Dalyan – a muddy delight

by Richard Baker

Richard Baker gets down and dirty in this small, but lively, Turkish resort

Rolling about in mud may not be everyone’s idea of holiday fun, but it’s a must-do activity in Dalyan, a small, but lively resort in western Turkey.

Visitors have been chucking themselves into the town’s therapeutic mud baths for around a millennium, seeking a cure for their aches and pains, or – more optimistically – the promise of looking “10 years younger”.

My wife and I were no exception, when we took a riverboat trip from the four-star Dalyan Resort hotel to wallow in the mire. When we got there the place was overrun with creatures from the black lagoon – tourists covered head to foot in mud, drying in the sun.

After gingerly stepping in, we sank knee-deep in the stuff and then started smothering it all over ourselves. Then we clambered out to sit on the side wall and gently bake. After 10 minutes or so of this, the mud is so hard it’s difficult to walk – or even talk -- so we had a laboured 30 yards to cover before we reached the showers and washed it off. The final stage was a soak in the mineral pool – a bath in hot water said to contain a long list of beneficial elements, one of which was certainly sulphur judging by the overpowering smell.

As a resort, Dalyan is unusual as it sits on a riverbank rather than the coast, which is a few kilometres further west. For that reason boats are the transport of choice to explore the area. In fact the reed-bordered Cayi river was also used as a location in the 1951 film African Queen starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn.

One site not to be missed are the 2,400-year-old Lycean rock tombs overlooking the river. Long since plundered for anything of value, they still make a spectacular impression and are guaranteed to inspire even the most jaded tourist into a picture-snapping frenzy.

If archaeology is your bag, Dalyan also boasts the ancient city ruins of Caunos. Founded in the ninth century BC, it was home to several civilisations over the next 2,000 years or so, including the Romans and Byzantines. Overlooking the town itself are the remains of a castle on top of a smallish mountain. However, what it lacks in height the slope made up for in gradient, so I came to regret my taking up my pal’s challenge to see if we could get to the top. Twenty minutes of sweating and swearing later we finally reached the peak, and were rewarded with a panoramic view of Dalyan several hundred feet below.

Among the features we could see were a long, narrow beach which is one of the few remaining sites on the Mediterranean that has the right conditions for the Giant Loggerhead Turtle to live and breed. These have become something of a tourist attraction in their own right and are a protected species in the area.
Also on view far below us were the town’s excellent riverside restaurants which are clustered close together and serve up both traditional Turkish and international cuisine. Those which particularly tickled our palates were Safran, Sini and Beyaz Gul, all of which offered delicious meat and fish casseroles cooked in traditional Turkish earthenware pots.

Afterwards the bars and clubs of Dalyan beckoned to help us work off some of the calories, the best of which was the Mood bar at the end of the town's main street where manager Huseyin Uckun taught my wife and her friend how to bellydance. He also – and this was above and beyond the call of duty – spent two hours of his off-duty time finding and downloading my favourite song off the internet. So if you do find yourself in Dalyan, pop into the Mood bar, ask for Huseyin and get him to play Night To Remember by Shalamar – I know for a fact he’s got it!