Lay of the Land
“The beauty of a landscape resides in its melancholy.”~Ahmet Rasim
Bodrum town, the ancient Greek seaside city of Halicarnassus has come a long way from its founding in 1,000 B.C., but history still lingers if you look for it – at the ruins of the Mausoleum (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World), an amphitheater from the Hellenistic age and the 15th-century Castle of St. Peter, which commands the Bodrum Town harbor. “Bodrum” refers to both the town on the southern shore, as well as the entire Peninsula, about 250 square miles of sand, rock, cyprus trees and Mediterranean pines that extend out from Southwestern Turkey into the Aegean Sea. The majority of the Peninsula is the 110-mile coastline of bays and fishing villages nestled within tangerine orchards and olive groves. The historic port of Bodrum proper served as the original dining and nightlife hub in the 1970s, but some of Bodrum’s most luxurious hotels have recently sprung up in smaller towns around the Peninsula (the Macakizi and Amanruya in the northern town of GölTürkbüku and the Kempinski Barbaros Bay in the southeast). Bodrum’s hot spots are spread out around the Peninsula and visitors should expect drives between fifteen and forty-five minutes from one town to another.
Bodrum’s explosion as a summer “it-destination” within the last ten years for glamorous travelers looks to become even more established in the next ten. And it’s with good reason – every glimpse of the water from the seaside roads is as extraordinary as the last, and it has quickly become an area where it is as fashionable to be on the beach club decks looking out to sea as it is to be aboard a luxury yacht or gulet looking back at those who lounge on shore. The more relaxed vibe of the summer enclave that hearkens back to the Bohemian lifestyle of past decades still exists; you just have to know where to look to find it.
When you visit Bodrum during the off-season, it seems as if the entire Peninsula breathes a quiet sigh of relief, as echoes of celebrities in designer bikinis, Saudi petroleum heirs, and European party-goers fade from the decks of the beach clubs that cut into the otherworldly blue of the Aegean Sea. It’s not to say that the summer months aren’t fabulous: the population of Bodrum explodes from 40,000 locals off-season to more than one million from May to August, 90% of whom are wealthy Istanbulites seeking shelter from the oppressively hot city at their breezy seaside houses on Bodrum Peninsula.
Most visitors fly into the Bodrum-Milas airport, which is just over an hour flight from Istanbul. Others add it as a final destination to their trip to Ephesus near Izmir, a three-hour drive from Bodrum. Multiple daily flights are operated by Turkish Airlines, and some charter flights also go direct from some European capitals during peak summer months.
Tip: If the confusing Turkish signs and curving roads don’t intimidate you, the Turkish drivers will. If you are someone who wants to travel around the Bodrum Peninsula to different sites, have your hotel arrange a car and driver, as taxis can be prohibitively expensive due to the distances between towns and the drivers are unlikely to speak much English. Because roads are winding, it’s never a straight shot to get from one town to another.
Worth exploring, either via rental car or with a driver, are the tiny fishing villages along the coastline. Yalikavek is home to the Billionaire’s Club, and the Cimentepe and Sait restaurants, and Gümüşlük is a more undisturbed village.