Things to do in Bodrum, Turkey's Cote d'Azur: 5 ways to experience the Turquoise Coast
Allez les bleus
1. Check into The Bodrum Edition
If Waris Ahluwalia attends a hotel opening with Virgil Abloh fronting its periodicals, you can be assured that the address is only reserved for whoever's hip and happening. Of course, it is The Bodrum EDITION, Marriott's joint venture with Ian Schrager, the maverick who co-founded the legendary nightclub, Studio 54, in the '70s. The EDITION brand has a reputation for minimalist luxury — and as much as that sounds like hospitality hogwash, it's evident the moment you enter the bright, airy lobby of Bodrum's newest baby and that definitive Le Labo-formulated scent of black tea and bergamot perfumes your consciousness.
The Bodrum EDITION is great for first-timers to Turkey. Here's where you'll want to try your first Turkish breakfast, a smorgasbord of locally-produced cheeses (Çeçil peyniri, İsli Çerkez, Tulum, Eski Kasar), breads (simit, the Turkish bagel), olives, jams and creams, with sucuk (Turkish sausages) and menemen (Turkish egg scramble) served to you by attractive wait staff decked in uniform sand and grey-hued ensembles — with sneakers to boot. This morning after treat comes after a slumber spent in a room that's as understated as it is tasteful, with a light colour palette of marble, stone and sand, with an occasional burst of turquoise on a plate. While The Bodrum EDITION's beachfront is small and — if we're being honest — cluttered with daybeds, its mix of soft white sand and crushed marble is rare in Bodrum. If you're not dipping into the shore's turquoise waters, a sunset swim in the infinity pool is worth writing home about.
Making sure you're well-fed, you can skip Turkey's hearty, homely feasts for a refined blend of Latin America and the Middle East at the hotel's restaurant, Brava. Helmed by Peruvian chef Diego Muñoz, everything in the menu is faultless, but don't leave without trying the Nikkei ceviche and grilled octopus, a massive undertaking dressed in chimichurri with a side of white and red quinoa that's punched with saffron.
2. Hunt for crafts and textiles at Yalıkavak
Had enough of whiling your time away at The Bodrum EDITION? The town it sits in, Yalıkavak, is a playground for the rich and famous whom you'll spot if you hang out at the palm-lined Palmarina, where swanky yachts are tended to by orange-bellied business types. For a more authentic, humbling side to this glittering town, stroll around the mosque, where local restaurants known as lokantas allow you to pick and mix home-cooked vegetable stews and grilled meats — a Turkish version of nasi padang, if you will. Every Thursday, the textile market beckons as merchants and craftsmen come out of the woodwork to parade their wares: Beaded anklets, sterling silver trays, linen and cotton robes and other fabulous fabrics. There's something more wholesome about buying crockery and utensils from the maker himself, so we'd rather shop here than at Istanbul's Grand Bazaar. Bargaining is key, but we don't mind pumping in extra due to the nature of these goods, which are mostly handmade.
3. Catch the sunset at Limon in Gümüşlük
Gümüşlük is a quiet alternative to the brash masses of Bodrum town and the splashiness of Yalikavak. A small handicraft market greets you as soon as you leave the bus station, making your way through stalls that sell anything from shawls and evil eye charms to glass-blown ornaments. This village's main draw is Limon, a spot favoured for Bodrum's discerning yuppies who prefer sunsets in seclusion — up a hill past olive trees and vegetation to a garden lit only by carnival-style bulbs and candles. The menu's as Turkish as it gets, presented in style of course, with stuffed zucchini flowers and fish wrapped in chard.
4. See how carpets are made in Etrim
Set in the skirts of the Yaran Mountains and forested with trees that bear figs, mulberries and olives, Etrim is a village that sustains itself by making its own olive oil soap, yogurt, butter and most importantly, carpets. Like its craft counterparts Iran and Morocco, you simply can't leave Turkey without buying a woven wonder — and if there's one place to make an investment, it's at Etrim. One of Bodrum's oldest villages, it's home to a population of 300 inhabitants who have descended from a line of nomads. While the Muğla province used to be home to 40 carpet-making villages, they're down to only 10, with Etrim as one of the few who have opened their home to visitors. Engin Başol will take you around the village's mosque, the home where his 84-year-old grandmother (who still weaves) first resided, and let you try your hand at the double netting technique which is uniquely Turkish.
What's interesting to note is that these weavers don't take suggestions on either colour or design. Instead, each carpet's story is deeply personal to the weaver, who can spend up to nine or 10 months on a silk carpet. Popular motifs include the waves of the Büyük Menderes River that flows through southwestern Turkey, the five points that symbolise Islam's five pillars and prayer times, as well as the Star of David. Excursions like this are best enjoyed through Amanruya, who can arrange a half-day trip that includes a sumptuous lunch prepared by Basol's mother herself.
5. Swim in the secluded bays of the Aegean Sea
So you've hit up the Italian and French Rivieras and romanced your way through the Greek isles... what's next? Turkey's Turquoise Coast is where you'd want to dock your boat, or rather, cruise on a private tour. While the Mediterranean Sea has long grabbed headlines with its promises of azure waters, its bays and beaches aren't exactly a best-kept secret. So is the Aegean Sea, to some extent — but if you're an Asian yourself who wants to avoid fellow Asian tourists (you know the sort), Bodrum's spoils are still relatively unheard of. People like Kate Moss and Nicole Kidman aren't strangers to the scene, and after hours spent on a traditional wooden boat across the Aegean, you'll know why. Most tours hit Aquarium Bay, Rabbit Island and Black Island, where you can swim in a hot spring and scoop up some healing mud as you make your way in and out of a small cave.