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From a bygone burg to beautiful beaches: How to spend 48 hours in Bodrum, Turkey

Rebecca Underwood enjoys a break in this port city on the Turkish Riviera.

By Rebecca Underwood  |  July 10, 2022
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Image Credit: The Turkish Culture and Tourism Office

Homer, author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, described Bodrum as ‘the land of eternal blue’ and I was most fortunate to visit this popular Turkish market town located on the south coast of the Bodrum Peninsular at the entrance to the Gulf of Gokova. Known as the pearl of the Aegean Riviera, the Mediterranean climate attracts visitors from all over the world and for those keen to explore, a rich and colourful kaleidoscope of history and culture awaits.

Known in ancient times as Halicarnassus of Caria, the city housed the Tomb of Mausolus, built between 353 and 350BC and one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Alas, the site was destroyed long ago by a number of earthquakes but the foundations and pieces of scattered sculpture continue to enthral those who gaze upon the ruins. The Carians, according to records, were the first settlers in the region, and the harbour area was colonised by Dorians in the 7th century BC.

Greek influences abound as Alexander the Great, aided by Queen Ada of Caria, laid siege to the city and it was duly captured. In 1402 Crusader Knights built Bodrum’s imposing Castle of St Peter, which covers 30,000 square feet at the base. It was a striking symbol of the unity of Christian Europe against the rapidly rising power of the Ottoman Empire. In 1522 the castle fell under Ottoman rule when Suleiman the Magnificent conquered the base of the Crusader knights on the island of Rhodes.

In 1402 Crusader Knights built Bodrum’s imposing castle of St Peter

I wandered around the castle, which remains a fine architectural example of the late Crusades and houses a museum featuring fascinating exhibits of underwater archaeology, intricate pieces of jewellery and seals dating back to the Old Bronze Age and Hellenistic periods.

Bodrum remained a rather quaint and sleepy fishing village but began to change during the 1960’s when groups of prominent Turkish intellectuals congregated in order to discuss the issues of the day. This group included the writer Cevat Sekir Kabaagacli, who, during the 1920’s, had published a highly controversial story on Turkish army deserters and he was promptly sent to Bodrum to serve a three year sentence in exile.

Kabaagacli became known as the ‘Fisherman of Halicarnassus’, spending his days sailing and exploring the beautiful bays and inlets of the Gulf of Gokova accompanied by sponge divers and fishermen. His popular book, the Blue Voyage, describes his experiences onboard a Turkish gulet, a hand-crafted wooden sailing vessel with two or three masts. Kabaagacli’s ardent passion for the sea and his love of marine life and nature inspired generations to sail the glittering waters of the Aegean and thus, he paved the way for Bodrum as a destination for international tourism.

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Sailing onboard a Turkish gulet offers passengers the opportunity to relax away from the tourist trail

For those of us, like Kabaagacli, who seek the sanctuary of solitude; consider sailing onboard a Turkish gulet, which offers passengers the opportunity to relax, far away from the hubbub of the tourist trail. Charter a gulet from Bodrum harbour for three, four or seven nights and experience life on the ocean wave, sailing sedately by the most beautiful scenery and dropping anchor in secluded bays and alcoves.

Modern gulets are fully equipped with all the amenities demanded by today’s seafarers including air conditioned cabins with en suite showers and hair dryers, to keep guests looking ship shape. Most vessels can accommodate between eight and twelve passengers should you wish to invite a number of shipmates to join you.

Imagine waking from your slumber to the sound of the water gently lapping against the bows of the vessel, the sails flapping in the breeze and the enticing aromas of your hearty breakfast and Turkish coffee being prepared in the galley. Take an early morning dip in the warm azure waters and dry off on the sun deck in the glorious sunshine, burying your nose in a good book whilst the crew work feverishly ensuring that you are content.

Gulet’s itineraries vary as to the selection of bays and coves that a captain may intend to visit, but be sure to request that your vessel anchors at Sedir Island, known for its horseshoe shape and soft white sands.

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The Kempinksi Hotel Barbaros Bay offers an outstanding level of comfort and service. Image credit: Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay

For those who prefer to remain on terra firma, and demanding the very finest establishment in which to indulge in a spot of pampering, the Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay, offers an outstanding level of comfort and service. Accommodations are spacious, comfortable and contemporary and include junior suites, one-bedroom suites, or splash out on a presidential suite, which measures 201 square metres and features exceptional views of the Aegean Sea from the spacious balcony.

Take advantage of the luxurious bathroom with an impressive sea view, a whirlpool, walk-in shower and a generous selection of Salvatore Ferragamo products. Zone-based climate controls ensure guests are always comfortable and there is a dining area and fully equipped kitchen with house-keeping visits twice a day.

Hotel facilities include a spectacular private and secluded beach, a stunning infinity pool, an indoor pool and a whirlpool. This exclusive retreat also includes a 5,500 square metre spa, offering a wide range of treatments including aromatherapy, a traditional Bali massage, Ayurvedic treatments and, of course, the Hammam; the ultimate Turkish bath experience.

Browse the bazaars and indulge in some delicious Turkish coffee. Image credit: The Turkish Culture and Tourism Office

Although I was tempted to recline on my ultra comfortable sun lounger for the entire day, I was also drawn to explore further afield, and made my way to the Bodrum Amphitheatre, partly built during the reign of King Mausolus and completed during the Roman era. I wandered through the Myndos Gate, also constructed during the reign of King Mausolus, and as I passed through, I imagined the scenes of battle led by Alexander the Great.

Intent on practising my bartering skills, I headed for Bodrum’s textile bazaar, held on a Tuesday, and I was overwhelmed with displays of the most colourful carpets and fabrics. After accepting the vendor’s kind invitation to join him for a Turkish coffee, I purchased a comfy pair of leather sandals at a bargain price.

To sample some Turkish delights, I made a reservation at the restaurant Liman Koftecisi, a well known family run business, located near Bodrum’s marina, which serves the most delicious Kofte meatballs, a house speciality. After my sumptuous feast, I took a stroll along the marina beside the glittering turquoise sea and whilst breathing in the fresh sea air I remembered Homer’s quote and it was clear to me that Bodrum is indeed ‘the land of eternal blue’.


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