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Best things to do & places to stay:

Last updated: 03 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Jeremy Seal

Famous for its Crusader castle, rows of gleaming wooden gulets and vibrant nightlight, Bodrum is one of Turkey’s best-loved resorts. In spite of its popularity with tourists, it still feels pleasingly down to earth; a working Aegean port where fishing and holiday boats rub along together and where there’s a place, be it bar, beach lounger or market stall, for a greater diversity of pocket.

Stretching out from the town itself, the long Bodrum peninsula is fringed with smaller, low-key resorts and villages, particularly on the north side where Turkbuku’s swanky beach clubs draw a crowd of ultra-fashionable Istanbulites and foreign celebs.

In Bodrum itself, the shopping – particularly for clothes and accessories – is exceptional, and there’s culture too, including an impressive Roman ampthitheatre, and the imposing St. Peter’s Castle, home to the interesting Museum of Underwater Archaeology.

The trick is in combining the peninsula’s outstanding draws – its party scene, classical culture, shopping, boat trips to coves, sun-lounging – according to personal taste.

Orientation

The town, which occupies the southern shore of the peninsula, has as its hub the port and promenading area, with the Crusader castle bestriding two major bays.

Most of the big attractions are in the old centre, which has few hotels; there are dozens strung out along the coast in either direction. It’s worth avoiding Gumbet, unless you’re not fussed about sleep – it’s party central (and not in a good way).

Beyond the city, the shores of the peninsula are dotted with resort hotels and former fishing villages: Gumusluk, with its strip of shoreside fish restaurants; traditional Yalikavak; and ultra-fashionable (Gol) Turkbuku – Turkey’s Saint-Tropez.

In the middle of the peninsula, where the ground rises, rural Turkey briefly rematerialises.

The bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination

Travertine Pools at Pamukkale

Denizli, Aegean Region, Turkey

A natural phenomenon of extraordinary beauty, Pamukkale’s cotton-white travertines, created by carbonated springs, dazzle alongside the evocative Roman-era ruins of Hierapolis.

Best for ages: 6+ | £8

Ephesus

Selcuk, Aegean Region, Turkey

Turkey’s top ancient site combines intact colonnaded streets, painstakingly restored facades and stunningly painted villa interiors to evoke Roman-era life in unparalleled richness.

Best for ages: 18+ | £7

Hierapolis

Denizli, Aegean Region, Turkey

An ancient and evocative Roman spa city dating back to AD 80 with a fabulous inland setting, above the famed calcite travertine pools of Pamukkale.

Best for ages: 18+ | £8

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Other worthwhile experiences in this destination if you have the time or the interest

Aerial view of the theatre from the ancient city of Halicarnassus, which is still in use today
Experience

Bodrum Amphitheatre

Bodrum, Aegean Region, Turkey

A restored Roman amphitheatre that can seat up to 13,000, the site dates back to the 4th century BC. Some of the names of those who bought seats can still be seen carved into the stonework.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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People shopping at a covered market with food stalls
Experience

Bodrum Bazaar

Bodrum, Aegean Region, Turkey

This tangle of streets is shopping heaven, if you don’t mind the odd bit of pressure selling. Everything from kitchen utensils to kids’ clothes is on offer, along with fresh produce, ceramics, jewellery and the ubiquitous fake handbags and clothes. Barter hard.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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People shopping at a covered market with food stalls
Experience

Bodrum Market

Bodrum, Aegean Region, Turkey

Bodrum’s textile market, held on a Tuesday, is famous throughout the region; alongside the beautiful cottons and linens, there are also kilims (carpets), clothing and kitchenware on sale.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Ruins of an ancient ship set up in a museum exhibit
Experience

Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology

Bodrum, Aegean Region, Turkey

Interesting, small museums with exhibits including jewellery and artefacts from underwater necropolis and the skeletons of historic vessels. It’s housed in the Castle of St. Peter, a 15th-century fortress situated on a rocky peninsula between two sheltered bays.

Best for ages: 18+ | £1

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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay in this destination

Su Hotel

Bodrum, Aegean Region, Turkey

A compact and charming pool hotel discreetly located among Bodrum’s quiet backstreets, that’s just a ten-minute walk from the waterfront, and the town’s famous castle.

Official star rating:

4Reasons Hotel

Bodrum, Aegean Region, Turkey

A convivial, stylish boutique hotel in quiet setting, with outstanding food. Conveniently located for Bodrum, and nearby attractions.

Official star rating:

Kempinski Barbaros Bay

Bodrum, Aegean Region, Turkey

The region’s stand-out luxury resort hotel, set in its own secluded bay. For those in need of serious pampering who also wish to be within reach of Bodrum’s city vibe.

Official star rating:

Macakizi Hotel

Golturkbuku, Aegean Region, Turkey

Bohemian-chic hotel and beach club, with excellent food, at heart of Turkey’s stand-out summer playground.

Official star rating:

When to go

Bodrum is rammed during high summer (July and August), not the time to be sitting in a stationary vehicle on the winding coast road or trying to secure a table at the best restaurants. Crowds and temperatures fall away in both spring and autumn, which are perfect times to visit; it’s then that Bodrum takes its foot off the partying pedal and reveals itself as an Aegean town with a more nuanced appeal. The winter months tend to bring grey days and rain.

Getting there and away

Buses and taxis connect Bodrum’s airport with the city in about 30 minutes. Regular minibuses connect Bodrum’s bus station with the various destinations around the peninsula. Ferries and hydrofoils serve Bodrum from the Greek island of Kos.

Getting around

Car hire is available, though Bodrum’s labyrinthine roads and lack of parking hardly commends the place to drivers. Visitors are advised to use the ubiquitous dolmuses or taxis, while confident/fearless riders might even hire scooters or mopeds. Be prepared for heavy traffic in Bodrum and along the peninsula’s coast roads.

Where to eat or drink

The Bodrum Peninsula is Turkey’s nightlife capital, with the promenade along Bodrum’s eastern bay widely referred to as ‘Bar Street’. Bodrum’s western waterfront, Neyzen Tevfik Caddesi, is altogether chicer, and home to the city’s best restaurants and its marina.

Nearby Turkbuku – Turkey’s Saint-Tropez – is awash with trendy bars and beach brasseries.

Where to shop

The region is famed for ‘Tuesday’ markets in towns including Bodrum, Fethiye and Milas, where everything from local produce to ‘genuine fake’ Breitling watches are on offer.

Bodrum’s covered market area is good for upmarket artisanal products like silver jewellery and hand-made sandals.

For international brands head to Bodrum’s Karada Marina and to the Oasis Mall on the road to Gumbet, or to Turkbuku’s many boutiques.

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