If Turkey is on your list of destinations to research for 2012, then the stunning Bodrum peninsula should be too. Our Turkey holidays expert, Marc Dubin, shares his hassle free guide to planning an affordable, low-stress, unforgettable holiday on this gorgeous peninsula on the south western Aegean coast.
White-washed, bougainvillea-decked Bodrum, the ancient Halikarnassos, is Turkey’s longest established and most versatile seaside resort. From humble beginnings as a sponge-diver’s anchorage and place of internal exile, it has evolved into a cosmopolitan and lively Aegean town. Cruises along the coast ply from the busy marina, while the crusader-built castle houses one of the world’s best underwater archaeology museums. The town is gateway to a sizeable peninsula, speckled with twenty villages, mostly coastal. Enduringly popular with Brits are the party-cove of Gümbet, Ortakent with its long beach, the market centre of Turgutreis facing terrific sunsets, and charming, upmarket Gümüşlük, the ancient Myndos.
When to go
Between mid-November and late April, the Bodrum peninsula is dead, with the sea too cold to bathe comfortably, and only Bodrum town itself ticking over. A TripAdvisor contributor has it spot on with: “July/August I avoid like the plague – May/June and Sept/October are the months to visit – great weather, much fewer people – perfect!” You’ll need long sleeves and even a sport coat or thin jumper after dark in spring or autumn, plus a portable umbrella.
Getting the best deal
All-inclusive resorts are gaining ground around the peninsula (much less so in Bodrum town), but beware of some of the low-star ones – food can be all but inedible, monotonous and even unhygienic. You may have a better experience booking a hotel direct on B&B basis (with optional half-board), and arranging air transport separately. Some hotels provide a competitive transfer service.
Don’t forget to get travel insurance on the off chance that you become seriously ill or have an accident. The EHIC card is not valid in Turkey. British citizens need a Visa to enter the country – it costs £10 so have this ready on arrival. You don’t need to apply in advance for your visa. It’s valid for up to three months. You can find more detailed information at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website.
Since Turkey entered the European Customs Union around the millennium, just about every conceivable sundry, medication and widget is available on the spot – albeit for a price in many cases. So don’t max out your limited luggage allowance on a budget airline flight. Turkish tea (usually sold loose) may not be to everyone’s taste, so a few British bags (which weight little) wouldn’t go amiss.
Where to fly from?
There are flights from more than a dozen UK airports, though most are April–October only on chartered airlines such as Thomsonfly, FirstChoice, Monarch and Thomas Cook. For a slightly longer season, easyJet flies from Bristol, Liverpool, Gatwick and Stansted, while jet2 arrives from East Midlands, Newcastle Manchester and Leeds Bradford. At peak times, you’d be doing well to get a return flight for under £280, though by going at shoulder season or booking far in advance, you can get tickets for just over half that.
Surviving the airport
Public transport is often the cheapest option for lightly laden travellers getting to the airport. If you plan to park there, book as far in advance as possible to get the cheapest deals. In peak season consider booking lounge access to escape the crowds, or at Gatwick – prior to dawn departures – a Yotel module (www.yotel.com).
Transfers at Bodrum airport
The airport is 35km north east of Bodrum town – it takes about 45 minutes to get into town. There is limited shuttle-bus service on Havaş (www.havas.net, tel +90 252 523 0040, 18TL/£5.40), between the domestic terminal (15 minutes walk from the international terminal) and Bodrum’s central bus station – not really an option if you’re heavily laden, and dovetailing only with domestic flights. Otherwise budget £32/90TL for a taxi to/from town, much more for remote points on the peninsula. A good compromise might be a pre-booked transfer on such local companies as www.propercar.com or www.bodrumtransfers.com – prices range from £18 (small car, up to 3 passengers) to £32 (minivan, up to 7 passengers).
Once you are there
What to do on your first night
On your first evening, dive into Bodrum’s justly famed nightlife, with something for everyone. If the mega-discos of Halikarnas (and its famous laser show) or Katamaran (cruises 1–4am nightly, between Karaada and Kos islands) are too much, then more intimate clubs on Alim Bey Caddesi like Hadigari (with live acoustic music) and Fora should fit the bill. Full listings can be found at the Bodrum Info and Bodrum Pages websites. Those of a more sedate disposition might head for Turgutreis, Akyarlar or Gümüşlük at the far tip of the peninsula, for spectacular sunsets over a selection of islets, both Turkish and Greek. Plenty of waterfront restaurants take advantage.
Practical considerations for planning an itinerary
Next day, it’s time to see a bit of the surroundings. Peninsula resorts are well served by minibuses from Bodrum town’s otogar (bus station), though note that few services link the resorts. Ask on a local forum such as Turkish Living for details of the latest minibus timetables. Car hire is a good option if in a group, but parking space is at a premium everywhere in summer. Scooters are available, but given local driving habits are not especially recommended. Taxis won’t be especially cheap – taking one to Turgutreis or Yalıkavak and back from Bodrum town costs more or less the same as a day’s car hire.
The north side of the peninsula is greener, with tufts of pine forest on the ridges; the south slopes, facing the Greek island of Kos, are more bare, with volcanic crags and better beaches. These, almost without exception, get crowded in summer – see The Best Beaches and Sights in Bodrum for more details.
Each resort has a different flavour, and clientele. Gümbet, essentially a suburb of Bodrum, is popular with the British clubbing set. Bitez, with a busy, crowded beach, appeals to almost everyone. Ortakent and its Yahşi Sahil beach get both Turkish and foreign families. Akyarlar is famous for its line of seaside tavernas, while Turgutreis is almost a “real” village with its well-attended Saturday market. Gümüşlük presents an odd mix of Turkish bohemian and upmarket foreign tourism, while Yalıkavak has only recently made the transition from sponge port to middle-of-the-road resort. Beyond there, heading east, Turkish city-dwellers have mostly claimed Farilya, Türkbükü and Gölköy for themselves.
In town, top of the list of daytime things to do is the Castle of St Peter dominating the harbour, originally built by the crusading Knights of St John during the 15th century. Today it contains the Museum of Underwater Archaeology, with two galleries of shipwreck finds, and another of an ancient tomb belonging to a fourth-century BC local notable.
It’s a good idea, the evening before, to stroll by the castle gate and read the visiting hours for the several galleries, which vary widely by season – they are rarely all open simultaneously, if you want to take it all in on one visit. Alternatively check the opening times page on the museum website.
Meal times in and around Bodrum are more akin to neighbouring Greece than inland Turkey – night-time summer temperatures (and Bodrum proper can be quite airless) mean that you can get fed until 10pm or so.
In Bodrum town, locally patronised Berk Balık on the easterly bay is the place for succulent seafood. In picturesque Akyarlar, I like Yalovalı Balıkçı for normally priced fish with great harbour views, or friendly, home-style Kaptanin Yeri at an inland terrace.
Bodrum Hassle Free – the map
View larger map
Live arrivals and departure information for the airport is shown at the Bodrum Airport website. Allow at least 45 minutes for your journey from Bodrum town to the airport, whether you are taking the minibus or a taxi.Prices for food and drink (even bottled water) at Bodrum Milas Airport are outrageous, so come prepared. Don’t buy more than 200 cigarettes at the duty free – regardless of what vendors may tell you, the allowance entering the EU has NOT been raised.
Make your holiday last a little longer by uploading your photos to Facebook for the benefit of Facebook friends, or adding them to the Aegean Sea Flickr group.
Share some of your knowledge with people thinking about holidaying in and around Bodrum on the busy Trip Advisor forum.
- Europe Airports page for Bodrum airport www.europe-airports.com/turkey/show-airport.php?code=BJV – summary of Bodrum Milas Airport, with some unflattering reviews.
- Proper Car www.propercar.com – airport transfer bookable through a major domestic Turkish car-hire chain.
- Bodrum Transfers www.bodrumtransfers.com – dedicated transfer service in vehicles of varying sizes.
- TripAdvisor Bodrum forum www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowForum-g298020-i764-Bodrum_Peninsula_Mugla_Province_Turkish_Aegean_Coast.html – much the busiest forum, with a variety of topics
- Bodrum Info www.bodruminfo.org, www.bodrumpages.com/English/ – two comprehensive, objective overview sites, apparently Turkish- rather than expat-authored.
- The Museum of Underwater Archaeology: http://www.bodrum-museum.com/
- FCO Turkey page www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/europe/turkey – Useful, if a bit ominous at times.