Long gone are the days when only backpackers went to Bodrum. It’s now one of the hottest places to be seen and luxury travellers are well catered for. The proof is in all the private jets at the airport and the superyachts moored in the bays. The Greeks knew they were onto something special when they settled what was then called Hallicarnassos around 1,000BC. Alexander the Great had designs on the place, as did Persian satrap Mausolos who created the Mausoleum of Mausolus, a great wonder of the ancient world. Even the Crusaders came and stayed.
These days you can enjoy the views with a sunset raki or a good Turkish rosé, feet in the sand at a beach cafe. Further around the Bodrum Peninsula are gorgeous bays that still seem undiscovered if you arrive before peak season. As with most of the Mediterranean, it can be hot in summer and those beautiful bays fill with yachts and the bars and cafes overflow. The transition seasons are best, in late May and early June, or September and October, and many places are closed in winter.
The enchanting drone of the muezzin is a reminder of the relaxed tolerance of the Turkish people. Bodrum town is a bustling little place with an enormous marina surrounded by bars and cafes. Better are the smaller villages and bays with their orchards of pomegranate and fig, lemons, stone fruit and olives.
There also are treasures of the table to be discovered. Conversing with a local, you see how deep the food culture really is. The local bazaars travel from town to town and have inspiring local produce. Purslane is a popular local ingredient. Forget what you think you know about baklava. Borek is served with a dip of mix of raw minced garlic, olive oil and paprika. When made fresh it is sublime.
You may have tried many of these foods before, but here, in the hands of specialist makers they come alive. For kunefe (that blend of shredded wheat, tasty cheese and honey) or baklava, try the specialist shops in the alleys of Bodrum. A favourite is cream-filled and rolled in a fine layer of mostly pistachio pastry. The food is robust and rustic, but wonderfully fresh and flavoursome. Try the Imam bayildi (“the Imam blushed”, a meat-filled roast aubergine dish that made me blush with excitement. Manti, a tiny bishop’s mitre-shaped, meat-filled dumpling, served topped with yoghurt, olive oil and sprinkled with paprika was truly heavenly.
In Bodrum, dine at Mimoza (mimozagumusluk.com), but have an aperitif next door at Limon Café (limongumusluk.com) first. It has the best romantic sunset views on the peninsula. Orfoz (orfoz.net) offers extraordinary seafood, and Maçakizi has not only a brilliant lunch buffet, but menus for lunch and dinner. Resident chef Aret Sahakyan has a wide-ranging menu emphasising the wonderful local produce – and Michelin-starred chefs are regular guests in his kitchen.
The local wine industry, under government monopoly sine 1927, was boosted by deregulation and the growth of tourism in the 1980s. Having grafted to some very old rootstock they are producing excellent grapes, and with modern winemaking techniques, have had outstanding results. The local chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and pinot blanc, alone or blended, are worth consideration. Petit verdot, malbec and merlot share the red wine stage with a quite muscular cabernet sauvignon. Gulor, Sarafin and buyulubag red wines were also very palatable. And we enjoyed a vintage Kayra chardonnay in particular.
View of the Bodrum coastline