Dalaman: gateway to adventure

On my first trip, I was enticed – like many travellers – by blue skies, blue seas and soft sand.

Since then I have returned many times, and discovered that the allure goes much deeper.

Above the coastline rises a range of mountains promising activities on land and water: cycling, hiking and rafting through spectacular surroundings. Come here for indulgence, stay for inspiration.

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

Babadag is the mighty mountain above Ölüdeniz in Fethiye – and an ideal location for doing something completely against human instinct: stepping off a mountain and into the unknown.

The location is 1,200 metres above sea level. An expert pilot helps strap you into a chair, and then straps in behind you. To get airborne you simply run towards the edge of the mountain – where wind, sun and gravity combine to allow you to float serenely down to a patch of lawn beside the Mediterranean.

The first principle of paragliding is to attach yourself to the atmosphere with sufficient fabric to counteract most of the gravitational force that would normally drag you down to earth.

The pilot’s art is to harness to maximum effect the complex air currents that swirl between the mountains and the sea, while simultaneously instilling confidence in the passenger. They may add extra thrills such as tight spiral turns producing g-forces with out-of-this world sensations before you touch down as a gentle full stop to your aerobatic adventure – with the memory seared in.

From the harbour at Fethiye, you can take an early morning boat along the shore to a hidden cove that gives access to some superb hiking.

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

As the trail steepens, the walls of the valley narrow into a gorge – with tenacious trees clinging to the almost sheer rock faces above you.

Take plenty of water. Allow time to rest and appreciate the sheer scale and beauty of the planet.

Heading back to the beach is even more rewarding – it’s downhill and the view opens up before you to impressive effect.

You could carry on into the hills and follow the Lycian Way. This long-distance footpath, conceived by British expatriate Kate Clow, continues for hundreds of kilometres almost to the city of Antalya. Or you can return to the beach and flop into a hammock while waiting for your ship to come in.

The Dalyan river winds from the mountains down to the sea. On the way to a marshy delta, it passes the town that shares its name. Dalyan is a favourite hideaway for connoisseurs of good living, with a relaxed ambience and sense of being close to nature. But just across the Dalyan river is an extraordinary piece of history: rock tombs that were created 2,500 years ago. And they are still amazing sights today.

This was the location for the town of Kaunos: a strategic port for the Carian people who lived in the region in the fourth century BC. They had a flourishing sea trade – and evidently prospered sufficiently to be able to create elaborate temple-like tombs. These are carved painstakingly from the sheer cliff walls, and bequeathed by the creators to 21st-century travellers.

Dalyan is also the departure point to witness one of the greatest conservation success stories for generations.

Another British expatriate, June Haimoff, came to Dalyan in 1975 and learnt about the plight of 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 aged 99, the town put up a monument to Captain June.


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