The province of Muğla includes the popular holiday cities of Bodrum, Marmaris, Datça, Köyceğiz and Fethiye. Beautiful resorts, comfortable hotels, cosy guest houses, impressive ruins and striking landscapes offer family holidaymakers plenty of choice. Not far from the towns, swim in crystal clear, tideless, warm seas; divers will want to explore the numerous reefs, caves and majestic rock formations. The waters offer up an immense variety of aquatic life, including octopus.
Marmaris is a very popular summer sort for families. Boats are available at the old harbour, and kids will love visits to the islands and bays around its coast. An ancient castle, now a museum, overlooks the area around the harbour and offers a taste of the old town’s character. A footbridge gives access to the Netsel Marina, one of the largest in Turkey, which provides excellent service to luxury yachts. In the small shopping centre, chic boutiques and intimate restaurants are a pleasant contrast with the traditional bazaar, where hundreds of small shops offer clothing, leather, jewellery and handicrafts.
Datça is at the far end of the Aegean coast, at the end of a peninsula that stretches west. The Aegean meets the Mediterranean here, and it is a popular stopping-point for wooden gulet schooners taking a ‘blue cruise’ from Bodrum or Marmaris. Datça is also an ideal place for fishing and diving, and its winds make it popular with surfers, so families with active older kids will enjoy a visit here. Its most important historical site is Knidos, famous for its many great amphitheatres. It’s also home to the Temple of Aphrodite, which housed a beautiful statue of the goddess, sculpted by Praxiteles, one of the most celebrated artists of antiquity.
Bodrum, and its hinterland, has become Turkey’s tourism capital. The town is famed for its relaxed Mediterranean ambiance, historical architecture and proximity to an array of fantastic beaches and fishing villages. With its picturesque shop-lined streets, Bodrum is always lively, whatever the season, and whitewashed, flat-roofed houses are dotted across its terraced hillsides. The town is even more spectacular in the summer as it explodes into colour, with cascades of bright pink and purple bougainvillea bursting into bloom. The resort really comes to life at night, and families will love the buzzing atmosphere, whether enjoying a harbourside dinner or taking an evening promenade.
Bodrum is ancient Halicarnassus, the birthplace of famous historian Herodotus, and a place known for being the site of one of the Seven Wonders of the World – the Mausoleum, a gigantic tomb erected for King Mausolus in the fourth century BC. Destroyed by earthquakes, the stones of the Mausoleum were then used by the Knights of St John to build their castle nearby.
The town of Bodrum has grown dramatically in recent years with the opening of an international airport. It is
also the yachting centre of Turkey, and its world-class marina is a favourite destination for boats that cruise the Aegean and the Med. It is an excellent place from which to organise a sailing trip, with a vast number of sailing companies catering for all levels of experience and supplying boats with or without a crew. If you are looking for a sailing day trip or a sailing holiday, you can take advantage of the crystal-clear azure seas, stunning coastline and myriad rocky coves and sandy beaches nearby. In October, the annual Bodrum Cup race is held, attracting yachts from around the world.
Bodrum’s central bazaar is a great place for shopping, and kids love exploring its array of leather, clothes, carpets and gift shops. Alternatively, if you venture into the narrow streets of the old town around Meyhaneler Sokak, you will discover chic boutiques and souvenir shops, along with rustic Turkish restaurants. There is also a weekly market near the bus station if you want a taste of the local produce, including delicious locally grown tangerines.
The popular resort of Fethiye, 135km south-east of Marmaris, boasts an important marina at the head of a beautiful bay strewn with islands. A hill crowned by the ruins of a crusader fortress built by the Knights of Rhodes overlooks the little port. Above the town (known as Telmessos in antiquity), numerous Lycian rock tombs reproducing the façades of ancient buildings were cut into the cliff face. The Tomb of Amyntas, which probably dates from the fourth century BC, is the most remarkable. Not much remains of the ancient city of Telmessos, as it was destroyed by earthquakes, though Fethiye, sheltered at the end of a bay full of islands, attracts holidaymakers and tourists drawn by its natural beauty, quaint plazas, narrow streets and lively marketplace.
The surrounding area is rich in beautiful coves and valleys, perfect for family exploration. Places not to be missed include Butterfly Valley, home to thousands of butterflies, and Saklıkent, reached only by wading through the ice-cold waters coming straight from the mountains. Ölüdeniz, or the Dead Sea, takes its name from the still waters that separate the lagoon from the sea itself. The calm blue waters and rugged mountains make this one of Turkey’s most beautiful regions.