Whether you are seeking absolute escapism or glamorous partying, Turkey’s sparkling Riviera gem – with its azure-sea backdrop, waterside dining and storied past – is a magical place to be
Shaped like a painter’s palette, the Bodrum Peninsula in south-west Turkey is blessed with a full spectrum of colours: green hilltop villages, white pebble beaches and orange satsuma groves. Watched over for 600 years by a Crusader castle, Bodrum (ancient Halicarnassus) refers to the main town and the peninsula it occupies, and is a world-class luxury destination.
Pick up traditional, handmade strappy sandals at Sur Sandalet or elegant, embellished ones at Mysabella in the Palmarina shopping centre and marina in Yalıkavak. Palmarina’s wide range of local and international luxury stores include Hiref, a line of Ottoman-inspired decorative items, and Kismet by Milka, which offers contemporary jewellery by the brand’s Turkish designer. The shopping arcade at the brand-new Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum has a branch of Beymen, Turkey’s leading luxury retailer, as well as high-fashion and jewellery. For an authentic local experience, visit the outdoor textile market on Tuesdays in Bodrum town.
The Palmarina shopping centre and marina in Yalıkavak has Turkish and international luxury brands, while for an authentic local experience visit the outdoor textile market on Tuesdays in Bodrum Town
Bodrum boasts one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: the evocative ruins of the once-towering Tomb of Mausolus, built in 353 BC for the king of Caria, and the origin of the word ‘mausoleum’. Its polished white marble stones were pillaged in 1522 by the crusading Knights of Saint John to strengthen their castle, now restored and home to the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology. The Bodrum Maritime Museum in the town centre shows the history of seafaring in Bodrum, particularly the area’s unique gulets (fishing boats). There is also a small but well-preserved amphitheatre from the time of Mausolus that is perched on a hill above town and hosts concerts in the summer.
Arts And Crafts
Artists and eccentrics have come to Bodrum since the Sixties, and it still has a strong creative culture. Belkis Balpinar a kilim artist, has made Bodrum her home and runs a beautiful gallery here. The Gümüşlük International Classical Music Festival holds concerts in an ancient quarry that provided stone for the mausoleum. To witness traditional Aegean rural life, head to Etrim Village in the mountains, 24 kilometres from Bodrum, to visit carpet weavers at work and, if you wish, buy a carpet. For art, shops, concerts and open-air cinema, visit the Dibeklihan Culture and Arts Village within a beautiful stone building.
Sitting on a hillside with spectacular views of pine forests and the sea, The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum provides treatments using hand-ground ingredients from its own garden. The 2,700-square-metre Spa has a 26-metre indoor swimming pool, heat and water facilities, 12 treatment rooms including a VIP Spa Suite and a Couple’s Spa Suite, as well as two outdoor cabanas. In the winter, it operates as a wellness centre, with programmes led by renowned spa gurus. Of course, no spa in Turkey is complete without a hammam; Mandarin Oriental’s has private scrub rooms.
With its beaches, clean waters and verdant hills, the peninsula offers everything from swimming to trekking. You can walk up to the windmills that overlook downtown Bodrum, or sail, snorkel, jet-ski, windsurf, wakeboard or dive to local sites encompassing wrecks, reefs, walls, drop-offs, caverns and tunnels. A boat tour of the area’s many coves and bays is an ideal day out, or take a leisurely Blue Voyage along the coastline in a gulet. Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum has a dedicated aquatic centre for watersports enthusiasts. The annual Bodrum Cup regatta, held in the third week of October, marks the end of the season.
Juju Bistro serves refreshing cocktails, Mediterranean dishes and local snacks throughout the day
Everything tastes better in Bodrum thanks to its abundant, fresh local ingredients. To sample specialties like çökertme kebab, çiçek dolması (stuffed courgette flowers), deniz fasulyesi (samphire salad) and grilled octopus – best served with raki, Turkey’s national drink – try unpretentious Çimentepe, set above Yalıkavak. At Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum, JuJu Bistro serves local snacks and Mediterranean dishes. For a romantic meal, visit Mimoza on the beach at Gümüslük, or Limon in the hills above for the best sunset views. For unique seafood such as oysters with Parmesan béchamel, head to Orfoz, a hidden hole-in-the-wall in central Bodrum.
Bodrum’s bars and nightclubs rival global capitals. Göltürkbükü is the epicentre, and Ship Ahoy its prime landmark. Palmarina’s Billionaire Club, is all champagne and chandeliers. JuJu Bar @M2 at Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum serves Asian light bites with wine and craft beer by day, becoming a cocktails-and-champagne beach party at night. Downtown Bodrum’s venues include the infamous Barlar Sokagi (Bars Street), but Küba Bar, in a 150-year-old house, and the Marina Yacht Club Jazz Bar are veritable institutions.