marmaris or bodrum

Marmaris Or Bodrum: How To Pick The Right Destination For You

Choosing between Marmaris or Bodrum for a Turkey vacation is not easy. Both are Mediterranean resort towns (though Bodrum is technically in the Aegean sea) located on peninsulas on the southwest coast of Turkey, aka Turkish Riviera or Turquoise Coast, right across the Greek islands. The two cities are about a 70-mile drive from each other.

Both Marmaris and Bodrum are very popular tourist destinations, and both have a lively nightlife (in high season) and “bar streets”. Marmaris and Bodrum both offer some unique historical sights dating all the way back to Antiquity.

So how do you decide which one to go to? Marmaris is a more touristy and party place, while Bodrum has more cultural sights. Marmaris is compact with plenty of entertainment and nightlife in a single town. Bodrum town is smaller, with some nightlife, but there’s a lot more going on out on the Bodrum Peninsula where most of the beach resorts are.

Marmaris or Bodrum: what travelers say

Marmaris beach promenade
Marmaris beach promenade (2)
  • Although Marmaris and Bodrum have similar-sized populations, Marmaris feels more like a city whereas Bodrum, which is the name of both the city and surrounding peninsula, feels more like a large scattered holiday resort.
  • Marmaris is much greener and surrounded by pine forest hills. Bodrum is more barren. Travelers generally find Marmaris more beautiful and scenic compared to the Bodrum area.
  • Some travelers view Marmaris as a large commercial area along the beach. It’s a very busy and crowded touristy place with a long stretch of hotels, bars (many of which British karaoke), restaurants (e.g. fish & chips, English breakfast), and rows of shops selling China-made products.
  • The Bodrum Peninsula has many resorts with nice beaches, numerous historical sights, good shopping options (Bodrum town). The Peninsula is easy to explore by local transportation.
  • Bodrum town is compact and walkable. Bodrum has better sightseeing than Marmaris, being the site of one of the seven wonders. It has a great medieval castle from the Templar Knights and an impressive underwater museum.
  • Marmaris has a broad range of tourist activities for all ages (boat trips, Jeep safaris, quad biking etc) as well as a very lively nightlife on “bar street” and along the beach promenade. It’s generally a good choice for teens.
  • The Bodrum town is a lot smaller than Marmaris and doesn’t have a proper beach like Marmaris – though nearby towns like Gumbet and Bitez do. Bodrum/Gumbet are nicely sized with decent nightlife and many nice bars and restaurants scattered around the small streets.
  • Marmaris feels more cosmopolitan while Bodrum has much more of a Turkish feel. Icemeler, a couple of miles away from Marmaris, is also a much more authentic Turkish town.

Marmaris or Bodrum: access & transportation

Walking in Bodrum
Walking in Bodrum (3)

Bodrum’s airport, Milas-Bodrum, is a 30-minute drive from the Bodrum town, so transfer times to and from Bodrum and Gumbet are short. The closest airport to Marmaris is the Dalaman airport which is about 1h20 away from the city.

Traveling between Bodrum and Marmaris by bus takes a little over 3.5 hours. The bus is not direct and makes a stop in Yatagan. The cost is between $12 and $22 per person.

Marmaris or Bodrum: vibe & people

Bodrum old town vibe
Bodrum old town vibe (4)

Compared to Bodrum town, Marmaris has a wider range of daytime leisure activities, day trips, and nightlife options for visitors. Marmaris has more of an international vacation atmosphere and has something for all age groups.

Some travelers, however, feel that while Marmaris has more scenic geography, the absence of Turkish culture and the mass-tourism aspect make it less attractive. Some also favor the Bodrum area because they can pick between Bodrum town and Gumbet for nightlife.

Marmaris and its area don’t have as many historical sights as Bodrum. Many travelers feel Bodrum and Gumbet offer the right mix of culture and lively resorts. Bodrum’s old town, castle, and marina are pleasant to visit.

In Marmaris, the beach, hotels, and activities are all close to each other and accessible on foot. In contrast, getting to the different seaside resorts and wide beaches on the Bodrum peninsula requires taking public transportation.

Marmaris or Bodrum: sights & culture

Marmaris harbor
Marmaris harbor (5)

While both Bodrum and Marmaris have several archaeological sites to visit, most are located outside the towns themselves.

Bodrum a stunning medieval fortified castle built in part from the remains of the Halicarnassus Mausoleum, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (4th century BC). The castle ramparts offer great views over the town and the sea.

The Bodrum Castle hosts the fascinating Underwater Archaeology Museum with antique artifacts. Bodrum also has a well-restored 4th-century Greek amphitheater, and ruins from the legendary Halicarnassus antique city, including the Mausoleum and the ancient city gate.

Bodrum Castle
Bodrum Castle (6)

Bodrum has a nice size old town with pretty cobblestoned streets. The marina on the waterfront is home to old-style boats and makes for very pleasant strolls.

Marmaris also has a castle to visit, although from a much more recent era – a 16th-century fortification built by Suleiman the Magnificent. Like in Bodrum, the castle also hosts an archaeological museum.

The Marmaris old town is also composed of sloped narrow streets lined with historical buildings from the Ottoman era. Like Bodrum, Marmaris also has its marina and bay with beautiful clear waters. Aside from the Castle and marina, however, the city has limited cultural sights to visit.

Marmaris or Bodrum: dining & nightlife

Beach dining in Bodrum
Beach dining in Bodrum (7)

Bodrum was considered a party resort 15 years ago, but now most of the partying and night fun has moved to Gumbet 10 minutes West of Bodrum center. In the high season, local buses run late so party-goers can move around easily.

Bodrum itself attracts visitors of various age groups, resulting in a relaxed atmosphere with a mix of lively and quieter places.

Nevertheless, the town has some good nightlife spots which concentrate mostly around the bars and clubs of the mile-long Cumhuriyet Caddesi strip (“Bar Street”). At the end of the strip is the massive Halikarnas dance club with its 5.000-people capacity.

In the summer, Bodrum/Gumbet tends to attract many Turkish celebrities (more so than Marmaris) which hang out at the elite Billionaire Club north of Bodrum, and other select beach clubs open all night.

Bodrum has lots of good places for eating fish, namely sea bass and bream, as well as for lamb kebabs and mezze dishes. The Nusr-Et Turkish restaurant chain, popular in Istanbul, has a location 40 minutes away from Bodrum – and another one in the D Maris Bay Hotel in Marmaris.

In Marmaris, the main nightlife areas are the so-called Bar Street, lively but pricey with open-air clubs and music pubs, and Uzunyali (“Long Beach”), cheaper but animated as well.

Dining in Marmaris
Dining in Marmaris (8)

The Marina area, more upscale, and the Armutalan district/town, with its countless pubs and restaurants, are also quite popular at night.

In Marmaris, while most of the travelers who hang out at the pubs and parties tend to be in the 18-30 age group, older people with families are also frequent in Marmaris. İçmeler, another popular resort near Marmaris, is a more tranquil and preferred option for the older crowd.

As mentioned, Marmaris is much bigger than Bodrum town, so there are more places to go out and the prices are generally lower, e.g. in beachfront bars – though there are a few pricier clubs and pubs as well.

Marmaris or Bodrum: lodging

Lodging in Bodrum (9)
Lodging in Bodrum (9)

Both Marmaris and Bodrum have countless accommodation options of all types. Typically, the hotels within the towns are smaller, whereas the larger resorts are usually outside the cities.

Some travelers like staying in Bodrum town close to the center, e.g. in the area between the castle and bus station. East of the Castle is the nightlife area, with both expensive beachside hotels and cheaper hostels and pensions for younger party-goers.

The area west of the Castle, near the marina, has high-end all-inclusive seaside hotels and smaller, pricier boutique hotels such as the Su Hotel.

Travelers frequently recommend the Istankoy Hotel B&B (good for longer stays), the Sea Garden (big hotel with a great beach), and the Marina Vista Hotel. For cheaper alternatives, travelers mention Kaya Pansiyon, Gardenya Pansiyon, and Melis Pansiyon.

Tropicana Beach in Gumbet is also a frequent favorite. Alternatively, staying in a resort in neighboring Bitez will give you a nice beach with hammocks and a more quiet experience than Gumbet or Bodrum – while staying within easy reach.

In Marmaris, travelers often choose to stay in the Armutalan area which has nice places for dining go out – making going to the center optional. Icmeler is also a popular choice for lodging, only a 10-15 dolmus ride to the Marmaris center, also with its own entertainment options.

Marmaris or Bodrum: day trips

Day trips from Marmaris
Cleopatra Island near Marmaris (10)

Both Bodrum and Marmaris offer numerous attractive day trips to historical sights or towns and villages in the region. One example is Ephesus, an ancient city with impressive Greek, roman, and Christian ruins, squares, baths, and monuments such as Hadrian’s Temple.

You can also visit small greek islands from either Marmaris and Bodrum, taking a boat ferry for the day.

From Bodrum, you can catch buses to different places on the Peninsula, e.g. the pretty seaside towns of Gumusluk or Gundogan, the Yalikavak resort with its great views, or to the authentic Turkish town of Turgetreis.

From Marmaris, you can explore the bays and coves outside the city, take a boat to the nearby islands (e.g. Cleopatra’s), or simply book a schooner cruise.

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Photo credits:
(1) Featured: “Bodrum” (CC BY 2.0) by Shadowgate
(2) “IMG_1508” (CC BY 2.0) by SarpK
(3) “Bodrum” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by yilmaz ovunc
(4) “Bodrum” (CC BY 2.0) by Shadowgate
(5) “harbour of marmaris” (CC BY 2.0) by fotozyth
(6) “Bodrum, Turkey” (CC BY 2.0) by neiljs
(7) “Bodrum Beach Dining” (CC BY 2.0) by www.hickey-fry.com
(8) “View” (CC BY 2.0) by Nanagyei
(9) “Bodrum” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by yilmaz ovunc
(10) “Kleopatra inseln in Marmaris/Türkei” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by yilmaz ovunc