Homer described Ionia – as the Ancient Greeks knew this stretch of the beautiful Aegean littoral with its pristine beaches and crystal waters – as “a land of eternal blues”, and today this stretch of coast is popularly known as the Turquoise Coast.
The rugged peninsula of Bodrum, overlooking the confluence of the Aegean and Mediterranean seas, is a place of quiet pine-fringed coves and an ideal spot for all types of water sports. Not only that, but it is also home to the town of Bodrum, in ancient times one of the most important cities of the region and home to the great historian Herodotus.
The dreamlike underwater world off Bodrum is a paradise for divers, and the coastline is perfect for short excursions by boat; on a day trip to Dalyan Beach you can see the protected loggerhead turtles, whose cause was championed back in the mid-Eighties by David Bellamy, or you could visit the ruins of the ancient towns of Mylas, Didyma or Miletus, or, venturing farther afield, take a trip to the Greek islands of Kos or Rhodes.
In Bodrum itself, a stroll around the bustling harbour will show you the heart and soul of the town. Cafes, exotic restaurants and designer boutiques line the waterfront, while luxury yachts bob at anchor on the sparkling waters that throw back a thousand different reflections of the pretty white houses that look out over the bay. Throughout the summer, visitors throng the lively bars and flock to the behemoth nightclubs lining the Barlar Sokagı, showing how well the most modern European trends dovetail with traditional Ottoman luxury.
The best way to get into the local mood is to enjoy a mid-morning coffee at one of the bars, maybe on a terrace at the Kumbahçe Beach, or at the Karyon, the most popular cafe. Once you've attuned, take a stroll to St Peter's Castle, built by the Crusaders in the fifteenth century using stones from the ruined Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Now the castle grounds are home to a Museum of Underwater Archaeology and host different cultural festivals and events through the year.
Of the great tomb of Mausolus – whose name gives us the word Mausoleum – nothing remains except the foundations and a few sculptures. Even so, it is worth climbing from the Tepecik mosque to visit the site and let your imagination reconstruct this magnificent monument which stood some 45 metres high. On the way you will pass the theatre that dates from the same period and is now used as an auditorium.
As the afternoon fades into evening, following the billowing tide of people will bring you to the harbour; here, you will find plenty of little taverns serving fresh fish, and a perfect setting to let the day slip slowly away.
Milas-Bodrum Airport is 36 kilometres northeast of Bodrum; during the tourist season, a number of low-cost and charter airlines operate flights from cities throughout the UK.
As well as the town of Bodrum itself, the peninsula offers many other delightful coastal towns such as Turgutreis, Gümüslük, Yalikavak, Gümbet… to explore at your leisure. On land, the best way to get around is to hire a car and just follow the winding roads, while renting a boat will give you an alternative perspective of the delightful littoral scenery.
Where to eat
The typically Turkish Kortan restaurant, specialises in sea food and offers a select atmosphere. It's worth trying Han, on Meyhane Sokak, for the setting alone: located in an old Ottoman caravanserai, it serves Mediterranean cuisine during the day and becomes a popular drinking spot at night.
Where to stay
The Atami is a charming boutique hotel set in a secluded cove near Göltürkbükü village and offering a variety of activities from the more energetic sea sports such as sailing, windsurfing and canoeing to more relaxed special interests such as yoga and ikebana. The Karia Princess located in the heart of the old city of Bodrum offers the classic elegance of a fine five-star hotel just minutes away from the lively marina.
Rent a schooner and explore some of the most beautiful coves and beaches of the area. The Gulf of Gokova, south of Bodrum, boasts the best seabed in the Aegean and is perfect for diving. An alternative is to take one of the cruises across to the Greek Islands of Kos or Rhodes offered by Naviera Diamond or Blue Cruise.