Dalyan achieved international fame in 1986 when developers wanted to build a luxury hotel on the nearby İztuzu Beach, a breeding ground for the endangered loggerhead sea turtle species. The incident created major international storm when David Bellamy championed the cause of the conservationists. The development project was stopped and the beach is now a protected area.
Life in Dalyan revolves around the Dalyan Çayı River which flows past the town. The boats that ply up and down the river, navigating the maze of reeds, are the preferred means of transport to all the local sites.
Dalyan means “fishing weir” in Turkish. Bass, Mullet and Sea Bream swim upstream from the sea to Köyceğiz Lake where another large town of the region, Köyceğiz, is located. The fish spawn there, and when returning to the sea they are caught in the “dalyans”.
In addition to its attraction as a tourist destination, the region around Dalyan is a highly fertile and productive agricultural zone. Cotton is grown intensively as well as many varieties of fruits and vegetables which are all on display in the market on Saturdays, the day when villagers come from miles around to sell their products.
Above the river’s sheer cliffs are the weathered façades of Lycian tombs cut from rock, circa 400 AC. The ruins of the ancient trading city of Kaunos are a short boat trip across the river.
The south of Dalyan on the Mediterranean coast, lies İztuzu Beach, near the village of the same name is a popular area for sunbathing and swimming. There are regular boat and minibus (dolmuş) services to the beach. Visitors should be aware of the wooden stakes in the beach to mark nesting sites. The road route is particularly scenic, offering views of Sülüngür Lake. Iztuzu, Dalyan’s turtle beach, was voted the best beach in the world in 1995.