One airport = one destination, right? Wrong! Dalaman in southern Turkey is both a destination and a gateway to other amazing places. It’s right on the stunning Turquoise Coast, meaning pretty towns, beautiful beaches, interesting history, delicious food and friendly people, all ready to welcome you. Let’s explore this fascinating region together…
Dalaman, where it all starts…
Dalaman is where you’ll fly into and out of, and the airport is an easy six kilometers from the town. The gateway to the Turquoise Coast, it has a couple of stunning resort hotels at the nearby Sarıgerme Beach. A secluded spot with a wonderful Mediterranean climate means you’re pretty much guaranteed great weather, even in its short, cool winters.
However, we need to cast our net a little wider to see what you’re really looking for. Whatever sort of trip you’re after — bars and nightlife, relaxing on the beach, exploring the wild countryside, or something a bit unexpected — we’ve got it.
Marmaris, with everything you could want from a resort…
Firstly, let’s head to the region of Marmaris, around 90 km by road from Dalaman, and wow: it’s a stunner. The relative inaccessibility of the region has meant it’s generally managed to keep the overdevelopment that’s affected other places in the region at arm’s length.
The region offers a gentle mix of pine-covered mountains, deep blue seas, islands and islets seemingly untouched for centuries, and ancient reminders of empires that have come and gone. Marmaris town itself, however, is a lively place, so as a base to explore, it’s ideal.
Through narrow streets to lively parties
The town itself is a higgledy-piggledy collection of buildings built around a sweep of bay, fronted by a popular pebble beach and a long, wide seafront promenade. The fishing boats that bob in the harbor have been outshone by pleasure craft as tourism has overtaken more traditional ways of life, but old-world charm is never far away.
At the foot of the Ottoman-era castle, the Old Town squiggles its streets into a labyrinth of ancient, whitewashed houses, tiny cafes, beautiful flowers in window boxes, and the odd cat having a lazy stretch in the sunshine. Some sources say there’s been a castle here since 3,000 BC, but what we do know is that Süleyman the Magnificent ordered the rebuilding of Marmaris Castle, and it’s now a museum.
After lazy days comes the nightlife, and Marmaris has you covered. Indeed, in any town with a street called, simply, Bar Street, you know what you’re going to get. Bars, restaurants and clubs, both indoor and outdoor, dominate this part of town, squeezed into the streets between the bazaar, the marina and a green-flanked canal.
To see a bit more, on both land and water, jump aboard one of the many coastal cruises that take you from island to inlet, along the craggy shoreline and through caves only accessible by sea. Otherwise try a jeep or quad-bike safari up into the mountains to the rivers, waterfalls and sleepy villages that dot the hillsides. Get off the beaten track and discover Greek and Roman ruins that have lain basically untouched for centuries, before rejoining modern life again back in town.
Fethiye, for the active and the outdoorsy…
Fethiye is a bustling port town situated in a stunning natural harbor. Green hills surround the town in a wide arc, yachts bob gently on the clear, blue sea as tourists and locals stroll happily along the waterfront. Indeed, aside from the modern boats, the beautiful setting and the hum of life has been the same for millennia.
This was the site of the ancient city of Telmessos, and you can step back in time to the mighty Tomb of Amyntas, built around 350 BC, or visit the Fethiye Museum to learn more about the history of the region. One thing that has remained over the years though is Fethiye market, a heady mix of sights, sounds, scents and stallholders selling spices, fruit, vegetables, cheeses, yogurt, dates and more; textiles, bags, scarfs, the list goes on.
A beach adventure
After the hustle and bustle of the market, you’ll need to relax, so let’s go to the Blue Lagoon at Ölüdeniz. Its placid waters are perfect for fans of sailing, swimming or snorkeling, and if even that sounds like too much work, you can spend your time lying on the sand or eating delicious barbecue foods at one of the beach bars.
For an amazing alternative view of the lagoon (and not one for the faint-hearted!), you can head up the twisting roads of one of the surrounding mountains and go tandem paragliding. After running towards the edge of the mountain, you’ll take off and meander through the skies over the beaches and the lagoon, before drifting down in lazy arcs and ending what’s one of the region’s most unforgettable experiences.
Local history and nature
Another option might be the Gulf of Fethiye 12-island tour. The 12 islands that make up the archipelago each have their own charms, from historical ruins to mud spas, and each one gives more than ample opportunity for swimming or sunbathing. There are companies that run tours, of course, but if you’re feeling particularly adventurous you can also rent a boat yourself and navigate the warm water at your own pace.
Finally, for the walkers among you, Fethiye is the beginning (or end) of the Lycian Way, a 500 km hiking route that winds along the Turquoise Coast, past Roman and Byzantine ruins all the way to Antalya. Don’t feel like you have to do the whole thing of course, but for a day or two it’s a great change of pace, and lets you feel like you’ve earned all that relaxation!