When we of think Turkey many come up with Istanbul, famous for its food, Hammams (Turkish baths), impressive architecture and night markets.
Beautiful as that sounds, there is a lot more to that fantastically located grand mass of land which has literally everything to offer, from forests, to snow-capped mountains, from rivers to the glorious Mediterranean Sea and living in Liverpool at the time, a taste of the Med was just what I had in mind.
Booking a low cost flight on monarch, we headed out to a place called Dalyan, located on the South West of the country, and boasting the best (or second best) beach of the Mediterranean.
Iztuzu beach is a very narrow split, with the fresh water lakes on one side and the lapping Mediterranean on the other shore. Its superb location mean it attracts hundreds of breeding loggerhead and sea turtles and the beach also has a turtle hospital for its keen visitors. When a turtle does labour up its shore to lay eggs, the volunteers are quick to protect the breed, fencing it off from other visitors. The practice means that despite modern developments in South West Turkey, Mother Nature can still thrive on this remarkable stretch of land. Loggerhead turtles are an endangered species so the practice is critical to the world.
The best way to see Iztuzu is by taking a jeep safari all the way to one of the most relaxing viewpoints available, a full panoramic unfolds in front of you, with the mountains in the background supported by green trees, the beach and fresh water lakes, which also contain their own turtle families.
Iztuzu beach shot to fame for all the wrong reasons in the 80s due to a massive hotel that was projected for the area, but queue some heroics from June Haimoff and a strong team, Iztuzu was left almost untouched and it is really thanks to strong minded people that we can all enjoy all this area has to offer.
Development in Dalyan still did occur, but inland, meaning the little fishing town grew and accommodates mainly British tourism. If you want to avoid that, then April is the best time to go. Kids are mainly all still in school, and the Mediterranean sun still beams on the lovely beaches.
The town itself is full of very welcoming and hospitable locals, including a bar we called our second home as Yener, its owner was kind enough to even drive us outside the town to the neighbouring village for a taste at a very local Hammam, or body scrub.
We entered an perfectly round dome with little multi-coloured holes punched in its roof, giving us the feeling we were lying on a hot stone of marble inside a warm kaleidoscope. We steamed up until our masseur could lay her giant hands on us, which was a daunting task given her size.
A few cracks later and tea is served outside and life is normal again. Normal if you love the feeling of floating around on clouds for the rest of the day. What a feeling, what an experience…
Fethiye and beyond
Fethiye is another gem lying close to Dalyan, but sadly the day we planned to visit this place the rains came crashing down, so opting for a more local experience we headed to the Fethiye market and were blown away by the range of local products available, and the low prices on offer. Still though, when I google images of the beaches there, I can’t help but feel I missed out, but I do vow to head back there. Its a place which forever stays in my mind as the Mediterranean Caribbean, so you can’t go wrong by popping over.
Buses in the area are extremely easy to use, as the town of Dalyan is literally built for that busy summer period. Having visited in April the weather did let us down that one day, however I would hate to see what it looks like once all the tourists come crashing in.
After the weather let us down in Fethiye we thought why not spoil ourselves and haggled with a local fisherman to let us charter his small boat into the fresh water lakes, squeezed between the mountains and the treat worked. Boats can be chartered for very cheap, especially to groups willing to split the price. Travelling in April was the key here due to lack of business in the area, the locals are much more willing to bargain for the best price. The adventure was simply breath-taking, as was the dip into the freezing cold fresh water.
As well as the Hammam a perfect way to help your body is by taking a natural mud baths. Due to the abundance of water and clay, natural (smelly) mud baths form, and all you have to do is pretend you are in a 5 star resort, which is not hard to do given the natural beauty of the surroundings.
Overall this part of Turkey will give you everything you need, from breath-taking views, fun adventures and perfect scenes for relaxation. Pick the right time to travel here and you can be in for a treat. I only just wish the weather held up for Fethiye and scuba diving, but that is just another brilliant reason to head back!
My Top Tips for this area:
Travel in April – avoid the mad summer rushes and mass tourism
Haggle – always recommended and fun in Turkey, never settle for first price – especially for “genuine fake” products
Eat well – go for it, Turkish food is simply bursting with flavour and get yourself some spices for home too
Villa – renting a villa here is cheap and a spot of luxury, many have their own pool which you might enjoy too!
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