to be good for rheumatism, sciatica, and some skin diseases. There are several mud springs in Dalyan that treat these conditions as well as work wonders for skin rejuvenation and general refreshment.
The Sultaniye Thermals and Mud Baths are the most popular ones situated by the Köyceğiz lake. They are known to be magical and miraculous for skin diseases and beautifying treatments. The springs contain calcium chloride, calcium sulphate, calcium sulphide, bromur, radon and radioactive substances.
Many resources say that the Köyceğiz mud waters feature a special type of mud “Beauty Mud” and its history goes back to the Kaunos civilization. So, even if you are not a big fan of mud spas, get your swimsuit ready for this therapeutic experience while in Dalyan.
You may encounter crowds in the afternoon at their facilities as boat tours also stop there. Thus the best time to go is in the first part of the day during the week or closer to the evening.
Eat Best Kebab and River Fish in Town
There are two restaurants you absolutely have to visit in Dalyan.
One of them is Mahir’s located on Maraş street here, which is in the main plaza of the town and right behind the colorful Dalyan sign. The family who owns this place is very welcoming.
They are originally from Mardin, where they specialized in meats and kebabs, and spicy tastes. Anything you order will be delicious, but I highly recommend the Adana Kebab and the Tavuk Sis. I have never tried such tender, high-quality meat. Best in Turkiye.
The second one is Yener’s palas, located by the river here. You can eat some of the freshest fish in town in this restaurant, and most importantly, during crab season, you can try blue crab, which is a specialty of the Dalyan river.
To start your meal, ask for some mezes and accompany your meal with Raki. Raki is the national alcoholic beverage of Turkey and it is made of twice-distilled grapes. It is not for everyone but you should try it at least once.
Don’t Miss a Sunset From All the Out-of-this-World Viewpoints & From Iztuzu Beach
I cover all the information about Iztuzu beach previously. Whether you go on a boat tour or other method of transportation, make sure you enjoy the sunset at this awesome sand paradise.
However, there are also two other viewpoints in Dalyan that you CANNOT miss. They are not the most accessible, the roads are not very friendly, and often you may see turtles or other animals in front of you and they will make you stop suddenly as you are trying to reach these places. Yet they are 100% worth your time:
1. Radar Tepe Manzara Noktası
Find the exact coordinates for this viewpoint here.
Radar Tepe hilltop is located right after Iztuzu Beach. So it makes it a great place to end the day after being at the beach and turtle center. It is a bit tricky, and the roads are quite bad, but this also means there will be fewer people in the way of your Instagram shots when you make it to the top. Watching a sunset from there, by yourself has no price.
The best way to reach this viewpoint is partially by car and on foot. If you have a two-wheel drive car, then drive to the end of the road (it’s partially asphalt and gravel) and walk for about 20 minutes. The rest of the road is in very bad condition and can be accessed by 4WD only. But better don’t bother if you don’t have experience driving on hilly off-roads.
One side of Radar Hill faces the open sea, where you can watch the sun go down in color. On the other side, as in the photo, you can see Iztuzu Beach, Çandar Hill, Sülüngür Lake, Dalyan delta and Köyceğiz Lake in the distance.
2. Çandır Seyir Terası
Çandar Hill is another incredible viewpoint that you can find using these coordinates. (See photo above on the right)
This outlook is on the side of the Ancient City, so my recommendation is for you to go there after your visit to Kaunos city. The ride up this mountain can be challenging as the roads are mostly thin and made up of dirt and rocks. Make sure to check those tires and have plenty of fuel on your way up as this is not a place you want to get stuck or run out of gas.
When you arrive, you will be greeted by a magnificent view of Dalyan, such as Radar Hill. Compared to Radar Hill, you can see the reeds of Dalyan more closely and in detail. And as a bonus – someone put a refrigerator there, which is selling beer, haha, including one without the alcohol.
Make sure you bring all the necessary things to these two viewpoints and use the bathroom beforehand since there are no bars, restaurants, or any facilities. You literally will be driving up to the top of a mountain to delight yourself with the “out-of-this-world” views and in most cases, you will be alone up there. Can it get any better?
Spend the Evening by Sülüngür Lake
Sülüngür Lake is a freshwater lake just behind Iztuzu Beach, famous for its sunsets. It is very popular among Turkish people who come to its shore with beer and their chairs to watch the sunset by the lake. If you spend a few days in Dalyan and go for views from the two main hill points I mentioned above, then come here for another evening.
Swimming and fishing in the lake are prohibited because the lake water is used by the fish cooperative for sea bream and sea bass farming. The lake is also the spawning point of the Nile Tortoise, a soft-shelled freshwater turtle.
But no one forbids having a picnic by the lake or getting a drink in the tea garden like Ekin Kir Evi restaurant for example. Another must-do thing in this part of Dalyan is to walk on the trail by the lake.
Cycle or Walk on the Eco Trail
Over the last few years, Dalyan became famous for one more thing – eco hiking, thanks to The Eco Trails company which helps to explore local nature from a different perspective.
The Eco Trail initiative, which covers the Köyceğiz, Dalaman and Ortaca districts of Muğla, has the mission to raise awareness through long-distance hiking and cycling on marked cycling and walking routes.
For this reason, the routes pass through waterways, wetlands, and wildlife with endangered species and promote the philosophy that water is life. The total length of a walking eco route is about 470 kilometers with 3 major trails. And cycling route is 700 kilometers long with 14 different trails.
Everything you need to be able to hit the trail is a guidebook, the eco trails website (that I mentioned above), and mobile application which is very helpful with showing the routes. On your Dalyan holidays, consider following the walking and cycling routes between Köyceğiz and Dalyan for wildlife and more scenic views.
Stay in a Beautiful Hotel Overnight
Dalyan resorts are everywhere throughout the town and many of them have a front view of the Kaunos tombs, however having been in many of the resorts, hotels, and motels, I want to highly recommend you check out two of my favorite properties. One – Yalicapkin Cottage, a country house with a small outdoor pool right in the secluded riverside spot and Dalyan Holiday Hotel in the center of Dalyan.
The first hotel is wonderful for couples as it can accommodate two people. It is perfect for people on honeymoons to Turkey or those who want to spend quality time together as a couple.
This property offers an outdoor pool and a shared motor boat with a water bicycle and 2 bikes for guests’ use. Staying here guarantees your own private spot with turtles, fish, butterflies, dragonflies and kingfishers in a peaceful quiet location, yet 20-minute walk to Dalyan center with all the bars and restaurants.
The second hotel is a family business run by a mother and son who go above and beyond to not only make you feel at home but as a family. I have been to plenty of hotels and Airbnbs and I can’t remember the last time I didn’t feel like a guest in someone’s place but as a resident there.
Believe me when I tell you, every time I have stayed there, I feel like I need to help them with their chores as if I was part of the family and I need to participate in the household responsibilities.
This hotel has about 20 rooms and a wonderful pool, bar, and garden that has the best view of the tombs. Having breakfast here every morning and seeing the tombs, makes you feel like you are in a very special place witnessing history evolve in front of your eyes.
Final Word About a Visit to Dalyan
There are many beautiful and unique cities in Turkey where you want to plan a trip. But besides cities, there are many more cozy and diverse towns that also cannot be missed. Dalyan is just one of them. Don’t skip it when planning an itinerary to Turkey and thinking to go to the Adriatic and Mediterranean coasts.
NOTE: It is easy to explore all the sites I mentioned in this post by car, bike, or public transport. However, doing a boat tour is a great way to experience it all. You can hear one-of-a-kind stories, get unique information from the captain, and have a chance to see some turtles. This experience is not one you want to miss.
This is also a great way to enjoy all these locations if you have time constraints or if you prefer to view them in one day and then choose where you want to spend more time at.
There is only one bad thing about this town… you might get addicted to coming back as many times as possible. Good luck and have fun discovering it!
More Travel Resources for Turkey’s Southwest
- Visiting Kucukkoy Village on the Aegean Coast – a bit of village life in Turkey
- Pergamon Ancient City – why you shouldn’t miss it on the way to Izmir
- Bodrum or Marmaris – which one is best for you?
- Fethiye to Antalya Road Trip – 17 Best Stops to Make
- Guide to Visiting Sirince Village – land of fruit wine, views, and history
- Ways to Explore Kaklik Cave – hidden gem near Pamukkale
- Should You Rent a Car in Antalya? – honest answers & my tips