Dalyan

At the tip of the curve where Lake Köyceğiz and the Mediterranean mingle and embrace, Dalyan pins the sun to its damp breast like a star. And the first to see it is are the tortoises who carry their suitcases on their backs!

In the dawn’s half light I advance in a small boat along the waterway that connects Lake Köyceğiz with the Mediterranean. Morning is dawning over the water like a green cat. Suddenly it shakes itself, and everything at Dalyan settles slowly into place with the droplets of spray: the blue lobsters caught in the nets, the bumblebees grazing the oleanders, the white stone monument to Baki Öğün’s memory at Kaunos, the rock-cut tombs that harbor Lycian laments, the sea turtles returning with the waves to bury their eggs in the sand at İztuzu, the hot vapors rising from Sultaniye thermal springs, the sleeping boats, the pension owners setting their tables for breakfast, the reflections on the canal. With a flapping of wings, weaver birds fly up from their nests into the trees on the lake shore. The light’s journey is commencing. I recall a Jamaican proverb: “A lethargic turtle will not capture the dawn.”  And I set out for Dalyan on foot, savoring the early riser’s pleasure in the earth... 

OF MEN AND TORTOISES
Dalyan is where Lake Köyceğiz and the Mediterranean meet, where saltwater and sweet water intermingle. Boats ferry people back and forth ceaselessly under the sun’s golden glances. Towels are spread and beach umbrellas opened on the shore, bodies entrusted to the sun. For city folk, summer means days brimming with sun and a desire to stay in the water forever; but for the turtles that come here to lay their eggs it means ‘coastal pollution’! Although İztuzu beach joyfully awaits the arrival of the sea turtles that have been coming here by the millions for years, it takes less kindly to invasion by humans. But at evening when the sun doffs its red hat and retreats behind the hills, strolling on this beach is one of the world’s greatest pleasures. But now the turtle protectors are going to accost you with quite justifiable warnings that the eggs will be harmed if you tread here! “How small the world”, you’ll to say to yourself, “to think that turtles and people have to share a beach!”  Kaunos is one of the places you can climb to see İztuzu Beach from above. When you scale this hill, you will see the reed beds that turn golden yellow in autumn, a long sand dune, the ruins of an ancient city, fishing weirs and of course ‘Mare Nostrum’, the Mediterranean. And to complete the visual symphony, Lake Köyceğiz and the town of Dalyan. 

DALYAN FROM ON HIGH
Yacht cruises are a Dalyan tradition. Daily cruises in the green curve of these waters where sea and lake kiss will take you to the mud baths, to Sultaniye spa, to Kaunos and to İztuzu. If you make the cruise as soon as you arrive at Dalyan, you’ll quickly get a feel for the ‘lay of the land’. But there is another way of discovering the geography of Dalyan: climbing up to the point known as ‘Radar’. You can reach this spot at an altitude of 600 meters if, on your way to İztuzu over land, you turn off after the village of Gökbel and head not to the beach but to the mountains. Going up to the actual spot where the radar station is located is prohibited, so you’ll have to view the landscape from the rocks immediately below. And what you’ll see when you look down is a mind-boggling sight! Mini-umbrellas on the beach and people the size of ants! And the tiny white dots on the green canals? Yachts! The Mediterranean a sheet of blue flecked with white foam! Delik Island, its lighthouse barely discernible, Gökgöl, Ekincik cove, Lake Sulungur, and the wind that ruffles your hair! The sun that toasts your skin! The horizon line that steals your heart away...  One of the places where yacht tours at Dalyan always give a swimming break is a formation known as Delikli Kaya, ‘the pierced rock’, for an aperture in it reminiscent of the mouth of a cave. A diminutive lighthouse stands on top. Small boats can pass through this aperture, which attracts divers for the crystalline purity of its waters. 

THE SCENT OF THE MEDITERRANEAN
Lake Köyceğiz is a habitat for many living things. Upwards of 150 bird species inhabit the lake environs and the reed-beds along the canal that joins the lake  to the sea. The canal is 7.5 km long with a depth of up to three meters. Flat-bottomed boats are used on the canal since they make few waves and don’t disturb the reeds. Yachts more than 12 meters long and motorboats are prohibited from entering the canal for the same reason. The oriental sweetgum trees near Eskiköy are one of Dalyan’s most valuable natural assets. As writer Cevat Şakir, ‘the fisherman of Halicarnassus’, says, “We know what it means when we say that violets, roses, jasmine and lemons have a scent. But it is extremely difficult to describe the fragrance of the oriental sweetgum. If pressed you might say it has a very refreshing smell. If smells had color, that of the oriental sweetgum would be blue. This lovely scent should be burned as incense in the hotels. The tourists and customers would all be astonished. ‘What is that smell?’ they would ask. ‘It’s the scent of Turkey, of the Mediterranean’, one might reply. Just beholding this oldest tree in the world is a lesson in nature." 

If you drive to Dalyan, be sure to save a day for both Aşı Bay and nearby Bakardi Beach - even if the road is slightly rough going. 

A THERAPEUTIC SPA
Health addicts and beauty seekers fill the mud baths at Dalyan. It strikes a person as strange to see people from seventy-two different countries splashing about in a pool of fragrant mud. Not to mention the not insignificant number who take this as an invitation to horse around in the water!  Sultaniye Spa boasts thermal waters with a temperature of 39 C and a high level of harmless radioactivity. Sufferers from nephritis, neuralgia, rheumatism, calcinosis, and dermatological problems crowd the pools. Set in the foothills of a mountain southwest of Lake Köyceğiz, Sultaniye is one of the spas recommended by physicians for those afflicted with sciatica or herniated disc. Rent a bicycle and go to İztuzu at dusk. You will ride between oleander bushes as tall as a man that stretch for hundreds of kilometers. If the pedaling doesn’t bring a flush to your cheeks, the road certainly will! Then throw yourself into the therapeutic waters. The rock-cut tombs opposite Dalyan are illumined at night and take on a mysterious air. And the evening repast that you consume in one of the restaurants across the way will leave a beautiful memory in your heart as well as on your palate.