You can have a deluxe holiday in Bodrum without the price tag.
From the breezy peak of Turkey’s Leleg hiking path, you gaze out over the thick forested coastline dropping steeply into the cobalt Aegean Sea.
Just below are the ancient ruins of the classical civilisation of Pedasa, dating from around 3,000 years ago.
This is Bodrum on the country’s western coastline, a rugged peninsula that juts out from the mainland.
The seaside hotspot is having a golden moment, luring tourists away from Saint Tropez and the Amalfi Coast with its pristine waters, whitewashed old towns and sumptuous food.
The difference? You can have a deluxe holiday in Bodrum without the price tag.
While summer is spectacular, you could also try visiting in shoulder seasons – spring or autumn – for fewer crowds, fresher weather and a nod to sustainability.
What to do in Bodrum: Turkish hammam and hot springs
Begin your temporary life as a sultan by experiencing Turkey’s spa culture. Around Bodrum town, you can find establishments offering a reasonably priced hammam that will leave you feeling a million dollars.
Traditional Turkish scrubs involve lying prone on a stone slab while being alternatively rubbed down with an exfoliating cloth and sloshed with warm water.
Depending on how much free reign you give your masseuse, it can feel like being scrubbed with sandpaper. But your skin will be as soft as a baby’s after.
For a DIY experience, head to Karaada (Black Island) where you’ll find a cave with a sulphurous thermal pool and skin-nourishing orange mud.
What to do in Bodrum: Hiking and watersports
If you want something more active, try the trails winding along the windswept ridges of the Bodrum peninsula.
As you hike upwards, time unspools backwards taking you through ruins of ancient cities built by the Lelegs, the first inhabitants of the region from around 2700-3000 years ago.
Mustafa Demir, vice-president of Bodrum’s regional tourism board, is heading up an initiative to encourage more active and nature-based tourism in the typically ‘fly and flop’ destination. As well as a new Bodrum hiking trail, they are promoting mountain biking, rafting and sailing.
This alternative tourism is gaining traction – Zelensky hiked some of Bodrum’s foliage-filled trails at the beginning of his premiership.
What to see in Bodrum: An ancient amphitheatre and coastal towns
The peninsula has plenty of activities for culture vultures too. Blink and you might miss the roadside Theatre at Halicarnassus as you whizz past on a bus to Bodrum.
Dating from the 4th century BC and renovated in the 1990s, the semi-circular venue still hosts concerts and cultural events with a capacity of 10,000 spectators.
From the centre of Bodrum, you can also walk to the ruins of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was a tomb built between 353 and 350 BC for Mausolus, ruler of Caria.
Colossal columns and fragments of capitals now lie scattered amongst the undergrowth but a tiny museum gives an idea of its original splendour.
To visit some of the coastline’s villages, take a drive or hop on a sailing boat. The two-storey, white-washed buildings have the feel of a Greek island (Kos is only a 30 minute ferry ride) although a little more rough and ready.
Visit Yalikavak for boutique hotels and artisan souvenirs or Gumbet for the nightlife.
Where to eat in Bodrum: Raki and meze
Tourist traps in Bodrum town tempt diners with sea views so forgo the Instagrammable meal and head into the residential part of town.
Here you’ll find unpretentious restaurants like Kısmet Lokantası serving typical Turkish and Bodrum cuisine.
Certified by the Slow Food Association, Kısmet Lokantası is an airy, light-filled diner open on all sides and shaded by blossoming trees.
It is a self service set up that offers hot mains like goat with herbs and spices and chicken in a rich tomato sauce. Accompany these with a spread of meze plates like creamy yoghurt and roast aubergine, glasswort salad or steamed local leafy greens like purslane.
Copy the locals and sip watered down raki throughout your meal. If the pungent aniseed-flavoured liqueur doesn’t appeal, Turkey’s up-and-coming wines pair perfectly with freshly caught fish and abundant meze plates.
For an afternoon snack, stop in at a bakery like Taş Fırın (just down the road from the mausoleum) whose wood fired oven churns out cheese filled pastries and sticky baklava.
Right in the centre of the old town, cool off in Han, a hidden courtyard that was once an 18th century caravanserai. It now has an outdoor cafè with shisha and artisan workshops beneath the arcades.
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