“Top-class beaches, thousands of years’ worth of history, and market places that capture the essence of the east – it’s no wonder Bodrum is one of Turkey’s top holiday spots.”
Bodrum’s cap is full of feathers. Stretching out along Turkey’s southern coast, the peninsula earned its first quill on the back of its beaches. As the shoreline sweeps its way alongside the Aegean Sea, it morphs from secluded cove to bustling beach resort and back again.
In areas like Gumbet, Turgutreis and Bitez, the sun, sea and sand package is served up with lively nightlife and the full spectrum of shops and restaurants. In Torba and Turkbuku, meanwhile, you’ll find stretches of sand with fewer footprints and traditional tavernas.
The next plume in Bodrum’s headdress can be put down to the region’s history. All the peninsula’s resorts are within day-trip distance of Ephesus, one of the best preserved classical cities in the world. Plus, the 4th century Temple of Apollo in Didyma is no more than a few hours’ drive away.
Finally, the town of Bodrum has a coup all of its own. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, its market place wriggles with visitors. Stalls buckle under the weight of olive jars, spices that look like powder paint are sold from sacks, and hand-made carpets hang like curtains from the sides of stands.
The distinctive Aegean Coast and the ‘Turquoise’ Mediterranean Coast are home to many of Turkey’s most popular holiday destinations, and it’s not hard to see why. Families and beach lovers flock here for the unbeatable combination of endless beaches and blue seas, while older families find something for everyone in the bigger, busier resorts. Couples of all ages head for the calmer, quainter resorts, while for the more intrepid, Turkey is a country literally littered with historical sights and its rich and varied landscape offers some highly recommended hiking. With something for everyone, Turkey pulls in all kinds of tourism. Along both of Turkey’s major holiday coasts, white-washed towns neighbour huge marinas, and major cities have emerged alongside picturesque resorts that have lost little of their native flavour.
The Aegean Coast is known for its cosmopolitan cities, pretty villages and spectacular sights, while on the Mediterranean Coast, mountains sweep down to the shoreline and beach resorts abound. With bustle of big resorts such as Gümbet and Marmaris, the subtler blend of old and new in Bodrum and Antalya or the beauty of Icmeler and Olu Deniz, Turkey has well and truly ensured it has catered for every type of holiday.
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The coastline around Bodrum had got beaches of every size and shape. Wide golden sandy bays crowded with watersports. Tiny rocky coves where you can see out the days in total seclusion. Long stretches of pebbles tumbling into crystal-clear waters. They’re all here - in spades. The first thing to note though is that Bodrum itself doesn’t have a beach. Its charm lies in its whitewashed streets, markets, marina and high-octane nightlife. But beach-lovers shouldn’t despair. Nearby, you’ll find plenty of spots to satisfy your sun-and-sea passions. Hop on a ‘dolmus’ for Bitez, eight kilometres to the west. It’s got a long, sandy Blue Flag beach which heaves with windsurfing and sailing centres. Or how about Gumbet? Close to Bodrum, its mile of coarse sand hugs a wonderful azure bay. And watersports are ten-a-penny. Up the fun factor with a jetski or parasailing session and then hit one of the seafront cafes to refresh your energies. But that’s only part of the picture. All around the peninsula, beaches come thick and fast. At Turgetreis, you’ll find numerous sandy swathes along the shoreline. And Altinkum, which translates as ‘golden sands’ has the kind of beach you’ll never want to leave. A wide sweep of duvet-soft sands, it’s made to measure for lolling in the sunshine. For quieter beaches, the smaller resorts come up trumps. At Gumusluk, you’ll find two swoon-inducing bays washed by calm turquoise waters. They’re so shallow in parts that you can wade through them to Rabbit Island, a lush islet waiting offshore. And at Yahsi, Gundogan, Yalikavak, Torba and others, it’s the same story. Sensational scoops of sand and pebbles baked by hot Aegean sunshine.
- If you thought Turkish food was all about kebabs, you’re in for a surprise. You see, when it comes to breadth and depth of flavour, ingredients, colour and texture, it puts lots of other cuisines in the shade. Turkish cuisine’s a leftover from the Ottoman Empire, which once extended into Europe, Africa and the Middle East. So it’s absorbed a huge spread of culinary influences from places like the Balkans, North Africa and Arabia. Better still, the Bodrum peninsula is the perfect place to try it all. Even in touristy resorts, you’ll find a fantastic choice of restaurants serving national and regional specialities made from fresh local produce. For starters, there’s ‘meze’. These moreish appetisers come in every conceivable form, shape and colour. Take your pick from scrumptious ‘sigara boreg’ - rolled cheese pastries - or ‘patican salatasi’ – delicious pureed aubergine. And once your palate’s perked up, dig into some main course must-tries. Give ‘pirzola’ a whirl – juicy, extra thin-cut lamb chops seasoned with sumac and thyme. Or ‘shish’ kebabs – super-juicy, grilled lamb, chicken or beef on wooden skewers. They’re often accompanied by light and fluffy ‘lavash’ bread. And then there’s the fresh fish to consider. Surrounded by sparkling Aegean waters, this is one region that’s wild about seafood. Popular choices include bream, grouper and tuna, usually slow-baked, fried or grilled in lemon and parsley. And for dessert, wrap your tastebuds around ‘baklava’ - pistachio-sprinkled layers of filo pastry swamped in syrup - or delectable fresh apricots smothered in clotted cream and crushed walnuts. As for tipples, ‘Efes’ is the beer of choice for locals and tourists alike. Some of the pricier local wines aren’t bad either. Make sure you try some ‘raki’, too. An aniseed-flavoured drink, it tastes a bit like pastis and is good with or without food. And don’t miss some ‘cay’ or Turkish tea. Served black in tiny, gold-rimmed glasses, it’s incredibly refreshing – especially the apple version.
- Secret Garden, Bodrum - Secreted into a side street facing the marina, this is one of Bodrum’s best. Choose from the excellent wine list before indulging in modern European-Turkish creations like rabbit in cream, garlicky frogs legs and rosé ice-cream, all in an dreamy garden setting.
- Denizhan, Bodrum – You need to head to the outskirts of town for this truly traditional restaurant but it’s worth it for the authentic dishes. Cue flaming kebabs, wonderfully light ‘lavash’ and ‘kunefe’, a sticky-sweet cheese pastry. Give lunch a miss to leave room.
- Alara Tavern, Torba - Tuck into local ‘mezes’ and succulent fresh fish at this unassuming waterfront eaterie, whose bayside terrace commands fabulous sea views. And if you’re not hungry, sit over a few drinks in its lovely Ottoman-style bar.
- Family Tree, Turgutreis - Chirpy waiters. Unpretentious décor. And superlative food. This welcoming family-run restaurant takes centre stage on Turgutreis’ market square and draws crowds of diners with its no-nonsense, extra-tasty Turkish-Mediterranean menu.
- Bati, Gumusluk – This stylish restaurant-bar is a cosy spot come dusk. Overlooking the beach, it serves mouth-watering Turkish fare and even has a charming fireplace nook laden with floor cushions. During the day relax in the shade of its old fig tree with a chilled ‘raki’. Life doesn’t get much better.
- Party animals will feel right at home on the Bodrum peninsula. In the last decade or so, this slice of Turkey has learnt to cater for night owls in a big way. Okay, we’re not talking things on the scale of Magaluf or Faliraki, but all over the region, there are plenty of places that rock after dark. For a really pounding party vibe, two spring to mind – Bodrum and Gumbet. Bulging at the seams with bars, clubs, pubs and watering holes, they’re both made for outrageously wild nights. In Bodrum, the heart of the action is Bar Street, the main waterfront drag. Here bars, clubs and late night pubs of every description attract a young crowd. And there’s more. As the stars come out on summer nights, the town’s disco scene takes over. With several open-air dancefloors pumping out the latest tunes – including the legendary Halikarnassus – you’ll have more than enough in the decibels and DJs department to keep you dancing till dawn. And if you’re in Gumbet, expect more of the same. Like Bodrum, it’s got its very own Bar Street. This ribbon of revelry is made up of jam-packed bars, fun pubs and more nightclubs than Peter Stringfellow could ever dream of. Oh, and don’t forget Turgutreis and Altinkum. Both do a mean line in bars, clubs and nightspots, too. But there’s much more to the region than neon-lit nights. In smaller resorts like Gumusluk, Bitez, Torba and Yalikavak, evenings are slower and sedate. Bury yourself in a beanbag at a beach bar and watch the sunset with a fresh juice cocktail in your hand. Feast on the freshest fish ever in a harbour eaterie. Or add an exotic flourish to the evening by taking in a belly dancing show. Subdued, sophisticated or downright wild, nights in the Bodrum region can be all things to everyone.
- Halikarnassus, Bodrum Foam parties. Laser shows. And ear-blasting house, garage and techno played under a star-studded sky. This is Europe’s largest open-air disco and it does nothing by halves. Overlooking the castle and bay, its gargantuan dancefloor is rammed with revellers from 10 in the evening to 4 in the afternoon every summer night.
- Catamaran Club, Bodrum Groove till the sun peeps above the ocean on this hi-energy disco boat. Dance till you drop on the glass dance floor and at sometime during the night, you’ll cruise out over the Aegean. Will you notice? Probably not.
- Swan Bar, Altinkum A big fave with fun-loving Brits, this in-your-face bar dishes up frolics and fun entertainment every night. Expect fire-eaters, belly dancers, folk musicians, football songs and lots of raucous merry-making.
- Shakers, Gumbet Situated on Gumbet’s legendary Bar Street, this is dance city. Complete with upstairs balcony and dancing cage, its thumping mix of R&B, dance and club tracks usually gets punters strutting their stuff on the bar.
- Outback Bar, Gumbet Situated in Gumbet, this famous Aussie surf bar plays music that other bars don't and features plasma TVs showing all the sporting events on Skysports, a Playstation 3 and lots more...
The Bodrum region is a shopper’s dream. From touristy trinkets to exotic curios, designer brands and handwoven Turkish carpets, there’s enough here to satisfy the strongest retail cravings. First off, there’s a market taking place somewhere on the peninsula almost every day of the week. Take Bodrum. Every Tuesday, the clothes market hits town. And on Thursdays and Fridays, a massive food market takes over. The latter especially is a must-visit. With its wooden stalls groaning with rainbow-coloured fruit and veg, wild herbs and aromatic spices, it’s a serious exercise in sensory seduction. For souvenirs though, Bodrum’s covered bazaar and old town are your best bets. Step inside the narrow lanes and you’ll be submerged by a tide of colourful ‘kilims’ – carpets – leatherware, silver jewellery, ceramics and natural sponges. Modern goodies and designer brands are easy to find, too. Just head for the marina, where a parade of cool, air-conditioned boutiques and gift stores awaits. Or take a ‘dolmus’ to the smart Oasis Centre mall just out of town. Markets are big in the smaller resorts too. On Saturdays, tourists flock to Turgutreis’ weekly stall-fest to forage for all manner of trinkets, treasures and textiles. And in Yalikavak, too, a food and clothes market bursts into life every Thursday. Colourful and crowded, it’s packed with traders selling hubbly-bubbly pipes, embroidered ‘denzili’ scarves and homegrown delights like fresh tangerines plucked from local orchards. And don’t forget Bitez. Eager to keep up, its carnival-like flea market is another fixture on the region’s market merry-go-round.
45km from Bodrum airport