The popular holiday resort of Bodrum, called Halicarnassus in ancient times, is the South Aegean's most attractive resort, described by Homer as the 'Land of Eternal Blue'. The hillside is covered in painted villas adorned with bougainvillea, narrow streets wind their way down to the sea, and the peaceful setting of its twin harbours offer shelter for yachts.
Bodrum is a mustering point for local boats offering tailor-made daytrips to nearby islands or the pristine beaches and seaside restaurants along the magnificent coastline. From its position between the two harbours, the 15th century crusader Castle of St Peter dominates every part of the town, now home to the fascinating Museum of Underwater Archaeology. The other Bodrum holiday attraction is the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, the crumbling remains of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
As Turkey's leading seaside holiday destination, Bodrum is packed with foreign visitors in summer. Yet it remains unspoilt and retains its charming Turkish character, perfecting the balance between authenticity and tourist comforts. Here, exotic bazaars, the wailing cry of the muezzin, and ancient history seamlessly blend with popular water sports, sunbathing, and a nightlife that is notorious throughout Turkey.
Like everywhere in Turkey, shopping on a Bodrum holiday is quite an adventure. Dozens of shops line the busy narrow streets from the bus station down to the marina. Touts and vendors offer a variety of local goods, from carpets, leatherware, and kilims to fake designer clothing, and gold and silver jewellery.
Look out for Turkish meerscewhaum pipes and onyx. There is an extensive colourful craft market in operation on Tuesdays, and a fruit and vegetable market on Fridays. Bargaining is expected and it is customary to haggle down to about half the asking price. In Bodrum, some shops stay open late at night, some even all night.
Warm, sultry evenings in Bodrum are best spent dining on fresh seafood or local specialities in one of the numerous restaurants. There are plenty of familiar cuisines, like Italian, Thai, Chinese, Mexican, and European.
Renowned as the top place in town for typical Turkish is Denizhan, a little out of town between Konacik and Ortakent, and easily reached in a dolmus or taxi. For excellent Aegean dishes, especially lamb, Epsilon in the old town is hard to beat. The best pizza in Bodrum is served up with a view on the rooftop terrace of Sunger Pizza, while a good blend of Mediterranean and Californian cuisine can be enjoyed at La Jolla Bistro at Xuma Beach.
Also very popular is the Secret Garden, near the Marina, where cooks prepare gourmet Mediterranean fare with flair. The Backpacker Bar & Grill caters to the expat crowd with traditional English food.
The nightlife on a Bodrum holiday is frenetic and varied, offering not only western-style decadent clubs but also the chance to sample local parties. Visit one of the meyhanes where the crowd joins in with the local artists, singing, dancing, eating, and drinking. There are several of these local nightclubs on the road to Konacik and Ortakent.
Most of the bars in Bodrum's mile long Bar Street offer belly dancing shows, live music, and outdoor seating (often on the beach) with a view of the illuminated castle. For clubbers, the main place to be is Halikarnas, one of the biggest and swankiest open-air clubs in the world, where the entrance charge may be high. There are plenty of other clubs, even one on a catamaran that sets sail late at night and takes the party out to sea until the dawn.
The blue Aegean waters that wash the beaches of the peninsula on which Bodrum is perched lend themselves admirably to a vast range of watersports, from scuba diving to windsurfing and jet skiing. Local operators can be found all over the area renting out equipment, arranging excursions, or offering lessons. Aquatic thrills are also on offer at the town's two waterparks.
Those who grow tired of the sand and sea can go hiking, with local walking clubs offering programmes but generally not in the height of the summer season when it is too hot. There are numerous ways to get out of town and explore the enchanting villages, bays, and historic sites. The Castle of St Peter, Bodrum Amphitheatre, and windmills are all popular attractions.
Either hire a car, motorbike, or bicycle; take a boat or hydrofoil trip; book an organised excursion; a jeep safari; or simply hop on a dolmus (minibus). An absolute must is a trip to a hammam (Turkish bath), complete with massage. The Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology has won many awards for its fascinating displays, including the famous Uluburun Shipwreck.
Bodrum beaches are shingled and can become very crowded during the height of the summer holiday season. The city's narrow streets become clogged with tourists, day and night, during peak periods. Women have complained of sexual harrasment.