Article taken from the New York Times – Bodrum: The Next St.-Tropez?
“With its attractive beaches and shop-lined streets, the city of Bodrum has long been the favorite seaside retreat in Turkey. But now this ancient fishing village, set against the blue waters of the Aegean Sea, has crashed the global party circuit.
A glance at the megayachts, some of them straight from the ports of Capri or Monaco, hint at its newfound fame. Paparazzi photos of Uma Thurman canoodling with the trendsetting hotelier André Balazs further confirms it. In summer, when the population of 50,000 swells tenfold, Bodrum feels a bit like St.-Tropez, except perhaps for the belly dancers.
What’s the draw? Gorgeous scenery for one. Situated on Turkey’s southwestern coast, the peninsula is a painterly tableau of white-washed stucco homes, purple bougainvilleas and olive-green hillsides. The city is also awash in historical attractions including the stumpy foundation of the Mausoleum, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Bodrum’s night life beckons partiers like a siren’s song. Young well-dressed revelers converge onto Cumhuriyet Caddesi, which visitors call Bar Street, before heading to behemoth discos like Halikarnas, an open-air club that resembles a nearby amphitheater”.
The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus in Bodrum may be reduced to some toppled columns and a bare foundation, but it’s one of only two remaining Wonders of the Ancient World (with the Pyramids of Giza).
Built by European knights in the 15th century, the massive towers and crenellated walls of Bodrum Castle now shelter the Museum of Underwater Archeology. Filled with once-sunken ships and their treasures, the galleries unfold the physical record of vanished peoples who travelled by sail and oar, navigated by sun and star, and ultimately put their safety in the hands of the gods and the elements.
The resort of Bitez lies 7 km west of Bodrum, and has become a firm favourite with water sports enthusiasts on account of its favourable weather conditions. In particular, windsurfing and dinghy sailing are popular activities. The village centre is located inland and remains largely untouched by tourism. The surrounding area is therefore perfect for a pleasant stroll through fragrant mandarin groves with many stone houses. Mosaic works to a chapel thought to be built around the 5th century AD as well as water cisterns, are still intact. Should you want more activity though there are several beach clubs overlooking the bay which are popular with wealthy Turkish people.
The landscape of the small but bustling town of Yalıkavak, formerly the area’s main sponge fishing port, is nowadays identifiable by the windmills that have become symbolic of the Bodrum area. Although the beach here is of little significance compared to those of neighbouring resorts, Yalıkavak is within easy reach of several coves more suited to bathing. There is an attractive, bustling harbour, brought to life by local fishermen and passing yachts, as well as a sizeable selection of hotels, bars and eateries in the town centre. The town successfully manages to combine rustic charm with high quality tourist facilities. As the Quirky Traveller says;
“Whilst the town has retained a lot of its charm and culture, Yalikavak is now one of the places to head for when looking for a relaxing sunshine break in stunning surroundings. This rise in popularity has not gone unnoticed with the town receiving coverage from Marie Claire and the Daily Mail who have sent writers to see what the hype is about.
The arrival of the hugely impressive Palmarina in summer 2013 was just another step in the rise of Yalikavak. The Palmarina is a cutting edge marina that is now burgeoning with beautiful yachts owned by the rich and famous, including Giorgio Armani and George Michael.
The marina is bordered by contemporary shops with all the latest fashions, high class restaurants and the lavish ‘Billionaire Club’ – a project of Formula 1 chief, Flavio Briatore. The marina will deliver a whole new clientele to the area and whilst the majority of holidaymakers won’t be docking their 100 foot yachts there, it is an experience not to miss in 2014.
Yalikvak is relatively small but is packed full of great amenities. The centre still holds a lot of the town’s historical charm with the quaint streets playing home to gift shops, superb little cafes and restaurants that are the choice of both locals and visitors”.
Türkbükü, on the northern coast of the Peninsula 20kms from Bodrum, has a well protected harbour ringed with high hills containing a number of luxury hotels and holiday villas. The town is a favorite vacation spot and second home residency of the Turkish rich and famous and although less well visited by Western European tourists compared to Bodrum, is also increasingly popular with foreign visitors.
There are no broad sandy beaches in Türkbükü, but there is a semi-circular boardwalk dense with shops, restaurants, bars and docks for sunbathing in the day and dining in the evening. The protected harbour is a refuge for yachts and allows for swimming in swimming pool like conditions in the morning before the afternoon breeze comes in. In the high tourist season, Turkish pop-stars, models and professional athletes can be sighted at the posh bars and restaurants or strolling along the boardwalk.
Ortakent lays claim to the Peninsula’s longest beach and so perhaps unsurprisingly, the beach has become popular with families and locals. The beach was voted one of the top 10 beaches in Turkey by The Guardian;
“Lying mid-way along the Bodrum peninsula, Ortakent Beach is not exactly a secret, but its delightful beach, backed by market gardens and the agreeable quiet bustle of a rural village. Ortakent Beach is a great option for a family holiday with older kids in tow, as the beach offers a range of watersports, from wake-boarding to kayaking and sailing. The Bodrum peninsula is scattered with picturesque coves and bays and a self-hire boat is the ideal way to find your very own hidden beach”.
In spite of its popularity, Ortakent retains its relaxed atmosphere. The majority of accommodation is positioned slightly inland and consists primarily of small hotels, whilst there is also an assortment of shops, cafes and restaurants handy. As well as its lengthy beach, the area is known for the fertility of it’s soil and the ensuing abundance of olive, fig and mandarin trees. In terms of history, Ortakent is home to some seventeenth century “Arpranga” house. These two storey structures, similar to small castles, were built as watch towers for defensive purposes to protect the locals against unfriendly off-shore visitors
Turgutreis, a small town on the western tip of the peninsula, is named after the famous Ottoman admiral Turgut Reis, a statue of whom occupies a prime spot in the town-centre. As with its neighbours Gümbet and Bitez, Turgutreis is a haven for windsurfers and there is a small stretch of beach for those wishing to enjoy the uninterrupted sunshine and clear blue sea at a more leisurely pace. The town is popular with Turkish holiday makers and second home owners and as a result, Turgutreis has its own dedicated bus station with connections not only to Bodrum but also to places as far a field as Istanbul and Ankara. There are numerous hotels, restaurants and shops, as well as the town’s weekly market which takes place on a Saturday
Gümüşlük is a sleepy seaside village, which partly occupies the site of the ancient harbour city of Myndos. The semi-submerged remains of the settlement can be seen to the north west of the village. Because of its links with antiquity, Gümüşlük has benefited immensely from strictly enforced building regulations and has thus far managed to retain its original charm. The village is said to boast the best fish restaurants of the Bodrum Peninsula and the laidback evenings here revolve around these pretty waterside eateries. There is a small island which separates Gümüşlük’s two sheltered bays, known locally as Tavşan Adası or “Rabbit” Island on account of it’s sizeable rabbit population.
Torba is a small sea-side village, approximately 6 km (and a very short bus journey) from Bodrum town. Although there are little in the way of beaches in Torba, the sea is shallow, clean and excellent for swimming. The hillsides are clad in olive groves and pine forests and the bay teems with seabass and gilt-headed bream. You might even spot a seaturtle or the rare Mediterranean monk seal. The shoreline is dotted with good restaurants, specializing in catch-of-the-day seafood and traditional mezes. Torba’s historic past is evident from the ruins of a Byzantine Monastery dating back to the 4th or 5th century situated on the east side of the bay.