Exploring the Bodrum Peninsula

Have you ever imagined yourself in the role of an explorer like Livingstone, Stanley or, going further back, Captain Cook? The great Age of Discovery may be past, but the thrill of exploring the unknown lingers in every soul.

The map of the Bodrum peninsula may not have areas on it marked “Unexplored”, like the turn-of-the-century maps of Africa did, but there are still many nooks and crannies just waiting to be discovered, especially by the first-time visitor. So let us just point you in a few directions and leave the rest to your imagination, initiative and yen for adventure. 

The bay nearest to Bodrum is Bardakci, made popular in the past by the patronage of Zeki Muren, a famous Turkish singer. Bardakci is also known in ancient myth as the bay of Salmacis, the place where the son of the god Hermes and the goddess Aphrodite fell in love with a sea nymph. They were united in one body and thus “hermaphrodite” entered the lexicon as a designation for bisexual persons. The spring where the nymph played now bubbles up in the sea making the water cool on the hottest of days.

Gumbet: During the summer months Gümbet is the nightlife ‘’capital’’ of the Bodrum Peninsula and the public minibuses (dolmushes) ply the 2 km between here and Bodrum 24/7. 

Bright and breezy the resort of Gümbet has a 1 km long, wide and sandy beach that offers great watersports facilities. Here you can enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle or sample some of the buzzing hub of bars that Gümbet has to offer. Gümbet also has a good supply of restaurants, snack bars and souvenir shops. 

Many visitors to all parts of the Bodrum Peninsula will encounter the more tranquil side of Gümbet as part of the hugely popular daily boat trips. The first stop is often the Aquarium Bay, so called for the crystal clear aqua marine water just glorious for swimming in. This tantalizing bay can only be reached by sea or by a 3km walking trail from Bitez. 

 To experience the famous Mavi Tur (Blue Cruise) you can easily hop on any of the traditional wooden boats (gülets) departing from Bodrum, Gümbet and Bitez harbours every day at 10am or, for a real treat, by hiring your own small gület for the day. 

If you want a more ethnic flavor with family enjoyment try Golkoy, or, for the native twist with a dash of “society” try Turkbuku where restaurants are good but mostly expensive. Among our favorites are Yalikavak and Gundogan where you’ll find nice sandy beaches and friendly people. If you’re inclined to explore the countryside, hike to the deserted village of Sandima, inland and south from the Yalikavak coast. The hike is not tiring, the view of Yalikavak from Sandima is superb and the spring water still flowing from the old village drinking fountain is most refreshing. The beaches at both Yalikavak and Gundogan are sandy and not crowded and near each beach there are pleasant restaurants where you can have just a cool beverage or a full meal. When you visit Gundogan you may want to take a boat trip to the nearby Big Rabbit Island (Buyuktavsan Adasi), the site of a Byzantine monastic church with visible remains of frescoes estimated to date from the ninth century.

To the south of Yalikavak is Gumusluk, known by the ancients by the name Myndus. Bring your diving mask with you when you go there because there is much to see just below the water where parts of the historic city subsided in some cataclysmic event and lie just below the surface. An old Greek Orthodox chapel here has been remodelled and is now used as an art gallery and for various cultural events - you may be lucky and find some good musicians playing just when you visit. 

 Torba, 8km NE of Bodrum, is “in” with some Turkish intellectuals (and those who try to pass as such), but due to its proximity to Bodrum it can get crowded. There’s an uncrowded pebble beach on the E side of the bay where there are remains of a Byzantine church. On a hilltop E and above Torba there is a remarkably well-preserved Lelegian tomb, well worth the 1 1/2 - 2 hour climb. 

 On the south shore of the peninsula Bitez beach is a relatively uncrowded strand which, for some unfathomable reason, is not as popular as it deserves to be due of its cleanliness and general pleasant, orderly yet laid-back atmosphere. Distance swimmers appreciate its expanse of sea usually undisturbed by speeding water sports enthusiasts. Walks along country lanes among citrus orchards north of Bitez are very pleasant at this time of the year. You can savor a very Turkish family atmosphere at Yahsi beach of Ortakent. The beach is uncrowded, everybody minds their own business and surprisingly good treats can be found in some shore restaurants. 

Here’s a final, special, insider’s tip for those who want to enjoy the sea and local ambiance far from the madding crowd: explore the coast of Yaliciftlik and Asagi Mazi, east of Bodrum and south of Mumcular. Getting there may be a bit problematic as public transportation is scarce, but it’s worth it.