Bodrum is the ultimate summer vacation spot in Turkey. This small, pristine city in the Aegean Region enjoys a Mediterranean climate, meaning almost half of the year is ideal for swimming, sunbathing and relaxing at the beach. The shoreline along the Aegean Sea boasts more than 60 Blue Flag beaches, making it clear why so many tourists and Turks alike flock here between May and September.
Another aspect Bodrum is known for is its distinct colour palette. You will immediately notice that almost every building is painted in blue and white, and this isn’t by coincidence. It is believed by Aegeans that the white walls prevent insects from entering houses, while the blue doors and window frames protect its inhabitants from the evil eye.
Wondering what to do in Bodrum other than lay on the beach all day? Here are 17 things to do in this captivating seaside city, as well as a few of the other charming towns across the Bodrum Peninsula.
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The large fortification at the south end of Çarşı is Bodrum Castle, also sometimes called the Castle of St Peter. It was built during the 1400s using square green volcanic rocks and marble columns and then fortified with stones from the nearby mausoleum. The castle was used as a garrison and eventually a prison during the Ottoman Period, as well as a military base during World Wars I and II. For over six centuries, the fortification has stood strong.
As the Order of the Knights of St John were responsible for the castle’s construction, its four towers were built by five different nations (England, France, Germany, Spain and Italy) and reflect different architectural styles. The Spanish Tower, also known as the Snake Tower, was the first to be completed. The French Tower is the tallest, and the English Tower contains an array of flags and banners inside.
Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology
In 1962, Bodrum Castle began its transformation into the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology. The immersive exhibitions explore ancient shipwrecks from the Aegean Sea, including the marvellous discoveries from inside the vessels.
The Glass Wreck Hall is the most fascinating display here, featuring a recreated 16-metre-long cargo ship that is believed to have sunk in 1025 AD. The Uluburun Shipwreck from the Late Bronze Age is equally intriguing. Despite the wealth of copper ingots and jewellery found aboard, experts have never been able to determine where this ship came from or where it was heading.
You can also see a collection of amphoras, large jugs that were used to transport goods like wine, olive oil and grains, plus exhibits featuring ancient glass, jewellery and coins. A visit to this museum is easily one of the best things to do in Bodrum when you aren’t at the beach.
Bodrum City Walking Tour
The Bodrum City Walking Sightseeing tour offers a thorough introduction to central Bodrum, which happens to be very pedestrian-friendly. Over four hours, you’ll learn a ton about the history of the area and be taken to some of the top tourist attractions, from the Maritime Museum to the ancient Myndos Gate from 360 BC. The guides are licensed tourist guides and are fluent in English. For convenience, all admission costs are covered in the tour price.
The perfect way to relax and rejuvenate your body is with a traditional Turkish bath called a hamam. Opposite the bus station, you’ll spot Bodrum Hamam, a humble stone building that offers an authentic experience.
Once you arrive, you’ll store your clothes and valuables in the locker provided, wrap your body up in a peştamal towel, then walk into the marble bathing area for a steam. Next, one of the staff will scrub and wash your body and give you a short massage. Afterwards, you can stay for as long as you like to sweat out all the toxins out of your body.
Your first destination for crystal-clear waters is Yahşi Beach in the town of Ortakent. Yahşi is easily one of the cleanest Bodrum beaches. The calm bay is excellent for swimming and water sports like parasailing, kiteboarding and windsurfing. If you’ve never tried these before, there are schools and instructors available to give you a lesson.
This spot is somewhat touristy, with plenty of restaurants, shops, lounge chairs and umbrellas lining the shore. You can pick up some souvenirs and trinkets from the stalls, as well as essentials like towels and sunscreen if you’ve forgotten them.
If you continue towards the east of the bay from Yahşi Beach, you’ll eventually end up at Ortakent Beach. This side is far quieter and close to many boutique hotels. So, if you find that Yahşi is a little too crowded for you, just head to Ortakent!
A minibus (dolmuş) to and from central Bodrum departs every 10 to 15 minutes, making your beach day super convenient and affordable.
There are over a dozen incredible scuba diving spots around Bodrum, so it can be difficult for first-time visitors to decide on the best spot to go to. Instead of trying to figure out where to go all on your own, book a scuba diving tour!
For those new to diving, there are some stunning shallow spots with plenty of colourful fish and octopus to see. Beginners will learn the right swimming techniques, how to use the equipment properly, and other helpful tips from the qualified instructors.
The more experienced scuba divers will be put together and head to dive points with slightly stronger currents. Instructors will guide you to interesting rock formations full of fascinating sea creatures. You will likely even spot some ancient anchors and amphoras from ships that have wrecked in the Aegean Sea.
If you’re after a relaxing daytime adventure in the sea, there are a ton of friendly diving centres around Bodrum. Happy Bubbles Dive Centre and Turkuaz Dive Centre offer SSI and PADI open water courses for those who may be looking to get certified as well.
Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
Go back in time to the ancient city of Halicarnassus, now present-day Bodrum. The famous 45-metre-high tomb, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, was built around 350 BC and is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Each of the four sides featured intricate sculptural reliefs by four renowned Greek sculptors, with a total of 36 columns.
Although destroyed by multiple earthquakes during the 12th and 15th centuries, the ruins are still a popular attraction to visit. The excavated foundations are very centrally located along Turgutreis Caddesi, so you can easily spare half an hour. Take a closer look at the remaining marble carvings and imagine what once was.
Zeki Muren Arts Museum
A small cultural gem in Bodrum is the Zeki Muren Arts Museum. Zeki Muren was one of Turkey’s most beloved public figures in the entertainment industry, known as a singer, composer, songwriter, actor and poet. Many have even dubbed him the David Bowie of Turkey, partly due to his feminine outfits and make-up looks while performing. Upon his death in 1996, his home in Bodrum was donated to the Ministry of Culture.
The Zeki Muren Arts Museum was established in 2000 to display Muren’s costumes, paintings he created in his later years, and other memorabilia. There’s an English-language biography you can read in the hallway before exploring the rest of the house.
Milta Bodrum Marina
Milta Bodrum Marina is one of the most distinguished marinas along the Meditteranean Sea. It’s a serene location to watch the sunset or go for an evening walk.
There are a ton of restaurants and shops nearby too. The elegant Marina Yacht Club overlooks the harbour, so you can enjoy a five-star Mediterranean meal and a live music show with a view. Bistro Marina is a cosy alternative with indoor seating, or there is Kahve Dünyası (Coffee World) for a hot beverage and some desserts.
While Bodrum is known for attracting tourists and partygoers, the western village of Gümüşlük is far quieter. You’ll mostly find locals and Turkish tourists in this laid-back beach town. It’s easily one of the most picturesque villages on the Bodrum Peninsula as well, with evil eye ornaments and colourful lanterns hanging from every tree branch.
The beach is lined with incredible casual restaurants that serve up fresh fish and seafood. Whichever eatery you end up at, be sure to try a popular dish called midye dolma (mussels stuffed with herbed rice). Your plate will come with plenty of lemon slices on the side, so don’t be shy squeezing it on.
Gümüşlük Boat Tour
Daily boat tours depart from the Gümüşlük Pier at 11 a.m. and arrive back at 8 p.m. For an affordable price, you can take a small group tour around the Çavuş and Çatal islands, with a fresh lunch of fish and fruit included. This tour is a great way to unwind and see the coastline, and can be easily booked on the English-language website.
About a half-an-hour east of central Bodrum stands an intriguing industrial structure overlooking a forest. ARThill, also known as the Ender Güzey Museum, is a unique art gallery displaying paintings and sculptures by Güzey himself.
The eco-friendly building derives its energy from the sun and is a reflection of Güzey’s vision for harmony between art and nature. The space also hosts interesting contemporary exhibitions by international artists. It takes some extra effort to get here, but that makes it even more special.
ARThill is typically open from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday, although you should definitely double check in advance before making the drive out.
The nightlife in Bodrum is the most lively in Turkey, perhaps rivalled only by the capital, Istanbul. Want to avoid the tourist traps and discover where the Turks go to party? Here are a few suggestions on where to head when the sun goes down.
Mandalin Bodrum is an easy favourite for live music and cocktails in an intimate atmosphere. If you arrive after the bands have finished playing, you’ll get to discover and hear some new Turkish songs.
A scenic place to sit back, enjoy a drink and have a chat is the Moonlight Cafe and Bar. With seating overlooking the marina, it’s a beautiful place to watch the sunset. The bar is open until four in the morning, so you could even head here after an evening of dancing when you’re not quite ready to head home yet.
If you’re staying in any of the villages west of central Bodrum, Off Gümüşlük is a heavenly spot along the shores of Gümüşlük Beach. The restaurant and bar typically serve an older crowd, so it’s the perfect place for a chilled-out yet entertaining evening. Come by for a fancy late-night dinner from their ever-changing menu and kick back with a few chilled beers or a bottle of wine. During the summer, there are events and live music performances almost every night.
A wonderful place to go shopping in Bodrum is Turgutreis Market, one of the best local bazaars in the area. Every Saturday, Pazar Alani in the village of Turgutreis comes alive with stalls selling fruit, vegetables, spices, clothes and pashminas, rugs, and cubes and cubes of Turkish delight (lokum).
To make your visit easier, you can book a five-hour tour of the market with hotel pick-up and drop-off. Your local guide will teach you how to bargain with the vendors if you’re new to it or just a little shy.
If you’re seeking a fun activity for the whole family, pop into Bodrum Aquapark in Ortakent. While the facilities here are fairly basic, there are all the classic waterpark essentials like slides, rafting courses and a wave pool. A big plus is the affordable admission price. Since you can’t bring any outside food or drink into the park, there are ice cream stands and a cafe inside for lunch and snacks. There’s also a DJ playing music all day long, and foam parties in the late afternoon. While you shouldn’t come here expecting world-class entertainment or rides, there’s still a fun day to be had if you’re travelling with kids.
Dibeklihan Culture And Art Village
A fascinating place to explore is the Dibeklihan Culture and Art Village in Yakaköy, about 11 kilometres from central Bodrum. This complex is made up of stunning stone buildings with a spacious central courtyard. Between May and October, you can check out the art galleries, handicraft stores, design workshops and Ottoman exhibitions set up here. Afterwards, enjoy a traditional meze lunch at the restaurant, Dibek Sofrası.
At night, come and spend some time at the Film Bar, which screens classic movies every evening during the summer. You can track what films will be showing on the Dibeklihan website, or simply show up and be surprised.
Dalyan River Cruise
From Bodrum, embark on a full-day trip to the unforgettable Dalyan River. After a three-hour coach ride, begin your river cruise and visit the natural mud baths and thermal pools along the river. Hop out of the boat for a relaxing soak in both and take advantage of the health benefits available. Due to the sulfur in the mud and its anti-wrinkle properties, these are also called beauty baths. The thermal waters, on the other hand, are great for ailments like arthritis and other joint issues. As you likely already know, travelling can be hard on your body, so take this moment to look after it.
Another highlight of this tour is the opportunity to see the ancient Lycian rock tombs in Fethiye. These Romanesque tombs were carved into a mountain in the 4th century. Even from afar, they are impressively detailed. You’ll also pass the Taurus Mountain Range, then stop at Iztuzu Beach to meet the sea turtles. Hotel pick-up and drop-off anywhere on the Bodrum Peninsula is included, as is a delicious buffet lunch. All in all, this is a day you’ll always remember!
Recommended tours in Bodrum
- Horseback Riding in Bodrum
- Dalyan Mud Baths and Turtle Beach Day Trip from Bodrum
- Dalyan Day Trip from Bodrum to Dalyan River Cruise, Iztuzu Beach aith Mud Baths
- Blue cruise around Bodrum bays
- Independent Day Trip to Kos Island from Bodrum with Transfers
- Scuba Diving Tour in Bodrum
- Bodrum Peninsula Cruise Including Lunch
- Pamukkale Hot Springs and Hierapolis Excursion
- Bodrum Jeep Safari