Wild as the wolves that gave it its name, Turkey’s Lycian Coast is a spectacular, writhing panorama of soaring pine-clad mountains plunging into turquoise seas.
Tourist resorts cling to the cliff tops, back up the river valleys and find every available patch of sand. There is something for everyone from the restored village houses and boutique hotels of Kalkan and Kaş, to giant all-inclusive hotels in custom-built resorts such as Göcek. There are family-friendly apartments in Olüdeniz and Hisaronu, there’s laid-back tranquillity in Dalyan and frenzied party life in Bar Street in Marmaris. Wherever you are headed in the Dalaman region, read on for the best guide to planning your holiday and making it truly hassle-free.
When to go
The mid-summer sun that bakes Dalaman leaves people with little energy for anything but sunbathing, while nights are spent partying. Unless you want to join the revelry, spring and autumn are far better, with fabulous weather, few crowds, and cheaper accommodation. In spring the hills are ablaze with wild flowers. In autumn, the sea is still warm enough to swim. Winter can be damp and overcast but even then there are clear days and while many hotels and restaurants close, leaving the atmosphere a bit subdued, it can be a wonderful time to chill out, go hiking and visit the sites.
Getting the best deal
July and August are inevitably far more expensive. There are great deals in spring and autumn when even the shops are cheaper. The full range of low-cost flights doesn’t kick in until May but there are some good options all year round, particularly if you are prepared to fly via Istanbul or switch airports in the UK. Shop around for bargains.
Although not absolutely essential, inoculations against Hepatitis A & B, Typhoid and Tetanus-diphtheria are recommended. The EU-based EHIC card is not valid in Turkey, so get travel insurance with full medical cover. Visas for UK citizens are available on arrival. You need to pay cash in hard currency (£10 per person). Other nationalities should check in advance with the Turkish consulate website.
Packing and Baggage
Pack light, particularly if flying on a low-cost airline. Do remember that you’ll need a light jacket in the evening and remember that Turkey is an Islamic country, so it is polite to cover your shoulders and knees if visiting mosques. You can buy most basics in Turkey’s small stalls and shops (there aren’t really any supermarkets), although baby food can be a problem. Leave space for souvenirs – the shopping is fabulous.
There are flights to Dalaman from 22 airports all over the UK (from Aberdeen to Exeter via Bristol, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and more). You have a good chance of being able to fly from your nearest airport. However, many flights are seasonal (Easter or even May to September or October) or charters. The selection during the winter months is more limited with most scheduled flights travelling via Istanbul.
Airport car parks can be expensive, so use public transport if at all possible to save on fees. If you have an early flight, check out which airport hotels throw in parking for the duration of your holiday.
Surviving the airport
If you have the luxury of choosing when to travel, try to stay away from peak times – airports are far emptier during the middle of the day and mid-week – and use smaller regional airports. Once there, consider paying to get into a business lounge where you can sit in quiet comfort away from the hubbub. Check things like luggage weight restrictions, which terminal, visa and passport requirements carefully before setting off to make sure you don’t have any nasty surprises at check-in.
Expect your journey to take about 30 minutes to Dalyan, 60 minutes to Fethiye or Oludeniz, up to 90 minutes to Kas and 2 hours to Marmaris.
All tour operators and most hotels will arrange transfers for their guests. Havaş run shuttle buses along the coast between Dalaman and Fethiye and Marmaris to connect with Turkish Airlines flights. Several local companies offer shuttle services from the airport and there are regular coach services along the coast from Dalaman town bus station, 6km north of the airport which you can reach by taxi. The other cheap option is to take one of the local minibus taxis (dolmuş) which ply all along the coast. There are no trains in the area.
A good fast road runs east to west inland behind the mountains. As soon as you leave that, you slow right down on narrow, steep, winding roads. All the major car hire companies and quite a few local ones have offices at the airport, but local firms can be unreliable. Shop around for deals as they vary considerably. You can possibly save a bit of money by going for a smaller local firm, but you may also lose reliability. Perhaps a better option is to save instead on expensive Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) insurance by shopping around online.
Once you are there
What to do on your first night
The best restaurants are usually tucked away from the seafront, and you can expect to pay double the amount for fish that you will pay for meat. But, before you do anything else you need to pay homage to the Mediterranean, so on your first evening, splurge on seafood by the sea! The Turks don’t eat particularly late and by the time you’ve watched the sunset over a glass of Efes (the excellent Turkish lager) or Doluca or Kavaklidere (the best of the increasingly good Turkish wines) next to the fishing harbour, it’ll be time to order. Start your Turkish feast with platters of hot and cold meze. There can be up to 30 dishes on offer – just point to as many as you would like and share them as a table. You can choose to make them your whole meal or go on to fish, calamari or şiş (sheesh) kebabs with rice or fish.
Practical considerations for planning an itinerary There are tourist information offices in every resort and plenty of excellent local tour operators who run excursions of all sorts on land and by sea. There are lots of sights to see
and lots of things to do.
This area, the Lycian Coast, is hugely popular and scenically spectacular. If you’ve got kids or grandkids, you should definitely look at the Fethiye, Oludeniz, and Hisaronu area which is very family friendly. The Oludeniz lagoon is a perfect beach for children and there are many suitable entertainments locally. This is also one of the best areas in which to base yourself if you are interested in history, with easy access to a rich clutch of wonderful archaeological sites including Xanthos, Tlos, Pinara and the Letoön. You can also get up into the mountains at Taklikent where you can walk in the pine forest and eat fresh trout beside the crystal fresh river.
There are some great water sports facilities in the Marmaris and Datça area. Marmaris also has one of the best bazaars and notoriously good nightlife.
Little Dalyan, set a little way inland on the river reed beds, is often overlooked. It’s a place for quiet reflection which also has mud baths.
Both Kas and Kalkan are a good base from which to explore ancient sites such as Patara, the birthplace of St Nicholas, which also has an 18km long beach, and Kekova, which is only accessible by boat. Kalkan is probably the prettiest of the resorts and has some of the best restaurants, but has no beach. It’s ideal for the slightly older traveller who wants to potter in the shops, eat well and explore. Kas is a pretty town with good food, good shops and, in high summer, a lively nightlife scene. But its beaches are out of town.
Dalaman Hassle Free – the map
View larger map
Dalaman Airport was given a total makeover in 2006, turning it into a major international airport, with separate domestic and international terminals and all the bells and whistles. It’s easy to navigate, but there’s a bit of a hike from the car hire drop-off to the terminals, so allow time. The last petrol station is just under a mile from the airport entrance if you need to fill up before handing in your car. In high season, the airport gets very busy with charter flights flooding in from across Europe, so allow plenty of time for check-in. The airside eateries and shops aren’t particularly inspired, but you can buy duty-free, get something to eat and drink and find somewhere to sit.
Make your holiday last a little longer – by sharing your memories when you get home. Upload your photos to Facebook for easy sharing with Facebook friends or add them to the Turkey Flickr group. Online photo developing sites like Photobox allow you to create professional looking albums which make great mementos too. Share some of your knowledge with people thinking about holidaying in the Dalaman region of Turkey on the busy Trip Advisor forums.
- You Tube: there are no good guide sites, but there are plenty of wonderful images to
browse if you search under Dalaman, or Turquoise Coast.
- Dalaman airport transfers http://www.suntransfers.com http://www.holidaytaxis.com http://www.resorthoppa.com.
- Lycian Way: Fabulous 500 km trekking path in the mountains behind the Lycian coast (and you can do short segments) http://www.lycianway.com/
- Museums and monuments: the Turkish Ministry of Culture’s master list of sites in Turkey for
eager history buffs http://www.kultur.gov.tr/EN/belge/2-14768/museums.html
- Havaş shuttle http://www.havas.net/en/shuttle-parking/dalaman
Local tourist information
There are no local tourist office websites but these local information sites may offer some help (don’t treat the information as gospel).
Other useful sources of information
- Turkey Tourist Office London website http://www.gototurkey.co.uk/
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office Turkey advice page http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-
- Trip advisor’s Dalaman forum http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowForum-g811172-i12779-
- Turkey Travel Planner is an excellent all-Turkey website created by Tom Brosnahan, original US-
based author of the Lonely Planet Turkey guide www.turkeytravelplanner.com
- Excellent new website run by an English expat and travel writer, Pat Yale (another Lonely
Planet Turkey author) and packed with great information.