Bodrum, a peninsula on Turkey’s southwest coast, may not be your first thought when it comes to booking a weekend break; it’s better known as a package holiday destination.
But with beautiful bays, good nightlife and a variety of cultural attractions, this city has loads to offer a young traveller, and at only a 3 and half hour flight from London, it’s a great spot to spend a few days.
When to go
The travel season in Bodrum runs from May to October, with temperatures ranging between 21 – 35 degrees Celsius. The beginning and end of the season can be the perfect time to visit, as it’s quieter and accommodation is cheaper.
Where to stay
Once in Bodrum, there are lots of lovely resorts on the outskirts of the city. I stayed in a hotel in the Turgutreisarea of Bodrum, but this meant getting a taxi/hotel transfer in the evenings.
So to make the most of your trip, stay around the harbour, where you’ll find apartments and small hotels from £40 per night or hostels from £8 per person per night. From here, you can easily walk to the bars and restaurants in the evening and walk to many of the tourist sights.
What to see
One of Bodrum’s main attractions is its castle. Built in 1402 by the Knights of St John, it’s the focal point for the city and can be seen as you’re entering Bodrum, whether by sea or by land. Entrance to the castle is 25TL (approx. £6), which includes admission to the Underwater Archeology Museum. Located within the castle, the museum contains a collection of shipwrecks that were discovered in the Aegean Sea, as well as artifacts found on board. Once inside the castle walls, there are beautiful gardens, towers and gorgeous views of the Aegean and the city.
The castle isn’t Bodrum’s only historical site. The peninsula boasts a number of impressive ancient ruins, including the city of Stratonikeia, Myndos Gate, an Ampitheatre and the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.
Stratonikeia was once an ancient city, dating back to the 8th century. There is a lot to see here, including a temple, a theatre and the original road into the city.
If you’re a history buff you shouldn’t miss it. It’s amazing how underdeveloped it is as a tourist attraction considering its age. There’s no entrance fee and you can wander freely around the site, immersing yourself in the remains of a city that was built thousands of years ago. There was hardly anyone around when I visited and it was an incredibly peaceful experience.
Stratonikeia is around an hour and a half from Bodrum, and you can take the local bus to Yagatan from Bodrum, which stops close by.
A short walk from Bodrum’s harbour is the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. Built for Mausolus, a ruler of the Persian Empire, in around 353 B.C, it’s considered to be one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and Mausolus’ name is now associated with all stately tombs.
Most of the Mausoleum has been destroyed, and many of the Marble Stones were used to build the castle. However the foundations can still be seen, and as with Stratonikeia, there are no restrictions, so you can walk right into the ruins of the tomb. Entrance is 8TL (approx. £2 at time of writing).
Myndos Gate was once one of two entrances to the ancient walled city of Halicarnassus (now Bodrum). Alexander The Great attacked the city in 334 B.C. and the gate was destroyed, however many of the original stones have been restored and you can visit the site in the west of the city for free!
Another ancient attraction is the Roman Amphitheatre, on the main road out of the city. It was built in the 4th century B.C. and is in amazing condition. It’s still used today and when I visited the stage was set up for a production from a local school. Head to the top seats for great views of the harbour and castle below. Entrance to the Amphitheatre is also free.
No trip to Bodrum would be complete without some time spent on a boat.
There are many different companies offering day trips up and down the Aegean coast, and these can be surprisingly affordable.
I took a trip with Barbaros Yachting on the luxury gulet Afroditi. We sailed out past the castle and headed to one of the many bays, where we jumped off the boat for a swim. The water was crystal clear and the rocky coves were perfect for snorkeling.
We were then cooked a delicious lunch by the crew. I felt very spoilt enjoying the food in such an amazing location and on such a fancy yacht! Then we sailed to a second bay for more swimming and a visit from the ice cream boat, (as awesome as it sounds) before returning to the harbour.
For more sailing, Bodrum hosts the famous Bodrum Cup in October, making it a great time to visit.
If you fancy something a bit more upmarket during your stay, then head to Gümüslük (about 40 minutes from Bodrum and approx. 7TL on a bus).
This area of the coast is lined with lovely restaurants with incredible views of the Aegean. It was one of the most beautiful dinner settings I’ve ever had, and it was a pretty special place to watch the sun go down. The food here is a little more expensive than in the harbour, so it’s not a place for those on a tight budget.
To complete your weekend, pay a visit to Bodrum Lokum, the Turkish Delight Factory. The factory produces a variety of different flavours, including the delicious local Mandarin fruit.
After experiencing the product being made, the owner invited us to sample all the different versions, (I ate far too many), before buying some to take home. This is the cheapest place to buy it, so stock up!
A final note
Before I travelled to Turkey I visited the FCO website to seek their advice. Bodrum is over 700 miles from the Syrian border and so there were no restrictions on travel there. During my stay I felt safe and the locals were incredibly friendly. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Bodrum to my friends and family and had an amazing trip.
Hayley Lewis is a London based Travel Writer and Producer. You can follow Hayley’s travels at www.alovelyplanet.com or on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.