From what to see to where to dine, we’ve put together a tidy guide to getting the best out of a gem on Turkey’s coast.
Given Turkey’s geographical proximity to Egypt - as well as the cultural, historical, religious and ethnic affinities the two countries share - it’s no surprise that many Egyptians choose Turkey for their vacay wants and needs. But while many a tourist opt to include Istanbul on their travel bucket lists, the glittering beauty of Turkey’s turquoise coast often goes amiss. The city and surrounding areas of Bodrum, stretching out from the southwest of the country and into the Aegean sea, promise a glamorous escape amongst some of nature’s best kept secrets.
BEST OF BODRUM - WHAT TO DO
Known for its azure and emerald waters, Bodrum’s ocean activities are a must for any thrill-seekers who find themselves looking for their next dose of vitamin sea.
Bodrum’s quiet Bitez beach offers up a breeze for budding and experienced windsurfers alike, with calm morning winds making way for beginners interested in the watersport. Rush Windsurf school has been offering up English-language lessons on the bay since 1993, making it Turkey’s oldest running windsurfing centre. Book yourself in for a multi-day beginners course or, for those with more experience, feel free to rent some equipment for when those wild afternoon winds start to pick up some speed. For those who fancy some underwater action, Orak island is a diver’s paradise just waiting to be discovered. This uninhabited island of evergreen olive groves quietly boasts a vertical reef wall of nearly 80m not far from its shores. Enjoy shallow and deep-sea diving here with the chance to take leisurely lunch breaks aboard your sun-showered gulet.
Too much salt and sun not your thing? Bodrum’s Tuesday Bazaar is the perfect place to shop ‘til you drop - or at least until your next beachside meal. Quieter though no less magnificent markets can be found in Ortakent or Gündo˘gan. Get lost tasting and trying from locals as you browse through their wonderful stores of cheeses, fresh honey, handmade soaps and deliciously sweet pink tomatoes. The best leather bags and shoes are found in Bodrum town’s Tuskany, with friendly owner Shafak allegedly offering discounts to those who ask nicely.
Or maybe you just want to do a whole lot of nothing. Where else can you rent a yacht to spend your day floating between the Aeagan and Mediterranean seas? Bodrum's picture-perfect sunsets are most magical when experienced from a chartered boat amidst the peaceful Gulf of Hisaronu. Drop down your anchor on the small island from across the D Maris Bay Hotel to watch the sun disappear below the island-dotted horizon. Trust us when we say it’s worth the journey.
BEST OF BODRUM - WHERE TO EAT
Home-grown and home-cooked: the food in Bodrum is second to none. Whether you want to eat with your toes in the water, beneath an umbrage of bougainvillaea or just a stone’s throw from the city’s historic 15th-century castle, you’d be hard pressed to find food that doesn’t match up to Bodrum’s gorgeous shores and landscapes.
Maçakizi hotel and restaurant is a firm favourite throughout the peninsula. This family-run beach restaurant has been serving a menu of authentically Turkish and international cuisines since its opening in 1975. With a state-of-the-art outdoor kitchen, this sexy and secluded establishment cooks up ‘good, simple food… like mama used to make,’ says owner Sahir Erozan. He works from his mother’s recipes to serve up exquisite, artful dishes of chargrilled octopus, king crab tempura, delectable spiced salads and of course, Turkish stuffed vine leaves. Time your visit right and you may even get to enjoy one of the restaurant’s exciting ‘chef nights’ - a regularly organised collaboration between local and international guest chefs creating unique gastronomic experiences for Maçakizi customers.
Nestled amongst bergamot trees and whitewashed buildings, Orfoz can be found on an unassuming side street of Bodrum. This bay-view restaurant is more low-key than Maçakizi. Owner Çağlar Bozçağa still swims for his supper, bringing anything he doesn’t eat from his free-dive adventures to the evening diners of his restaurant. Orfoz’s divine selection of seafood deservedly takes centre stage here. House-smoked eel, oysters grilled with Parmesan, mantis-shrimp ceviche. The list goes on and on, accompanying homemade bottles of biodynamic wine to make Orfoz a fantastic secret mealtime spot in Bodrum.
Ayana Mes is a Bodrumium favourite - even during the busy summer months this restaurant is seated almost entirely by locals. With a menu of numerous meze dishes, grilled octopus, stuffed pumpkin flowers and a speciality of boiled cockerel this quiet tables-on-the-sand restaurant is perhaps one of Bodrum’s best kept secrets.
BEST OF BODRUM - WHERE TO STAY
With swathes of evergreen hills caressing against miles of turquoise coastline, accommodation options in the Bodrum peninsula are as bountiful as they are beautiful.
Luxury 5* hotel Mandarin Oriental truly reigns supreme among Bodrum’s host of what’s on offer. Nestled in Bodrum’s idyllic Paradise Bay, this hotel truly has it all. It offers guests two private beaches, a range of gourmet restaurants and extensive gym facilities. The highlight is of course the Balinese and Japanese-inspired spa with in and outdoor pools as well as traditional Turkish hammam treatments rooms. can choose from lifestyle apartments, rooms, family suites or villas for an experience that’s grand as it is intimate. Setting this resort aside from the rest is the wonderful staff who work at Mandarin Oriental. They truly put their hearts into everything they do.
Green, serene Amanruya is the secluded getaway you absolutely need to stay in if you’ve been living life too quickly. If it weren’t for the Turkish sun and the cool sea breeze you might mistake your evergreen surroundings for a stay in a Swiss-mountain wellness retreat. Resting amid olive groves and cypress trees, guests can enjoy the privacy of their own free-standing pavilion, complete with fireplaces, four poster beds and a heated private pool. This earthy and romantic retreat has its own beach club, making for peaceful morning swims in Bodrum’s gorgeous turquoise waters. Do yourself a favour and check in and check out with a stay at Amanruya. You won’t regret it.
A more affordable yet still remarkable option for accommodation can be found in Bodrum city’s El Vino Hotel. Situated in a prime location for Bodrum’s entertainment, shops, many restaurants and gorgeous sunsets, this 4* hotel offers spacious and comfortable rooms with an interior design drawing from the city’s rocky coastline. El Vino features a heated open air jacuzzi for all seasons, a poolside restaurant and lounge as well as special suites offering spectacular panoramic views over Bodrum and its countless historical monuments. If you don’t fancy being too far from the action, El Vino Hotel might just be the one for you.