Last updated on March 3, 2023 by Wandering our World
From beautiful beaches and scenic landscapes to lively cities and colorful bazaars, Turkey is a vibrant and dynamic vacation destination, with plenty of great regions and cities you might like to visit, such as Dalaman and Antalya.
If you want to experience the very best in Turkish sun and sea, with world-class resorts, amazing eateries, and fascinating historic landmarks, both of these destinations can meet your needs, but which place stands out as the No. 1 choice?
Well, despite the fact that they both share spots on Turkey’s famous Turquoise Coast and have a few things in common, such as warm, sunny weather and terrific beaches, Dalaman and Antalya are very different locations.
Dalaman is a sparsely populated district in western Turkey. It’s home to some charming hamlets and stunning, unspoiled scenery, with wild forests and towering mountains, while also being a useful gateway to other nearby resorts, such as Marmaris and Fethiye.
Antalya, meanwhile, is one of Turkey’s largest and busiest cities. A bustling, vibrant place where old and new combine, this city offers an authentic Turkish experience, with spice markets, centuries-old buildings, luxury hotels, fine dining, and upscale boutiques.
Of course, these brief summaries don’t tell the full story, and there’s much more you need to know about both Dalaman and Antalya before deciding which place you’d like to visit. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at these two Turkish holiday hotspots, side-by-side.
- A Quick Overview
- Which Is Easier To Get To?
- Which Is Easier To Get Around?
- Which Is Better For Beaches?
- Which Is Best For Activities?
- Which Is Better For Nightlife?
- Where To Stay According To Your Budget
- Which Is Best For Families?
- Which Is Best For Couples?
- Which Is Cheaper?
A Quick Overview Of Dalaman vs Antalya
Dalaman: A Quick Overview
Dalaman is the name of both a town and a district in southwest Turkey.
Part of the Mugla Province, Dalaman is bordered by the Dalaman Stream to the west and is nicely located near various resort cities, like Marmaris, and historic towns, like Dalyan.
A relatively quiet and peaceful place for large parts of the year, Dalaman comes alive during the summer months, with many travelers flying into the area’s international airport and spreading out across the surrounding towns and ports.
The area near Dalaman boasts a stunning shoreline, with a great mixture of secret coves and long, expansive stretches of sand. And since this district isn’t as commercial or touristic as certain other parts of Turkey, Dalaman is a nice place to go for those who are seeking an escape from crowds and noise.
However it’s worth noting that the city itself is not a tourist destination – unlike Antalya – but instead the area Dalaman is in and around can be a great place to vacation.
Antalya: A Quick Overview
Around 105 miles east of Dalaman, we have the city of Antalya. Home to more than a million people, it’s one of Turkey’s top five biggest cities and the capital of the Antalya Province, sitting on the southern coast and looking out over the Mediterranean Sea.
Antalya also happens to be one of Turkey’s fastest-growing cities, and it draws in a huge number of tourists from around the world, thanks to its eclectic mix of brilliant beaches, family attractions, historic sites, and buzzing nightlife scene.
For many, Antalya is seen as the premier destination of the Turkish Riviera, with countless resorts and fancy marinas drawing in the jet set crowd.
This vibrant metropolis is also nicely placed for tours of the nearby Taurus Mountains or hikes in the countryside. All of which, is why we’ve named Antalya one of our favorite Turkish Riviera hotspots previously.
Which Is Easier To Get To?
One of the first things to think about when preparing for any trip is how you’re going to reach your destination. And, even though they’re not too far apart from one another, it might be a lot easier for you to access either Dalaman or Antalya, depending on where you start your journey.
Dalaman has its own international airport – Dalaman Airport (DLM). It’s a two-terminal airport with easy access to various local towns, and it has direct connections with several countries around Europe, like the UK, Belgium, and Germany.
Dalaman Airport also has direct flights to Levant nations like Jordan and Lebanon, along with various flights to other parts of Turkey However, a lot of the flights here are seasonal, so it can be trickier to get to Dalaman during the less busy times of year, and there are no direct links to the US.
Antalya also has its own international airport – Antalya Airport (AYT). It’s located about eight miles away from the heart of the city, so it’s nicely placed for tourists. This is the third-busiest airport in all of Turkey, receiving passengers from many different countries.
Compared to Dalaman, Antalya Airport has many more flight connections; you can fly here directly from the UK, France, Germany, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, certain parts of Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa.
There still aren’t any direct links between the US and Antalya, but it’s generally the easier place to get to, with more flights and a wider range of options.
Which Is Easier To Get Around?
Once you arrive in either Dalaman or Antalya, you’ll need to find a way to get to your accommodation and visit the various landmarks and locations you’d like to see during your stay. So, how do you get around in these places, and which one is easier to navigate?
Well, Dalaman Airport is nicely located just five miles from the city center. You can rely on taxis or airport buses to take you into town, and small buses cover most of the district, while also connecting Dalaman to neighboring resorts and towns.
The buses are handy for getting from place to place, but you will need to rent a car if you want to experience the freedom of being able to go wherever you want and really see this part of Turkey.
If you fly into Antalya Airport, you can hop in a taxi to make your way to the city center in as little as 25 minutes. There’s also a bus route and tram line that will take you straight into Antalya for a very cheap price, although the journey time is a little longer at around 40 minutes.
Once you’re in Antalya, there’s not too much need for a rental car as it’s a proper city unlike Dalaman. You can traverse the city on foot or use the local ‘dolmus’ buses – these unique buses almost operate like taxis, as they can pick people up or drop them off almost anywhere along a set route.
Taxis are a pricer but readily available alternative, and Antalya also has tramlines which are popular with tourists, as they stop off at many of the main sightseeing spots and landmarks. The trams are also really modern, accepting contactless payments and delivering announcements in English.
Overall, between Dalaman and Antalya, Antalya is easier to traverse. The public transport network there is impressive and accessible, with a range of options to take you from place to place. You can also hop on buses and coach tours out of the city to other famous spots around Turkey.
Which Is Better For Beaches?
Both Antalya and Dalaman are located in the region known as the Turquoise Coast, or Turkish Riviera. A long stretch of coastline extends across this area, and some of Turkey’s very best beaches can be found here, with plenty of great options situated near both Dalaman and Antalya.
But which one is best? Well, that might depend on what kinds of beaches and seaside experiences you enjoy the most. But for most, Antalya and its big tourist sector will be best.
While both Dalaman and Antalya have some lovely stretches of sand, they do differ in terms of their vibe and size.
Some of the top beaches around Antalya are absolutely enormous, stretching on and on, with miles upon miles of sand and pebbles where couples, families, groups of friends, and solo travelers can stretch out and have some fun.
A lot of the beaches there are very well-developed, too, with loungers on the side and hotels mere minutes away.
Over in the Dalaman region, the beaches take more time to get to and are more spread out, but they’re also quite diverse.
Some are just as touristic as those in Antalya, but others in Dalaman are more rugged and raw, backing onto mountains and forests. Certain beaches in Dalaman are also super for wildlife watchers, with local turtles often spotted on the sand or out among the waves.
Dalaman: The Beaches
The Dalaman district doesn’t have dozens of beaches of its own, but it is within short distances of many of Turkey’s prettiest coastal locations, many of which back on to pristine wilderness or enjoy amazing mountain views, perfect for romantic moments or snapping selfies with your friends.
One of the easiest beaches to get to from here is Dalaman Plaji, just south of the airport. It’s not a very touristic beach with a long list of amenities, but it’s a nice, relaxing spot to spend some time admiring the views or watching local fishermen while you while away the hours.
For something much more developed, head west to Sarigerme Beach.
Located beside a charming resort town, this beach marks the spot where the Dalaman Stream meets the sea. It’s been called one of the prettiest beaches in all of Turkey, and some couples even get married there. You can also take a short boat ride to nearby Baba Island to see wild rabbits and goats.
Wildlife lovers won’t want to miss out on a visit to Iztuzu Beach, or Turtle Beach. Part of a large nature reserve, Iztuzu is one of the most picturesque and unspoiled beaches in the world. You can visit a local turtle hospital there, as well as seeing loggerhead turtles nesting in the area.
For another scenic sandy expanse, make the journey from Dalaman to Oludeniz.
One of the most-photographed of Turkey’s beaches – see pic below – this stunning spot simply needs to be seen to be believed, with towering mountains and lush forests in every direction. It also has really salty water which is a deep blue color, home to turtles and other creatures.
There are also some romantic beaches in easy reach of Dalaman, like the secluded cove of Asi and the locals’ favorite, Sarsala Bay. Like the other Dalaman beaches, these places stand out for their unique beauty and pristine surroundings.
Antalya: The Beaches
Antalya also has a plethora of picturesque beaches for visitors to enjoy, and most travelers will start their seaside fun at Konyaalti Beach.
Running for around eight kilometers in total, this beach is situated on the southwest side of the city. It’s mainly made up of pebbles, offering super swimming conditions and magical views of the Taurus Mountains.
To the east of Antalya, in the city of Alanya, travelers can discover Kleopatra Beach. Famed for its golden sands, this well-developed beach has easy access to local hotels and cafes, with changing rooms and other amenities provided.
It’s a good spot for watersports, and you can take a tour of the city or visit Alanya Castle to complete your day.
Tekirova Beach is another gorgeous coastal paradise, just a short drive from Antalya’s city center. This beach is very popular with families, thanks to its calm and kid-friendly waters, although it can be pretty crowded in the peak summer months.
If you’re looking for something a little more secluded and low-key, you’ll need to take a longer drive out of the city to the likes of Cirali Beach, one of the region’s calmest and quietest coastal village areas.
Other options include Lara Beach, which has shallow waters and easy access to some excellent eateries, or Kemer Beach, a very popular spot with European travelers, thanks to the highly-rated hotels and resorts nearby. Many of these hotels have their own private portions of the beach, but large parts remain fully open to the public.
Overall, the beaches of Dalaman and Antalya are quite different. Those in and around Antalya tend to be quite large, busy, and well-stocked with amenities and resorts just a short walk from the sand.
From Dalaman, it’s easier to find more secluded and untouched coastal locations where wildlife roams free and nature has been allowed to continue its course, uninterrupted.
Which Is Best For Activities?
When you’re not splashing around in the Mediterranean or relaxing on the soft sands of Turkey’s beaches, you might like to enjoy various other activities during your time in either Dalaman or Antalya.
There’s lots to do in both of these places, from the shops, clubs, historic sites, and bazaars of Antalya to the mountain hikes and traditional hamlets of the Dalaman district.
In this section, we’ll take a closer look at how the activities and attractions of these places compare and contrast.
Dalaman: The Activities
The town of Dalaman is quite a sleepy and small place, so you might not find much to do there, but the area itself is a great gateway for day trips, outdoor adventures, and tours to the many resort towns, coastal villages, and natural reserves in the surrounding area.
Places like Marmaris and Fethiye aren’t too far from Dalaman, for example.
Fethiye is a fabulous place to shop. You’ll find a fun and colorful market here selling all sorts of locally-made crafts, shoes, bags, and jewelry, as well as traditional Turkish fruits, spices, and nuts.
Over in Marmaris, meanwhile, travelers can take a walk down the lively central boulevard, enjoying bars, boutiques, and a fun Dancing Fountain water show with lights and music – it’s free to watch, and the show repeats every single night.
For something totally different, take a trip to nearby Dalyan, home of famous mud baths – locals and travelers come from far and wide to soak themselves in the skin-smoothing mud while admiring some awesome mountain views.
If history is more your thing, you can easily arrange day trips from the Dalaman area to Turkey’s iconic Lycian rock tombs – these tombs date back to 400 BC and are built right into the face of the cliff – or the ancient archaeological site of Ephesus, which was once the second-biggest city of the Roman Empire.
From family-friendly waterparks to pretty nature preserves and protected areas, like the Blue Lagoon National Park, the list of things to do goes on and on. You can even plan day trips from Dalaman to Turkish cities like Aydin and Nazilli, or take a ferry from Marmaris to the Greek island of Rhodes, just one hour away.
Antalya: The Activities
If you choose to visit Antalya, it’s likely that you’ll spend a lot of your time in and around the city itself, as there are lots of things to do there. And one of your first stops could be the city’s Old Town district.
With its red-roofed homes and Ottoman architecture, this is a lovely place to walk around, with all sorts of interesting landmarks, like the remnants of an Ancient Roman temple and an amazing 18th century mosque.
The Old Harbor of Antalya is another peaceful, pleasant place for a stroll. Travelers can take a seat at one of the many cafes or restaurants in the area and watch the yachts and sailboats making their way in and out of the port – it’s one of Antalya’s top spots for sunset-watching, too.
The quintessential Turkish Riviera town, Antalya also has a lot of luxury boutiques and fancy restaurants where travelers can truly indulge themselves. But, for those on a budget, the city also has plenty of street food vendors and traditional bazaars.
Beyond the city limits, you can find everything from championship-grade golf courses to fascinating historical sites like the fabulously-preserved Roman theater of Aspendos or the ruins of Termessos.
Hiking and other outdoor activities can also be enjoyed in the environs of Antalya. You can head to Köprülü Canyon National Park, northeast of the city, for whitewater rafting or take a trip to Karain Cave for some underground exploration.
Which Is Better For Nightlife?
If bars and clubs are your kind of thing and you enjoy staying out late, sipping cocktails, enjoying live music, and dancing the night away, you might be interested to know how the nightlife scenes compare between Dalaman and Antalya.
Well, if you want lively vibes after dark in the Dalaman area, you’ll need to head to Marmaris. It’s about an hour from Dalaman by car, and it’s known as the one of the top party towns of the Turkish Riviera, with many travelers heading here in the evening.
Marmaris really comes alive at night, with a range of bars and nightclubs, as well as more subdued spots down by the shore where you can sit and sip a glass of wine while gazing out over the water and listening to the waves.
If you’re visiting Antalya, you won’t need to leave the city to enjoy super clubs, bars, entertainment venues, karaoke, and more! The Antalya nightlife scene is exciting and diverse, with lots of options to suit people of different ages and tastes.
One of the best areas for pubs and clubs there is Kaleici, in the heart of the city – many local students head there at the weekends. Or, you can head down to the harbor to find many more restaurants and bars that stay open late.
Overall, if you’re passionate about nightlife and want to have easy access to lots of bars and clubs during your stay, Antalya is the place to be. It has a great range of evening entertainment hotspots right in the center of the city.
Where To Stay According To Your Budget
Luxury: For a luxury home-away-from-home, enjoy a stay at Dalaman Villa Karya. This luxurious 3-bedroom villa is in the heart of the bustling resort town, with a private garden, pool, and scenic views!
And with it being so central, you can enjoy everything Dalaman offers, right outside your doorstep. You can see pictures and details here.
Budget: Karya Bungalov Villa is situated in central Dalaman, a stone’s throw from the airport. This gorgeous villa is set with scenic views, a magnificent pool and garden, and all the privacy you need to feel right at home. You can find pictures and details here.
Luxury: Lara Barut Collection-Ultra is one of the most luxurious resorts in Turkey, but it’s still not one of the most expensive. The resort sits right on the beach, has gorgeous outdoor pools, 6 restaurants and even a Turkish spa. It’s the ultimate Turkish Rivera experience. See photos and rates!
Budget: Adalya Port Hotel overlooks Antalya’s Old Harbour, and is set on an old cobbled street, so you’ll get a real taste of Turkey when staying here, but still with modern amenities. The panoramic rooftop bar and restaurant with stunning views is, of course, the real highlight. See photos and rates!
Which Is Best For Families?
Planning a family trip to the Turquoise Coast? If so, you might have a tricky time choosing between Antalya and Dalaman, as both of these locations have fun things for visitors of all ages to appreciate.
However, Antalya will probably be the better choice for most families.
There are lots of family attractions in and around Antalya. The city has its own classic amusement park – Aktur Park – complete with thrilling coasters and little kid rides. As well as gigantic beaches, fascinating museums, lots of shops and malls to wander around.
There’s even an annual sand sculpture competition, known as Sandland. Creators spend three weeks crafting amazing sculptures and visitors can then walk around to admire their hard work – it’s a truly unique experience you won’t find anywhere else.
Over in Dalaman, there are still fun things for families to enjoy, like the beaches, wildlife areas, and outdoor activities, along with water parks. However, everything is a lot more spread out, and you have to spend at least an hour in the car or on the bus to get to most places.
Which Is Best For Couples?
If you’re planning a trip for two, it might be even harder to decide between Dalaman and Antalya. The right choice for you and your partner will mostly depend on what sort of activities and vibe you want to enjoy during your stay.
Dalaman is arguably the more romantic destination, thanks to its peaceful surroundings and scenic vibe. There are also a lot of activities around the area that can appeal to adults, from resort spa days to mud baths and long walks along beautiful, pristine beaches.
You’ve also got a lot of options if you base yourself in the Dalaman area – you can head over to Marmaris for a lively evening or take a riverboat trip along the Dalyan River. Dalaman is also a nice spot for countryside hikes and cycling – there’s a super looping trail around Sülüngür Lake.
Antalya is much more of a traditional, bustling city. It’s less romantic, but it still has lots to offer, with its museums, malls, historical landmarks, and busy beaches. Couples who enjoy the energetic, dynamic vibe of a big city will have a lot of fun here.
There are also some great gourmet restaurants around Antalya for romantic evenings with your partner, as well as nice spots down by the shore where you can listen to the waves or watch the sun go down.
Which Is Cheaper?
So, how much will you have to spend on a trip to either Dalaman or Antalya, and which of these two destinations is more affordable for the likes of backpackers and budget-conscious travelers?
Well, one of the first things you might notice upon arrival into Antalya is that it’s quite a chic and fancy place. Luxury boutiques line many streets and there are some high-end, expensive hotels dotted around the city’s prettiest districts.
It’s an upmarket place, appealing to the jet-set crowd, as evidenced by all the stunning yachts you see sailing in and out of the harbor.
Because of this, costs in Antalya can be quite high for the likes of food and accommodation.
If you shop around and book in advance, it’s still possible to visit Antalya on a budget, but you might have an easier time saving money if you head to Dalaman instead. There, the average nightly costs for hotel rooms tend to be a little lower, and you can eat quite cheaply in local cafes and restaurants.
On the downside, a trip to Dalaman usually involves more traveling than a stay in Antalya, so you’ll need to factor in the cost of getting around; it’s a good idea to plan out at least some of your travel itinerary and must-do activities to calculate a rough budget before you go.
Dalaman vs Antalya: Which Is Better?
As you can see, both Dalaman and Antalya are beautiful places and prime examples of why the Turquoise Coast has emerged as such a popular vacation destination. They can both provide authentic Turkish experiences and amazing travel memories.
But ultimately, with these two destinations being quite different, the best option for you will depend on your tastes and preferences.
Those who love nature and wildlife may want to opt for Dalaman. There are so many pristine, postcard landscapes surrounding this place, you’ll never run out of gorgeous places to explore. It’s also a diverse location, with an eclectic mixture of local towns, beaches, and activities.
Meanwhile, if you like big city life and want to truly immerse yourself in all things Turkish, like colorful bazaars and cultural attractions, Antalya is the place to be. It’s a fun, vibrant city with all the amenities and activities one would expect, as well as a few extra surprises hidden up its sleeve.
In terms of what we think, Antalya just about takes the win, thanks to its ease-of-access, family-friendly feel, and sheer range of things to do. But Dalaman is still worthy of consideration if you’re thinking of visiting the Turkish Riviera.