Dalaman: gateway to adventure

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On my first visit, I – like many travelers – was captivated by the blue skies, blue seas and soft sands.

I’ve returned many times since then, and find that the attraction has deepened.

Above the beach are a range of mountains that promise activities on land and water: cycling, hiking and rafting through spectacular surroundings. Come here for the enjoyment, stay for the inspiration.

These are my top hidden adventures that await after a four-hour flight from the UK.

1. Tandem Paragliding

Babadag is the mighty mountain towering above Oludeniz in Fethiye – and the perfect place to do something completely against human instinct: descend a mountain and into the unknown.

The location is 1,200 meters above sea level. An expert pilot helps you strap into a chair, and then follows you. To fly into the air you simply run down the side of a mountain – where wind, sun and gravity combine to allow you to float peacefully over a patch of lawn next to the Mediterranean Sea.

The first principle of paragliding is to drape yourself with enough clothing to counteract most of the force of gravity that would normally pull you down to Earth.

The art of the pilot is to use the complex air currents moving between the mountains and the sea to maximum effect, as well as instilling confidence in the passengers. They can add extra thrills as tight spiral turns build up G-forces with out-of-this-world sensations before you touch down as a gentle full stop to your aerobatic adventure – with the memory to be discovered .

2. Butterfly Valley

From Fethiye’s port, you can take an early morning boat out to a hidden cove along the shore that gives access to some great hiking.

The entrance to Butterfly Valley is marked by a multitude of places to eat and drink on the shore – and an ancient path that winds through shady woodland and hills, offering some challenging and rewarding hiking.

As the trail steepens, the canyon walls narrow into a gorge—with trees clinging to the sheer cliff almost above you.

Take plenty of water. Take time to relax and appreciate the enormity and beauty of the planet.

Going back to the beach is even more rewarding – it slopes down and the view opens up before you to impressive effect.

You can head further into the hills and follow the Lycian Way. This long-distance trail, conceptualized by British expat Kate Clough, continues for hundreds of kilometers around the city of Antalya. Or you can return to the beach and lay in a hammock while waiting for your ship to come in.

3. Dalian Rock Tombs

The Dalyan River flows down from the mountains towards the sea. On its way to the marshy delta, it passes through the town that shares its name. Dalian is a favorite destination for connoisseurs of the good life, with a relaxed atmosphere and a feeling of being close to nature. But just across the river from Dalian is an extraordinary piece of history: rock-cut tombs that were created over 2,500 years ago. And they are still amazing sights today.

It was the location for the city of Kaunos: a strategic port for the Carians who lived in the area in the 4th century BC. They had a flourishing maritime trade – and apparently grew rich enough to be able to build elaborate temple-like tombs. These have been painstakingly carved from sheer cliff walls, and passed on to 21st-century travelers by the creators.

4. Turtle Beach

Dalian is also the departure point of one of the greatest conservation success stories for generations.

Another British expatriate, June Hamhoff, came to Dalian in 1975 and learned about the plight of the loggerhead turtles—threatened by the prospect of a new resort on the beach where they breed.

June devoted the rest of her life to caring for these creatures and protecting their environment. When she died at the age of 99, the city erected a monument to Captain June.

The focus of her work was Iztuzu Beach, where it was best to go by boat. The journey downstream from Dalyan is quite rewarding, carving carefully through marshes towards an attractive strip of sand where the Dalyan Delta meets the sea.

On the one hand, fresh river water – on the other, salt water Mediterranean.

When you arrive, you discover one of the most beautiful beaches in Turkey. It is one of the last remaining places in the Mediterranean where the loggerhead turtle known as Caretta caretta can lay its eggs. Today, the Turkish government protects the beach and there are strict rules regarding activities. Thanks to the efforts of Captain June and other environmentalists, Iztuzu Beach has been preserved as one of the major nesting grounds for loggerhead turtles.

5. Beneath the Waves

Another treat in the immediate area of ​​the Dalian Delta: delve beneath the waves in a bay with a heavenly setting, where forest-covered mountains drop into the Mediterranean.

Even in the sweltering heat, you can find secluded coves to cool off in the ocean. This is a great place to go snorkeling or diving. Partly because of the crystal clear turquoise waters – but also because you can enjoy an archaeological undersea adventure.

For millennia, the sea was the main mode of transport, and many ports were established along the Mediterranean coast. Most are long abandoned, but evidence of their past glory is waiting to reward explorers with a fine pair of flippers.

In search of submerged remains, I agreed to go snorkeling in the company of Nigel, an experienced diver. Learning about the past gives you a connection to the ancients, allowing you to unearth the gleaned fragments from their world. And it gives you something else: the feeling of life slowing down as you navigate the clear waters in what feels like glorious slow motion.

Whether you like to snorkel like me or scuba dive like Nigel, there’s nothing better than seeing the world from a new perspective under the care of a professional.

6. Mountain Biking

The two wheels provide the perfect speed to appreciate the beauty and tranquility of the Dalman region. Fifteen mountain biking trails have been specially curated in this area. You can tackle them on a locally rented bike or, even better, an e-bike.

Some run deep into the Turkish countryside with quiet local lanes connecting the villages. More challenging off-road terrain is available on farm tracks that may be centuries old.

Cycling is so good in this part of the world that adventure companies organize trips lasting a week or more.

But if you just want a day of excitement on two wheels, you can cover a fair amount of ground, enjoy the sights and sounds of this Turkish backwater, and build up both fitness and your appetite .

7. White-Water Rafting

Nervous travelers may have concerns about Dalaman Extreme Rafting. But company founder Sonay Karahan insists: “No panic, no Titanic. You don’t need experience. Most people come to us without experience: we teach them how to do this job.”

He says that the river his firm chooses is so clean that you can drink its water. Rafting is a great way to keep fit and have fun in good company. But for me, the best part is that the paddling takes off and you can let gravity and the water take you slowly downstream without any immediate hindrance. And once you’re back on dry land, the experience comes to an end with a meal.

8. Marmaris Boat Tour

Türkiye has 4,500 miles of coastline which is longer than the coasts of Spain and Portugal combined. You’re spoiled for choice when taking a coastal getaway, but Marmaris Bay is a special place for me: the perfect location for my first Turkish holiday, when I learned to love the people, their land and the sea.

Whether you’re lazing on the shore watching the water, or enjoying a swim while enjoying the undulating coastline of pine-draped nature, Marmaris Bay offers tranquility.

Ideally, though, join a boat tour that will take you out to explore the rippling Turkish coast.

My captain, Barish Adar, took me aboard his vessel, the Vanessa. He says: “It is not a rough sea. We don’t have big waves. It’s just like you can have all smooth sailing.

“You can go fishing, you can go snorkelling or just relax and swim.”

Relaxing on a sunny afternoon has never been more fun.

9. Marmaris Old Town

In my experience, the enjoyment of a sailor’s life increases significantly towards sunset – and towards the old town of Marmaris. The first settlement here in the Hellenistic era was known as Physikos – a dependency of the island of Rhodes, which lies beyond the Marmaris Gulf. The Old Town took shape after the Seljuk era began over 1,000 years ago – best known for Marmaris with a palace. Under the Ottomans, beautiful half-timbered houses were built.

A waterfall visit at sunset is a quintessential experience. And here in Marmaris you will feel that life has been kind to you.

where to stay


I love the beautiful seaside location at the Joya del Mar Hotel – with a walking time of just 15 seconds from beach to room. A lovely place to rest your head at the end of an adventurous day. And besides looking good, night and day, the hotel has a Turkish steam bath and a wellness center.


Another beach favorite is Fethiye’s Yacht Boheme, along the Mediterranean coast. The hotel cat may greet you at reception, while rooms are tastefully appointed – with excellent baths. Everything is designed to make sure that your nights are as good as your days. Outside, meanwhile, there’s a large pool, as well as a bar full of beautiful people. But I still feel welcome. That is the story of Türkiye.