Bodrum is Turkey's Turquoise Coast at its most vibrant. This unabashed summer vacation destination is known for its marina full of bobbing yachts ready to whisk you out onto the Aegean for a lazy day of coastal sightseeing between swimming stops; a handful of historic tourist attractions, if you're looking for more things to do off the beach; and a town filled with photogenic, old whitewashed houses.
Once the ancient city of Halicarnassus, Bodrum had turned into a simple fishing village by the late-Ottoman era, but all that changed in the mid-20th century, when tourism entered the fold.
Now during summer, this town is one of the best places to visit in Turkey for sun-and-sea vacations, and it buzzes with energy as tourists come from all over the world to soak up Bodrum's charm.
If you happen to visit out of season, though, you can still catch a hint of the old village atmosphere. Plan your time in Turkey's premier resort town with our list of the top tourist attractions and things to do in Bodrum.
Soak Up the Scenery on a Boat Trip
Bodrum is all about the sea. The vast amount of visitors that arrive are here for a lazy holiday of sun, sea, and sand, but when you feel the need for a change of scenery, the most popular way to sightsee is by boat.
Hundreds of boat tours are on offer during the summer months, ranging from a day trip sailing around the Bodrum Peninsula, stopping off at tiny inlets only accessible by boat for swimming, to multi-day yacht trips down the coast or across to the Greek Islands.
Bodrum's marina is where both public and private yacht trip outfitters tout for business, though most visitors looking for a day-long or half-day boat trip prefer to book a recommended operator through their hotels.
Even on the short day and half-day trips, you'll be able to experience a good chunk of the Aegean's famed rocky coastline scenery and have hours of sunbathing on board, broken up by swimming stops.
A great option is the full-day Bodrum Peninsula Cruise with lunch, which includes a chance to swim, snorkel, and sunbathe, as well as explore the island of Kara Ada. If you don't fancy joining a group trip, and would like to make your own itinerary, you can also hire a yacht with crew for the day privately.
Visit the Castle of St. Peter
Lording over the seafront, the Castle of St. Peter is at the top of every visitor's things to do in Bodrum list.
The Knights Hospitallers of St. John built the structure between 1402 and 1437, and knights of the various nationalities of the order were entrusted with the defense of particular sections of the walls.
Among the various towers are the French Tower; English Tower, with a sculpted lion on its west wall; and the Gatineau Tower, which leads to the dungeons.
During the reign of the Ottoman sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, the castle passed into Turkish hands and a mosque was built inside.
Today, many of the vast halls inside the castle display the exhibits of Bodrum's Museum of Underwater Archaeology.
Explore History at the Museum of Underwater Archaeology
This absolutely brilliant museum inside the Castle of St. Peter is a must-see attraction, even if you don't have an interest in underwater archaeology. It has been recently reorganized and renovated, with the exhibits displayed in various halls of the castle's upper level.
The artifact displays, which hail both from underwater discoveries off the coast here and excavations on the Bodrum Peninsula, are complemented by slick multimedia displays.
The museum's highlight is the Serçe Limanı Glass Wreck room, which displays a 16-meter Byzantine ship that sunk in 1026 CE. Some of its cargo, including amphorae and glass artifacts, is displayed artfully in the surrounding exhibit cases.
Other halls display finds recovered from several Bronze Age shipwrecks, a large collection of amphorae, and intricately decorated ceramic pieces uncovered from a Mycenaean-era necropolis near Ortakent on the peninsula.
Sunbathe on the Bodrum Peninsula Beaches
Outside of Bodrum town, the Bodrum Peninsula's beaches are the main drawcard for visitors during summer, and from June through August, the shorefront is crammed full of sunbathers soaking up the heat.
The peninsula towns of Ortakent, Bitez, Gümbet, and Turgetreis have the most popular beaches, with free public beaches as well as private beach clubs that you can access for an entrance fee.
Bodrum Town itself also has two strips of beach right in the center of town for those that don't want to travel far for swimming and sunbathing.
The entire peninsula is popular with both domestic and European tourists, so don't expect to find an isolated patch of sand. During the height of summer, this is one of Turkey's most popular places to visit and going to the beach is the top thing to do.
Explore Bodrum Old Town
The narrow lanes that back the beach, bazaar, and marina area are Bodrum's most interesting area. The alleyways here are lined with bougainvillea-draped and vine-clad whitewashed cottages that give Bodrum its particular Aegean ambience and charm and make it stand out amid other coastal tourist centers, such as Fethiye, that have a more modern look.
For photographers, these rambling, winding lanes are the most interesting part of Bodrum to photograph, and you can still get a real feel for the fishing village it once was.
The best way to explore is to simply duck up the skinny lanes that lead off the waterfront and go for an aimless wander. The more central lanes are scattered with cafés and restaurants that make for great pitstops while you're strolling.