The rock-cut tombs of Dalyan

By | Category: Travel destinations

Dalyan, on the southwest coast of Turkey, is not a beach resort but an inland town that attracts visitors due to the impressive Kaunian rock-cut tombs.

some of the rock-cut tombs

These are the mighty remains of the ancient port city of Kaunos.  It was founded in the tenth century BC, as a port city. With magnificent temple tombs cut high on the face of the rocky mountains ( to properly enjoy the sight, take a boat trip) you can drive to the highest point on the cliffs, which used to be a gateway to the city’s harbour. From here you see Dalyan River on one side and Suluklu Lake on the other.

In the ancient city of Kaunos itself, you see broken rocks, fallen pillars and upside-down stones are scattered everywhere, all bits and pieces of an ancient prehistoric urban civilization. The remains of the bathhouse with two, large tall arched windows overlooked the valley. The most amazing feature of the site is its Greek-style amphitheatre which dates to the fourth century BC. This preserved hallow shape auditorium, with seating for 5,000 people faces the Dalyan Delta.

But the Dalyan area is more than Kaunos and a boat is a good starting point for sightseeing and there are plenty of boats available even in the busy season. Our boat navigated slowly in the winding waterways towards Köyceğiz Lake. On a warm sunny day, with very mild winds it makes a pleasant journey and enables you to appreciate the scenery. We passed villas and houses at the southeast of the river and the high, rocky mountains on our left side. There are many more wonderfully carved and columned tombs at the top face of the mountain. The guides on board the boats will provide you with a summary of Lycian history and the antiquity of the tombs.

the amphitheatre

How often do you pass a mud bath centre, a crab fishing centre a turtle museum and a hospital all on one trip? On the following days I planned to visit all of them and my first stop would be the turtle beach.

Iztuzu beach (turtle beach) is a  vast sandy beach, stretching for about four kilometres It is surrounded by the natural beauty of the river and the mountains, the latter being crowned with pine trees. This beach is a preservation sanctuary for breeding turtles and the saving of endangered sea turtles.

at the bank of the river

There is a turtle hospital and museum located in a forest by the river and it contains exhibits on marine life and a large room with several containers where rescue turtles are monitored after being treated in surgery.

Driving further along the rivers’ edge you will find the mud bath centre. The healing power of the mud baths in Dalayn, are due to a rich mineral found in the  mud and it has  made this region a favourite destination for many people from all over the world, especially those who are suffering from arthritis and rheumatism. There were two separate indoor thermal water pools for men and women and an additional thermal outdoor pool. The pools were heated to around 40°C and are sourced from the nearby natural sulphur spring.

the real thing – one of many turtles being cared for until ready for release

Whilst Dalyan is an enticing inland attraction many people travel to Turkey for the beaches and so Fethiye had to be on our agenda being quite close by. The journey from Dalyan takes you along steep roads to the top of the Babadag Mountain. It is narrow and the driver drove the minibus very close to the edge, closer than I might have done. At the top which is about 1,700 metres high, there is a paragliding slope, a restaurant and a large viewing platform plus two cable cars, one going down and the other taking you even higher up the mountain. I was content just to watch the paragliders

Before you arrive at Fethiye you drive through the old village of Kayakoy. This beautiful Greek-style, stone village dates back to the fourteenth century when a group of Greek Orthodox people settled there. At the end of the Ottoman Empire and following the Greco-Turkish conflict, the spirit of the village slowly disappeared when Christian and Greek Muslims were expelled in a population exchange between the two countries at the end of the war in 1922.

the eerie village of Kayakoy

It is a little eerie walking though empty alleys and only seeing ruins. The structures had deteriorated through the passage of time, but some buildings were still standing, including schools, churches and chapels. Today, the deserted village is an open-air museum.

Wherever you travel in this part of Turkey there is more evidence of an ancient past. Xanthos was part of the ancient Roman Province of Lycia and built on flat ground on the footsteps of a hill. In the centre of the city is a large semi-circle amphitheatre, a symbol of art and culture which sets aside the Eşen Çayı (called Xanthos river in ancient times) which flows to the Mediterranean Sea.

There are also the remains of many stone cut tombs on mountains known as Amyntas Rock Tombs, named after a Greek legend, Amyntas

an empty house left in the state when the occupants departed

In Fethiye itself, I returned to the sea and caught a tour boat so that I could see the city from the water. Most boats – mine was called the Princess Serap – have a restaurant on board and provide an upper deck with chairs and tables so you get a panoramic view of the landscape.

For an alternative view of Fethiye a bicycle tour along the waterfront, the marina and the parks is recommended.

Then, like other tourists, I headed for a beach but now I realized that there is far more to this part of Turkey than a beach and glorious sunshine! 

Reza visited Dalayan courtesy of Eco-Turkey Travel

Images and story © Mohammed Reza Amirina

For more Reza images of he Dalyan area, click here or go to

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