The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, was built in what is now a modern resort in Bodrum, Aegean Sea.
During medieval times, the marble and polished stone of this huge monument was reused for the castle by the Knights Hospital, and many of the superb sculptures ended up in the British Museum.
Clues to Halicarnassus are found all over the city, at the theater, the Mindos Gate, and where the mausoleum is located.
Bodrum is located on a rugged peninsula with clear, sparkling bays between headlands.
Here you can pass the time between thrilling archaeology and sunbathing by the sparkling bay.
1. Bodrum Castle (St. Peter’s Castle)
On the promontory east of Bodrum’s harbour stands Bodrum Castle, built by the Knights Hospitaller in the early 15th century.
This location has been fortified for over 3000 years and is likely the site of the palace of Mosulus in the 4th century BC.
One of the many attractions of the building is that the stonework of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus was recycled for its walls, either turned to dust to make lime, or just reused.
The castle is an international project and its four towers are named after the people who built them: German, Italian, French and English.
The castle fell to the mighty Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century and became a prison in 1895.
2. Bodrum Underwater Archaeology Museum
Since the 1960s, the castle has hosted a fascinating museum dedicated to underwater discoveries found in ancient, medieval and early modern shipwrecks around the Turkish Aegean Sea.
This is the largest museum dedicated to this field in Turkey, displaying an exciting collection of Mycenaean copper ingots and vases, ancient Egyptian seals, royal Carrian jewels, Roman amphora, medieval Islamic glassware, 16th century Spanish four reais works and loads more.
The pieces are scattered throughout the castle’s historic interior, with interesting snippets such as the chronology of Amphora’s development.
The museum also displays two reconstructed shipwrecks from the Bronze Age and Medieval periods.
3. Halicarnassus Mausoleum
The magnificent mausoleum that originally defined the term “mausoleum” was built at Halicarnassus for the Carrian governor Mosolus (353 BC). It is a majestic monument, 45 meters high, with reliefs on each façade, sculpted by Bryaxis, Leochares, Scopas of Paros and Timothus, one of the outstanding Greek sculptors of the 4th century BC.
It was destroyed by earthquakes between 1100 and 1400, and was the last of the six ancient wonders of destruction to be destroyed.
Most of the marble blocks and polished stones become the spolia of Bodrum Castle, but, however modest, the original site of the mausoleum is a humble place for what it represents.
Many of the finer sculptures were removed in the 19th century and ended up in the British Museum, but before they were returned, surviving reliefs, fluted columns and staircases offer a tantalizing glimpse into what came before.
There is also a small exhibition here with a video that breaks down the chronology of the mausoleum, amphitheatre and castle.
4. Halicarnassus Theatre
A few streets up from the mausoleum site is the Greek-style theatre, built in the 4th century BC during the reign of Mossolos and later expanded by the Romans in the 2nd century AD.
Its architects had an eye for spectacle, as the theater offers breathtaking views of the Aegean Sea from its cave.
In its heyday, the venue accommodated around 13,000 people, and enough numbers survive today to be used as a stage for cultural events throughout the peak season.
You can look at the excavated hillside to see where the cave extends on the slope.
5. Zeki Müren Art Museum
Hair singer and actor Zeki Müren (1931-1996) was a major figure in Turkish popular culture, spending most of his life, especially in recent years, in Bodrum.
With dozens of films and more than 30 albums recorded, Murren’s influence should not be underestimated.
After his death, his home on the street of the same name in Bodrum was turned into a museum.
Müren has a Liberace-esque taste for glam, and while there are plenty of stage costumes and photos to back this up, the house itself is stripped down, giving a touching impression of a man looking for a quiet life.
As for the souvenirs, there is a lot of jewelry, hi-fi equipment and paintings he created, while the English introduction at the entrance will give you a quick overview of Müren’s career.
6. Bodrum Deniz Müzesi (Maritime Museum)
Bodrum has been engaged in shipbuilding since ancient times, and the shipbuilding industry received a boost when Ottoman warships were launched in the early 19th century.
When demand waned in the mid-19th century, this shipbuilding technique was used to build barques (caravans) for trade, fishing and sponge operations.
In 2011, Bodrum’s Maritime Museum moved into the old market building (bedesten) next to the castle, which houses dozens of models of various wooden ships built in Bodrum.
Most of what you see, including 6,000 seashells from around the world, comes from the personal collection of Cevat Şakir Kabaağaçlı (1886-1973), a Crete-born writer who was exiled in 1925 to Bodrum. He was nicknamed the “Fisherman of Halicarnassus” and is credited with raising the profile of Bodrum and catching the attention of Turkish literati in the 20th century.
7. Bitez Beach
While there are more than enough public beaches in Bodrum, if you’re willing to travel a bit, you’ll come across some excellent beaches within a few kilometers.
Blue flag Beatz Beach, not far to the west, is considered one of the best beaches on the entire peninsula and is suitable for families with young children.
A long headland to the east, Bitez Beach is a scallop-shaped cove with gravel sand (bring slippers) and a large expanse of shallow, warm and clear water.
Like all tourist beaches around Bodrum, the bay is lined with restaurants, many of which rent out sun loungers, including the price of a drink or two, or a free meal.
But despite all the business, the resort is much quieter than Gümbet and Bodrum around the headland.
8. Ortakent-Yahşi Beach
About 10 kilometers west of Bodrum is one of the longest beaches on the peninsula, where two villages, Ortakent (east) and Yahşi (west), form a municipality.
The two ends of the beach have different characteristics: Yahşi is tourism-oriented, with restaurants and shops, and a marina for boat trips, while Ortakent, at the entrance to the Uludere River, is more peaceful and offers hotels and vacation rentals support.
In high season, every inch of the crescent-shaped pebble beach will be covered with sun loungers and parasols.
Drinks are usually included in the rental, and you can cool off in the clear waters of the Aegean Sea.
There is also a green belt along the beach, and bars and restaurants are used for outdoor seating, sometimes with huts and hammocks among the palm trees.
High on the rugged spine of the Bodrum peninsula are the ruins of the Pedasagukarya settlement.
You can hike to Pedasa from Konacık in Bodrum, an experience that may be a welcome antidote to holiday life, through maquis bushes and pine, cedar and larch-covered silence Forest.
Plenty of shade means you can try this hike on a summer morning if you bring lots of water.
The evocative ruins of Pedasa were built between the 11th and 6th centuries BC, and a recent excavation uncovered a temple of Athena.
Spread over several hilltops, the site offers you stunning 360° panoramas of the peninsula and the Aegean Sea.
10. Windmills in Bodrum
Bodrum Peninsula is full of reminders of a quaint pre-tourism era, dating back to the 1700s.
These windmills are in various states of repair and are set on ridges to catch the breeze.
The easiest way to get to Bodrum is in a row of eight, along the peninsula between this resort and neighbouring Gümbet.
Painted white, these circular buildings contrast with the blues and browns of the land and sea beyond.
As with anything, the windmill is a vantage point from which to observe the clear turquoise waters of the bay, the sprawl of the resort and the coniferous hills on all sides.
11. Port of Bodrum
Fascinatingly, ships dock in the port of Bodrum, clinging to the back of the castle for over 3,000 years.
On the west side of the harbour is the Mirta Bodrum Marina, known as one of the most prestigious marinas in the Aegean Sea.
This is a Blue Flag facility with 450 berths, some of which are luxury superyachts.
For the landlubbers, the harbour, with its wide piers, palm and eucalyptus trees, is the best place to watch the ferries come and go, especially in the evening when sunsets are fantastic.
Along the back street, a string of restaurants and cafes take advantage of these views.
The harbour is also where you can find those traditional barques in Bodrum.
12. Bardakçı Koyu (Bardakci Bay)
On the east side of the windmill headland is a delightful cove with pool-like waters.
The downside of Bardakçı Koyu is that there is no public beach, and you have to pay for sun loungers (about 50TL or $8.50 in 2020) at one of the three hotels crowded in the bay. The good news is that you can get there scenically, by purchasing a water taxi that runs across the bay from Bodrum port, every ten minutes or so.
It’s a fun way to get there, and when you get there, you can swim in the sparkling waters with soft sand beneath your feet and barely a trace of seaweed.
13. Mindos Gate
The last remnants of the seven-kilometer wall of Halicarnassus are located west of Bodrum.
The fortifications were built in the 4th century BC by the governor of Caria, Mosolus, and the Gate of Mindos is one of two massive entrances.
While the stonework on the gate’s two towers is a modern interpretation, the archaeological interest is great, and vaulted tombs from the Greek and Roman periods have also been found nearby.
You can make out the 50-meter ditch around it, which is known to slow down Alexander the Great’s conquest of the city in 334 BC.
There are information plaques around the site explaining its historical significance.
14. Midtown Mall
As a sign of the times, a luxury shopping mall has opened in Ortakent, 10 km west of Bodrum.
On a hot day, you’re probably ready for such an air-conditioned behemoth.
In Midtown Shopping Centre, there are many European high street brands such as Marks & Spencer, Gap, L’Occitane, Mango, H&M, Yves Rocher and MediaMarkt.
There’s also a huge food court where you can try popular Turkish chains like Simit Sarayi, as well as global fast food brands like McDonald’s, Burger King, Popeye and Starbucks.
Like most malls, Midtown has a cinema complex that shows Turkish and international films, although these are often dubbed.
15. Full-Day Orak Island Boat Tour
Orak Island is located in the Aegean Sea east of Bodrum, looking back over a long, mostly uninhabited peninsula.
You can take a one-day cruise through GetYourGuide.com.
After setting sail from Bodrum Port in the late morning, the cruise will stop at the beautiful Red Bay before dropping anchor at Orak Island Bay, where you can swim and snorkel in the sparkling turquoise waters and Lazy relaxation on the white sand.
Lunch is prepared on board and usually includes fresh salad and grilled chicken.
After leaving the main bay, you will swim two or three more stops, enjoying the view of the peninsula while enjoying a slice of melon and a cup of Turkish tea in the afternoon light.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Bodrum, Turkey
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