The Dalaman-Bodrum route is the perfect pick for a road trip for several reasons. It provides a number of popular, as well as off-the-beaten-path attractions, catering to a variety of visitors. Plus, there is no better way to reach those places other than by car.
After picking up a car at Dalaman Airport, you can almost immediately escape the busyness of the city, taking one of the least frequented roads in the region to head to Dalyan. The Dalyan (STOP) coast is known for its sandy beaches, and one place, Iztuzu Beach (VISIT), stands out on the Turkish Aegean and Mediterranean shoreline. Under protection for decades, it is a natural gem and nesting spot for Caretta Caretta (Loggerhead) sea turtles, which you can closely observe during the summer months trying to find their way to the sea.
Continuing on the road towards Marmaris takes you through a national park area. Although is has plenty of eye-catching sights, it is also a favorite destination for group jeep safaris, wildly popular among foreign tourists. Instead, we suggest you to continue towards Turunç, escaping to the little seaside village of Kumlubük (STOP). It has a beautiful beach to take a quick dip in the turquoise waters. You can also admire the entire bay from the ancient city of Amos (VISIT), which is tucked away in nature on top of the hill.
Chances are, you already fell in love with the area so much that you are planning to stay there a little bit longer. If that is the case, head to nearby Dionysos Hotel (STAY), which, besides being a beautiful property with an infinity pool overlooking the bay, also focuses on providing guests with the most authentic experience in the area.
The entire Marmaris region is dotted with hiking and cycling trails (TRY), which you might want to explore on your own once your car is parked somewhere safe. The hiking trails are part of the Carian Trail, marked with red and white markers and navy blue signs. For cyclists, a more advanced navigating system using QR codes and interactive maps can be found via marmarisbisikletrotalari.com.
Heading south, the winding route will take you past Osmaniye (STOP), where local pine forests are home to hundreds of beekeeping facilities. If you can carry a jar or two of honey (TRY) with you, it is a good idea to buy from the local producers in the area, since they offer value for money you will not be able to find anywhere else.
Can you still call your journey a road trip if at some point you decide to swap four wheels for something much more exciting, like a traditional gulet (schooner)? Cruising the coast of Turkey is fascinating, with many bays, rocky coves, wild places and forests that reach down to the sea providing an unforgettable experience. Sheltered moorings for anchor are plentiful, peaceful, and delightful. Cruising westward from the buzzing harbor of Marmaris along the long, rugged coastline of the Loryma peninsula comes complete with intriguing ruins and plenty of blue bays. Between Datça and Bozburun are the beautiful bays of Selimiye, Orhaniye, Bencik, and Hisarönü, which gives its name to that beguiling gulf, a favorite area for every gulet cruise. The long, thin Datça peninsula, with forests, high mountains, and crystal clear water is reputed to have the cleanest air of the Mediterranean. The long, deep, green Gulf of Gökova is where the first gulet cruises of the 1950s ventured away from Bodrum, exploring the northern coast and discovering deep, sheltered bays such as English Harbor, Löngöz, and Seven Islands in the south.
Since the picturesque bays of the Datça peninsula are among Turkey’s top sailing routes during the summer, the best places to eat, drink and socialize can be found at, or in close proximity to, ports and marinas. Our personal favorite is Selimiye (STOP), which, despite its recent popularity, still retains the charm of a hidden gem. The main port area is dotted with idyllic places to spend your evening: visit Lipsos (EAT) fish restaurant for the classic tavern experience, Piano Bar (TRY) for some late night live music, the always busy Aurora or Iskarça (EAT) for delicious seafood, or Paprika, for their one-of-a-kind desserts. If you are staying overnight, choose Solto hotel (STAY), located at the quiet end of the Selimiye coast.
One exception to the port rule is Manzara restaurant (EAT) in Söğüt (STOP), where Naci Işık serves simple plates made with the finest daily produce. Down the hill, in the heart of the village, you cannot miss Ahtapotçu Mehmet Usta (EAT), a minor legend in the area. To get the best view of the sunset, you will want to visit either one of them for dinner.
The road between Hisarönü and Knidos, connecting two ends of the Datça peninsula and spanning across nature, is almost entirely distraction free. Here, you won’t see many billboards, side of the road stops, or gas stations, but, before you get too comfortable, be on the lookout for local wildlife that might try to cross the road. As you head towards the center of Datça (STOP), you might want to take a quick stop at the boutique Datça Vineyard (on your left), or buy some local specialties at Olive Farm (on your right).
Before heading to one of the numerous beaches in the area, take a quick stop in Old Datça (VISIT), the historic part of town that recently underwent partial restoration. Strolling along cobblestoned streets, you will find inviting cafés, tiny guesthouses, and hidden gardens, all coming together to create your happy place.
Looking at the map of Datça, you might feel like the trip would not be complete without visiting the tip of the peninsula. The ruins of the ancient Greek city of Knidos (VISIT), located at what is believed to be the confluence of the Mediterranean and Aegean basins, is the ideal place on the peninsula to watch the sunset.
Among the many places to stay in the area, look no further than Mehmet Ali Ağa Mansion (STAY) in Reşadiye, located a stone’s throw from Datça town center. This historic mansion-turned-boutique-hotel went the extra mile to ensure detailed accuracy, keeping many of the original features. Its Leyla restaurant (EAT) is a destination of its own, serving regional delicacies that are intriguing, even to the locals.
The last mile: Rather than taking a long circular drive through Muğla and Marmaris, reach Bodrum on one of the daily vehicle or pedestrian ferries operating return trips between Bodrum Harbor and Körmen Marina on the north side of the Datça Peninsula. T: 0252 316 08 82, bodrumferibot.com.tr
Make the most of your Dalaman-Bodrum road trip
- Let yourself be spontaneous: Having a rough plan for all the places you want to see is a good idea, but also be prepared to see interesting spots and intriguing signs along the way. If you come across something that sparks your curiosity, put your plan away and follow your gut.
- Plan accommodations ahead: Other than the Marmaris area, accomodations along the entire route are limited to boutiques. Finding a place to stay can be particularly tricky during Turkish public holidays, as well as during the summer high season. If in the morning you are not sure where the road is going to take you by the end of the day, have a list of a few alternatives on hand to avoid unpleasant surprises.
- Get ready for detours: From our own experience on Turkish roads, we have learned that if Yandex says this is the road that will take you from place A to place B, it definitely will, but it might not be the type of road you were hoping for and it might take double the time than originally indicated. Trust your navigation, but also be mindful of your own driving skills. If you are not comfortable on narrow, winding roads, this route might not be for you.
- Stock up in towns: Outside of the main towns, grocery shops and gas stations are not as common as one might assume. You will see plenty of pop-up kiosks on the side of the road, but rather than drinking water, they typically only offer honey and fresh produce from local farms.
- Preload your phone with useful apps: Although your phone is your best friend on this trip, there will be several points without internet or cell service along the way. If that happens, make sure you have offline navigation ready, and your road trip playlist downloaded to your phone in advance.
- Consider others: Listening to your favorite tunes is a great way to make the time in the car pass faster, but be considerate and not to play them loud enough for the whole village to hear. The same thing applies to garbage. It is important to leave no trace while on your road trip, remembering to always dispose of garbage in designated locations.
The Guide Bosrum would like to thank Borusan Otomotiv for the opportunity to travel in the Jaguar I-PACE, the brand’s first electric vehicle, that carried us to the Agean coast.