Friday, October 12, 2012

Turkey - the south Aegean

This page deals with Bodrum, Datca and Marmaris on Turkey's south Aegean coast. There is also a fair bit of information on Dalyan..

I caught a ferry from the Greek island of Kos to Bodrum, later the car ferry across the gap to Korman just north of Datca and a few day after a bus along the spectacular Datca peninsula to Marmaris. My 5th grade geography teacher would kill me because I haven't put NORTH on the map but like most maps it is directly up.
Technical point - many take the long Datca peninsula as the demarcation between the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts. On that basis, Datca and Marmaris are far north Mediterranean locations - (basic image Google Earth).


Bodrum is maybe coastal Turkey's most attractive tourist city. It is situated on twin bays, separated by a small headland on which is located a crusader castle (if you click the image to expand it you may be able to see the castle about one third across from left). The town spreads up the hills which are higher than the image suggests - the wide-angle in my elcheapo Olympus de-emphasises height - so many of the apartments and resorts have good water and off-shore island views. 

The small bay to left (west) of the castle contains the marina with hundreds of daytrip boats and cruising yachts. Behind is a concourse and across the road a whole bunch of good value restaurants and bars. The ferries from Samos and Rhodes come in on the left side of the castle - there is a strip of restaurants and artisans along this stretch. The bay immediately to the right of the castle contains some seafront accommodation and overwater restaurants in the section closest the castle and the town beach in the middle and right. The beach has many restaurants and bars on and behind it and a lot of the area across the beach road is given to clubs and other entertainment. Halikarnas Disco is on the small pimple that denotes the break to the next bay which runs north-south to the cruise-liner pier. This bay has a continuation of the beach lounge thing with more recent resorts and apartments behind. 
To left of image the built up area continues around to the next bay - the area is known as Gumbet and is a kind of Bodrum on its own with a longish stretch of beach, marinas, plenty of resorts/apartments and a bustling nightlife. Even further west the newer area of Bitez has been connurbated to the sprawl. Bitez has its own bay and is a more upmarket area. (image: modified Google Earth).

It was my birthday when I arrived from the Kos ferry and I decided to shout me something a bit more expensive than my usual $25-30 accommodation. So I got me a $50 room in this place - Bac Pension, one of the waterfront places on the first eastern bay. The fact that it was only a few minutes walk from the ferry and in the middle of the pedestrianised bazaar area didn't hurt. All the sea-view rooms were taken - this is the view from the 3rd storey terrace where the nice inclusive Turkish-style breakfast was served (don't expect fried eggs Bubba). A great spot for a relaxing beer late in the day too. Below in foreground are some of the overwater restaurants. The narrow beach begins about mid-shot, the first section being crowded with dining tables which may be more clearly seen if you click the image to expand. Behind to right out of image is a fine view of the castle.
Bac Pension was a class act - lotsa marble and dark stained wood and the cleanest place I've stayed in anywhere.

Bodrum is noted for its night-life. This is the world famous (?? - well that's what the guidebooks say) Halikarnas Disco, apparently the globe's biggest outdoor venue of its kind. It's located on the far right of the first eastern bay - I shot this on telephoto from Bac Pension's terrace hence the grainy image - that old Olympus don't have lots of pixels and the lens is probably made of recycled Coke bottles. Lots of smaller clubs and bars along the bayfront road to left of image.

The bazaar area takes up nearly half of the of the castle side of the eastern bay and goes several laneways back from the water. A big variety of shopping and eating opportunities. Bazaars in Turkish tourist towns tend to have wider avenues than the narrow twisting streets of those in the Greek islands and are equally well lit at night - very attractive. Not that the Greek versions aren't.

The town beach toward the right side of the first eastern bay from the castle widens a bit. Sand is not great - a very coarse grainy sand not particularly white or yellow. No shortage of sunbed/umbrellas in background but plenty of room to spread a towel. At night this whole area is covered by tables from the restaurants and bars across the seafront road. 
Water quality pretty good - perhaps I shouldn't be surprised: after 6 months of dry season it will not be suffering too much from the pollution that rain runoff brings from the streets, rooftops etc. What this coast is like in wet season may be another thing - but the tourists aren't here so it isn't an issue for this type of page.

Bodrum has a very well preserved/restored 14 century crusader castle. It was built by the Knights of St John but never saw action on account they chickened out and clucked off to similar castles they had at the nearby islands of Rhodes and Kos when the Turks got themselves some decent cannons.
Today the castle houses the best sea archaeology museum in Turkey - there are recovered wrecks and  ship replicas going back to 6000BC, a stack of recovered artifacts, some good documentary stuff on the recovery expeditions and life in the castle back in the day. The castle itself is a good explore and has very fine views of both the eastern and western bays.

This is the interior of the refectory of the Brit chapter of the Knights - done out as it would have looked back then. A lot of the stuff is authentic from that time. There are English sections, Spanish sections, French sections etc of the castle.

I'm not real big on history so I didn't do the other main historical sites in Bodrum - the Theatre of Halicarnassus, a Roman type amphitheater in very good condition - and the Mausoleum of Mausolus, apparently one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, which is not in such good condition but well worth a look according to a woman I was talking with

Bodrum is big on boats. This is just one small section of the western marina. All these are daytrip or multi-day tourist boats. There must have been over 100 in the various sections of the marina. There are few land tie up points in the eastern bay but late afternoon I counted over 50 boats tied to mid-bay moorings from my viewpoint terrace at Bac Pension.

I'm a sucker for an inexpensive trip on a boat and had time for a day-cruise. There are various itineraries but mine took in the bays, islands and a beach to the west of Bodrum. Water was gorgeous (although I took my mask and the underwater scene was pretty barren apart from some okay fish), the sun lovely and the mood laid back. About half the boats in shot are day-trippers, the rest local or out of area leisure craft (some international). This was probably the most crowded area but all other stops on our trip had a bunch of similar craft.

Our beach stop was at Camel Beach, a nice bay some distance from Bodrum which is developing as a satellite holiday area. We had 90 minutes here for a swim and a drink. The beach seemed popular with Turkish families as well as international tourists and was definitely better than in Bodrum itself although Aussies and others from nice beach areas won't be writing home to mum about it - and yes, you can ride a camel if you want. Bit cheesy baby.

Okay, time for somewhere new - so next day I jumped on the car ferry for Datca.


Datca reminds me of my home town. It is a reasonably small tourist/fishing place built up a hilly area behind 3 bays with beaches and a small harbour/marina. Okay, the beaches are nowhere near as good and there is no surf (at least in tourist season), but the water is as clear and warm, the bar/restaurant scene behind the beaches and at the harbour much better, and the surrounding coastline more attractive to touring yachts and other visitors (and the region around my joint is pretty good).
I wanted to stay at one of the bungalows at Ilica Camping but the woman at tourist information where my ferry's shuttle bus terminated pointed towards a steep hill and said 2km. It was pretty hot so I picked Firat Apartments about 2 minutes away in the main street. Ilica Camping turned out to be less than 2km and there was an easier route via the harbour concourse but Firat was fine location wise and good value for a fully equipped apartment at about $30, if a little worn.

I wanted somewhere laid back to stay between Bodrum and Marmaris and when I heard there was a car ferry running directly across the gulf to Kormen followed by a short (inclusive) shuttle bus ride to Datca town on the other side of the peninsula, I jumped at it. The car ferry takes abt 90 minutes and saves motorists the 250+km drive around the gulf. It's pretty pleasant cruising along on the top deck checking the scene. Here we are approaching Kormen - the peninsula is flatter in this region but those mountains at right give some idea of the dominant landscape of this long narrow peninsula. There are hundreds of small secluded bays along its rugged shoreline. A few have resorts, private holiday homes or camping areas, most are deserted save for maybe a tourist gulet or cruising yacht anchored near shore.

The town bay is a fine u-shaped affair with resorts and apartments behind camera and along the opposite arm. A beach area with the usual backing of neat cafes and bars is on the inland third of the U starting center of shot and running left out of frame. The main street runs behind those buildings in this section. Sand on the beach was the usual brownish coarse stuff found widely along this coast.

North bay (my name) is around the small point just seawards of the hotel at the far right in the previous shot. It was pretty popular with locals (it was Sunday), had a few food outlets behind the retaining wall and a lot of parkland and some flash looking apartments inland of that. The "sand" went more to pebbles along here. Interestingly, the pier had gone when I visited - as it had when Google Earth shot its image up page. I'm not sure why I didn't take a pic of this beach - anyway I had to get this one from Google images (originally from InterCharter )

I shot this across south bay (my name again) from Ilica camping looking towards the small harbour/marina on the opposite side. The inland third of the U shape starts far left of image and has a popular beach with a couple of bar/restaurants behind, plus a lagoon you may be able to see in the Google Earth image up page. The lake is supposed to have thereuputic values. Those tourist operators. 
The beach sand is similar in quality to the town bay and continues in front of Ilica Camping which is situated in quite a nice park-like area. The built up part of the town more or less finishes at the harbour side of the bay.

The small harbour area had a strip of very competitive restaurant/bars, nice places to spend some time and watch the comings and goings of boats and people. That beer bottle insulator (we call them coolers/stubby holders in Australian) is for an Indonesian Bintang full size 700ml bottle, but knowing how fat my favourite Efes 500ml bottles are, I brought it along to Turkey. Nevertheless the first one I installed was so wide it got stuck - I had to split the seam at back to get it out: hence the rubber band.
The harbour area had a few fishing boats, a dive boat, about half a dozen daytrip boats and over a dozen cruising yachts, many of them international - you can do customs and immigration here.  Datca seems a popular stop for Brit registered yachts. I reckon some would be tied up here over winter - cheaper than at Weymouth.
The daytrip boat in the background had a board advertising a trip to the nearby Greek island of Symi next day, but when I called by they didn't have enough takers. So I jumped on a bus for Marmaris.


Marmaris is another of those towns the trendy travel books hate - even busier and brasher than Kusadasi. A package holidayer's paradise full of Brits and Rooshians. But I wanted somewhere lively for my last 3 days on the coast and having visited in 2005 thought it just the ticket without having to spend too long in a bus.

Marmaris has one of the better natural settings around - a naturally protected bay surrounded by rugged hills and mountains. If you come in by bus to the octogar on the right edge of the town 3km from where the main drag hits the ocean concourse there are very frequent inexpensive dolmuses and plenty of taxis to shuttle you down to town central. The ferries from Rhodes and Kos in Greece arrive at a terminal in the eastern bay. I learned in 2005 that it is a fair haul if you want to walk to your accommodation from there. Plenty of taxis meet the ferries. Many people fly into the area - the airport is at Dalaman about 120km south-east, but regular inexpensive coaches shuttle people to the bus station. Many flasher hotels and resorts have pick up services. Package holidays should include the transfer.
I came in from Datca by bus - the 75km trip along the mountainous Datca peninsula is spectacular, climbing from sea level to way up with fabulous views of gorgeous bays down there both sides of the narrow finger of land. If you want an inexpensive daytrip out of Marmaris, a Datca excursion would do it well. The town itself is pretty nice (see up page) and a good contrast to Marmaris.
To the east (left facing the sea, right on the map) of main-street-meets-ocean is a v-shaped 600m seafront concourse with maybe more day trip boats than at Bodrum. It is backed by a big array of bars and restaurants. But the number and variety of these are dwarfed by those behind the 3km+ long beach strip (which unsurprisingly is often referred to as Long Beach) which begins a short distance west of the main street's end.
The town's marina is a dedicated area of finger piers packed with cruising yachts and other leisure craft immediately east of the day boat area - about where the "da" of "dayboats" is on the above image. Cruise liners tie up to the bayside finger of the marina.
Icmeler bottom left of image is a satellite offshoot of Marmaris - greener, more orderly laid out and definitely more upmarket. There are regular dolmuses which run along the coastal road plus water taxis from town central and from plenty of places along the 3km Marmaris beach strip.
Terunc is a few km further south, just out of image - it is a much smaller settlement built around an attractive compact bay and backed by soaring mountains. Road access is circuitous and steep but the water taxis do the trip. This is the place to go if you want something as relaxed as Datca (maybe a bit trendier) much closer to Marmaris.

The main street meets the ocean behind the last boats at right. The Long Beach strip starts a short distance past that - you can see only the first km of its 3km+. To left of camera the day-boat moorings continue around a curved concourse backed by restaurants and bars. Go a bit further inland behind the camera and you will find the town's rather big pedestrianised bazaar shopping area. Inland from that is Bar Street for lots of clubs and other nightlife.
I shot this from the sun deck of my first day trip's boat (see down page) just before cast-off - not exactly packed. That's shoulder season.

The first few hundred meters of the beach strip are largely sun-lounge free. Sand right along the strip is the typical very coarse grained brownish-grey stuff. Water seemed reasonably clean.

I did a 180 from the previous shot for this. The sun lounges continue for about 3km! Maybe not everyone's idea of paradise, but it sure beats the municipal pool at Milton Keynes.

Don't want to baste with the plebs? Join the big-noters on one of these half dozen or so mini-piers (plenty of pixels in this - a good one to click-expand. Might spot Michael Jagger. Or Miss Hull 2001).

Most of the beach strip is backed by this pedestrian concourse (although you need to keep your eyes open for bicycles) which continues all the way to Icmeler. It is flanked by hundreds of restaurants and bars - the competition is so hot that I found food and drink prices more competitive than at Istanbul. Want to watch the big football match or listen to most tastes in music? You will find a place along here which offers that. 
Most of the sea-front buildings seem 60s and 70s in vintage although no doubt you can find a very good room. Towards the far end of the strip the buildings go into the 80s. There are dozens of more modern hotels, resorts and apartments elsewhere.

Marmaris Boat Trips
Marmaris has even more boat trips than Bodrum. For a start, this is the northern end of the multi-day Blue Cruise circuit (although you will find a greater variety out of Fethiye further south). But I spent too long in the Greek islands and didn't have enough time for a 4 day thing - so I decided on two 1 day cruises.


This is a nice one - takes in places not too far out of Marmaris and is not too long - about 0930 to 1500. I got myself on a mid sized traditional Turkish ferry type thing (not a gulet/sail boat) - see shot from top deck 5 pix up page) but because of shoulder season there were only a few dozen passengers instead of its maximum of 100 or so. The 35tl ($us19) included lunch and all non-alky drinks which is pretty good value for a relaxed day out.

First stop was what I'm going to call Bee Island on account there were heaps of bees buzzing around. No problem for most if you ignore them but one poor elderly lady was one of these people who send out a chemical signal BITE ME (don't laugh - Ladette Tezza is the same - been bit by everything from Portuguese Man of War bottle-fish to the dangerous Aussie red bellied black snake - she is on a first name basis with half the ER doctors in our greater region). The bees may bee (hur hur hur) a seasonal thing - it was early October. Anyway, you will know if you give off the chemical signal. I ignored them and after buzzing around me, they buzzed off. 
We moored in the bay here for some swim time. I took my snorkeling face mask - once again a pretty barren bottom apart from big boulders down from the cliffs but a fair few fish. Water very clear and at 25 degrees a perfect temperature.

Just about every boat trip out of Marmaris calls in at this sea cave on the back of "Bee Island". I'm not whelmed by sea caves on account there are several within 200m of my house, but I was impressed by how close they got the bow of the boats on both trip 1 and Trip 2 visits. Particularly Trip 2 which was a BIG boat (see down page).

Our 90 minute beach/town stop was at Terunc which is a smallish appealing tourist place on a compact bay. Once again the beach could not compare to the clean yellow or blinding white ones you get in best beach areas overseas but it sure was a step or two up from Long Beach. We had 90 minutes here to shop, have a swim or grab a beer in one of the many beachfront restaurants/bars. A pretty good inclusion because most Marmaris visitors would not get to see Terunc otherwise. I certainly didn't in my 2005 visit.

This is one of the water taxis which serve Terunc every half hour (or sooner if full) in tourist season (for 10tl - $5.60 - 2012) . Duration 30 minutes - the tricky trip by road takes 45 minutes. This would be an inexpensive way to spend a day out of Marmaris.

I did this in 2005. This time I could have done another bay trip similar to Day 1 with a slightly different program but with a flight departing at 2355 I wanted one which took up a major period of time - and having done Dalyan I consider it one of the better boat day trips I've done anywhere.

We are talking decent distances here which accounts for the trip's 0930 to 1930-2000 duration. People flying into Marmaris/Dalyan note that the regional airport at DalAman (different spelling for different town) is about 4km along the coast from far right of frame.

The western ferry-type trip boat was a hell of a lot bigger than the previous day's cruiser. Here it is parked at the mouth of the Dalyan river.

And they sure can pack them in. This was shoulder season, but when I arrived a half hour before departure all the hotel pick up buses had beaten me - every sun lounge and seat outside was taken and the undercover area was pretty packed as you can see. I like to see where I'm going so I found a perch up on the bow. Coming back the wind-chill kicked in as the sun sank and more people crammed into the above saloon which gave me a nice outide seat in front of the wheelhouse - I had my folding rain jacket for warmth.
I don't mind packed tours - as a sole traveler I'm a people watcher and those Rooshian bikini babes plus the beer-bellied and inked Rooshian and Brit blokes are good value. Brit tourists in general are always great for a talk and a few jokes.
All these people mean economies of scale - a much longer trip for less than the previous day's (30tl-$us17 including lunch against 35tl) although the non-alky drinks were not free.

After visiting the cave pictured up-page and having a nice ocean swim adjacent, the next stop was at this ocean beach at the mouth of the Dalyan river. That's the area's famous 4km long turtle hatching beach in background - the first few hundred meters is a bit cheesy with heaps of sun beds (the turtles tend to lay their eggs further down the beach) so we were dropped at this smaller unspoiled section across the river mouth. I've visited both beaches now - the sand is definitely finer than most places on this coast but those guide books who talk about white sand are dreaming - this is a brownish shade of yellow folks. 
I had a swim in the sea just right of the beached shuttle boats - there was a fairly strong sideways current which I figured was the tide moving into the inlet - be careful of your kids here. To left of frame is a nice sheltered section of the lagoon with very still, calm water, ideal for kids and poor swimmers. In fact you could wade across most parts (might be tide-dependent). There is some cliff-provided shade back of beach for the sun-averse.
After maybe 45 minutes beach time we toured the inlet in background looking for turtles (no luck) and checking a crab fishing joint. 

The first section of the trip up river moves through a serpentine multi-channel estuary - mangrove country without the mangroves.

Further upriver are the impressive cliff-side Lycian King Tombs (circa 1000BC). Our shuttle boats stopped here and the tour leader gave a good explanation which was repeated in Russian. I don't know what the non-English/Russian speaking Turks on our trip thought. Maybe they had read up on them as I did before my 2005 visit where our boat just cruised slowly past with no explanation.
These kings were part of the pre Greek Lycian city of Caunos, the ruins of which could be glimpsed a bit further down river, but which we had no time to visit. Apparently they are pretty good - one reason to spend a few days in attractive Dalyan town - originally my plan but I dallied too long in the Greek islands and ran out of time. Click image to expand for more detail.

Dalyan town stretches a surprising distance along the river for what the guidebooks call a village and has a big range of accommodation and restaurants riverside alone.

The highlight for many is a visit to the thermal springs a little upriver from Dalyan town. The mud here is supposed to have therapeutic and cosmetic properties. Those tourism promoters. 
There is also a nice not-too-hot clear water thermal pool plus a big shower area to remove the mud. The German backpacker babes on my 2005 boat removed their bikini tops to help remove the mud. Those German backpacker babes. 
That's not a svelte-challenged topless backpacker babe in foreground but a beer lovin' beefy Brit bloke. Those beer lovin' beefy Brit blokes.

There was enough sunshine at the start of the return run to make a snooze on the sun lounges a nice option.

Not much UV later. I was glad I had opted for a 2355 flight to Istanbul - the shuttle bus to Dalaman airport alone takes about 90 minutes. But the mountainous route is scenic even at night.


XXXX - If you have any questions, please ask them in THE FORUM rather than below. I don't get a chance to check all threads daily, but unless I'm travelling I'll try to monitor THE FORUM regularly.


No comments: