There are loads of things to tempt you off your sunbed on a holiday to the Dalaman area. Markets, mud baths and ancient sites are just the tip of the iceberg…
Turkey’s Turquoise Coast
If anywhere puts Turkey on the travel map, Dalaman does. This stretch, also known as the Turquoise Coast, is all serene coves, white sands, and blue-green waters – hence the nickname. Nudge your way inland, meanwhile, and you can’t move for sights including the Caunos tombs, Pamukkale and Turkey’s biggest crowd-puller – Ephesus.
Olu Deniz and Sarigerme
If you’re a sucker for a beautiful beach, make Olu Deniz your base. The sand-fringed lagoon here is understandably one of the most photographed spots in Turkey. And the red-roofed town itself isn’t short on shops, bars and restaurants. If you’d rather slip beneath the radar, head west along the coast to the village of Sarigerme. One of Turkey’s best-kept secrets, it’s home to a quiet beach and a clutch of traditional restaurants.
Icmeler and Marmaris
Another take-it-easy resort is Icmeler, which sits even further west. Backed by rolling hills, its whitewashed houses and Wednesday market give it a traditional Med feel. A sandy beach and a handful of waterfront restaurants are part of the deal, too. And it’s really close to Marmaris – one of Turkey’s biggest and most popular resorts, and without doubt the hub of bars and clubs. The drive takes about 5 minutes, or you can hop on a water taxi across the bay.
Things to See and Do in Dalaman Area
Tucked into Turkey’s southwest corner, Dalaman is known as the Turquoise Coast, and once you see the waters you’ll understand why. They’re impossibly blue and bordered by some of the best beaches around. From the sand-fringed lagoon at Olu Deniz to Icmeler’s curve of sand, this place gets an A+ when it comes to coastline.
The Big Beach
The star attraction in these parts is Olu Deniz’s Blue Lagoon. You’ll probably recognise it from the front covers of countless guide books and holiday brochures. It’s a curvy sweep of snow-white sand and pebbles that shelters an electric-blue lagoon. On the watersport front there are things like water-skiing and canoeing to get stuck in to, and you can also take to the skies on a microlight or parasailing trip. Remember to take your camera to snap that famous aerial view.
The Secret Beach
If you fancy somewhere with a bit more elbow room, try Iztuzu Beach, near Dalyan. It’s around five kilometres long, so there’s bags of space, plus the soft sands are perfect sandcastle-building territory. It’s a protected nesting spot for loggerhead turtles, too, so it’s kept in mint condition. And if you get hungry, there are a couple of snack kiosks serving up Turkish treats.
If you want plenty of bang for your buck, head to one of Dalaman’s markets. You’ll be able to get your hands on everything from clothes and faux designer bags to fruit, veg and spices. One of the biggies is Marmaris’ Thursday market, near the Grand Azur Hotel. Fethiye’s huge Tuesday market, Icmeler’s Wednesday version and Sarigerme’s Sunday offering are also good bets.
Leather shops are ten-a-penny in these parts, especially around the Netsel Marina area in Marmaris and the main drag in Icmeler. They flog all the usual goods, like belts, handbags and jackets. In Olu Deniz, meanwhile, lanterns and wind chimes are the most common souvenirs. Head to the main shopping street – Carsi Caddesi – to get your pick of the bunch.
You can get rings, bracelets and earrings made to order in Turkey. For top-drawer gold and silver, make tracks for Marmaris’ Grand Bazaar. A lot of the pieces here contain traditional Turkish gems, like amber and agate. If you’re happy to haggle, you can get yourself a real bargain.
Belcekiz Beach in Olu Deniz is the place to grab a cocktail, pull up a beanbag on the sand, and watch the paragliders land as the sun sets. Nightlife in Sarigerme boils down to a few restaurants and bars on the main street, but there’s usually something going on at the hotels.
Marmaris’ aptly named Bar Street is the venue for lively pub and club crawls every night of the week. Hisaronu, near Olu Deniz, also puts on a good party. Just head for the centre of town, and you’ll stumble across the lion’s share of the bars. In Icmeler, meanwhile, you’ll find more fun pubs, karaoke bars, and discos than you can shake a stick at. Head to the bars by the beach to make a start.
If you like pizza, you’ve got to give lahmacun a go. It’s essentially a version of the Italian favourite that’s been given a Turkish twist. Chefs start with a thin dough base, and top it with minced lamb that’s been cooked with cinnamon, allspice, pine nuts and chopped mint.
These meatball-like parcels are a common sight on the meze table. A filling of ground beef, onions, garlic and cumin is covered in a mixture of bulgur wheat, potatoes and flour, before being dunked in the fryer. The result is a juicy meatball with a crispy shell.
If you thought dumplings were the exclusive property of the Far East, think again. Turkey’s take on the dish is just as tasty. It’s made by boiling a spiced meat mixture inside a dough parcel. The finished product is normally paired with seasoned yoghurt.
You haven’t had a baklava until you’ve had one in Turkey. These sickly-sweet, bite-sized cakes are made from paper-thin layers of pastry, which are dunked in honey and sprinkled with crushed pistachio nuts. They’re great served with a big cup of coffee as an afternoon treat.
Efes Pilsener beer
This home-grown brew is the lager of choice in Turkey. The drink – which takes its name from the ancient city of Ephesus – has a bit of a tangy taste, with a bitter-sweet finish. The reason for its unique flavour? Rice is added into the ingredients at the brewing stage.
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Even an earthquake back in the Fifties couldn’t stop Fethiye. It dusted itself off and built its way up to become a thriving holiday resort on Turkey’s Turquoise Coast. You’ll still see a few Roman ruins around the place, but it’s the quaint old quarter and yacht-filled harbour that draw people in. The markets are a top draw, too.
As resorts go, Hisaronu is a bit of a newcomer. About 30 years ago it was just another sleepy village, but when neighbouring Olu Deniz needed more tourist accommodation, Hisaronu stepped up to the plate. Since then, this spot just inland on Turkey’s south-west coast has become a major player in its own right. It’s got up-all-hours nightlife and one of the Med’s most photographed beaches on its doorstep.
This place slams a tick in all of the essential holiday boxes, but goes one better with its scenery. Cast an eye beyond the thatched parasols and hotels that huddle around Icmeler Beach, and the hilly backdrop’s a real eye-popper. Green-splashed slopes tuck together to form a big letter V on the horizon, and the island-speckled bay looks more like South-east Asia than Turkey.
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