Former sleepy fishing village: Check.
Great summer weather: Check.
Friendly locals: Check.
Amazing resorts near town: Check.
Incredible nightlife: Check.
Interesting history: Check.
Crystal clear water: Check.
Great beaches: Ehhhhh…
Cheap food: ?????
That’s Bodrum in a nutshell. Welcome to one of Turkey’s most popular summer resort destinations.
The name Bodrum refers to both the town of Bodrum and the Bodrum Peninsula. Scattered around the peninsula, there are several small villages with resorts catering to different tastes and budgets. For this entry, I will focus only on the town of Bodrum.
Bodrum was once known as Halicarnassus (Αλικαρνασσός) and was capital of the kingdom of Caria (Καρία). The Carians were an ancient people who inhabited this part of Anatolia before being colonized by the Greeks. Caria was later ruled by the Persians, Alexander the Great, the Romans, the Byzantines, and the Ottomans. It was known as Petronium while under Crusader control. The modern name of Bodrum is derived from Petronium.
I stayed in Bodrum for an entire week off-season in October. Hotels were cheaper, it was a lot quieter, and the weather wasn’t as hot as in summer. I really enjoyed my stay and wish it could’ve been a much longer holiday.
After arriving in the late afternoon, I jumped on the Havaş shuttle outside the arrivals hall of the airport and made my way to Bodrum Otogarı (bus terminal) in the city center. The ride cost 10TL and took 45 minutes total. It dropped off passengers along the way at a crossroads and at a few different resorts. At the bus terminal, it’s possible to catch minibuses to towns and villages on the peninsula (see below) and to other cities such as Istanbul, Izmir, and Marmaris.
Once at the bus terminal, I walked to my hotel, Angora Hotel. I stayed six nights and felt very welcome. It’s run by a family that were extremely helpful and friendly. The hotel is by no means a luxury hotel, but it’s cheap, clean, and has a nice rooftop pool with freezing cold water on top (great for those days when the sun is sizzling) and excellent views of town.
Breakfast is included at the hotel and is a typical Turkish breakfast with lots of cheese, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, and meats. There are complaints about noise from the nightclub across the street during high season, so if you want a quiet night, it might be better to book elsewhere. However, in the off-season (after September), I had no issues whatsoever with noise.
Speaking of nightlife, Bodrum is well-known for some of the best in Turkey. The most famous place is Halikarnas. It wasn’t open during my stay, but this massive club hosts legendary themed nights and parties for vacationing Turks and foreigners to enjoy late into the night.
I was invited out to Alem Bar by some local friends I made to watch live Turkish music performed by Reşat and Prens Erkan Serce. Personally I enjoyed it because I was with locals who happened to be excellent company.
Prens Erkan was the highlight of the night, entertaining the crowd with his unorthodox style of dancing. He was very gracious and interesting to talk to when he came and sat at our table, but I guarantee this kind of show is not something a foreigner would be into. I saw a few tourists from Germany and the Netherlands peek in and leave. The overwhelming majority of patrons were Turks.
Bodrum is great for shopping. The bazaar runs for a long stretch of Cumhuriyet Caddesi and into different corridors. There are all kinds of shops from souvenirs to boutique clothing stores to jewelry.
As you gathered from my intro, Bodrum’s beaches are less than desirable and it’s not a beach destination – not just in the town, but the entire peninsula. The water is some of the clearest most beautiful water I’ve ever seen, but I wasn’t impressed by any of the beaches I visited.
First of all, the beaches in the town of Bodrum were located where several boats are moored. This kept me from going in the water or even staying on the beach. I tried some beaches in other villages but they were full of seaweed and weren’t very clean. The best bet is to go on a day cruise that takes you to different coves around the peninsula where you can jump off the boat and swim.
There are several villages and resorts towns located on Bodrum Peninsula. Some of them are very exclusive areas frequented by Turkey’s rich and famous. Others are small, modest villages on the sea. All are accessible via the Bodrum Otogarı (bus terminal). I only had time to visit two (Gümüşlük and Turgutreis) but I plan on getting to some more on my next trip.
Finally, Bodrum is a great base for day trips to the Greek island of Kos. Various outlets will sell tickets on a ferry to Kos for up to €22 return (as of October 2012). Shop around and see what you can find. Ferries leave around 8 or 9am and return at 4 or 5pm depending on the speed (hint: the fast ferry is the way to go – it takes just over 20 minutes). It’s best to get to your designated ferry terminal very early to collect your tickets. Queues are long and it can be hectic.