Amazing Places: Dalyan and the Ruins at Kaunos, Turkey
Exploring Turkey's Turquoise Coast with Arkadaslik Yachting
Updated: December 13, 2019
Dalyan Town Site
The laid-back town of Dalyan is a bit different from bustling Turkish resort towns like Ölüdeniz and Marmaris. Located in a fertile and productive agricultural zone (citrus and pomegranate orchards, in particular), the area is popular with nature lovers and those seeking a peaceful holiday getaway.
The town is located on the bank of the Dalyan River, and named for fishing weirs ("dalyan" is Turkish for "weir") placed along its length. Water taxis carry thousands of visitors through the river's shallow water to enjoy the sites and sounds of the region. And, each year, bass, mullet, and sea bream swim upstream through the river to spawn at Lake Köyceğiz, somehow navigating the fishing weirs on both the upstream and downstream legs of their journey.
İztuzu Beach is located few kilometres outside of Dalyan. The 4.5 KM long, white sand beach is popular with holiday makers, and equally popular with endangered Loggerhead Sea Turtles (Caretta caretta) and green turtles who lay their eggs in the soft sand from May through October each year.
In 1987, İztuzu Beach found itself in the international spotlight when developers tried to build a large resort complex on the beach. Environmental activists spoke up about the ecological importance of the area and the beach was ultimately declared an environmentally protected zone in 1988. A statue of an adult sea turtle swimming with juvenile turtles was erected in the center of Dalyan to commemorate the achievement.
A sea turtle research, rescue, and rehabilitation centre operates on the south end of İztuzu Beach, and is open to visitors year-round.
The Dalyan Delta is the shallow wetlands area where the Dalyan River and the Mediterranean Sea meet. Filled with reeds reaching up to 5 meters tall, the brackish water (a mixture of salt and fresh water) in the region is home to diverse species of fish, birds, and other water life.
The ancient city of Kaunos (or Caunos, if you prefer) is located a few kilometres west of modern day Dalyan. Once an important sea port (4th century BC) renowned for exporting salt, dried figs, slaves, and supplies for building and repairing wooden boats, the site is now about 8 KM inland due to silting of the Dalyan Delta.
As the water got more and more shallow, it became less and less prosperous for shipping, and the economy gradually declined. The city of was eventually abandoned in the 15th century due to a devastating malaria epidemic resulting from the marshy conditions in the region. Earthquakes and Mother Nature continued to take their toll on the site and it was completely hidden by sand and vegetation until "rediscovered" by an English archaeologist in 1842.
Nowadays, Kaunos is an open air museum operated by the government of Turkey, and was included on the "tentative" list for UNESCO cultural sites in 2014. Archaeologic excavations have been underway since 1966, and finds include:
- An agora (market place) with a marble fountain house (4th to 3rd century BC) inscribed with rules applying to those using the harbour
- Temples to various Greek and Roman deities, including the terrace temple with circular altar
- Theatre – 75 meters in diameter, with a capacity for 5,000 people, the theatre is built into the side of a hill and features Hellenistic (Greek) and Roman characteristics
- Roman baths
- Palaestra (ancient Greek wrestling school)
- A two-part, heavily fortified acropolis – which provides a lovely view of the ancient town site and surrounding area
- A domed Byzantine church / basilica built in the 5th century
- Wind measuring platform – dating to 150BC, the platform was used to assess prevailing wind direction when designing the town to ensure clean air and good ventilation for residents and visitors to the town
- An extensive necropolis (cemetery) surrounding the main town site, including six Lycian-style rock tombs overlooking the Dalyan River which are believed to have been built between 4th and 2nd century BC. These tombs are remarkably similar to those seen in Myra – with temple facades used to decorate the modest chambers housing the remains of elite families of the area.
Dalyan is accessible by land, and cruise guests who wish to visit the area can hire a water taxi from nearby Ekincik. Who knows, you may fall in love with the charming town's relaxed atmosphere and return time after time!
Dalyan and Kaunos in Pictures
Great Sources of Additional Information About Dalyan and Surrounding Region
- The Slow Travel Guide: Discover Amazing İztuzu Beach, Also Known as Turtle Beach
- The Slow Travel Guide: Kaunos, So Much More Than Lycian Rock Tombs
Have you had the chance to visit Dalyan or the Ruins at Ancient Kaunos? We'd love to hear about your experience and see your photos.