It might not have that world-renowned reputation that puts it on the front page of all of the travel brochures, but don’t let that fool you about Bodrum. In short, this town is hugely popular amongst tourists around the globe and if you are heading near the southern Aegean coast of Turkey, it’s well worth a visit.
Part of the charm comes in the way that this is built on the site of the ancient city of Halikarnassus. This once held the Mausoleum of Halikarnassus, which happened to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Earthquakes meant that this was destroyed in the Middle Ages – but what now stands in its place is a fantastic town that offers a little bit of everything for tourists.
Once a fishing village, now it’s hugely different. It has superb beaches, combined with bars, restaurants and several hugely popular night clubs. At the same time, there is a quieter side to Bodrum, with this mainly comprised around the Marina and Yacht Club.
In short, it offers something for everyone, as we take a look at Bodrum in more detail through this guide. Additionally, we’ll move on to discuss the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology, which has become one of the premier attractions of the town.
How do you get to Bodrum?
As you may expect from a destination that has become so tourist-friendly, Bodrum has its own airport. The airport is around 35km away and during the summer it’s very easy to obtain one of the chartered flights.
Additionally, if you are a little more flexible with your travel plans, there are other airports in the form of Dalaman and Izmir. The flexibility-factor comes in the fact that both of these airports are around three hours away.
Once you reach the airport, the bus services to Bodrum center are very efficient. The bus companies have timed their services to match both arriving and departing flights from the airport, meaning that tourists really are catered for. With that being said, just one bus per flight is arranged, meaning that you still need to plan and take into account the official bus departure times.
The journey tends to take no longer than 45 minutes, although during the low season this can be as little as 20 minutes. It costs 17TL in most periods of the year, with this dropping to 10TL during the low season.
If you opt for the taxi approach, the “official rate” is 170TL. However, most drivers are open to bargaining and it’s not been unheard of to obtain this for 80TL.
A final word of warning in relation to the airport comes with the food and drinks. Bodrum airport has some of the highest prices around and it’s not uncommon to pay the equivalent of 5 euros for a can of soda. Bearing this in mind, you are advised to take your own supplies.
It’s also possible to reach Bodrum via boat and bus. Both Kos and Rhodes run boat services, with these being in the form of daily operations during summer season. In relation to the bus, the vast majority of major Turkish cities will operate a service including the likes of Istanbul, Adana, Konya and Izmir. However, it’s worth mentioning that some of these services can be in excess of thirteen hours, while some will also involve a change to a smaller bus to complete the latter part of the journey.
What are the best things to see in Bodrum?
As we’ll explain later on in our guide, one of the best things to see in Bodrum is the castle and specifically, the Museum of Underwater Archaeology. In terms of other must-see attractions, the following are always recommended.
The fact that this village is over three centuries old is enough to warrant a visit in our eyes. Around half of the area is now abandoned, but many owners have restored their homes to their original, traditional look which means that it’s one of the best Turkish history lessons you can experience. It’s one of the oldest settlements in the Bodrum area and if you are considering a visit, you can see it near Gumusluk.
Understood to be from the reign of King Mausolus, this amphitheater is regarded as one of the best-preserved structures of ancient Halikarnassus. If you’re looking to visit, it’s situated on the road to Gumbet.
The windmills of Bodrum are worthy of a whole guide in themselves. There’s no particular place where they are based – they are all over the area. Constructed from stone and wooden blanks, and painted white, they are from the 18th century. It was only around four decades ago that they were stopped from their original use of grinding flour. Windmills can be found all over Bodrum, but if you take to the road to Turgutreis you will be greeted by plenty while there are also seven between the Bodrum and Gumbet hill.
What are the best things to do in Bodrum?
In terms of seeing things, there’s no doubt that Bodrum is up there with the best. However, for those of you who prefer a more active approach to vacations, there is also plenty to do in Bodrum. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular activities amongst tourists.
We’ll start with a simple one, but the beach itself is worthy of a mention in this area. It’s based between the castle and Halikarnas and for anyone who likes to swim, it’s ideal as there is a segregated area where boats are not permitted to enter. Unlike a lot of tourist locations, all of the sunbeds and nearby beanbags are free to use as well.
For those of you who like to party, this is one of prime activities. It’s completely unique in the way it’s based on the sea and generally referred to as a floating beach club. There are countless day parties and international DJs will regularly visit. Additionally, you can partake in several watersports.
Pretty much all of the beaches around Bodrum offer boat tours and considering all the tiny islands that are located around the region, this is regarded as one of the best ways to see them.
As you would expect from a region of this ilk, Hamam is blessed with its own Turkish bath. As well as this, in the close proximity are mud baths which can be a unique way to spend your vacation.
All of the above can be done off the cuff so to speak; you can tend to visit the attractions at your convenience.
If you’re looking for something a little more structured then it’s worth taking a look at several tours. While the “structured” element might scare some people off, this is in fact a benefit and allows you to truly take advantage of some of the experiences that Bodrum has to offer.
We have outlined the following three tours which are regarded as some of the most popular around.
This is something that you may have expected; after all, Bodrum is set up perfectly for the optimum scuba diving experience.
This tour lasts no less than nine and a half hours and departs daily at 8am, which does at least provide you with plenty of flexibility.
The reason this tour is so popular is simple; Turkey’s waters are some of the best around when it comes to diving. You can expect visibility of up to 40m and this means that they are ideal for both beginners and experienced divers. Additionally, you will see the likes of stingrays, octopus, morays and seahorses through the tour – which of course adds extra charm. To cap it off, underwater photos with all of the above are available.
Lunch is included in this tour and you’ll benefit from both an oriented dive, before a second dive in the afternoon.
Something that is hugely popular in the area is the Hamam-Turkis bath. For those of you scratching your head, this isn’t a typical bath by any stretch – it’s an experience which will steam clean your body to leave it feeling fresher than ever before.
In terms of the tour itself, this one lasts for around three hours and again departs every day, at 9am.
There’s little room for confusion here; you’ll be taken to the baths before entering a steam room to soften and remove any toxins from your skin. You’ll then move onto the hamam, where your body will be scrubbed and massaged to perfection to leave you feeling completely fresh.
Ephesus and Sirince
This third activity can add a little history to your trip. In short, it will take you to an ancient city; one which happens to be the best open air museum in the world.
The whole experience lasts eight and a half hours and this time, the only available days are Tuesday and Saturday. It’s a slightly earlier start, with the departure set at 6am, but the tour itself completely makes up for this.
After arriving at Ephesus at around lunchtime, you can start to take in the ancient surroundings and explore until lunch beckons. This is provided in Sirince Village, before you are then given about an hour to venture around the areas as you please. Towards the end of the day you’ll be taken to the Art Ceramic, which allows you to experience the beautiful ceramic arts of the region.
What are the best restaurants in Bodrum?
As you might expect from a place that has become so renowned amongst tourists, there are umpteen restaurants that make the cut. For the purposes of simplicity we have just listed a few, but in truth you won’t have any problems whatsoever in finding a suitable eating establishment regardless of your preferences.
We’ll start with one of the most sophisticated restaurants in the region. The setting of Kocadon is purely tranquil and is based around banana plants and palm trees. Based in a beautiful stone building, it’s ideal for anyone who is seeking either international or Turkish cuisine. If you’re in the market for romance, this is the perfect suggestion. It can be found on Bodrum Marina.
This restaurant has gained a superb reputation based on its fresh fish. It has countless varieties to choose from and the staff are renowned as being some of the most helpful around. Its prices are average for the area, while it can be found on the beach promenade.
Based on the Yashi seafront, this is one of the top picks for Turkish cuisine. It means that it prides itself on the likes of seafood, pasta, pizza and various steaks.
If you’re in the market for meatballs (or kofte as the locals like to refer to it as) Marina Koftecisi should be one of your top priorities. As well as the splendid cuisine, it’s worth mentioning that this is one of the cheapest establishments around. It can be found on the Bodrum Marina.
What are the best places to drink in Bodrum?
Unsurprisingly, Bodrum is now awash with plenty of bars and clubs that cater to the huge number of tourists who visit. In truth, the best way to explore these is to walk around and find one that suits your tastes – there is incredible variety here. However, for obvious choices, try the following.
The marketing spiel claims this is the largest outdoor night club in the world and while we can’t verify such claims, there’s no doubt that Halikarnas is huge. It’s one of the trendiest venues around and while it can be expensive, many firmly believe that it is well worthy of the price.
Bodrum Marine Club
This will most probably be one of the most unique venues you will ever set foot in. Bodrum Marine Club is a club – with the big difference that its sent inside a large catamaran boat. The dance floor stands on a glass deck, while as the night progresses the boat moves to an illuminated point in the harbor to add even more charm.
If you’re into rock music, look no further than Adamik. It’s the oldest venue of its kind in the town and as such, it always attracts huge crowds.
Club X perhaps doesn’t have the wow-factor that some of the other establishments can offer, but if you’re looking for a bit of everything it’s certainly up there. Turkish pop, R&B, dance and pretty much every music genre you can think of is based here. It tends to attract an upscale crowd, and is another really popular choice.
Are there any safety points that you should be aware of?
From a safety perspective Bodrum is viewed very positively. In fact, the biggest problem derives from stray dogs. It’s one region of Turkey which has a large amount and you’ll often find them roaming the streets. Fortunately, the vast majority are completely harmless and will leave strangers alone.
There have been isolated cases of them pestering visitors though and it’s for this reason that you should exercise caution, particularly in relation to children.
The only other safety warning comes in the form of beach clubs. Sometimes, they will attempt to bush boundaries in relation to bills, so make sure that you read the small print on any menu before confirming your order.
The Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology
As the name may suggest, the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology is a museum which exhibits anything related to underwater archaeology. With fourteen departments within the museum, it has grown in size substantially and is regarded as one of the more interesting museums for anyone who shows an interest in Ottoman, Crusader, Green, Roman or Maritime history.
The fact that it attracts in excess of 300,000 visitors every year says everything you need to know about its popularity. Then again, with some of the items dating back over 3,500 years, this should go without saying.
What is the history behind the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology?
As you may have gathered thus far, the museum itself is based in Bodrum Castle. Initially built on a promontory in the bay, over time the castle became attached to the mainland courtesy of landfills and debris.
Unsurprisingly, the castle itself basks in history. There were times where it was used as a prison, although up until the 1950s it wasn’t anything like the tourist attraction its proving to be today. Back then, it had been left unkempt and in short, in complete disrepair.
It wasn’t until 1962 when the Underwater Archaeology as we know it came about. This was the period when the Turkish government decided to turn the castle into a museum for shipwrecks. In doing so, the government created the biggest museum of this ilk in the world.
Over time the museum has made some sterling landmarks. For example, if you take to the gardens inside the castle you will set eyes on almost every plant and tree that the Mediterranean has to offer. Then, if you turn to the ancient glass collection, this is in the four biggest of the world. In amongst all this are the tremendous shipwrecks, which we will come onto shortly.
Another important historic note occurred in 1995, with the museum winning the prestigious award for European Museum of the Year.
What is in the collections at the museum?
It’s now worth taking a look at some of the highlights of the fourteen departments which make up the museum, and have provided it with such a sterling reputation.
One of the most significant areas is the Glass Hall and again the name should give everything away here, with this exhibiting all of the glassware in the building. Opened in 1986, this area is hugely impressive and benefits from low-level lighting which provides the perfect mantel for all of the specimens. A common favorite for visitors is the aquarium which sits within the hall; with this indented into the wall and providing a model view of an underwater excavation.
However, in terms of the biggest talking point, this most definitely comes in the form of all of the shipwrecks that are exhibited. To show just how renowned this museum is, the world’s oldest known shipwreck, discovered at Ulu Burin in 1982, is exhibited.
The fact that excavations to remove this shipwreck took a decade should highlight just how complex and impressive the shipwreck is, with the wreck being 52 meters below sea level. It’s not just the wreck which makes this exhibit interesting though; the museum also showcases all of the treasures and logs that it carried meaning that it makes for fascinating viewing.
On the subject of the wrecks, the following others are also available to view at the museum:
Marmaris-Serçe harbour shipwreck – This shipwreck is Hellenistic, from 3rd BC.
Tektaṣ Burnu Classical Greek shipwreck – This is from the 5th century BC and was excavated over a two-year period between 1999 and 2001.
Marmaris-Serçe harbour shipwreck – Perhaps one of the more interesting shipwrecks, this contained a substantial collection of Islamic glassware when it was excavated in 1977. The shipwreck itself is from 11th century AD.
Finike-Gelidonya shipwreck – This shipwreck carries a little history behind it, having been the subject of the first underwater excavation in Turkey in the late 1950s.
Bodrum-Yassiada shipwreck – This Roman merchant vessel carried over 900 amphoras which have been recovered. It dates back to 7th century AD.
How much does entry cost and what are the opening hours?
First and foremost, you should be aware that all sections of the museum are closed to the public on Mondays. On every other day, the visiting hours are between 9.00am and 4.30pm.
However, there are further restrictions with the hours, as between 12.00pm and 13.00pm some Halls might be closed although the Chapel and English Tower will always be open during this period.
The cost to enter the museum is 25 TL.
Important tips for visitors
Before you arrange your trip to Bodrum Castle, it’s worth taking into account the intricate details of the attraction. One of these comes in the form of the space it occupies. While it may appear small on first view, it’s total size amounts to about 185m x 180m. In other words, if you want to take in all areas of the castle, you ideally need to be spending at least three hours there.
Of course, if you are looking to stay for such a length of time, you need to be prepared from a refreshments point of view. It’s here where we should point out that the castle has a total of two cafes; with one on the upper yard inside the castle grounds, while the other is right at the entrance.
On the subject of refreshments, it’s sometimes a good idea to bring your own during the summer months. The grounds are full of stairs and slopes and during the hotter periods of the year, it can be a challenge to navigate. This is one of the reasons why the grounds have plenty of benches – with many guests just taking to them to take in the peaceful nature of the surroundings, sometimes armed with a book.
Finally, let’s make a point on bringing a camera. This is an absolute necessity to get the most out of the museum, while it’s also advised so you benefit from shots of the nearby Aegean Sea. You should be wary of some of the rules as well, with certain sections of the museum prohibiting the use of personal cameras. Nevertheless, there will be signs dictating when you can and can’t use one.