BODRUM

An impressive medieval castle built by the Knights of Rhodes guards the entrance to Bodrum's dazzling blue bay, in which the Aegean and the Mediterranean Seas meet. The town's charm is well-known, attracting a diverse population of vacationers who stroll along its long palm-lined waterfront, while elegant yachts crowd the marina.

Not far from town, you can swim in absolutely clear, tideless, warm seas. Underwater divers, especially, will want to explore the numerous reefs, caves and majestic rock formations. The waters offer up multicoloured sponges of all shapes and sizes, octopi and an immense variety of other aquatic life.

The reputation of Bodrum's boat yards date back to ancient times, and today, craftsmen still build the traditional yachts: the tirhandil with a pointed bow and stern, and the gulette with a broad beam and rounded stern. The latter, especially, are used on excursions and pleasure trips, and in the annual October Cup Race.

The yearly throng of visitors has encouraged small entrepreneurs to make shopping in Bodrum a delight. Leather goods of all kinds, natural sponges and the local blue glass beads are among the bargains to be found in the friendly little shops along the narrow, white-walled streets. Charming boutiques offer kilims, carpets, sandals and embroidery as well as original fashions in soft cotton. Bodrum has gained the reputation as the center of the Turkish art community with its lively, friendly and Bohemian atmosphere and many small galleries. This community has encouraged an informal day-time lifestyle and a night-time of excitement. The evenings in Bodrum are for sitting idly in one of the many restaurants, dining on fresh seafood and other Aegean specialities. Afterwards nightclubs (some with cabaret) and superb discos keep you going until dawn. Bodrum, known in ancient times as Halicarnassus, was the birthplace of Heredotus and the site of King Mausolus's Tomb (4th century B.C.), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. In the harbour, the Bodrum Castle, or the medieval castle of St. Peter, is a fine example of 15th century Crusader architecture, and has been converted into the Museum of Underwater Archaeology, with remains dating as far back as the Bronze Age. The stunning panoramic view from Göktepe, nearby, is much photographed by visitors to the museum's second-century theatre.

The beautiful Bodrum Peninsula suits holidaymakers interested in a subdued and relaxing atmosphere. Enchanting villages, with guest-houses and small hotels on quiet bays, dot the peninsula. On the southern coast, Bardakçı, Gümbet, Bitez, Aktur, Ortakent Yalısı, Karaincir, Bağla and Akyarlar have fine, sandy beaches Campers and windsurfers enjoy Gümbet, and at Bitez colourful sailboards weave skilfully among the masts of yachts in the bay. On shore, you can enjoy quiet walks through the orange and tangerine groves bordering the beach. Ortakent has one of the longest stretches of sandy beach in the area and offers an ideal place for relaxing in solitude. One of the most beautiful beaches on the Bodrum peninsula, Karaincir, is ideal for lively active days by the sea and relaxed, leisurely evenings with local villagers. Finally, Akyarlar enjoys a well-deserved reputation for the fine, powdery sand of its beach.

Turgutreis, Gumusluk and Yalikavak, all with excellent beaches, lie on the western side of the peninsula and are ideal for swimming, sunbathing and water sports. In Turgutreis, the birthplace of a great Turkish admiral of the same name, you will find a monument honouring him. In the ancient port of Myndos (Gumusluk) you can easily make many friends with the hospitable and outgoing local population. In Yalıkavak, white-washed houses with cascading bougainvillaea line narrow streets. Small cafes and the occasional windmill create a picturesque setting. See the north coast of the peninsula - Torba, Türkbükü, Golkoy and Gundogan - by road or, even better, hire a boat and crew to explore the quiet coves, citrus groves and wooded islands. Little windmills which still provide the energy to grind grain, crown hills covered with olive trees. Torba, a modern village with holiday villas and a nice marina is located 8 km north of Bodrum. Golkoy and Turkbuku are small and simple fishing villages with a handful of taverns overlooking a lovely bay.

After a boat trip to Karaada, half an hour from Bodrum, you can bathe in the grotto where the warm mineral waters flowing out of the rocks are believed to beautify the complexion.

The translucent and deep waters of the Gulf of Gokova, on the southern shore of the Bodrum peninsula vary from the darkest blue to the palest turquoise, and the coastline is thickly wooded with every hue of green. In the evening, the sea reflects the mountains silhouetted against the setting sun, and at night it shimmers with phosphorescence. You can take a yacht tour or hire a boat from Bodrum for a two, three or seven day tour of the gulf.

The Gulf of Gulluk, and harbour of the same name, lie north of the Bodrum peninsula on the Aegean. The mythological Dolphin Boy is said to have been born a little farther to the north at Kıyıkışlacık (lassos). South of Gulluk, Varvil, ancient Bargilya, sits at the end of a deep narrow inlet surrounded by olive covered hillsides.

Inland from Güllük is Milas, ancient Mylasa, known for its beautiful carpets - a century old tradition which continues today. The weavers rarely mind a visitor watching them at work. Plenty of old Turkish houses with carved timbers and latticed windows provide examples of the vernacular architectural style. Gümüşkesen, a monumental tomb, thought to be a small copy of the famous Halicarnassus Mausoleum, stands in the west of the city.

The ancients built Labranda, a sanctuary dedicated to Zeus, high in the mountains. Today, tourists have rediscovered this mountain retreat and escape to its exhilarating air and breathtaking scenery.