On the western coast of Turkey, on the Aegean Sea, lies a relaxing resort city called Bodrum. Ancient history fanatics know this city by Halicarnassus, which held the tomb of Mausolus, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. Today Bodrum is a resort city, filled with cafes, restaurants, and beautiful vacation homes that dot the surrounding hills.
Roman and I came by cruise, which I think is actually the better way to come. You really only need a day to knock out the sites! Beyond that most people come to sun bath on the little beaches that line much of the city. And the weather, at least during the summer, is warm without much rain. While walking in the city, we felt warm and burnt so always have your sunscreen close by.
From the cruise port, it’s possible to walk right into the city. Most cruises will let people out early in the morning, and most of the big sites will be open. We got up early and the streets were dead except the occasional shop owners opening their shop. It was nice to walk through a city and not feel overwhelmed by the crowds. The number site to see in Bodrum is the Bodrum Castle, and is so worth the admission price.
The walk from the cruise port, takes around 30 minutes but it’s a pleasant walk since you go through the city and near the coastline. The Bodrum Castle of Saint John’s Knights (full name) is an impressive 15th century castle and museum that was built overlooking the harbor of the city. It has some ancient artifacts including many parts of ships that were used from long before the castle was constructed.
Admission wasn’t too high, I think around 5 dollars, and you do get access to all the castle plus sweeping views of the city of Bodrum. The castle was the only refuge for Christian minorities in Asia Minor but during the 16th century the castle was handed over to Muslim rule. Minarets were added and for about 300 years stood with the castle until 1915 when French troops destroyed them. It is now reconstructed to its original look when it was first constructed.
The castle is a tour in of itself, with several towers and great vantage points. The castle also has nearly every type of plant found in the Mediterranean and surprisingly a group of peacocks that roam the grounds. In almost all sections of the castle, there are museums and rooms that display rare coins, jewels, pottery, glass, and shipwreck artifacts. Actually this castle doubles as the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology, displaying all types of lost treasures recovered from underwater.
Personally I really liked this castle and glad we went. This really is the top thing to do in Bodrum, so take your time exploring the grounds. We only needed around 2 hours to complete the tour but you could definitely spend more time if you decided to read about every artifact in there. Also spend some time to take really nice photos of the harbor and city.
Out from the castle, Roman and I decided to walk more of the city’s edge to the Tomb of Mausolus. Interesting note, this is where we get the word mausoleum, since this ancient wonder of the world was just that. Back in the day, this structure was massive and could be seen from miles away. It was built around 350 BC and several of its remains exist today. However over the years earthquakes and people taking the stone to build other structures, like the Bodrum Castle, have left the site mostly empty.
From drawings displayed, the site was impressive and historians know some things about the mausoleum. Mausolus died in 353 BC; he built the city of Halicarnassus from scratch and brought power to the region. So his wife had the best artisans come over from Greece and to build the mausoleum on a hill so it could be seen from a far. It actually survived intact for nearly 16 centuries before a series of earthquakes in 12th and 15th century brought it down, long after Alexander the Great took over the city from the Persians in 334 BC.
A little walk up the hill from the mausoleum, there is an amphitheater worth visiting. Roman and I walked up through the tiny neighborhood to snap a closer shot but didn’t bother going in. I don’t have much information on the amphitheater but it’s worth the walk at least just for the view of the city. Amphitheaters are cool but honestly not something I go crazy over.
Roman and I walked back down to the city center to do some souvenir shopping. This would be our last time in Turkey for about a week, so we looked for Turkish goods that we had not seen in Istanbul or Kusadasi. And honestly most of it is the same but we now understood what was more authentic and a good price. I ended up buying a really beautiful scarf for myself because Turkey does make quality scarves. Also some souvenirs for my family. Near the castle we saw more authentic sellers like a man making evil eye necklaces.
My advice, for Bodrum, is to knock the history parts of the city out-of-the-way in the morning and then go shopping, eating and drinking for the rest of the time. The most pleasant part of Bodrum, for me, was to walk up and down the different shops to look at all the wonderful food being sold. Turkey has so much unique food to try that eating is a major part experiencing Turkey. Our tour guide from Kusadasi recommended that we try Mado icecream and when I happened to see one in Bodrum, we stopped to eat.
Overlooking the sunny harbor, it was a very pleasant way to spend an hour or two. Apparently Mado icecream is 100% Turkish in origins and they served lunch food with many wonderful types of icecream. Honestly the view alone was worth the stop and if you’re not feeling icecream, try one of the many other restaurants that have a spot over the harbor. Most cafes and restaurants have wifi as well.
I really liked Bodrum, Turkey. It is a resort city but it feels nicer and quieter than many ports I’ve been to. During the summer the best part is lounging on the beach or drinking at a café while overlooking the clear blue water (it really is crystal clear). Your best chance to get here is by cruise and it should be a stop to consider while looking over cruise itineraries.
images by: shawnvoyage