Skip to main content

Discovering Dalaman & The Turquoise Coast

Whenever someone says “Turkey” – referring to the country, that is, and not the barmy poultry bird – I usually think of Istanbul, the citadel of ancient civilization, or Cappadocia, with its misty hot air balloons at sunrise. More recently, I’ve associated Turkey (Türkiye) with current political events. Either way, Dalaman – nestled in the province of Mugla, along Turkey’s turquoise coast – was never a place that had crossed my mind.

I was very pleasantly surprised by our time in Dalaman. We got into nature, we toured historical ruins, we roamed the town bazaars and enjoyed doing activities that didn’t involve sparkling cocktails in a nightclub (although, of course, we went all-out on our last night with those…)

So when Jet2 reached out and invited me to spend a week in Dalaman, I said YES!

Where exactly is Mugla or Dalaman?

Dalaman is a district in the southwestern coast of Turkey, in Muğla. Typically, the area is associated with a riotous party crowd, older British holidaymakers, and all-inclusive resorts.

But what I discovered over the week is that the local government and tourism industry have worked incredibly hard to dispel that two-dimensional, primarily unflattering image of Dalaman and have rebranded themselves – quite rightfully – as a destination for the active and inquisitive too.

Unexpected Adventures in Dalaman

PARAGLIDING IN OLUDENIZ DALAMAN BLUE LAGOON TURKEY.jpg

Great Places to Stay in Dalaman and Marmaris

Hotel Sundia by Liberty Olüdeniz

  • In Dalaman, we stayed at Hotel Sundia by Liberty Olüdeniz – a gorgeous 4-star resort nestled right by the Blue Lagoon Beach in Olüdeniz. With lush tropical gardens and a gorgeous outdoor pool, this hotel has good food and nice views from the balcony. While we were there, we explored the areas of Fethiye, Gulet, Göcek, the Blue Lagoon, Dalyan, Caretta Beach, and Olüdeniz.

TUI BLUE Grand Azur Resort

In Marmaris, we stayed at TUI BLUE Grand Azur Resort – a stunning 5-star resort sat in a tropical garden just a few steps from the Mediterranean Sea. With a private beach area, a large outdoor pool with a sun-lounger terrace, and an INCREDIBLE restaurant buffet, this resort was an absolute treat to stay at. Best of all, each hotel room has floor-to-ceiling windows with panoramic views and comes equipped with satellite TV, tea/coffee making facilities and a minibar. While we were based here, we explored Marmaris and the following areas: Kizkumu, Selimiye, Bayir, Turgut, Akyaka, Azmak, and Köycegiz.

 

We had such great experiences in Dalaman over the week, with paragliding and island hopping being my favourites. Here are my top 10 things to do in Mugla, Turkey – and they’re all family-friendly!

10 Best Things to Do in the Dalaman Region

GOCEK-ISLAND-HOPPING-DALAMAN-ILLUMELATION-3.jpg

1. Go Island Hopping in Göcek

Approximate cost: £30.00-50.00 per person on average for a group tour

We spent an entire day island hopping via yacht in Göcek, also known as the 12 islands. Göcek is my number one highlight because, if you know me well, I love boat life. We were incredibly lucky with our timing: the weather was perfect (30 degrees celsius, cloudless, a refreshing breeze) and we had the islands to ourselves.

We set sail from Fethiye Port at around 11am. Endless hues of blue from sky and sea surrounded us. We all curled up in various corners of the boat, lulled by the waves. My favourite part of the boat was the deck, where sunbed cushions let us snooze under the sun, listening to the water, catching our Vitamin D.

GOCEK-ISLAND-HOPPING-DALAMAN-ILLUMELATION-5.jpg
THINGS TO DO IN DALAMAN (3 of 3).jpg
GOCEK WATER IG.jpg
THINGS TO DO IN DALAMAN (1 of 3).jpg

Each sun-bleached island felt distinctively Mediterranean, and very similar to the stone islands I’d had the pleasure of sailing around in Croatia last year. Every island was full of trees, with crystal clear turquoise waters lapping onto each shore. Jumping in and splashing around in the (freezing at first) water was utterly delightful.

For lunch, our boat captain prepared traditional salad and mezze as sides, and grilled some fresh seabass on a barbeque at the back, enjoyed with a chilled glass of crisp white wine. Perfection. If you want that feeling of pure holiday mode and relaxation, this boat trip is the one.

 Top-rated island hopping tour in Mugla and Fethiye:

  • Göcek: 12 Islands Boat Trip | Discover the unspoiled Mediterranean coastline of Turkey on a day-long boat cruise around the Göcek Gulf. See different islands and relax on board. Go swimming, sunbathing, and snorkelling. Plus, you’ll enjoy some delicious Turkish food!

 

Mel Paragliding in Oludeniz Blue Lagoon, Dalaman, Turkey (17 of 92).jpg

2. Paragliding over Olüdeniz Beach and the Blue Lagoon

Approximate Cost: £60.00+ per person depending on the tour

Jumping off Babadag mountain and paragliding over the Blue Lagoon is the sort of wild thing that one always ends up doing in a different country. The reality of what we were about to do – i.e. launch ourselves into potential death with nothing but a parachute to save us – only really dawned on me when our van was halfway up the mountain, and trees had turned into specks of dust.

My legs were trembling as we stood on the concrete slope built onto the mountain – one sneeze and I’d tumble to my demise. I stayed calm and focused on everything that my paragliding instructor, Hakan, was telling me as he harnessed me up to the equipment. Next thing I knew, we were running down the slope, the wind caught our parachute, and suddenly, we were floating in the air.

It was UNBELIEVABLY THRILLING. Swooping around in the sky, catching the wind, seeing mountain valleys and shimmering blue ocean just below you… there’s something so humbling about it. As I sat in awe of the natural beauty below us, wide-eyed, nose running, full of goosebumps, higher than the clouds, I realised that paragliding was one of the greatest things I have ever had the fortune of doing, and I would love to do it again. It’s terrifying, but ridiculously rewarding. Apparently kids as young as three years old do it – daredevils!

Mel Paragliding in Oludeniz Blue Lagoon, Dalaman, Turkey (91 of 92).jpg
Mel Paragliding in Oludeniz Blue Lagoon, Dalaman, Turkey (6 of 92).jpg

Top-rated paragliding experiences in Olüdeniz:

  • Paragliding Oludeniz, Fethiye, Turkey (Voted Traveller’s Choice 2022) | Get a whole new perspective on Oludeniz—and some incredible photos—by booking this tandem paragliding experience, led by a private instructor.
  • Oludeniz Paragliding Fethiye Turkey | Soar above the stunning landscapes of Oludeniz on a thrilling paragliding adventure with Liberty Paragliding.
Dalyan-Peloide-Mud-Baths-illumelation-Dalaman, Turkey.jpg

3. Splash About In Mud at a Thermal Mud Spa (Dalyan Peloide)

Approximate Cost: £40 – £50 per person (depending on the tour)

A few days into the trip, we visited a thermal mud spa, Dalyan Peloide. What a hoot. You smother yourself in natural or rose oil-infused mud from the outdoor mud baths – scraped up from the ground – and bake in the sun until you look like a human reptile. The mud is supposed to have healing properties and allegedly, Cleopatra herself would make frequent trips to Dalaman just to get her mud fix. After you rinse off, you soak in a mineral sulphur pool for about fifteen minutes. Relaxing!

After rinsing the mud off in the outdoor cold showers – which were very welcome after turning into a muddy crisp on a bench – my skin felt so good. Although, my face felt much more sensitive to the sun just afterwards – probably because a layer of skin was exfoliated off. I’ve just stroked my arm again now to test if my skin still feels great – can confirm, soft and smooth. I really recommend doing the mud bath experience, and perhaps a trip to a Turkish Hammam Spa, at the very start of your holiday so your skin is all primed and ready – and so it doesn’t strip away any of the tan you worked so hard on! Muddy fun!

DALYAN DELTA mud spa

Top-Rated Dalyan Mud Spa Experiences and Tours:

dalmyan river boat illumelation

4. Go Turtle Spotting on a Dalyan Delta River Cruise

Approximate Cost: £30 to £60+ GBP per person depending on the tour

On the day we transferred to Marmaris, just after the mud bath, we spent a scorching afternoon cruising along the blue-green Dalyan Delta River. This winding body of water is steeped in natural beauty, incestuous mythology, and apparently, turtles – we spotted a huge Caretta turtle and its baby swimming along beside us on the surface! (Cue mass excitement and Finding Nemo “duuuuude”.)

As we curved around a bend, we spotted the ancient Lycian Cliff Tombs embedded high up in the mountain rock face. The carvings are incredible, and reminded me of Petra (which I have yet to see in person!). I got a little thrill of historical wonder when the Tombs first appeared in front of us – humanity’s feats are simply marvellous.

Sitting on top of our boat gave us a beautiful 360 degree panorama of Dalyan’s unique landscape, and provided an even better turtle-spotting position than being on Turtle Beach! I just loved being able to get a new perspective on the region from the water. Our boat snaked through the meandering delta, with mountains and river reeds blossoming before us, and I felt relaxed and content.

dalyan river boat - lycian rock tombs
dalmyan river boat - lycian rock tombs

Top-Rated Dalyan Delta River Cruise Experiences and Tours:

 

5. Try Local Turkish Cuisine at Fethiye Fishmarket

SEAFOOD - THINGS TO DO IN DALAMAN (1 of 2).jpg

Seafood, and local cuisine generally, is an utter delight in Dalaman. Fresh, leafy salads and flavoursome stewed vegetables such as aubergines and mushrooms were served at every meal we had. Their desserts are delicious too – I had some of the sweetest strawberries I’d ever tasted there.

We wrapped our first evening with a monumental (see: endless) 4-hour dinner of mezze and fresh seafood within Fethiye fish market. You can choose your catch of the day from the sellers and then have it cooked at the restaurants.

Plates of aubergine salads, grilled octopus, incredible calamari – the squid was so fresh, and the batter was light and sweet – baked mixed fish, dessert, fresh fruits… they all just kept on coming. We enjoyed the meal with a hilariously strong glass of raki, which is like Greek ouzo, but way stronger! Not for the faint-hearted!

CUISINE - THINGS TO DO IN DALAMAN (6 of 6).jpg
CUISINE - THINGS TO DO IN DALAMAN (1 of 6).jpg
CUISINE - THINGS TO DO IN DALAMAN (3 of 6).jpg
CUISINE - THINGS TO DO IN DALAMAN (2 of 6).jpg
RESTAURANTS - THINGS TO DO IN DALAMAN (1 of 2).jpg
RESTAURANTS - THINGS TO DO IN DALAMAN (2 of 2).jpg

We visited quite a few beautifully located restaurants with good food during our stay – my favourites were Sardunya Restaurant in Selimiye (overlooking a port) and the riverside restaurants in Akyaka.

People say that you get to know a place by eating their food. I quite agree! If there’s one thing you should do in Dalaman, or any new place you visit, it’s try the local food.

Beautiful Blue Lagoon in Oludeniz, Dalaman, Turkey

6. Swim in the Blue Lagoon in Öludeniz

The Blue Lagoon, a shimmering azure jewel in Öludeniz, is well worth a visit if you’re in Dalaman. We flew over the Lagoon for about 40 minutes whilst paragliding, and the colour of the water was mesmerising. It’s vividly, ‘instagrammably’ blue. You can spend a whole day at the Blue Lagoon. There’s plenty of things to do, including sunbathing, dipping your toes into the gloriously clear water, renting kayaks and paddling around.

 

Instagram-worthy Blue Lagoon in Oludeniz, Dalaman, Turkey
Mel in the Blue Lagoon, Oludeniz, Dalaman, Turkey - illumelation.com
Ruins of Greek and Turkish Houses in Kayakoy, Dalaman, Turkey (7 of 8).jpg

7. See the Abandoned ‘Ghost Village’ of Kayaköy

I got goosebumps the second we entered ‘Ghost Town’ — a village in Fethiye that was abandoned in the 19th century. From the 14th century, Greeks and Turks lived harmoniously, side by side in the village, with Greeks calling it “Levissi” and Turks calling it “Kayakoy”. Then came a grim combination of terrible historical events: war, the end of the Ottoman Empire, attempted occupations and the deportation of Greek Christians in 1923). Suddenly the people of Kayakoy were uprooted, and the village became barren.

Recommended Tour: Kayakoy Ghost Town and Fethiye Bazaar (5* | Tripadvisor)

“Shop the Fethiye Tuesday market with a local guide, then visit the Kayakoy ghost town on a full-day tour that includes pickup and drop-off at Fethiye-area hotels. Practice your bargaining skills in a colourful market that overflows with everything from spices to olive oil and clothing, visit a Turkish delight factory, and explore a former Greek village that was abandoned in 1923.”

Ruins of Greek and Turkish Houses in Kayakoy, Dalaman, Turkey (5 of 8).jpg
Ruins of Greek and Turkish Houses in Kayakoy, Dalaman, Turkey (1 of 8).jpg

In 1957, a magnitude earthquake hit Kayakoy and destroyed most of the buildings. The place never recovered, and the skeletons of over 500 houses now sit eerily deserted on the hillside…. (Are you shivering? I’m shivering.)

I completely recommend seeing this living relic, buried in the heart of Dalaman. I found myself wishing I knew more about its background before visiting so that I could have appreciated the curious energy of the place during the tour.

8. Chase the Selale Waterfalls in Turgut

Selale Waterfalls in Turgut, Dalaman, Turkey (1 of 2).jpg

The Selale Waterfalls in the small village of Turgut are an absolute beauty! I highly recommend stopping by here or spending a few hours splashing around if you’re headed to Selimiye Port (below). These natural, ice cold turquoise waterfalls cascade from mountainous layers in the rock.

We were lucky to explore the waterfalls before it got rammed with people (a boatload of Jeep Safari tourists). If you want to come here and swim or take photos, get to Selale early. I recommend bringing a waterproof GoPro and flip-flops because the water is incredibly deep and easy to fall into.

Disclaimer: I totally fell in, fully clothed. Luckily, my gadgets were in my bag which I’d left on the rocks!

Selale Waterfalls in Turgut, Dalaman, Turkey (2 of 2).jpg
Selale Waterfalls in Turgut, Dalaman, Turkey

9. Go Stand-Up Paddleboarding in Selimiye Port

Standup Paddlingboarding in Selimiye Port in Dalaman Turkey .jpg

I highly recommend spending at least a few hours, if not a whole day swimming and relaxing at Selimiye Port because it’s so quiet and beautiful. The water is warm, clear and calm – perfect conditions for swimming or standup paddleboarding.

The port is extremely accessible, minutes from the main road. We had an incredible lunch at Sardunya Restaurant, right on the water, and then meandered on down to the bay so we could splash around.

We rented standup paddleboards from S.U.P. Selimiye Cafe. The lovely owner, who had just sprained her foot in a kite-surfing mishap, was welcoming and knowledgeable. We took it in turns to paddle around the gorgeous, empty harbour. If I am ever lucky enough to have a boat, or sail around Europe for a while, I’d absolutely spend at least one day here.

Selimiye Port in Dalaman Turkey (2 of 4).jpg
Selimiye Port in Dalaman Turkey (4 of 4).jpg
Azmak River Boat Ride, Akyaka, Dalaman, Turkey (1 of 1).jpg

10. Take an Inspiring Nature-Filled Azmak River Cruise in Akyaka

Approximate Cost: £30 GBP per person depending on the tour

Top-Rated: Akyaka Azmak River and Yuvarlakcay Tour with Lunch from Marmaris (5* | Tripadvisor)

We spent our last day in Akyaka Village, by the Azmak River. I can’t explain how beautiful this river is without showing pictures. The river is electric green yet crystal clear, teeming with wildlife, from turtles and fish in the waters to birds and ducks nestled in the reeds.

We had lunch at a gorgeous riverside restaurant, with the sound of freshwater running beneath our feet and all around us, and baby ducks swimming to and fro. Then, after lunch, we had a relaxing boat ride all along the Azmak River. I really recommend at least having lunch by the Azmak River, because it’s such a peaceful area, full of photography and wildlife-spotting opportunities. It was some of greenest, clearest water I’ve ever seen!

Azmak River Boat Ride, Akyaka, Dalaman, Turkey (2 of 2).jpg
Azmak River Boat Ride, Akyaka, Dalaman, Turkey (1 of 2).jpg
Boat Cruise Azmak River in Akyaka, Dalaman, Turkey.jpg

…And that’s a wrap!

Have you ever been to the Dalaman region before? How did you find it? Leave a comment below!


Thank you for reading!

I’D LOVE YOU TO SHARE THIS POST:

One Week in Dalaman, Turkey - Top 10 Highlights from illumelation - Travel Blog copy.jpg

Disclosure This trip was fully sponsored by Jet2 and Dalaman with Jet2Holidays in partnership with Dalaman Airport. All opinions, however, remain completely honest and my own.
 

Read more from my pals on the trip! Intrepid Escape, Pip and the City, Alajode and Mel B Travel

Mel Legarda

Melissa Legarda is the founder of illumelation. She has worked as a travel blogger, creator and writer since 2015, and has collaborated with well-known brands worldwide. She has helped over 1,100+ students improve their travel photography skills since launching her creative courses. Her mission is to encourage and empower others to travel and create more. Find her on Instagram.

Leave a Reply