Combining beaches, ruins and indulgent hammams, holidays to the Bodrum peninsula fall into the all-singing all-dancing category.
Turkey’s Aegean Coast
The Bodrum peninsula is where old meets new and the pair get along famously. On the one hand, this region – at the southern end of Turkey’s Aegean coast – is home to the battlegrounds, palaces and castles of past empires. On the other, it’s the stomping ground of Turkey’s fashionable set, who can’t get enough of its sleek marinas and boutiques.
For a concentrated dose of glamour, head for Bodrum town’s new marina. Along with top restaurants, you’ll find yachts so big they’d eclipse most semi-detached homes. Original features aren’t hard to come by in the town, either, including sugar-cube houses and a huge stone fort.
Gumbet and Turgutreis
Not far from Bodrum town is Gumbet. It’s got a narrow sand-and-pebble strip, plus, its streets are teeming with bars and clubs. Keep heading west from here and you’ll get to Turgutreis. Over the years, it’s morphed from a sleepy fishing village into a buzzing harbour town, and its calling card is a 19-kilometre beach backed by mountains.
Altinkum and Ephesus
Altinkum is the proud owner of a wide, gold-sand bay, it’s an unhurried kind of place, with a traditional Saturday market. Plus, the resort – along with the rest of those along the Bodrum peninsula – is within reach of Ephesus. The second biggest ancient site in the world is do-able in a daytrip.
Things to See and Do in Bodrum area
Turkey knows how to do beaches. And the Bodrum peninsula, tucked away in the country’s southwest corner, serves up some of the best. In Turgutreis, for example, the sands come complete with postcard views over to Kos, while Bitez Beach is a hotspot for windsurfing. And it’s not hard to guess what the attraction is over on Camel Beach…
The big beach
Top of the list is Gumbet Beach. It’s a kilometre-long stretch right in the centre of town. Families love the golden sand and top facilities – you’ll find no end of bars and restaurants here. Active types will be in their element, too – the waters are prime territory for zipping around on jet-skis and banana boats.
The secret beach
If you fancy somewhere a bit less crowded, head for Gumusluk Beach. This little Turkish delight is about half an hours’ drive from Bodrum town. It’s not completely off-the-beaten track – you’ll be able to grab a sunlounger, and there’s a decent helping of seafood restaurants edging the golden sand – but it’s a good spot if you want to escape the hordes on Bodrum’s most popular beaches.
Dinky villages like Etrim and Mazi are famous for their carpet, or kilim, weaving. In Etrim, 30 minutes’ drive from Bodrum town, the locals have been turning out rugs for more than 500 years. And it’s a similar story in Mazi, 15 minutes further on. If you’d rather not stray too far from the nest, Atatürk Street in Bodrum town is home to a handful of shops selling more of the same. In terms of cost, you can expect to pay between £100 and a few thousand pounds for a rug.
Leather is big news in Bodrum. Everywhere you go you’ll see shops bursting with leather bags, wallets and jackets, and the hardest part is deciding which one to go in. For some of the best, head into the heart of Bodrum town. You’ll find loads along Bar Street. Prices start at around £20 for a purse or bag and go up to around £100 for a real leather coat.
Put on your best poker face, because Bodrum town’s Tuesday market on Turgutreis Cadessi is the place to haggle for bags, clothes and shoes sporting names like Versace and D&G. We're not talking about bank-breaking price tags, either. These are bargain-basement imitations. If it’s olives and handicrafts you're after, though, put Turgutreis' Saturday market at the top of your list. It’s right by the beach.
Bitez is a dab hand at low-key nights out. In Bitez, 10 minutes from Bodrum town, Turkish restaurants line the waterfront and, after dinner, everyone takes to beanbags to puff on shisha pipes. There’s a similar scene in Turgutreis. The restaurants along the water here serve up fresh-from-the-net fish in view of the setting sun.
Bodrum town’s Bar Street is a real does-what-it-says-on-the-tin type of place. This heady strip along the waterfront is lined with bars and clubs, so you can hop from one happy hour to the next. Gumbet and Altinkum have their fair share of watering holes, too. In the former, you'll find the best around Bar Street. Yep, there's one of those here, too. In Altinkum, you can’t go wrong if you head to the harbour.
It's a casserole, but there's not a chunk of stewed meat in sight. This traditional Turkish stew is made using prawns, red peppers, garlic, chillies and tomatoes. And to top it all off, it's covered with stringy cheese and cooked in a terracotta pot.
This kebab puts its high street counterparts to shame. For this version, meat and spices are mixed together, wrapped around an iron skewer and then cooked over hot coals. It's dished up with grilled tomatoes, houmous and warmed flatbread.
Any Turkish mother worth her salt knows how to cook these popular pastries. But you don't have to score an invite into someone's home to taste them. You'll find stalls selling these triangle-shaped treats everywhere, and the most popular are the ones filled with cheese or lamb and spices.
A salty yoghurt drink? It's not as strange as it sounds. This speciality is made with a mix of yoghurt and water, plus a dash of salt. It’s served cold and usually with kebabs and rice dishes. Plus, it's highly recommended for people with headaches, fevers or dehydration.
This firewater has the nickname Lion's Milk, and it certainly packs a punch. Taste-wise, it's similar to ouzo and sambuca, and it's served with meze and seafood dishes. And – despite its reputation with die-hard party types – it's supposed to be served with water, and sipped rather than slammed.
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This off-radar resort on the southern shore of Turkey’s Bodrum peninsula started life as a diddy fishing village. These days it’s not much bigger, but its knockout beach draws a crowd of in-the-know locals. There’s little here beyond a few shops and hotels, and that’s the appeal. What you’ve got is a slice of authentic Turkish life that’s within easy reach of all the tourist action.
Altinkum sits on the coast of Turkey’s Aydin province. It’s a bit of a 2-for-1 deal here. The resort itself is a relatively modern number that comes with a shiny new marina and plenty of lively bars and clubs. But then the place blends effortlessly into its walk-to neighbour Didim, a more traditional set-up with tucked-away restaurants and Roman ruins. And of course such a perfect pairing wouldn’t be complete without a beach – or 3, in fact.
For years Gundogan was the locals’ well-kept secret – now the word is out in on this quiet little place on Turkey’s southern peninsula. The resort deals in R&R, with the beach doing a good line in lazy days while the traditional restaurants serve up laid-back nights. And if you do want to ramp things up, lively Bodrum Town is only 30 minutes away.
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