We’ve written about most of our spring trip to Turkey but have barely mentioned the fabulous week we spent at the beach on Turkey’s Bodrum Peninsula. Perhaps that part of our brains has still been on vacation, fully relaxed in the heat of the Turkish sun. Ah, if only….
British, German or Dutch tourists know full well what Americans are ignorant of – Turkey has fabulous beaches! We didn’t run into a single other American tourist (fine with us!) the whole week we stayed in the town of Turgutreis. Locals were surprised to hear us speak English with American accents, something they don’t hear much of there. In fact, we didn’t run into very many other tourists at all as we were there in early May, a few weeks before European schools got out, meaning just before the high tourist season hit. We often had the beach, restaurants and shops to ourselves. Delightful!
We chose the town of Turgutries for its proximity to the Bodrum airport (about an hour’s drive) but still far enough from the party town of Bodrum to enjoy peace and quiet. Per our usual mode of accomodation, we rented a comfortable three story home, Swan Villa, owned by a lovely British couple. The villa shares a pool with another villa next door, owned by the same British couple and also for rent. No one else was staying in the second home while we were there but it would be a lovely spot for two families or an extended family to rent both homes for a shared vacation. For our small family of 3, one villa was more than enough space with its 4-bedrooms, large living area, fully stocked kitchen and three lovely balconies. While not beachside (nothing really is in Turgutreis except a few very small, expensive hotels), we were about a 12 minute walk to the beach and the main shopping/ eating area of town. One quick plug for our friend Akin who owns the Corner Pub and runs a reliable transportation service, as well as manages the Swan Villa with great attention.
What to do in Turgutreis? Not much really, which was exactly what we were looking for. The beach is a thin strip of gravely sand lined with beach lounge chairs and umbrellas. I imagine it gets very crowded during high season and the chairs are premium real estate, but for us we had our pick of spots to relax. The lounge chairs are owned by the restaurants that line the beach but the beach itself is public. By law (and the restaurant waiters will confirm) you are free to sit in their chairs with no obligation to buy anything, although we generally at least ordered drinks. Sadly for us it was a bit too chilly to swim in the crystal clear waters. A few weeks later it was probably just perfect. Still it was warm enough to read thick novels while Grace played happily in the sand.
There’s a small shopping area with the typical tourist trinkets. We came home with bars of luxurious handmade olive oil soap and several cotton tablecloths, all reasonably priced. There are dozens of restaurants, all of which will invite you in anytime you walk by. The restaurants right on the beach are the more expensive but also have the best food. We enjoyed dishes like clay pot kebabs, grilled meats cooked in sauce inside a clay pot. The pot is smashed open at your table and the delectable bits poured out for you. Yum! Locally caught seafood abounds as well as beautiful fresh salads. Be sure to ask about pricing on seafood though, as we found it could range from $10 to well over $75.
The rest of the peninsula is worth exploring too. The dolmus mini-busses leave from the a small parking area a few blocks from the main beach and they go everywhere for just a $1 or 2 per person. We spent a day in Bodrum town. It’s incredibly touristy and the town itself was not for us, but the Underwater Archeological Museum in the old castle is one of the best museums we’ve ever been to. The medieval castle itself is incredible but the museum it houses showcases the science of underwater archeology and the many ancient shipwrecks off the Turkish coast that have been dug up excavated. Most fascinating to us was the reconstruction of a shipwreck from 1500 BC. Archeologists found claypots, coins, and even parts of the ship still intact 3500 years later! We also took a day trip from Bodrum to the Greek island of Kos, a short 1 hour hop by ferry to the home of Hippocrates. Be aware, though, most of the interesting historical sites are closed on Mondays.
Another evening trip we took from Turgutreis was to Gumusluk, a small fishing village a short 20 minute dolmus ride from Turgutreis. There we dined at Yakamoz restaurant on freshly caught monkfish cooked in a lovely sauce of garlic, olive oil, sundried tomatoes and delicious Turkish chilis. We savored every bite of that meal, our last before returning to Istanbul.
If your time in Turkey allows, we do recommend a side trip to Bodrum if you want some time to relax. We had played tourist full force in Istanbul for a week and wanted some time to decompress before returning home. We found the peace and tranquility we were looking for in Turgutreis.