Top beaches, heaps of history, and market places that capture the essence of the east – it’s no wonder holidays to Bodrum are so popular.
Turkey’s southern coast
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.
The big resorts
In places like Bodrum town, 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 plenty of traditional tavernas.
Ephesus and Didyma
The Bodrum area puts history at your fingertips. All the peninsula’s resorts are within daytripping distance of Ephesus, one of the best preserved classical cities in the world. If you’re staying in Altinkum, meanwhile, you’re less than a 10-minute drive from the ancient Ionian site of Didyma.
Things to See and Do in Bodrum area
The beaches in the Bodrum area’s main resorts all follow a similar suit. There’s usually at least a kilometre of sand, a good helping of tavernas and bars, and the complete collection of watersports. Most of the beaches are really family-friendly, too, thanks to shallow waters near the shore.
The big beach
As the second-largest town on Bodrum’s peninsula, Turgutreis isn’t short of admirers. And its beach is its main selling point. The order of business begins with a stint on the sunlounger, continues with a swim, and eventually moves on to a long lazy lunch in one of the town’s many tavernas.
The secret beach
Gumusluk Beach is as far from the madding crowd as you can get in the Bodrum area. It’s set at the edge of a traditional fishing village, half an hour’s drive from Bodrum town. Visitors to this stretch of sand tend to stick around until the end of the day, so they can watch the sunset from one of the beachside bars.
You can kit yourself out in head-to-toe Versace for less than £20 during a visit to Bodrum town’s Tuesday market, which is opposite the bus station on Turgutreis Cadessi. The labels are copycat, of course, but some of the fakes look like the real deal. Turgutreis’ Saturday market is also popular. The stalls here sell everything from handicrafts to vats of fresh olives.
Half-an-hour away from Bodrum town, in the villages of Etrim and Mazi, the ancient art of carpet weaving is still alive and kicking. Carpet prices start at a couple of hundred pounds and rise to thousands. The best products are made from silk thread and have a close weave. If textiles aren’t you’re thing, there are some tempting jewellery shops near Bar Street in Gumbet, which sell silver and turquoise pieces.
While Bodrum town has the monopoly on nights on the tiles, Turgutreis is the master of more sedate evenings out. The harbour is a great place to watch the sunset with a cocktail, before mooching in to one of the live music bars to see an acoustic guitarist or solo singer perform. For something more traditional, take the 20-minute taxi ride from Bodrum to Gumusluk, where you’ll find a handful of shisha bars overlooking the beach.
If in doubt, head to Bar Street. Bodrum town and Gumbet both have streets with this name. They’re lined with pubs, karaoke joints, and bars where happy hour lasts a lot longer than 60 minutes. Altinkum knows how to throw a party, too. Some of the bars and pubs around Dolphin Street host DJs and live bands until 3am.
Every harbourside restaurant worth its salt will have a version of Karides guvec on its menu. This hearty and healthy casserole is made from prawns, red peppers, garlic, chillies and tomatoes, and is topped with stringy cheese.
This kebab is the antithesis of a light bite. It’s made from mincemeat and spices, and cooked on an iron skewer over charcoals. Most restaurants serve this meaty feast with flatbread, charred tomatoes and hummus.
Borek is Turkey’s answer to fast food. Hundreds of these samosa-style pastries fly off the stalls of street food sellers every day, bought by locals who need a grab-and-go lunch. The filo pastry can be filled with everything from cheese to potatoes.
Forget Coca Cola and Sprite, the soft drink du jour in Turkey is Ayran. At first glance this drink looks like shaving foam. But on closer inspection, you’ll find it’s a cold mixture of yoghurt, water and salt. It’s so popular in Turkey, it’s included on the menus in Burger King and McDonald’s.
In bars up and down the Bodrum region, gossip is spilled and stories are shared over a few rounds of Raki. This aniseed-flavoured drink is served as an aperitif at the start of the evening. It’s cloudy and milky in appearance and it tends to be served with a side-order of ice water, a lot like an Italian espresso.
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Bodrum is fast becoming the Saint-Tropez of the Turkey Riviera, with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Beyoncé and the Saudi royal family choosing to spend their summers here. This trendy, cosmopolitan town is made up of sugar-cube houses that spill down the hillside into two turquoise bays. One has a glitzy new marina, the other a small beach. They’re both watched over by the turrets of St Peter’s Castle.
The southwestern corner of the Bodrum peninsula is often overlooked. But come a little closer and you’ll see why the fishing village of Akyarlar is quietly peeping out from the shadows. It’s nestled in a sweet little bay. At one end is a tiny harbour, at the other a moon-shaped beach. A handful of family-run restaurants and a few well-kept traditional houses grace the shoreline. And further up the hillside is the charming village centre.
Altinkum is a fun-loving beach resort on Turkey’s southwest coast. It’s grown quickly over the past few years, and has merged with its neighbour, Didim – a town with thousands of years of history. Altinkum means golden sands, and it's for the three impressive beaches that so many visitors head to its shores. But the stellar nightlife, the vibrant bazaar, and ancient historical sites are equally big draws.
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