Offering Blue Flag beaches, lively tourist resorts and historical sights, holidays to the Dalaman area of Turkey fly off the shelves.
Slicing into Turkey’s south west coast, the Dalaman area has been attracting visitors since ancient times. Back then, it was the destination of choice for Greek gods like Pegasus and Apollo. Today, the area pulls in more than 2 million tourists a year.
The turquoise coast
The region’s appeal begins with its beaches. Known as the Turquoise Coast, the Dalaman area’s shoreline is a chain of coves, bays and long stretches of sand. Icmeler and Olu Deniz are bumper beach resorts. Their beaches are accessorised with bars, restaurants, shops and watersports. The famous Blue Lagoon in Olu Deniz, meanwhile, is such a sight for sore eyes, it’s been turned into a national park. Then there’s Sarigerme, a relative newcomer to Turkey’s tourism market, and the proud parent of a 12-kilometre beach.
The Dalaman area’s coast is just the tip of the iceberg. The region’s mountainous backbone is encrusted with traditional hamlets that can be explored on 4x4 safaris. The Dalaman area is also within day-tripping distance of historical sites like Ephesus which, in its glory days, was the second-biggest city in the Roman Empire.
Marmaris is one of the big names in the Dalaman area. The centrepiece of this town is a colourful bazaar. Here, stallholders tout loudly, shisha smoke curls through the air like calligraphy, and shoppers haggle to buy replica designer handbags for the price of a London latte.
Things to See and Do in Dalaman Area
Strung along the coast, Dalaman’s beaches include enchanting pebble coves lapped by turquoise waters. Breathtaking cliff-bound bays only accessible by boat. And popular town beaches studded with watersports and glitzy marinas. Out of all of them, it’s Olu Deniz that steals the show. Here, a slender finger of pebble, fine shingle and coarse sand divides the azure sea from an aquamarine lagoon. It really is like something from a storybook. A protected beauty spot, the translucent lagoon waters are a dream for bathers and paddlers. And even then, Olu Deniz still has its main Belcekiz Beach. This wonderful sand-and-shingle sweep is lined with seafront establishments, so you’re only ever a flip-flop away from refreshments. Runner-up in the heart-stopping scenery stakes has to be Dalyan beach. Just outside of town, it’s known as Istuzu Beach and offers up five kilometres of pristine sands. Just hop on a boat and you’re there – although you need to take care not to disturb the protected loggerhead turtles that nest in its sands. Of course, there are plenty of other beaches worthy of your presence. Calis Beach seems to go on forever, shelving into brisk waters. And all around Fethiye, Kalkan and Kas, drop-dead gorgeous beaches and rocky coves act like siren-calls for sunbathers and snorkellers. Oh, and Icmeler and Marmaris deserve a mention too. At Icmeler, three Blue Flag beaches provide perfect spots for serious sunbathing. For the buzziest beach life, it’s got to be Marmaris, though. Its dark sand-and-shingle beach is flanked by lively restaurants and pavement cafes. And an army of watersports, too. Finally, there’s one last beach that makes everyone swoon. Patara. This enormous curve of sands in the south of the region is so outrageously beautiful it stops you in your tracks. Better still, it’s so big it hardly ever gets crowded.
Gold is big business in the Dalaman area, because the labour costs of making jewellery are cheaper in Turkey than other countries. You’ll find some of the most competitive stores in the Grand Bazaar in Marmaris. Carsi Caddesi in Olu Deniz has its fair share of jewellery shops, too. When it comes to designer labels, meanwhile, it can be hard to separate the fakes from the genuine article. Nestle Marina in Marmaris is home to a few bona fide brand stores.
The textile and carpet industries have been alive and kicking in Turkey for centuries, and the Dalaman area is awash with shops selling all different types of the goods. Try the Paspatur Bazaar on Carsi Caddesi in Fethiye. In this warren-like shopping area, the stalls are draped with hand-woven rugs.
Tiers of Turkish delight stack up like Lego bricks on the stalls of the Dalaman area’s markets. Marmaris market, near the Grand Azur Hotel, is open on Tuesdays, and Icmeler market, just off Kayabal Caddesi, runs on Wednesdays. If the thought of bartering leaves you cold, you can pick up some bargains with price tags in the souvenir shops of Olu Deniz. The shops on and around Belcegiz Caddesi are stocked with things like Turkish lanterns and candle holders. There’s a cluster of souvenir shops on the main street in Sarigerme, too.
There are plenty of places in the Dalaman area to enjoy a drawn-out dinner, and a lot of them put on traditional entertainment, too. The King’s Garden in Fethiye comes highly recommended. You can watch the sunset during dinner and stick around to enjoy the live belly dancing later. In Olu Deniz, nightlife revolves around cocktails in easy-going beach bars on and around Oludeniz Caddesi and Denizpark Caddesi.
Marmaris is the Dalaman area’s nightlife champion. Set close to the marina, Bar Street is home to a pick and mix of bars and clubs, offering everything from foam parties to karaoke. In Icmeler there are a few bars in and around Kayabal Street, which turn up the music and serve cocktails in fishbowls. There’s not a lot in the way of lively nightlife in Sarigerme, but some of the hotels put on karaoke and Turkish nights.
Developed on the Black Sea coast, hamsili pilav has been eaten in Turkey for centuries. In Dalaman it’s the dish of choice on a cosy Saturday night in. It’s made by baking anchovies with rice that’s been sautéed with onions, currants, dill and pine nuts.
Also known as stuffed bulgur shells, this is a time-consuming dish, which is brought out for special occasions. The recipe involves making a hollow sausage-shaped shell by frying bulgur, potatoes and flour, and stuffing it with a mixture of ground beef, onions, garlic and cumin.
This is Turkey’s take on ravioli. Manti are made by boiling a spiced meat mixture inside a dough parcel. Traditionally, they’re served with a yoghurt and garlic marinade. It’s also traditional to hide a chickpea in one of the mantis for luck, a bit like the penny in a Christmas pudding.
The kagit is a diamond in the kebab rough. What makes it different to other kebabs is the fact it’s oven-baked in parchment paper instead of cooked over open coals or fried, which makes it much more tender. The list of ingredients includes cubed lamb, peas, tomatoes, peppers, parsley and thyme.
Turkey is a Muslim country and many of its residents don’t drink alcohol, so it might come as a surprise to hear that the country produces its own brand of beer. The region close to Dalaman is responsible for beers called Marmara34, Efes Pilsen and Tekel Birasi.
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Once a hideaway for pirates and smugglers, Olu Deniz – on Turkey’s southwest coast – doesn’t bury its treasures anymore. The Blue Lagoon here is probably the country’s most photographed tourist attraction, and it regularly tops polls of the world’s best beaches.
Twenty minutes’ drive from Dalaman, this village on the southwest coast of Turkey was once the bustling ancient city of Pisilis. Sarigerme take things slower than its ancient ancestor, though, with a just a laid-back village centre and a couple of bars and restaurants. It’s a different speed down on the sandy beach, mind – the sweeping stretch is popular with kiteboarders.
Marmaris is larger than your average resort, so it’s not surprising it has so much to offer. Set on Turkey’s Turquoise Coast, it’s got a smart marina and a charming old town with a historic castle, as well as all the modern restaurants, bars and lively clubs you’d expect. And, conveniently, the place also comes with a beach that lounges along the whole length of the resort.