Delta of Büyük Menderes & Karina

Down the village…

Our village – Eski Doğanbey – overlooks one of the most spectacular deltas of both the past and the present: the Büyük Menderes Delta. The gigantic gulf where the fertile waters of the Büyük Menderes River now meet the Aegean in divided channels. It is bounded on the north by the Dilek Peninsula, the Mykele (Dilek or Samsun Mountains) and the Dilek Peninsula National Park, in which the village is located. On the south side, there is Akköy village and then the summer resorts that reach Didim after the tip of the peninsula. 

Köyden Büyük Menderes Deltası

The ancient wisdom of Ionia, one of the most magnificent of ancient civilizations, echoes in these lands. In fact, the present Bafa Lake was a part of it until the deep gulf waters extending all the way inland were filled with alluvium brought by the river. There are even traces of early humans in the caves of the Latmos mountains above the ancient city of Heraklia by the lake. Miletus, the crown of the bay and the science center of the period; Priene, one of the first grid-planned cities and the temple of Apollo in Didim, the oracle center, where all of them were connected by a sacred way… These are all long stories in themselves. Of course, there is the connection with the other Menderes delta in the north and the legendary cities of Carian civilization in the south. Surrounded by old harbors and sacred areas connected to ancient cities, this region now houses one of the most fertile lands of the country, Söke Plain.

In the valley, agriculture is still the most important income for the people. In other words, it is an area where reeds and fields flooded by rains intersect, the soil is half loam, half sand, and some places are swamps. So there’s no chance of running to cool waters from sandy beaches here! On the contrary, with the sandy barriers in front of the delta, this is a natural fishing oasis. In other words, the water of the region is as fertile as the soil. Therefore, it is not possible to swim in the delta; you have to travel a bit further. 

The road is beautiful…

If your intention is to swim in the Aegean; then you go downhill from Eski Doğanbey with the blue in front of you. You have two options at the end of the road… You either turn to the left, that is, to the village, and proceed towards the interior of the plain from where you cross the plain from the middle and ride towards the promised beaches in the south. Or you can turn right and pass through the brand new village of Doğanbey, which does not have “New” in front of its name and go further This road takes you to the west, towards the tip of the delta, on the southern slopes of the Dilek Peninsula.

After a while, leaving the village behind, you can find Abdül’ün Yeri on your left, one of the oldest fish restaurants in the region. Now Abdul’s son Deniz and his beautiful family run it. I still have not forgotten the flavor of the fish soup that my mother ordered from Deniz’s mother when I came to the village in my teenage years. But the only disadvantage of the restaurant is that it is not on the seafront.

As soon as you pass Abdül’s, a dirt road enters the fishermen’s bay right next to it. As soon as you enter, you will see many boats moored in this small harbor operated by the fishermen’s cooperative. Some are released in the shallows at sea, some are pulled to the shore and repaired, and some seem to be left to their fate. In the fishing season, you can find and buy fresh fish here every morning. Just do not expect services such as sorting and salting; There is a “do your own thing” attitude. But if you say that you want the full service, then the route is to the other side; you have to go to the Fisherman Serdar of Güllübahçe. Or if you want it all on your plate, then you continue on your way to destination Karina.

But wait; The road is not over yet! In fact, it only gets better… As you taste the thyme scents on the right and see the reeds on the left on the edge of the delta, you may start to smell the sea salt. There is a dirt road that turns left from one of these bends that is a bit difficult to detect for those who do not know it. This road leads to a hot spring that emerges from a semi-cave-like area in the secluded bay. (I don’t think everyone should know about it anyway) In summer the temperature is not that hot, but you can enter the water with a tranquility that calms trembling teeth in cold seasons.


You may say that it took too long to get to the water and you could be right. But I learned about these places through many years; a few detours is nothing. However, I have endless respect for those who want to cool off with the healing waters of the Aegean in the heat of summer. That’s why the final destination is Karina. From there on, there is no vehicle access & no pedestrian entrance either; because the last Turkish border western outpost is in Karina. It is actually about 10 km from our village.

And it really is where the road ends… Don’t be surprised when you take the last corner and see the dead-end sign; A little further on, there are parking places next to the rows of restaurants. But if you visit at the most crowded time, like the holidays and the popular hours of the weekend, then you have to leave the car a bit further. You can finally leave your towel in a corner throw yourself into the water.

But be careful not to jump right in! Because the sea is shallow here because it is located at the very end of the delta, near the dunes. You will have to walk on the silvery fine sands, through the scattered seashells, or the tiny hermits that appear and disappear from time to time. To swim here means as soon as you think you are in deeper waters you feel it rising to knee level again and again. But fear not, those cool waters will embrace you eventually.

In The Old Days…

When we first came to the village, there was nothing in Karina except the one gendarmerie station. And there were the stone ruins of fishermen’s shelters and boats moored to the shore. One summer night when I was in high school, we decided to sail with a few friends, my mother and our host, Sebo with dreams of jumping into the deep sea. And we couldn’t light the barbecue so we threw the small eggplants into the sea to make a wish despite my mother’s objections.

Now, Karina is a popular stopover, where rows of fish restaurants offer local and fresh flavors of Aegean cuisine. They all have simple wooden table chairs by the sea; you can settle in any one. You can taste calamari, shrimp, appetizers with fresh herbs, local fish varieties and soft drinks now where we could only have a picnic. In fact, until a few years ago, only fresh village cheese was available; now there are many kinds.

Recently, the local fishermen hosted a pelican whose wing was broken and stayed here during the migration season. I think it is a miracle that the head of one of the tourists who found it interesting was not pierced by the giant beak of this giant bird during its stay here. But this place is a miracle in itself… Depending on the season you come, it is possible to see colorful flamingos, various herons and different kinds of birds on the edge of the delta. In fact, there are wooden observation towers at the entrance of Carina and at the intersection of the village road.

My favorite routine is either to come early in the morning and wash my face in the sea when there is no one around; or to come in the evening and set up at one of the tables and play in the waters while the sun is cooling. It is not possible to see the sun set on the horizon here, but those colors will take you farther. Especially if the moon rises from the waters of the delta; you will be mesmerized. Because here, a starry night with a yellow moon is magical.