Melissa Shales, author of the Berlitz Guide to the Turkish Coast, helps you decide which resort near Dalaman will suit you best.
The ancient Greeks knew something about real estate location. They first settled Turkey’s Lykian coast – the wild, mountainous and almost impossibly beautiful stretch of land along the south-western Mediterranean shore between Marmaris and Antalya – some 3,000 years ago, in the wake of the Trojan Wars. The formidable barrier of the Taurus Mountains kept the area virtually cut off from the mainland, right up until the 1980s when the first proper roads went in.
The tourists followed soon after. There are few places in the world more perfect than southern Turkey in spring and early summer – an extravagant statement perhaps but true.
These days, Dalaman airport serves a range of towns and resorts, some built on cities thousands of years old, some purpose-built a few years ago. With plenty of space along this huge stretch of coast, each of the resorts is very different in style.
Marmaris, in the far west, is one of the biggest, beloved of the yachting crowd. There isn’t a huge amount to see or do here and the restaurants leave something to be desired but it has some excellent resort hotels, good beaches and it’s great if you want to chill, shop or party.
Dalyan is a delicious backwater, built on a river between the sea and the Lake Köycegiz. Those in the know flock here to a selection of charming small hotels and guest houses, eating in small riverfront Turkish restaurants with views across the reed beds to the elaborately carved 4th century BC Carian rock tombs. During the day, fleets of small boats wind their way down to the lagoon where a white sand spit, shared by basking tourists during the day and nesting turtles by night, separates the river from the open sea. Stop en route to climb up to the ruins of ancient Kaunos, or you can turn upstream to the lake where flashing turquoise kingfishers and stately herons are two of some 180 species of land and sea birds that share the marshes with dancing clouds of dragonflies and butterflies. While there, you can also indulge yourself in a mud wallow and thermal spa!
Dalaman itself, near the airport, has one of Turkey’s largest spas (more practical than luxurious), and a high-end, purpose-built resort town with some excellent hotels is under construction along the beach at nearby Sarıgerme.
About two hours’ drive east, past the modern made-up yachting resort of Göçek, the Fethiye, .lüdeniz, Hisaronu area is a different matter. Fethiye itself is a large local town, but tourism is based mainly on the hills around the picture-book-perfect .lüdeniz lagoon. This has become British mass market central, the whole area one vast holiday resort and chip shop. But the scenery is superb, and there are hotels to suit all pockets. This is the best possible place for family holidays, with masses of watersports, children’s activities, kids’ clubs and adventures in the local mountains from paragliding to hiking. This is also a great area from which to explore the cluster of archaeological sites that line the Eşen River valley – Tlos, Xanthos, Pinara, and the Letoön.
The ruins at Patara, a major ancient port, home to an ancient oracle and the birthplace of St Nicholas (Father Christmas), spread out amongst the dunesbehind one of Turkey’s best beaches – a dazzling 18-km long strip of white sand. The hotels here are mainly small and are all away from the beach and few stay here, choosing instead to stay in nearby Kalkan, a truly pretty village with a wide range of small boutique hotels and pensions, and some excellent restaurants. This is popular with the more upmarket and slightly older crowd.
If you are after sophistication and fine dining, head for the aptly-named Kas (pronounced cash) where princes and paupers rub shoulders in one of the finest settings on the Mediterranean and the only drawback is the sheer weight of partying visitors in high summer.