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Discovering Dalyan - The Other Side: Kaunos and Çandır

Dalyan Turkey

The other side of the Dalyan river is a mystery to some. Many wonders await just a short journey away from the town of Dalyan, in fact ancient ruins and a traditional village are just around the corner by Turkish standards. But for many years, the only way to reach these nearby attractions was to drive the 70km road around Köyceğiz Lake or to pay a local family to row you across the river, followed by a long uphill walk to the ancient city of Kaunos and then another 2km walk to Çandır. But everything has changed this year. Thanks to the long and drawn out efforts of local man Taner Yalılı and the support of hoteliers organisation DOKTOB, 'The Other Side' is more accessible to tourists than ever.

The New Dalyan Ferry

This year, Dalyan has a new ferry which is able to transport cars, bikes, tractors and even a coach, across the Dalyan river. This has opened up endless possibilities for tourism and for the agricultural trade of the area. This is a fantastic venture, not just for the tourists and residents of Dalyan, but also for the people who live across the river, as their lives have now been exposed to tourism in a positive way. Perhaps now Kaunos will attract more visitors and Çandır's Culture House and Organic Markets will begin to thrive.

The Dalyan Ferry Crosses the River


Kaunos was a city of ancient Caria. The Dalyan river, once known as the Calbys river, marked the border between Caria and Lycia. The city was an important sea port and its history dates back to at least the 10th century BC. The Bay of Dalyan once reached the shores of Kaunos and the city had two ports. The southern port was used from the foundation of the city until the end of the Hellenistic era, after which is became inaccessible due to its drying out. Since then, the famous Iztuzu Beach has formed and silted the former Bay of Dalyan which left the city unusable as a port.

The Ancient City of Kaunos

According to mythology, Kaunos was founded by King Kaunos, so of the Carian King Miletus, grandson of Apollo. Legend has it that his twin sister Byblis developed an deep and unsisterly love for the King and after writing him a letter declaring her love, he fled with some of his followers to live elsewhere. Supposedly, Byblis became mad with sorrow and her tears created what is now known as the Dalyan river.

Ruins at Kaunos

Kaunos is wonderful to explore, with archeological finds dating back to the 9th century BC or even earlier. A statue found at the western gate of the city walls has pieces of imported Attic ceramics and some of the city walls show habitation in the 6th century BC. There is evidence of Persian history, Hellenistic influences, Roman settlement and Byzantine living.

Olive trees and ruins

Olive trees and ruins

Apart from the later disuse of the port, from 625 AD, Kaunos was faced with attacks by Muslim Arabs and pirates, and later Turkish tribes which led to a slump in sea trade, causing many Kaunians to move away. Eventually though, it was the malaria epidemic that caused the city to be abandoned. Earthquakes devestated the city and it was left uncovered until English archeologist Hoskyn found law tablets referring to the Council of Kaunos and visited the site in 1842.

Kaunos and Magnificent Views

During high season, you are best visiting the ruins early in the morning or during late afternoon to avoid the heat of the sun as much of the site is uncovered. Interesting sights include the Acropolis, the theatre which features both Hellenistic and Roman characteristics, the palaestra with its Roman baths, the port agora, the stoa, the nymphaeum and Kaunos’s six temples.

The Kaunos Amphitheatre

One thing some people suggest is missing in Dalyan is a Christian place of worship, perhaps more so these days as the area attracts so many western expatriates. One of the options that is being looked into by DOKTOB is the possibility of restoring the 6th century church which sits within Kaunos. This would then become the Christian centre for the area.

Çandır, The Traditional Turkish Village

Many would argue that Dalyan is a pretty traditional Turkish town in many ways. It certainly hasn't reached the dizzy heights of its touristic counterparts, Marmaris and Antalya and I for one hope it stays that way. But of course as tourism has drifted in over the years, inevitably Dalyan has become larger, brighter and louder than the average traditional village. You only have to drive a few kilometres outside of Dalyan to find a traditional village, such as Eskiköy or Okçular , but Çandır across the river is the local home of tradition and an area that pioneers organic farming.

Organic Fruit Farms in Çandır

The first thing that you notice when you arrive in Çandır is the overwhelming contrast that the village has to Dalyan. There are few shops, no strips of bars and restaurants, just a dirt road and a few traditional style buildings.

Old Style Buildings

Interestingly enough, there is a tourism office, perhaps waiting with baited breath for anyone who chooses to use the ferry to explore the area. Some of the jeep safaris that leave Dalyan have cashed in on this new area of tourism to explore, but for now, the village is quiet and a stark contrast to Dalyan.

Traditional Çandır Village

As you enter the village you are met by the stunning new mosque which was built this year and was officially opened on the 9th of April.

The New Çandır Mosque

The outside of the mosque appears reasonably plain from first site. It has a beautiful silver roof and the walls are white with grey facades and decor. But once you step inside, it is quite a different story.

Ornately Tiled Walls

A view of the Hutbe

The walls are ornately decorated with tiny ceramic tiles, giving a mosaic effect to the lower section of the interior walls. Up above are beautiful stained glass windows and the ceiling and chandelier are gilded.

Stained Glass Windows

Gilded Ceiling

The carpet is of course plush and in keeping with the blu and red colour scheme of the tiles, the saf lines are marked well in red against the light blue mass.

Plush Blue and Red Carpet

Tourists must remember that just as anybody in the world is welcome inside a church, the same applies for the world's mosques. Just as visitors are welcome inside the Dalyan Central Mosque if appropriately covered, they are also welcome inside Çandır's mosque. In fact, the residents of this kitsch little village are incredibly proud of their new mosque, so please, if you make it past Kaunos and find yourself on the road into Çandır, stop in and marvel at the craftsmanship behind this wonderful building.

Çandır's Kültur Evi

Once you have visited the new mosque in the village, follow the signs to the Kültur Evi. Here you will find a traditional Turkish home run by a family who have taken it upon themselves to collect and exhibit over a thousand historical artefacts which shed light on the almost nomadic traditions and history of the village.

Children of Çandır

Inside you can find displays of clothes, wedding dresses, rugs, carpets, kerosene lamps and many objects made of wood and copper. There are many objects which reflect the culture of the indigenous and nomadic cultures of local people and foreign visitors. Artefacts have been collected by Mehmet Varol and his wife Hatice not just from Çandır and Dalyan, but from small villages as far as Denizli. Entry is free and extremely interesting as an example of traditional life in Turkey.

Arif Yalılı's Olive Plantation

Organic Farming

Çandır and much of the other side's agricultural land is home to organic farming. In fact market day in Çandır is the areas only organic market.

Yücel Okutur's Organic Grapefruits

DOKTOB's president Yücel Okutur has an organic farm of his own and grows oranges, lemons and grapefruits for his luxury hotel, the Dalyan Resort Hotel.

Lemon Trees

Delicious Organic Oranges

With the area trying to move into organic farming, the area surrounding Çandır is leading the way and setting an example to agricultural land owners all over the country.

The View

One of the best things about making it over to "The Other Side" is the views that you can get over the Dalyan delta and Iztuzu Beach. You can see straight out over the Mediterranean Sea from certain parts of Kaunos, but the road between Kaunos and Çandır gives uninterrupted views across the winding reeds of the delta which leads to the famous Turtle Beach.

I was lucky enough to be escorted via the ferry, past Kaunos and through to the far end of Çandır by DOKTOB president Yücel Okutur and ferry pioneer Taner Yalılı's brother Arif. All of the pomegranate, lemon and orange fields that surround Kaunos are owned by Arif. He also owns a mountain top olive plantation which gives the most incredible views across Ekincik and Iztuzu Beach. To end this article, I would like to share with you some of the amazing photographs that I managed to capture from the top of Arif's olive mountain.

Iztuzu Beach

No Building on the Beach

Boats on the Delta

A View Over the Delta

Sandy Islets

An Olive Tree Overlooks the Turquoise Mediterranean

The Delta Reed Beds

The View Back to the Town of Dalyan

Is it safe to visit Turkey?

The Dalyan exposé has begun! The project will run until the 23rd of May and will include a lot of exciting articles and videos on our YouTube channel with interesting interviews with business owners and those who work in tourism in Turkey. We'll also be tackling safety issues and what terrorism means for Turkey and the beautiful riverside town of Dalyan.

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