Dalyan: Ancient cities, turtles, and beauty rituals

Taking a trip while on holiday is always a good idea, and the province Muğla – here in Turkey – is an enticing destination. If the day trip still takes place in the picturesque landscape of the Aegean coast – JACKPOT. Today, it takes me to the small town of Dalyan, half an hour away from TUI BLUE Sarigerme Park, promising thrilling adventures and rich local culture.

On a journey of discovery with Mustafa

In the morning, after breakfast, we set off. Mustafa, our guide for the day, is a fascinating personality. Calm, clear, with a welcoming countenance, dark eyes, beautiful voice, and clear pronunciation. He is the perfect companion to tell the story of the area. Do you remember the voice of the storyteller from your youth? That’s what I mean. The trip also begins like a fairy tale. Once upon a time, there was a small town in southwestern Turkey: Dalyan, in the district of Ortaca. The ride with our small minibus goes uphill and downhill until we finally reach Dalyan. Meanwhile, I learn more about the daily routine, data and facts about the area, as well as a lot of information about turtles. One of the most beautiful beaches in Turkey, Iztuzu, home to the endangered turtle Caretta caretta, is the finale of this excursion. For a day, I slip into the role of a tourist and discover what, for me, is a whole new world.

Guide Mustafa in his element

The eternal quest for the elixir of youth

Slowly, the Dalyan River reveals itself before my eyes. Small, colourful boats are waiting along the shore. The locals lure us to sail with them through the labyrinth of waterways, sell us souvenirs and postcards, and invite us to share a coffee or tea with them, with the typical regional hospitality. But we have no time, because our boat is already waiting. We get in and cross the grandiose river delta.

Boat tours Dalyan
The small boats take day-trippers through the river delta

After a short time, we reach the famous Cleopatra Mud Baths. From Robbie Williams to Dustin Hofmann, many celebrities have already paid a visit to these mud baths on the Dalyan River. Since I’m too hot anyway, and the water temperature of the baths is about 40 degrees, I slowly sneak away from the group and drink a Turkish coffee with Mustafa. From a distance, I observe my fellow travellers performing the beauty ritual conscientiously based on the previously distributed instructions.

Boat and view during the ride
This view promises an eventful day

They wallow in the swelling mud, which should remain on the skin for 45 minutes. It dries slowly and tightens the skin. Supposedly, this smooths wrinkles. Since most of them seem to want to rejuvenate for what feels like a whole decade, they begin busily looking for thick slugs of mud on the bottom of the pool. Then they smear themselves from head to toe until only their eyes indicate they are not zombies, bog monsters, or anything like that. On my next visit I’ll be sure to partake, because the “beautiful mud” not only cleanses the skin, but is also a proven remedy for rheumatism, muscle tension, kidney disease, and various other ailments. After the mud has dried, the gray-white figures immerse themselves in a sulphite bath, which also has a temperature of around 40 degrees. All are relaxed and refreshed after the mud bath experience. Well, they do not look years younger yet, which is certainly because Dalyan’s beauty ritual has to be done several times ;-).

Mud bath
The mud not only makes you look younger, but also funnier 😉

Dalyan – Delta of the ancient royal tombs

Continue by boat through Dalyan’s labyrinthine waterways. Both sides of the Dalyan River are bordered by metre-high reeds. From time to time colourful terraces appear that inspire me with their local, picturesque design. I promise to have breakfast here on a weekend and enjoy the scenery. I imagine myself admiring my surroundings with a cup of hot coffee in my hand, and wandering – lost in thought – through the ruins of Kaunos and the Lycian rock tombs. These temples bear witness to millennia of history and I can only imagine what once transpired here. Who were the people who lived here, each with their own life story? Who they loved, what they longed for, what they laughed about, or why they cried.

Kaunos tractor-like automobile
With this funny vehicle we make our way to Kaunos

As Mustafa talks about past times, we walk together through thousand-year-old ruins, and it seems like I’m in a time machine. We reach the ancient city of Kaunos with a tractor-like vehicle that drives through pomegranate gardens for about ten minutes before climbing a hill. From above, I can see the endless landscape of Dalyan, before we start the voyage of discovery into the ancient world. In the ancient complex of the city of Kaunos, I visit the ruins of the temples, the acropolis, which was built on a hill, the municipal theatre at the foot of the acropolis, a church, the Roman bath, and another temple. From time to time we look for a shady spot beneath huge olive trees and diligently listen to Mustafa.

Kaunos theater and views
The view from the ancient theatre alone is worth a visit

Naturally, the story of Kaunos is a love story. All the best stories – in my opinion – tell of great love, because love is the one thing that keeps life and the world moving. If I add the numerous political intrigues surrounding the ancient city, which as a port city was repeatedly drawn into the great politics of the Greeks and the Romans due to its strategic location, then I would be writing here forever …

Kaunos ruins
Who lived here millennia ago?

That’s all I’m going to tell you now; you’ll learn more from Mustafa. On the way back through the channels, I look again at the royal tombs in all their glory. The kings of Kaunos were buried here, probably in an effort to be closer to heaven. Since the rock tombs are difficult to reach, we glide by in our boat and take a short lunch break in one of the shore restaurants. The view is magnificent: Give me good food and a beautiful view, and I’m happy. But we must go on, and I’m ready for the next destination of the day: The turtle rehabilitation centre at Iztuzu beach.

View Kaunos
Views of the picturesque Aegean landscape

Another tip for the way: Sturdy shoes and sunscreen are a must.

Turtle angels and the belief in a better humanity

Since I live in Turkey, turtles are part of my everyday life. On the way to the hotel, I help turtles to cross the street almost every day. Many don’t understand my good will and hiss at me. But I’m glad to have saved another turtle life from the many cars.

Istuzu beach view on the way
The Iztuzu beach, home to the Caretta caretta turtles

At the rehabilitation centre on the Iztuzu beach, we visit sick turtles. Most have found themselves ensnared in fishing nets and suffered cuts, others have seriously damaged shells. I come here often and know the story of almost every sick creature. It can take years to recover and swim once more in the sea. Every visit reminds me of the fact that the suffering of these animals is only caused by humans. Man remains the greatest enemy of nature, but the turtle angels in Dalyan continue to make me believe in humanity. Find out more about the life of these sea creatures in the blog article of my colleague Miri, who also visited the turtle hospital.

Entrance turtle rehabilitation centre
The turtle hospital has plenty of information about the marine life

I love pomegranate ice cream

On the way back, I’m already feeling exhausted. It is already just after four o’clock, and today I have learned a lot of new things and feasted my eyes upon some amazing sights. To the left and right, elderberry trees present their magnificent pink-white dresses and the pomegranate trees attract me. Mustafa promised us a refreshment break and we stop at the Nar Danesi Cafe, a family business centred on pomegranate products. “Nar” is the Turkish word for pomegranate, a symbol of the region and one of the most popular fruits for the Turks.

Nar Cafe
The Nar Cafe, offering all things pomegranate

The garden is beautiful, small turtles walk back and forth – the terrace is an oasis. I choose a pomegranate ice cream – the best ice cream I have ever eaten. This is the perfect way to end the day. I’d rather stay here, read a book, and eat tons of pomegranates, but we have to go. As Mustafa tells more stories with his warm voice, the engine of the minibus rumbles softly, and my eyes are starting to get heavy. I smile and think that I live in a beautiful world. I am happy.

Pomegranate ice cream
The most delicious ice cream in the world

Info: BLUE Dalyan is an exclusive TUI BLUE excursion that takes place once a week. More details on prices and times can be found in the BLUE App or by your BLUE Guide at the TUI BLUE Sarigerme Park Hotel.

Cover photo © adempercem – fotolia.com

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