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, whitewashed houses, grey pebble beaches and orange satsumas. Watched over for 600 years by a Crusader castle, Bodrum – or ancient Halicarnassus – refers to both the main town and the peninsula it occupies, and until the Nineties it mainly attracted Turkish tourists. But over the past 20 years, it has developed into a world-class luxury destination, with a new international airport welcoming well-heeled visitors.

Shopping hotspots

Beymen at Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum Bodrum is synonymous with handmade strappy leather sandals. Pick up a traditional pair at Sur Sandalet, a family-owned company that has been making footwear since 1967, while Mysabella at the Palmarina yacht marina and shopping centre in Yalikavak has embellished, elegant designs including matching mother-daughter sets. Palmarina boasts a wide range of other local and international luxury brands such as Hiref, a line of Ottoman-inspired decorative items. In Göltürkbükü, Kismet by Milka is a collection of quirky jewellery and accessories by a young Turkish designer. And the shopping arcade at the brand-new Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum features a branch of Beymen, Turkey’s foremost luxury purveyor, as well as jewellery and high-fashion labels. For an authentic local experience, head to the outdoor textile market held on Tuesdays in Bodrum town.

Spectacular sights

An exhibit of a Bronze Age shipwreck at the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology Bodrum boasts one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: the evocative remnants of the once-towering, 43-metre-high Tomb of Mausolus, built in 353 BC for the ruler of the small kingdom 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 – and some wandering peacocks. The Bodrum Maritime Museum in the centre of town offers insight into the history of seafaring in Bodrum, particularly the area’s unique ‘gulet’ fishing boats. There is also a small but well-preserved classical theatre dating from the time of Mausolus that is perched on a hill above town and hosts concerts in the summer.

Arts and crafts

The ancient Bodrum amphitheatre Artists and eccentrics have been attracted to Bodrum since the Sixties, when it was a refuge for those who sought inspiration and isolation on its shores. There is still a strong creative culture on the peninsula. Belkis Balpinar, a kilim artist, has made Bodrum her home since 2006 and runs a beautiful gallery. The Gümüşlük International Classical Music Festival has been going since 2004, with concerts held in an ancient stone quarry that provided the stones for the mausoleum. To experience traditional Aegean rural life, head to Etrim Village in the mountains, 24km from Bodrum, where you can visit the homes of its residents and watch them weave carpets (and buy one to take home). Or discover Turkish art at the Dibeklihan Culture and Arts Village in a beautiful stone building with a number of galleries. It also hosts concerts and exhibitions.  

Perfect pampering

The VIP treatment room at Take a boat to Paradise Cove Built on a hillside ridge with spectacular views of pine forests and the sea, The Spa at Mandarin Oriental has been inspired by its Aegean location, providing treatments that use natural, hand-ground ingredients plucked from its own garden. The 2,700 square metre spa offers a 26-metre indoor swimming pool and heat and water facilities. Signature treatments use UK-based Aromatherapy Associates’ bespoke products for Mandarin Oriental, and are performed in 12 treatment rooms including a VIP Spa Suite and a Couple’s Spa Suite, as well as two outdoor cabanas. During the winter months, the spa operates as a wellness centre, offering a selection of programmes led by renowned spa gurus. Of course, no spa in Turkey would be complete without a hamam bath; Mandarin Oriental’s features private scrub rooms.


How to pass timeA boat tour of the peninsula’s many coves and bays makes an ideal day out, and can be extended into a Blue Voyage

Beach life

Take a boat to Paradise CoveThe only reason to be indoors in Bodrum is to sleep, and even that is debatable. With its beaches, clean waters and verdant hills, the peninsula offers everything from swimming to trekking. You can walk up to the famous windmills that overlook downtown Bodrum, but the sea offers the greatest range of options, from snorkelling, sailing and jet-skiing to windsurfing and wakeboarding, while local dive sites encompass wrecks, reefs, walls, drop-offs, caverns and tunnels. A boat tour of the peninsula’s many coves and bays makes an ideal day out, and can be extended into a Blue Voyage (a leisurely excursion along the Turkish coastline in a gulet) – a concept that originated here. Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum has a full-service aquatic centre catering to watersports enthusiasts. And the annual Bodrum Cup yacht regatta takes place in the third week of October, as it has done since 1989, marking an end to the season.
Where to dine At Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum, the Olive Garden, in an olive grove by the sea, serves delectable Turkish dishes

Fresh taste

Turkish cuisine at the Olive Garden at Mandarin Oriental, BodrumEverything tastes better in Bodrum thanks to the abundance of fresh local ingredients. Salient specialties include çökertme kebab served on a bed of fried julienne potatoes, stuffed courgette flowers and deniz fasulyesi (samphire salad drizzled in olive oil). To sample these and other meze (small, communal dishes) and seafood such as Bodrum fava and grilled octopus – best served with aniseed-flavoured raki, Turkey’s national drink – try unpretentious Çimentepe, set above Yalikavak. At Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum, the Olive Garden, in an olive grove by the sea, serves delectable Turkish dishes. For a romantic meal, Mimoza on the beach at Gümüşlük is a candlelit vision, while Limon in the hills above has the best sunset views on the peninsula. For a parade of unique seafood dishes such as oysters with Parmesan béchamel sauce, head to Orfoz, a hidden hole-in-the-wall in central Bodrum.


Night life

The M2 bar at Mandarin Oriental, BodrumAfter a day lazily baking in the sun, Bodrum wakes up at night with high-end bars and nightclubs to rival global capitals. Göltürkbükü is traditionally the centre of Bodrum nightlife, and Ship Ahoy is something of a landmark, attracting everyone from college students to urban professionals. Upscale Palmarina in Yalikavak is home to a more recent import: Billionaire Club, all champagne parties and opulent outdoor chandeliers. Alternatively, M2 at Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum is the place to be for performances from renowned local and international DJs alongside relaxed waterfront dining. Downtown Bodrum has a plethora of bars and nightclubs, not to mention the infamous Barlar Sokaği (Bars Street), but Küba Bar in a 150-year-old house and the Marina Yacht Club Jazz Bar which gives live performances are veritable institutions.


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Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum

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Cennet Koyu Çomça Mevkii Göltürkbükü,
Bodrum, 48400, Muğla, Turkey

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