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Mudbaths & Relaxation in a Little Riverside Town

August 6-9

After four days in high-energy Kusadasi and Bodrum, we were thankful we took up our friend Salih's advice in Bodrum and headed south to Dalyan. A pretty, green, quaint little town, Dalyan lies about 10km inland on the banks of a meandering river. There are a few activities to keep one busy during the day here, but for the most part, it's just a great place to relax.

When we first arrived in Dalyan, we were surprised by the apparent change in the climate from Bodrum. The area here is green and lush, with a high level of humidity. The town's one main street is lined with open-air cafes and restaurants planted with tropical flowers, banana and rubber plant trees. It all feels and looks very tropical. It reminded us more of a small village in Indonesia or Thailand than it did a Turkish town. Dalyan sees a steady trickle of tourists (mostly Turkish and German) through the summer, but never too many. The locals are very mellow here. We fell in love with the place immediately, and decided to extend our stay to full three days before moving on.

Lycian Tombs

The rock tombs above town

On the opposite bank of the river, high up in the green hills, giant rock tombs are cut into the steep cliff face. Carved out by the citizens of ancient Kaunos around 500 BC, these Lycian-style tombs are an impressive sight from the riverbank at any time of day, but especially at night when they're lit up from below by floodlights. There are several riverfront restaurants where you can sit over the water and dine in view of these amazing tombs.

Mud People

Run for your lives, it's the Mud People!

Just up the reed-lined river lie Dalyan's famed mud baths. We hired a boat to take us on a river cruise and drop us off for an hour at the baths. A sulfur hot spring's water mixes with extra-fine minerals in the ground here, creating a pool full of stinky dark gray mud. You're supposed to climb in to the pool and coat yourself with a nice thick veneer of the sulfurous mud, then get out and let the sun bake the stuff dry for about 45 minutes. After that, you rinse off in fresh water and then take a dip in another (non-muddy) hot mineral water pool. The whole experience is supposed to be therapeutic, but we thought it was mostly just great fun!

Dalyan is also famous for nearby "Turtle Beach," a long sandbar where the Dalyan River empties into the ocean 10km downstream from town. The endangered Mediterranean Loggerhead turtle nests here every summer. The turtles are vigorously protected by the Turkish government, so you can't come to the beach at night to watch the turtles lay their eggs. It's supposed to be a nice place for a daytime swim, though. We wanted to take another boat trip down to the beach for a swim, but we were too busy relaxing back in town, so we never got around to it. Maybe next time...


Chilling Out on the Turquoise Coast

August 9-13

From Dalyan, we headed south to the large coastal town of Fethiye ("Feht-hee-yeh"). Fethiye is popular with tourists as a base of exploration into the surrounding area -- many people charter traditional Turkish gulet yachts for trips around the Mediterranean coast from here. It's a pleasant town with a picturesque harbor backed by forested mountains that soar some 2000m (6000 ft) above sea level -- quite an elevation gain for seaside mountains!

Swimming in Cove

Jen out swimming in the cove

We stayed in Fethiye for one reason only -- to go out on a boat trip. There are a dozen or so islands with crystal clear water and beautiful beaches offshore here, and diving is a popular activity. We took part in a day-long snorkeling and diving trip by boat. Jen snorkled while I went out to dive. This was my (Mike's) first dive since we left home back in May, so I was pretty excited about seeing the undersea world of the Mediterranean. The verdict: beautiful water, decimated sea life. Chronic overfishing and even dynamite fishing (outlawed but still practiced illegally here) has almost completely destroyed the underwater ecosystem here. There were some schools of very small fish, but no big ones. And forget about any reef life -- it's all been blasted or poisoned to hell. It's really quite sad. I'd seen damaged sea areas before in places like Hawaii and Fiji, but never to this extent. After the first dive, I mentioned this to the dive leader, a Turk, who shook his head and told me about the overfishing and dynamite fishing problem. He seemed as bothered as I was about the situation. Then he proceeded to puff the last bit of smoke out of his cigarette before throwing the butt overboard right into the sea! Such bad environmental behavior from a dive instructor, at that! Turkey needs a serious education in environmental awareness.

In between dives, we had a chance to swim in the beautiful rocky alcove the dive boat was parked at for the day. We came back to Fethiye sunburned and tired after a long day in the water.

Hey, Santa Claus was born near here! We're not kidding, the man known as St. Nicholas, later to go down in history as Santa Claus, is Turkish! He was born in the town of Patara, not too far from Fethiye, in the 4th century AD. His name in Turkish: Baba Noel. Just thought you'd enjoy this little bit of trivia.

Fisherman's Wife

Fisherman's wife fixing a net

The morning after our boat trip, we hopped on a dolmus (local minibus) for the quick 30-minute ride over the hills to beautiful Oludeniz ("oh-lew-deh-neez"). Oludeniz is a beach area that has become one of Turkey's hottest summer resort towns. Set in an area of breathtaking natural beauty, Oludeniz town sits in a narrow valley two massive mountains, the tallest of which is 1900m (6000 ft) tall. The mountains are covered in verdant forest and are often shrouded in mist throughout the day. At the mouth of the valley, where the town meets the ocean, there is a spectacular beach of white sand and pebbles several kilometers long. A narrow spit of this sand stretches out into the bay, creating a shallow lagoon inland. The water here is an unusual opaque turquoise color, similar to the water of the Caribbean but less clear -- very peculiar for the Mediterranean. This all makes for one spectacular beach area. We really couldn't get over how beautiful the place was, even with the amount of hotel development inland and the many crowds.

Oludeniz Beach

Beautiful Oludeniz Beach

A lot of European families were vacationing here. In addition to lazing on the beach, a popular activity here is paragliding off the top of the big mountain near town. From the beach, you can watch the little specks of color as they fall from the sky, grow larger and eventually land on the sand. Looked like fun, but we passed on the paragliding opportunity this time.

As beautiful as Oludeniz is, it is also fairly expensive. It is almost exclusively the domain of British and other European holidaymakers -- there isn't anything really Turkish about the place. Even a lot of the prices are listed in British Pounds. We'd made a point of learning some Turkish words and phrases on our trip, but we couldn't use them here because everybody just wanted to speak English!

Enough was enough. We had just spent about two weeks following the tourist trail down the western coast of the country. We were originally going to continue along the coast for another week, but decided that Oludeniz would be the end of our Turkish coastal adventure. We had seen enough of the coast and the tourists. It was time to turn inland in search of the real Turkey, away from the tourist hordes of August...

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