“Bodrum can be anything you want it to be. You can never get bored here.” That’s what Ankara native Seda Tigrek thinks of her summer spot. The town is nestled into a curving inlet on the Bodrum Peninsula’s southern coast, which sticks off the southwestern corner of Turkey like a splat into the Aegean Sea. Bodrum offers up a little something for everyone: a buzzing nightlife, gorgeous remote beaches, great dining, ancient history. For me, Bodrum excels at what Turkey does best: blending old and new worlds together into an intoxicating mix.
Back in the day — the ancient day — Bodrum was an outpost of the Greeks, most famous for housing the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, destroyed in earthquakes between the 12th and 15th centuries. By comparison, the city’s iconic Castle of St. Peter, built on an outcropping in the middle of the bay by 15th-century crusaders, seems almost modern. Nowadays, the delights of Bodrum, which has a population of 36,000, can be very modern indeed. The hills surrounding the harbor are sprinkled with infinity pools and spa terraces, the hideaways of fortunate folks. And down within the city’s narrow streets, cosmopolitan restaurants rub shoulders with posh nightclubs that thump all night. If you came for a taste of the good life, you can get a healthy serving of it here.
The coastline around the city of Bodrum is dotted with pristine inlets of azure waters beneath green hillsides.
Speaking of the good life — got a yacht? Steer it this way. The coastline around the city of Bodrum is dotted with pristine inlets of azure waters beneath green hillsides. Or, for $450, Bülent Elkat charters the popular boat “My Way” for tourist excursions to surrounding beaches so beautiful that, he believes, “words alone cannot describe [them].” The Greek island of Kos is also just a ferry away.
Of course, all this inlet hopping and disco crawling makes Bodrum, which is a quick flight from Istanbul, a potentially expensive destination. Thrifty tourists might prefer to hole up at cheaper backpacker communities like the treehouse-packed Olympos further along the coast, choosing instead to head by taxi or bus into Bodrum just for the nightlife. And for some, in a country full of unique destinations — like the otherworldly cave homes of Cappadocia, or the brilliantly turquoise terraced salt lakes of Pamukkale — Bodrum is just another pricey beach resort.
But Bodrum is still doable on a budget: Some of the city center’s hotels run about $60 a night. That usually includes a Turkish breakfast — tea, tomatoes, black olives, feta cheese and a soft-boiled egg — the best way to start the day, if you ask me. Or there’s the town’s specialty food, a spit-carved kebab layered with vegetables called sebzeli döner, which is cheap and the perfect predawn antidote to a late night.
And one of the best parts of Bodrum is also free, and priceless: Climbing up the curving streets, you pass beneath interlaced bougainvillea, dripping brilliant pink flowers along the way, and past blue-trimmed doors and bargaining fruit vendors, until you reach a high point and a wonderful view. Nightfall casts a purplish glow over the bay’s twinkling lights — the perfect end to a busy day of beach bouncing or the perfect beginning to a raging night.