Best open green spaces in Europe: DALYAN Dalyan honored with best open spaces in europe 2008 awards by The Times Travel Green Spaces Award. A small...

Best open green spaces in Europe: DALYAN

Dalyan honored with best open spaces in europe 2008 awards by The Times Travel Green Spaces Award. A small village in an area of outstanding natural beauty, Dalyan is historic, unhurried and very hard to leave. Set on the south west corner of Turkeys Mediterranean coast, Dalyan is an unspoilt village surrounded by pine-clad hills, cotton fields and miles of untouched coastline. A traditional little fishing village nestling on the riverbank near Lake Kцycegiz, its close to the astonishing rock tombs carved out of the local cliffs 2,500 years ago.

The surrounding area is a green valley – a unique setting for a relaxing holiday to Turkey, and just made for exploring. So if you like to do far more than stretch out in the sun, Dalyans rich tapestry of history, mystery, nature and wonder is for you. At just 25 km from Dalaman airport, transfer times are refreshingly short too. Set inland on the banks of the Dalyan River, the village of Dalyan is a peaceful holiday backwater unspoilt by mass tourism. The romance of the place is heightened each morning as a fleet of gaily-painted boats chug off down the river carrying holidaymakers to the glorious sandy beaches at the mouth of the river delta. Starting from Dalyan Harbour the voyage through beds of bulrushes and pampas grass takes around 45 enjoyable minutes – the entire Delta is a protected National Conservation area and is home to over 100 species of birds along with no less than three varieties of turtle, including the Loggerhead Caretta Caretta. A popular activity among tourists visiting Dalyan is to take a mud bath on the bank of the river. The mud supposedly contains minerals such as calcium and magnesium which are beneficial for the skin and overall health. There are also hot natural water springs a little distance away from Dalyan but also accessible by boat.

Dalyan itself lies inland, but there is a magnificent four kilometre long, white sand beach just around the corner from Dalyan harbour – take boat trips from here to get a great look at the picturesque coast. There are plenty of activities to keep you occupied including scuba nodiving, white water rafting and mountain biking. Take a little longer on the boat, and youll reach gorgeous Iztuzu beach, whose fine white shelving sands make it ideal for sunbathing and swimming. It is also a conservation area and one of the last nesting grounds of the endangered loggerhead turtle. The best time to see them is at dawn from May to September. This charming beach rarely gets crowded, too, so its picture-perfect in more ways than one.

The ancient rock tombs of the Kings have become another symbol of Dalyan after the famous Sea Turtles, Caretta Carettas. Although there are many rock tombs around the area, the most famous are those which look direct to the Dalyan town from the opposite side of the river. These tombs are the resting places of the Kings of Caunos. They are carved in the style of Lycian rock tombs. The ruins of the ancient city of Caunos are close by and can by reached by boat or on foot. It was originally on the sea, but its harbour gradually silted up and felt into disuse. It has only been partially excavated but the remains are extensive and include a theatre dating from the 2nd century BC, Roman baths, temple of Apollo and agora or marketplace.

Iztuzu is the second most important site for endangered loggerheads in Turkey, and with its hinterland of briny lakes and reed-fringed river channels, arguably its most beautiful beach. But when I first visited it in 1990 I was chilled by the sight of a great slab of concrete – the foundations, I later discovered, of a government-approved1800-bed holiday village.

The story of how a handful of Turkish and European conservationists, galvanized by English Turtle Lady June Haimoff, saved Iztuzu from development is remarkable.

For several summers Haimoff had lived in a wooden hut on the beach, alongside families from the town, and had watched the huge females digging their nests (even saving one from a knife-wielding local man who wanted its shell for a cradle) and had rescued hatchlings that were disorientated by the artificial lights and noise from the settlement.

Eventually the huts were dismantled but, unknown to the conservationists, permission was given for the much more damaging holiday complex instead. When bulldozers arrived on the beach Haimoff sent a frantic telegram to the WWF. Prince Philip, as president of the WWF, asked the Turkish Prime Minister to delay the project, to allow an environmental impact study to be carried out.

This was done, the Prime Minister acted, and in the summer of 1988 the beach, along with the areas red pine and sweet gum forests and marshlands, was given SPA (Special Environmental Protection Area) status and the building project cancelled.

News of Dalyan and its turtles spread fast and soon the town became a tourist hot spot. I myself have been back many times, usually in non-peak times, but until I was asked to assess it for an Open Spaces award I had no idea that the beach was so heavily visited – up to 5000 people in a single day in the high season. Many of these are day trippers who arrived on large boats, are transferred to river boats to visit the various sites around Dalyan, and finish off with a swim on Iztuzu. But despite this influx, the protection, which includes a demarcated nesting zone where digging, using umbrellas, or lying is forbidden and a 1-mile exclusion zone for speedboats and jet skis, is working: a 21-year monitoring programme of the turtles, currently being undertaken by a team from the University of Pamukkale, shows that the population is stable and that the number of nests is slightly increasing. The students locate the nests, put metal cages over them to prevent foxes or dogs digging them up, and are on hand when the hatchlings emerge.

The tourist facilities at either end of the beach are sympathetically designed to minimize environmental impact. The cafes, cabins, sunbeds (which are nearing their permitted maximum of 850) and boardwalks are made of wood, the roofs from reeds; brackish water is used for the showers, toilets and cafйs, and the waste water is removed daily.

There are plenty of litter bins, with separate containers for recycling waste at the delta end; and the Belediye, (Municipality) which manages the facilities, uses the revenue from the sunbeds, beach entry fees and cafes to clean the shore daily, to provide jobs for local people and for services in the town.

The greenest way to reach the beach is by bike, and its an exhilarating climb through the resinous mountain road, with panoramic views of the beach and the lakes from a number of roadside pancake houses.

Theres a co-operatively run dolmus (minibus) service too, which takes the same route, and a fleet of co-op river taxis which travel at 5mph down through the reedbeds. This gentle pace is the official speed limit for the delta, but patrols are rare and conservationists are concerned that the reedbeds are degrading, especially at the mouth of the river, partly because of the wash from powerful, fast-moving boats.

On the beach, however, the 24-hour patrols by SPA officials ensure that the demands of mass tourism and of the Caretta caretta turtles, which have become Dalyans unofficial logo, remain in balance.

Its not perfect, says June Haimoff, who would like to see many more signs, fewer sunbeds and an environmental tax levied on day trippers, but it is a magnificent beach and we are very lucky that we have protection for the turtles.

Leave a Reply