dilek1South of Kuşadası, the 110-sq-km Dilek Peninsula National Park juts out into the Aegean. It's a beautiful wooded area sloping down from the mountain to the sea and a poignant reminder of the coastal beauty that has been almost completely lost elsewhere.

The peninsula is dominated by Samsun (Dilek) Dağı (Mt Mykale, 1237m) on the slopes of which, in 2004, the site of the Panionium where the Ionian League held its festivals was finally identified.

Northern side of the peninsula

The northern side of the peninsula is far better known than the south, mainly because of the small beaches at İçmeler (sand), Aydınlık (shingle) and Kavaklı Burnu (shingle) that are accessible by public transport.

The beaches get crowded at weekends and over public holidays. Otherwise, you may have them and the pricy snack bars overlooking them to yourself.

For solitude you should probably head on to Karasu Koy beyond Kavaklı Burnu but you can only do that under your own steam.

Southern side of the peninsula

It's possible to trek through a wooded canyon from İçmeler and Aydınlık to Eski Doğanbey on the south side of the peninsula where there is a national park visitor centre with information about the local wildlife.

Alternatively, you can drive west from Eski Doğanbey to Karine at the tip of the peninsula where a couple of small fish restaurants gaze out to sea with only a handful of isolated buildings for company.

Inside the park

Amenities in the park have been attractively and sensitively designed and great efforts are made to keep it clean. The park is home to a number of rare and endangered plants as well as a lot of jays that are almost as cheeky when it comes to hanging about picnic areas as the seagulls of Great Britain.

But for many people perhaps the most memorable feature of the park will be the groups of wild boars that also frequent the picnic areas and, while not exactly tame, are certainly not exactly shy either. Be a bit careful when there are piglets about, and you probably shouldn't feed them directly, but they're certainly a feast for the eye. 

Rumours persist that the Anatolian leopard that once roamed these parts might still survive although it is hard to believe them (more credible evidence of leopards surviving into the 2000s has been collected in remote parts of the Black Sea and near Mut).


Transport info

You can catch a bus to the national park (milli parkı) from the main traffic roundabout in Kuşadası town centre where all the minibuses wait. You need one heading for Güzelçamlı that continues on into the park with the driver relieving you of the small entry fee with your fare. It's a disheartening drive out through endless ugly urban sprawl - which makes the park all the more delightful when you finally get there. 

Inside the park shuttle minibuses ply up and down every 15 minutes, linking the three busess. In summer the last bus leaves the park at 7pm.

It's also easy and enjoyable to walk between the beaches - I took two hours to get from Kavaklı Burnu to İçmeler with a longish snack stop in Aydınlık.


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