Negotiate the final pass and Bodrum's the finest panoramas on the Turkish Mediterranean coast opens up. White houses stacked up against the hillside of Bodrum overlook the broad blue day dominated by the Crusader castle of St Peter.
Ancient Halicarnassus enjoyed its greatest prosperity when the Carian prince Mausolos(377-353 BC) who moved his residence here from Mylasa, reigned over almost the whole of the southwest coast of Asia Minor. The monumental tomb in which the ruler finally came to rest was one of the Wonders of the Ancient World and the word ‘mousoleum’ is derived from Mousolos himself. After the Roman era Halicarnassus faded into obscurity until the Knight of St John established a military base here as a defence against Ottoman troops; however, in 1532, the castle of St Peter finally fell to the Turks. Petronion, as it was known in the Orient, adopted its Turkish name, Bodrum.
Bodrum’s rise as tourist citadel began in the 1950’s. In high summer nowadays as many as 1.000.000 holiday makers throng the narrow alleys, thousands of boats lie anchor in the marina and life is lived to the full in the bars and discos, often until the early hours. Bodrum itself has little in the way of beaches, so Gumbet, the near east bay to the west, is the main draw for beach enthusiasts. Windsurfing, diving and waterskiing are just some of the activities available. The next bay along Bitez offers even more, but for a gentler pace try Yalikavak (sponge-diving centre), Turgutreis (miles of sandy beaches), Kadikalesi, Gundogan, Golkoy or Akyarlar (an old Greek village). For quite how long these resorts can offer a quieter life is not clear: an unstoppable onslaught by hotel developers has seen one hotel village after another appear along this stretch of coast. Despite the advance of tourism, away from the coast there is still plenty to enjoy: old bridle paths lead into the interior and ancient ruins, shepherds’ camps and domed cisterns await exploration.
Sadly, little remains of the world-famous mausoleion (daily expect Wednesday 8am-noon and 1-5pm) apart from the foundation walls. The Knights of St John dismantled the 40m high tomb and used the stones to build St Peter’s castle. A model in the museum gives some indication of what the mausoleum looked like. The ancient Greek –style theatre (probably 3rd century BC) lies on the hillside above the town. It is separated into two tiers with accommodation for about 12.000 spectators and offers a spectacular view over Bodrum and the castle, particularly in the late afternoon.
The castle of St Peter has become a symbol for Bodrum. This medieval fortress is also a museum (Tuesday to Sunday 8.30 am-7pm). The Knights of St John started work on the huge complex in 1402 and the project lasted for more than a hundred years. When Sultan Suleyman captured the Crusaders’ headquarters on Rhodos, many of their outposts also fell into Turkish hands. The recommended route for visitor to follow in the museum is well signposted. Exhibits include Mycenaean pottery (15th -12th century BC), the only frieze panels from the mausoleum (4th century BC) that remained in Bodrum, discoveries made by underwater archaeologists in the Bodrum and artifacts from the Middle Ages. Of particular interest are the contests of a Carian princess’s tomb. A likeness of the princess has been reconstructed by an English forensic specialist.
Main road route from Milas to Mugla passes through isolated pine forests. Ancient Stratonikeia lies near the abandoned Turkish village of Eskihisar in the middle of a brown coal mining area. The ruins here include a fine theater, an Iconic temple and a gymnasium. Near Yatagan the main road heads north through the bizarre Cine Cayi valley, towards Aydin. Beyond Cine close to Araphisar lie the ruins of Alabanda. Perhaps of more interest, however, would be a visit to the Carian town of Alinda, which occupies an impressive spot across the fields beside the village of Karpuzlu. As well as th town walls, a theater, a 100m long market hall and numerous graves have survived.
Mugla is situated to the southeast of Yatagan. This provincial capital, set on the edge the Ikizce Dagi, is an attractive town with a lively bazaar. The main road south descends by about 700m presenting motorist with a splendid view of the Gulf of Gokova, A new road leads Keramos, an old Carian town with some temple foundations and sarcophagi. The site is very close to the village of Oren, which can offer a sandy beach and modest private accommodation. The Marmaris road. First shaded by a marvelous avenue of eucalyptus trees, then winds through dense pine forests. In Tasbuku, it is possible to hire a boat to nearby Sedir Island (Ceder Island) notable for the ruins of ancient Kedreia and for a 20m wide beach of very fine sand.