A summer mecca for the rich and beautiful this former fishing village boasts remote beaches, clear blue waters, boutique hotels and uber cool clubs. Here are our insider tips for holidaying in style on the Turkish peninsula.
1) Getting around
The town of Bodrum serves as the hub for the Bodrum peninsula. Most people staying in the centre, or close to it, take shared taxis (dolmus) that run predetermined loops, although you can ask to get off at any point on that loop. Whether you want to check out the beaches on another part of the peninsula or go into the centre for a night of partying, these shared taxis are your best option, and run until the wee hours of the morning.
If you're travelling around Bodrum on business or need to stick to a schedule then there are a number of car and travel service companies, who will provide you with a round-the-clock driver and a luxury car for however long you need. The best of these are Travelium and Akustick. Both have excellent relations with tour operators, hotels and businesses in the area, their drivers speak English and can provide you with travel advice and tours. Many of the 5* hotels in the area also offer their own car service for guests.
2) Bar Street
It’s no secret that a major draw (if not the major draw) of Bodrum is its nightlife. You have your pick of venues to party the night away, from massive open-air beach clubs and parties on giant catamarans to intimate terrace bars overlooking the marina. But nightlife doesn’t really get going until midnight or 1am. So on a night out, most people will first head to Bar Street (Cumhuriyet Caddesi) in Bodrum town for a drink or two before going to their club of choice. Bar Street’s buzz of people and music will give you that extra kick of energy you need for a long night of clubbing.
Private beach, Divan Hotel, Bodrum
3) Know your geography
For a long time, Bodrum was known as a party centre for Brits on holiday. While a few areas still cater to this set (think chip shops, laser shows and foam parties), travellers of all stripes can now find a location to fit their needs. A number of spots, like Turkbuku and Yalikavak, offer simple luxury—creamy white decor and stunning views—that attract Turkish high society, as well as foreigners looking for a more refined experience. If you’re craving quiet and a more laid-back environment, head to Gumusluk and Gundogan. Whenever booking a place to stay, be sure to read about the area it’s located in as Bodrum encompasses a wide range of destinations, and each one offers something slightly different.
Visiting Bodrum and not partaking in a night out would be like visiting Rome and not sampling a slice of pizza. The massive Halikarnas, which was opened in 1979 and can fit up to 6,000 people, has achieved an almost cult-like status. It was recently renovated in 2012 and continues to host Turkish and foreign celebrities. Even if you’re not into clubbing, a night at this open-air behemoth is an adventure, to say the least.
There are other clubs in Bodrum town, and the marina has live music every night in the summer if you’d prefer a more understated evening out. Regardless of where you go, be forewarned that the quality of cocktails is still not quite up to snuff when compared to European or American standards, and you’ll often get a stiff pour.
The Bodrum peninsula is home to innumerable bays and hidden inlets, many of which are difficult to access by car (although that’s slowly and surely changing with the boom in development). But who wants to drive, anyway?
There’s no better way to take in the dramatic rockscape, dotted as it is with bottle green pine trees and olive groves, and the Aegean’s azure waters than from the deck of a gulet, a small Turkish wooden sailing boat. In fact, a significant portion of Bodrum’s visitors arrive by yacht, so there must be something to it. Imagine yourself jumping into the crystal clear water in a secluded cove, any stress melts away as soon as you’re enveloped in the sea.
View from Bodrum Castle, Source: flickr/ming yen hsu
6) Turkish breakfast
The cornerstone of any day in Turkey, Turkish breakfast (kahvalti) is even longer and more luxurious in Bodrum, where the majority of the summer population has little on the agenda beyond relaxation.
Comprised of numerous small plates full of fresh vegetables, crunchy cucumbers and incredibly sweet tomatoes, fruits, tangy white cheese that is a close cousin of feta, olives, a variety of jams, and bread (the backbone of every meal in Turkey), kahvalti is not to be rushed.
And, as the Turks say, a breakfast without tea is not a breakfast. So make like a Turk: Sip tea during your leisurely breakfast and order a Turkish coffee only once you’ve finished eating.
Vankahvalti, source: wiki/Tanyel
7) Fish and raki
With its proximity to the sea, it would be foolish not to sample the seafood Bodrum has to offer. One definition of pure bliss is eating fresh octopus grilled in butter at a seaside meyhane while watching the sun set. A meyhane, which literally translates to “wine house”, is the perfect spot to taste the local seafood. First, you order a few small plates of meze, like samphire in olive oil and the aforementioned octopus, and then you select a whole fish for the main course.
The drink of choice at a meyhane is raki, an aniseed liquor generally diluted with water and ice. Pro tip: While it doesn’t have the sea views, the fish market in Bodrum town is one of the best places to purchase fresh fish. After buying your fish from a fish stall, you can bring it to your restaurant of choice and have them cook it for a small fee.
Bodrum has the reputation as a place to party the night away, only to spend the day unwinding and relaxing on the beach (read: recovering from the previous night out). But there are just enough historical places of interest to hold your attention when you’re feeling restless.
The Bodrum Castle, built by the Rhodes Knights, affords stunning views of the harbour and international marina; plus, scrambling up the walls makes you feel like a bit of an explorer yourself. The Castle also houses the Museum of Underwater Archaeology, which displays items from ancient shipwrecks and offers detailed descriptions of how they were unearthed. Outside of Bodrum town, you can spend a day on the hunt for crumbling ruins of old Greek churches and centuries-old fishing villages, which offer a glimpse into Bodrum’s past.
Bodrum Castle, source: Flickr/Yilmaz Oevuenc
9) Dress for the heat
The temperatures in Bodrum can be astoundingly high in the summertime. You may have been warned against showing skin in Turkey, but there’s no need to heed this advice when in Bodrum. Shorts, t-shirts, tank tops and short dresses are the norm, and since you likely won’t be exploring any mosques, there’s no need for long skirts and sleeves. But if you plan on going to the swankier nightclubs, you should certainly dress for the occasion: Bodrum is a place to see and be seen, so why not give in and pack your most opulent outfit.
Source: Flickr/Trevor Owens
In general, tipping is common practice in Turkey. In nicer restaurants, patrons often leave a 10% tip, although it is certainly not necessary if you receive poor service. Tips cannot be added to a credit card bill, so make sure to have some cash with you when dining out. As for clubs and bars, tips are not essential, but they can sometimes help you get better service.
There usually isn’t a service charge included in a hotel bill, so it would be a nice gesture to give something to the concierge, bellboy and cleaners if you’re staying at a luxury hotel or resort. Finally, taxi drivers generally aren’t tipped, and certainly don’t expect it, but tour guides, private guides and the masseur at a hamam all get a little something extra.
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