The Best Things to See and Do in Bodrum, Turkey
Tucked into a beautiful corner of southwest Turkey, the holiday resort of Bodrum attracts visitors from all over the world, who are drawn in by the promise of sunshine, beaches, and clear seas, not to mention some famous ancient sites to explore.
There is a fantastic array of facilities, too; Bodrum welcomes a mix of wealthy Turkish holidaymakers, yachters, package tourists, independent travellers, and many others, so you can expect luxury hotels, chic restaurants, and exclusive parties, as well as huge outdoor nightclubs, fast-food joints, and mid-range holiday accommodation. It is also one of the main ports on the Blue Voyage, the gulet cruise route along the Turkish Riviera.
The city of Bodrum centres on its yacht- and gulet-filled marina. Watching over it is Bodrum Castle, a Medieval Crusader castle that was built by the Knights Hospitaller, and subsequently captured by Ottoman forces in the 16th century. Today, the castle hosts the Museum of Underwater Archaeology, which is dedicated to artefacts retrieved from ancient shipwrecks in the Aegean. It contains an impressive collection of amphoras, plus many other items made from glass, bronze, clay, and iron that were brought up from wrecks dating from the ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman periods. Be sure to take in the views from the top of the castle — you can see across the bay to remains of the 18th-century windmills on the far headland, as well as out over the Aegean Sea to the Greek island of Kos.
There are plenty of other impressive historic sites to explore nearby. Bodrum was the site of the Greek city of Halicarnassus. The most striking remnant of the city is its ancient theatre, originally built in the fourth century BC, and enlarged by the Romans in the second century AD. Like with many ancient theatres in the region, there are views of the sea from the banks of seating. Bodrum is also home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. Today, you can visit the ruins of the mausoleum and see a model of how it looked when it opened.
Bodrum is at its prettiest in spring and summer, when the bougainvillea that grows from the town's whitewashed walls bursts into a riot of pink and purple. The streets are full of shopping opportunities, from stores selling designer goods to small shops offering jewellery and souvenirs. There are also all kinds of cafés and restaurants where you can grab breakfast, lunch, or dinner in a relaxed setting during the day and into the evening — you will find plenty of choice around the marina.
Bodrum undergoes a transformation at night, especially in peak summer, and the choice of nightlife is staggering. Much of the action centres on the Old Town, close to the castle, where Bodrum has its own Bar Street, and it is easy to find bars and clubs which are open until dawn. The seafront area that stretches east from the Old Town offers plenty more restaurants and bars, some of them right on the beach. For something a little more authentically Turkish, try to spend at least one evening at a meyhane, a taverna that combines local cuisine, lots of raki drinking, singing, dancing, and a great atmosphere.
Bodrum is on a mountainous peninsula in the Mugla region. The city is surrounded by smaller towns and villages that offer a wide variety of holiday experiences, so it is easy to find a base to suit your needs. Gümbet is practically a suburb of Bodrum, and is popular as a package holiday destination, with generally more affordable hotels than Bodrum. Its main draw is its kilometre-long sandy beach, although it also has its own busy, noisy Bar Street, which is packed with bars and dance clubs.
A few kilometres further west from Gümbet, Bitez is a smaller, more relaxed resort that attracts an older crowd. It has a palm-lined beach with shallow water, as well as umbrellas and sunbeds, plenty of bars and restaurants along the shore, and an excellent choice of hotels. For an even more chilled out and secluded spot, head to Gumusluk at the western end of the Bodrum Peninsula. There is a beach of sand and shingle, several seafood restaurants on the front, and a scattering of holiday accommodation.
The Bodrum area offers plenty of outdoor activities. Hiking routes around Bodrum include the Carian Trail, an 820-kilometre path linking many of the best archaeological sites of this corner of Turkey. One arm of the trail passes through Bodrum, visiting Halicarnassus before continuing up into the hills, where it ends at the ancient city of Pedasa. Allow about an hour each way to walk from Bodrum.
Bodrum is a well-known scuba-diving centre, with plenty of trips and courses available for divers of all levels. Dive sites in the area are noted for their calm, clear waters, and you can see plenty of spectacular underwater rock formations, as well as marine life including grouper fish, rays, and moray eels. There are even some wrecks that were deliberately sunk for divers to explore, including a coastguard patrol ship and a Dakota aircraft.
You can also go on sightseeing boat trips from Bodrum's harbour. There are hundreds of tours on offer in summer, with day trips around the peninsula a popular option. They allow you to access small secluded bays, where you can swim or snorkel in the Aegean, and sunbathe on deck. Many cruises include lunch and refreshments, and you can opt to join a scheduled group trip, or charter your own boat and crew.
Another popular day trip from Bodrum is to the Greek island of Kos. The ferry crossing takes less than an hour and Kos Town, where passengers disembark, is full of historic sites. These include the ancient Agora, Casa Romana (a reconstructed Roman Villa), Neratzia Castle, which was built by the Knights of St John to guard against Ottoman invasions, and the Roman Odeon, a small performance venue from the second century AD. About 10 minutes' taxi journey from town, the Asklepion is a sanctuary of the Greek god of medicine, Asclepius. In ancient times, it’s where people came to be healed, and it is also where Hippocrates trained in medicine. You can get some lovely views of Turkey from the hilltop ruins.
Back on the Turkish coast, you can also take a ferry from Bodrum across to the beautiful Datça Peninsula — a journey of about an hour. At the end of the peninsula, Knidos is an ancient Greek coastal city dating back to the fourth century BC. It is one of the region's most important archaeological sites, and incudes an impressive amphitheatre. The peninsula also has some pretty coves, and seaside villages with fish restaurants.
Before travelling, be sure to check out our travel guide to Turkey.
Then read about what to do in Istanbul
Indulge in Turkey's best foods
Study up on customs and safety in Turkey
Be sure you know when to visit Turkey
Find out what to take in along the Turquiose coast
Plan what to see in Marmaris
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Nick Elvin contributed to this post.