If you come to Turkey’s Bodrum Peninsula for the beach, you won’t be disappointed, said Peter Jon Lindberg in Travel + Leisure. Indeed, most of the 2.9 million yearly visitors go just to lounge on its white beach, or somewhere near the beach—or at a cliff-top resort with knockout views of the beach. This “swath of rock, sand, cypress, and cedar that reaches from Turkey’s southwest coast into the stained-glass blue of the Aegean Sea” is a slice of Mediterranean bliss. You can bask in the sun all day, being “serenaded by seabirds” and sipping a chilled glass of the licorice-flavored spirit raki. Yet if you can drag yourself from the “parade of gazelle-like women and the men who love them” along the shore, there’s plenty to see around the peninsula, too.
In 1966, the town of Bodrum was a “backwater of 5,100,” where roads were a rarity and street names nonexistent. By the mid-1970s, the seaside village’s languid charms and agreeable climate had begun to draw a select crowd of bohemians and celebrities, such as Rudolf Nureyev and Mick Jagger. Today, the peninsula is a chic escape for Turks, Brits, and many Europeans who see it as an “Aegean Saint-Tropez.” Luxury resorts now line hillsides “studded with olive trees, tangerine groves, and bursts of bougainvillea,” while Türkbükü Harbor teems with “impossibly tall” sailboats and other yachts, “their masts piercing the sky like minarets.”
In its more rugged corners, though, Bodrum can still recall less-touristy places, such as Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast: “Both share that moody, haunting beauty that attends any place where the long-dead outnumber the living.” Crumbling ruins of windmills and stone churches sprinkle the steep hillsides, a legacy of the Greek Orthodox communities that once lived there. White-domed kümbets, or cisterns, built by Ottoman Turks still pepper the “parched terrain,” and in Bodrum’s Old Town, the 15th-century Castle of St. Peter towers over the harbor. Even if you can’t handle the sweltering heat, Bodrum’s a place that’s easy to warm up to.