Set inland on the banks of the Dalyan River, Dalyan is a serene village unblemished by mass tourism. Each morning a flotilla of boats set off down the river, transporting tourists to the beautiful sandy beaches of İztuzu, bordered by tall bulrushes and pampas grass.
Above the river’s precipitous cliffs are the worn porticos of the Dalyan rock tombs, dating back to around 400 BC, are the resting places of the kings of the ancient city of Kaunos.
There are two types of tombs carved into the rock face – simple chambers and more intricate shrine tombs. Each tomb once had false walls to conceal the riches buried with the kings. But a series of treasure hunters throughout the centuries have plundered the tombs and the riches are gone. The Lycian Coast along the Mediterranean may be home to many similar rock tombs, but for many, the tombs on the cliffs at Dalyan are among the most magnificent.
As legend goes, Dalyan was founded by Caunus, who had a twin sister named Byblis. Legned goes that he fell in love with Byblis and, upon learning Caunus’ secret, their father sent Caunus away. Caunus subsequently established a city across Dalyan, while his sister cried herself to death, creating the Dalyan Delta with her tears.
Another fable about the city is not much unlike a disaster movie: The city was deserted as the mosquitoes became unbearable for those who lived there.
The ruins of the city of Caunos stretch across the river, overlooking the sea and the first excavations started in 1966, led by professors Baki Öğün and continue today under the under the guidance of professor Cengiz Işık.
There are the remains of an acropolis surrounded by the city walls, an agora, a theatre, temples, a harbour, baths, an underground cistern and a Byzantine church.
Dalyan attained global fame in 1987 when property developers sought to construct a luxury hotel at İztuzu Beach, a breeding ground for the endangered Caretta. The event generated international outcry, with English environmental campaigner and botanist David Bellamy championing the protest to stop the development from going ahead. The beach was listed as a protected area in 1988.
İztuzu Beach is a narrow stretch of land, which forms a natural breaker between the fresh water of the Dalyan Delta and the Mediterranean sea.
In May 2009 a turtle hospital/ centre was established and is administered by the Biology Department of the Pamukkale University. During breeding times scholars and volunteers monitor the Carettas, locating nests and placing cages to protect the nests from predators. Injured turtles are brought to the centre for treatment and recovery.
In 2011 the Kaptan June Sea Turtle Conservation Foundation was founded, their objective being to safeguard the turtles and their environment.
Most Travel Agencies in and around Fethiye offer an excursion to Dalyan, where you can see the rock tombs during a leisurely boat trip along the Dalyan Delta, visit the turtle hospital and marvel at the sheer size of some of their guests and then relax on İztuzu beach before it’s time to head home.