Stunning shorelines, historical sites and beautiful blue waters with a mountainous backdrop, Dalaman is Turkey but not as you know it. Known as ‘Turkey’s Turquoise Coast’, Dalaman is a picturesque district of Turkey, as well as being the central town, located in the Muğla Province. Dalaman is a surprisingly diverse holiday destination, with a range of sandy beaches, lively strips of bars, historical spots and Instagrammable seaside restaurants. I recently spent some time exploring the region with Jet 2 and I have created a Guide to Dalaman, so you can make the most of your time in this rather gorgeous region.
Swim in the beautiful Blue Lagoon
Imagine a swimming spot that is so Instagrammable that you almost forget to take a swim in it because you are so busy snapping away? The Blue Lagoon at Olu Deniz is such a place my friends! It’s a stunning UNESCO world heritage site, with clear blue waters, soft sands and a beautiful mountain backdrop.
Here you can swim, snorkel or paddle through the sparkling waters, there is also a beach area where you can rent sunbeds, pedalos and kayaks. There are also nearby bars and restaurants to relax in with a cocktail or three and soak up the stunning views.
As the western end of the Blue Lagoon is a national park you have to pay a small entrance fee for entry. Alternatively, the opposite side of the lagoon there are some private beaches with restaurants and bars that you can access for the day for an entrance fee to use the facilities. I would highly recommend spending the day, swimming sunbathing or paddling in this little slice of paradise, it is fabulously relaxing.
Paraglide off Babadeg Mount
Adrenaline junkies will relish the opportunity to leap 1800 metres off Babadeg Mount and land on the beach. For those of us scared of heights, the idea is nothing short of absolutely terrifying. Olüdeniz is one of the best places for tandem paragliding in Turkey, offering incredible views of the beach and Blue Lagoon below.
There are lots of different paragliding companies to choose from in the area but we took flight with Sky Star Paragliding. Expect to pay around £70 for a paragliding session, this includes transfer, full insurance, professional instructors. After having a total anxiety vomit in a beach bar, we were soon taken up the twisty roads of the mountain. Utter fear and travel sickness took hold and I was positively green on the way up as the pilots tried to reassure me that it was all “totally safe” as our van hurtled around narrow roads with severe mountainside drops.
On top of the mountain, you are kitted up and discussions on how you wish to fly are discussed with your ‘pilot’. You can choose turns, spins, spiral dives and acrobatics, or if you have a nervous disposition like me, a nice gentle glide down. I requested the ‘slowest and most serene flight possible’. My pilot looked disappointed until I explained I once threw up over an over-zealous skydive dive instructor in Australia.
Once you have taken flight by running towards the edge of a mountain you are soon floating through the air with the most spectacular views. I am immediately grateful that I had myself a pep talk before the flight so that I didn’t flange out, “You got this Jones, THINK of the Instagrams, get your ass off this mountain!” For a fee, your pilot will also take some seriously Insta-worthy photos of you during your flight. My particular pilot took this job very seriously with plenty of verbal encouragement, “smile darling, best smile for pictures now, look like you are having fun”. Please be aware that whilst I am smiling in photos, my sunglasses are hiding the look of abject terror.
I honestly think that jumping almost 2000 metres off a mountain and landing on the beach is probably one of the coolest things I have ever done. If you are a bit queasy about heights, I recommend a very strong cocktail beforehand and to keep in mind that the view will be utterly worth it. So go forth and fly, fly my pretties, you won’t regret it.
Cruise up Dalyan River
Set sail up the pretty Dalyan river for an afternoon of swimming, turtle spotting and relic gazing. There is a range of full day or half boat trips that will take you up the river and towards ‘Turtle Beach’. We were lucky enough to have a private boat that had a bar and a BBQ, perfect for a day’s sailing indulgence.
On this boat ride, you sail through pretty reeds and also pass the Lycian rock tombs. These cliff carved tombs date back to 400bc and are the final resting place of the kings of Kaunos. They are so imposing and beautiful that they almost don’t look real, “like they are a tomb raider ride at Disneyland” I enthused to our bemused boat captain. I don’t think he was paid enough to humour me.
I almost can’t quite believe that this is Turkey, as we glide through aquamarine waters and then towards ‘Turtle Beach’, loacted at the mouth of the river, which has salt water on one side and fresh water on the other. During your boat trip, you should be on the lookout for sea turtles, though it can be difficult to sip wine on a boat and be on the alert for turtles, which is probably one of the most ridiculous first world problems of all time?
I was lucky enough to spot a turtle as I happened to have my camera in hand, I frantically started snapping and managed to get him peeking his head out of the water. This basically means I can now add ‘wildlife photographer’ to my LinkedIn profile. We briefly docked at Iztuzu Beach [turtle beach] and spent some time looking for turtle nests and having a paddle in the sea.
Our captain stressed that we needed to be back to the boat on time, due to tidal conditions. He wasn’t kidding around, as we left we could see several boats struggling to sail in the shallow waters and it took every ounce of self-control not to start a wine-fuelled rendition of Titanic’s signature song, ‘my heart will go on’. Clearly, I have grown as a human.
Visit colourful markets
A visit to Fethiye fish market is an absolute must for seafood lovers. You can choose your own fish at this vibrant fish market and the surrounding small restaurants will cook your fish for a fee. You can also order additional meze and drinks at a cost. We spent a balmy night eating outdoors, with the smell of fresh fish in the air and the strumming of a local band that performed for tables, as the vino flowed.
Dining out in Turkey is an experience and the fish market is no different. Don’t expect to snarf your food down in ten minutes and be on your way, seemingly endless meze will arrive, rivers of wine will be poured, laughter will ensue and before you know it, midnight will arrive and you are somehow still eating prawns.
If fish isn’t your bag, then there is plenty of other stalls to browse at Fethiye market. You will find bars, restaurants, as well as stall with spices, fruit, vegetables and meats as well as shoes, bags, scarfs and jewellery.
Spend some time wandering the market and taking in the smells, sights and the patter of Turkish stall holders, who will almost have you convinced that it’s definitely a real Chanel bag for €50.
Party all night in Marmaris
Marmaris has acquired a reputation as a ‘party town’ over the years, with holidaymakers flooding to its main strip to indulge in drinking and dancing till dawn. Whilst there are many bars and nightclubs, there are also many chilled out bars, lovely restaurants, seaside dining and quieter drinking spots, should you wish to embark on a more sensible evening.
Strolling down the main bar strip you will find a party and if you are looking for pumping music, flashing lights, lurid coloured cocktails and smoke machines then club heaven awaits you, clubbing kittens. We visited an establishment called ‘Joy’, which looked exactly like the nightclubs of my younger, partying days, with strobes, podiums and brightly coloured drinks.
In fact, the only major difference was a rather energetic Turkish gentleman, who took it upon himself to start instructing us in the art of dance. I have never seen a man come to a club with such a prepared selection of routines. Before long there was an entire group of us following his every move, like an inebriated Zumba class.
Other popular bars in this area include Back Garden Club, Black Mirror bar and Palace Beach. If you are looking for live music then beachside bar, Yunus Cafe Bar has chilled live performances and classic cocktails.
If you are out and about in Marmaris at night and don’t fancy dancing the night away in a club then I would recommend watching the dancing fountain show. Every night on the Marmaris main boulevard, a seemingly ordinary fountain comes to life with lights and music that is times to the fountain’s whooshes of water, it’s like something you might expect at Disneyland! There are also several restaurants that face the fountain where you can grab a seat and watch the dancing water.
Get down and dirty in a mud bath
“Dalyan Peloid mud bath has been accredited by the Ministry of Health” enthused our guide as we entered the Peloid mud bath. This immediately conjured up images of a humourless bureaucrat waist deep in mud with a clipboard and a rubber stamp. Our guide explained that the Peloid mud bath Dalyan consisted of clay minerals, humic acid, lignin, hemicellulose and other such scientific terms. I was nodding along but I have no idea what “kaolinite” is frankly, doesn’t it deprive Superman of his powers?
The mud bath complex has changing rooms, showers, a snack kiosk, a shop and treatments such as a ‘fish spa’, where you pop your feet in a tank and lots of tiny fish to nibble away hardened skin on your feet [ewwww]. There is something childlike and rather wonderful about having a bath in mud, you can squelch around, smear mud all over yourself and roll around in glee. You then lie on a bench and bake yourself in the mud before showering it off. Be warned, the mud gets EVERYWERE.
There are different mud areas to try, each infused with a different set of herbs or oil including sage and rose oil. After spending some time baked in the mud my skin did feel a little smoother to be fair. If you are one for alternative beauty treatments, then this could well be exactly the sort of spa you are looking for.
Experience a 12 Island Boat Trip from Göcek
Set sail from Göcek Harbour and spend a day sunbathing, swimming and snorkelling around picturesque islands. Our boat trip made several stops in secluded bays so that we could swim in the crystal clear blue water and enjoy the amazing views of the turquoise bays, small islands and tiny beaches. One of the beaches even had adorable goats peering out at us from the beach and we could hear the tinkle of their bells as they climbed across the hills. It was a scene that was so tranquil I thought I must be dreaming, or perhaps mildly inebriated from the wine? It reminded me a lot of sailing around gorgeous islands in Malta, the water and the scenery looked very similar.
Our boat trip also included BBQ lunch on board as well as a selection of wines, beers and soft drinks. Like many boat trips, you get what you pay for and this is also true of Göcek boat tours. I would advise doing some research on TripAdvisor or if you are on a trip with a holiday company like Jet 2, ask your holiday rep to recommend and book you a boat trip. You definitely want to treat yourself to a quality boat trip in Turkey.
One of the best parts of the day was when we feasted on fresh fish, BBQ grilled off the side of the boat. There’s nothing quite like a healthy, simple fish dish served with lemon, salads and meze to make you feel you deserve that extra glass of wine!
Explore the Ghost Village Of Kayakoy
This haunting village is all that is left of a once thriving village after the Turkish Greek Population exchange in the 1920’s when a series of historical events forced residents to leave everything behind. Kayakoy now serves as an open-air museum with around 3500 preserved houses and three churches. The largest of the churches is the beautiful and deserted Basilica of Panayia Pyrgiotissa.
There are many tours to Kayakoy running from Olu Deniz, I would suggest doing some research and booking a tour with a recommended tour guide that really knows the history of the area and will be able to give you a proper insight into how events unfolded here. Alternatively, you can read up on the history yourself and catch one regular local buses from Fethiye.
Go Paddleboarding in aquamarine waters
In the laidback fishing village of Selimiye, you can glide across calm, blue waters with S.U.P Selimiye. Hire yourself a SUP board and explore the picturesque marina whilst trying to maintain your balance whilst balancing on a giant board. If you are successful in your paddling, ensure someone captures your boarding grace. Immediately start demanding pictures from the water and disturb the serenity, anything for ‘the gram’ right?
After your paddling session, make sure you spend some time exploring this gorgeous, sleepy village. It is a world apart from what you might expect from Turkey. There are sunbeds to relax on, you can swim in balmy water and you can also dine at fabulous waterside restaurants, sipping a wine whilst you admire the view.
Indulge in a Turkish Bath
A Turkish bath is quite unlike any other I have experienced. In Turkey, you can visit a tradition ‘hamam’, which is heated tiled room with a heated stone slab for visitors to lie on. Having never visited a Turkish bath, I had no idea what to expect? We first got changed and spent some time lounging in the sauna before being taken to a large tiled room where we lay down on the large stone slab.
What happened next was that a man came in and a man washed me. This is a sentence you don’t expect to say in your adult life. I was scrubbed, exfoliated and massaged within an inch of my life and came out absolutely sparkling. I had no idea I was so filthy? I was terribly British and awkward about the whole thing and felt compelled to keep apologising throughout the washing, i’m not sure for what exactly? Being washed? My awkwardness? Simply existing? Afterwards, all professionally wrapped in towels, we sipped on hot tea and giggled at what had just happened. It’s definitely an unusual experience for a British person but I would highly recommend setting aside your inherent Britishness and indulging in some serious scrubbing.
Treat yourself to a lovely hotel
Holidays are surely the time to spoil yourself and luckily there is a range of quality hotels in the Dalaman area. We stayed at the Liberty Oludeniz hotel for our first few days on the trip. This gorgeous hotel has very stylish décor, restaurant, fabulous pool and is conveniently located near the beach. Choose from a range of room options including standard, superior and family rooms to suit your needs and budget.
At the hotel, you will find a pool bar serving a range of drinks as well as two restaurants including an à la carte restaurant and a buffet restaurant, serving Turkish cuisine as well as international dishes. It was a really relaxing hotel and the staff were extremely friendly, in fact, the buffet chef would high five you with a big smile when he flipped a pancake. Obviously, I loved this.
We then switched it up and stayed at D-Resort Grand Azur Marmaris, this gorgeous hotel has a beachside location, freshwater pool, spa, pool bar and several dining options, including a restaurant with panoramic sea views. There is a serious wow factor in this hotel. I looked around the grandiose lobby and immediately made a mental note to brush my hair and put on some ‘nice shoes’ as my mother would call them.
You can choose from a range of rooms including double or twin room with and without a sea view, or a suite with land or sea view. The hotel also offers ‘All Inclusive Plus’ as a board basis. The buffet restaurant has one of the most extensive breakfast selections I have ever seen, with a huge spread of local breakfast options as well as your more typical European offerings. I sat on the terrace and enjoyed a lovely view of the pool with my coffee. I was so chilled out I almost nodded off at the table.
The pools are a brilliant feature, there are 2 outdoor freshwater pools as well as 2 indoor pools, with a pool bar and free towels. Spend an indulgent morning relaxing poolside with a coffee [or a cocktail, you are on holiday after all] and have the occasional lazy dip in the pool. Utter bliss.
Probably my favourite part of the hotel was the beachside bar, where you could sip wine in a chilled out setting and watch the sun go down in full relaxation mode. I would really recommend D Resort Grand Azur Marmaris if you are looking for an indulgent stay in Marmaris, it really is a ‘spoil yourself’ hotel.
Try Traditional Turkish Cusine
There are lots of restaurants, cafes, bazaars and markets in the Dalaman region, offering traditional Turkish cuisine, incredible fish dishes and international dishes. You cannot come to Turkey without feasting on a kebab and at VIP Bar in Oludeniz, you can order an Adana Kebab, which is grilled lamb served with flatbread, Turkish yoghurt and rice, it was grilled to perfection.
When you take a trip to Turkey, chances are you will be served Turkish Meze at some point. Meze is a selection of hot and cold appetizers and starters and they seemingly never stop arriving, this means that dining out in Turkey can sometimes last for hours!
We had an amazing selection of Meze at Oyster Restaurant in Oludeniz. It has an incredible location right on the promenade looking out to sea and the decor is what I would describe as ‘Pinterest goals’. The restaurant also has a fantastic selection of seafood dishes and meat courses including Mousakka and lamb chops.
If you are a fish lover then there is no better place for fresh fish than at one of the traditional fish restaurants on the Azmak river, just outside Akyaka. Here you can eat trout freshly caught from the river, in a peaceful setting. We ate at the Azmak restaurant and dined right on the water’s edge as boats and kayaks slowly passed us.
My favourite thing about dining in Turkey was the scenery, many of the restaurants we visited had capitalised on the incredible views and offer sea view dining and gorgeously decorated seating areas and terraces.
We ate a huge selection of meze while gazing out to blue waters at Sardunya Restaurant in the traditional fishing village of Selimiye. We were treated to a selection of meze, salads, stuffed mushrooms and even a goat dish! The restaurant had simple and contemporary decor, as well as a relaxed vibe and spectacular views of the water. If you are a fan of cats then you will be greeted by furry visitors to your table, who rub your legs purring, waiting for a tasty morsel to be slipped under the table.
Although Turkey produces good wine, most people drink tea and many holidaymakers drink beer and cocktails, as wine can be surprisingly expensive. Traditional Turkish tea and Turkish coffee can be found in most places in Turkey. Turkish tea is often served black although there are herbal varieties available. Tea is served in curved tea glasses with a small plate underneath for carrying and serving.
I had a ridiculously strong and delicious Turkish coffee at People’s Restaurant.
at Rixos Premium Göcek. The restaurant has beautiful views and exquisite decor, making it a lovely place to relax with a Turkish coffee.
This contemporary restaurant also serves a range of à la carte dishes and the presentation of the dishes and the flavours are excellent. We had a leisurely lunch watching the yachts and enjoying the sunshine.
If you are interested in trying local Turkish food products, I would recommend visiting Marmaris Balevi, a honey house in Marmaris where you can taste pine honey. It also functions as an informative beekeeping museum, where you can learn about bees and beekeeping and you can also taste and purchase sweets made from pine honey.
Turkey is the second most successful producer of honey in the world and the honey house’s aim is to introduce the ‘‘Marmaris Pine Honey’’ brand internationally and to educate locals and tourists about beekeeping. There is a shop and ridiculously Instagrammable cafe on site where you can buy gorgeous honey deserts.
Getting to Turkey
Getting to Dalaman was easier than I expected, I thought that there may be a connection, or I would have to travel to London to get a flight. I flew from Manchester airport to the refurbished and extended Dalaman airport on a direct flight with Jet 2. I have never flown from Manchester before and I really liked the fact that I could get the train from my hometown of Cardiff straight into the airport with only one connection. There are also plenty of hotel options at Manchester airport, should you have an early flight. Flights to Dalaman are also available from several airports across the UK including Birmingham, Glasgow and London.
The Dalaman region of Turkey was not what I expected at all. With its beautiful blue waters, quiet fishing villages and range of activities, it was far more of a diverse and interesting destination than I ever could have imagined. I really enjoyed my trip to Dalaman with Jet2holidays and I would highly recommend exploring this part of Turkey. Hopefully, you have found my guide to Dalaman useful, let me know what you think in the comments below. For further reading and videos on the area, you should check out articles from my fellow travel bloggers Intrepid Escape, Illumelation, Alajode and Mel B Travel.
Many thanks to Jet2 and Dalaman Airport for organising my trip.