The insider advice on this page is from one of Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts for Turkey: Karen Fedorko Sefer of Sea Song Tours.
Karen has lived and worked in Istanbul for the past 17 years and has offices across Turkey. Her local connections—from museum directors to star restaurateurs to powerful hoteliers to the country’s culture ministry—enable her to gain all manner of special access. She can introduce you to shop owners who can show you their special wares not displayed to the public, and create one-of-a-kind experiences (private meal at Topkapi Palace, anyone?). When you’ve got limited time—and who doesn’t?—her intimate knowledge of the country helps you make the smartest use of it, and she is on the ground and on-call to answer questions and fulfill special requests. If you need a cruise shore excursion—say, to Ephesus—she’s the ticket; with her guides, you’ll steer clear of the cruise-ship crowds and see the hidden gems they don’t. If you would like to charter a gulet on the Turkish coast, she’s the expert. Karen was also included in “Perrin’s People,” Wendy’s award-winning list of top travel specialists, which was published annually in Condé Nast Traveler magazine from 2000 to 2013.
Where to Stay and Eat
By land or sea?
Although there are some fabulous seaside resorts up and down the Aegean coast, I highly recommend working some gulet time into any trip here. Sailing is the most amazing way to see this spectacular part of Turkey. If you’re making the standard circuit of Istanbul, Cappadocia and Ephesus, you can drive from Ephesus to Bodrum and set sail from there. A week is the ideal sail length—with resort time before or after—but if you want to spend more of your trip on land, we can easily arrange a one-day boat charter so you can view the sea and get some water sports in.
Resort worth the splurge
The new Mandarin Oriental, 15 miles from Bodrum on its own gorgeous bay, is pricey but has gotten rave reviews from my guests.
Best bang-for-your-buck resort
Macakizi Hotel. People like this hillside hotel’s gardens and comfortable rooms—and they love its views of the Aegean’s protected Turkbuku Bay, 45 minutes east of Bodrum Town. Most think the best views can only come from pricey suites, but I can book you an Upper Deck Seaview room where you’ll see the same vistas while paying a less-expensive rate. It’s just a few extra steps up the hill. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and use of the beach club are included.
Restaurants the locals love
In Bodrum: The town’s best seafood is at Korfez, a simple and beloved place where the only appropriate order is the fish of the day. But that’s not the only place in town for great fish: Gembasi’s regular crowd comes for its seafood pasta; fish stew is the must-try at the upscale Kocadon; and the marina’s Musto Bistro serves its octopus with grilled eggplant, homemade bread and affordable wines.
Meals worth the splurge
The Ottoman Feast at the Amanruya Resort in Bodrum is aptly named. The family-style banquet features almost-forgotten dishes—like almond, pomegranate and nutmeg soup and chicken stewed with a fragrant medley of cinnamon, cloves and apricots—served on a hillside pavilion overlooking the sea.
Midye dolma, mussels stuffed with rice, raisins, tomatoes, pine nuts, and spices galore. Pair with a glass of champagne.
What to See and Do
Bozburun, a small seaside down in Marmaris. You can sail from bay to bay in the beautiful clear waters, stopping into sweet little restaurants and the Dionysos Hotel, a set of stone buildings (including a Decleor spa) in the hills overlooking Bozburun Bay. While there, try the region’s famous mountain-pine honey.
Marmaris Town. Stay away from the touristy harbor and town, with its noisy streets and rowdy nightclubs.
Datca. A small, hard-to-reach village of beautiful stone houses, it’s well worth the detour. Have lunch or dinner at the beautifully restored Mehmet Ali Aga Mansion and explore the ancient remains of the city of Knidos at the end of the Datça peninsula. Especially if you’re on a gulet, this is a must-do.
Once you sit down for a sunset mojito beneath the tree canopies on the terrace at Limon Restaurant, you won’t want to leave. The place sits on a hill in Gumusluk, outside of Bodrum town.
We can arrange for a local archeologist to lead you through Bodrum’s famous castle and the Underwater Archeological Museum and show you the remains of the shipwrecks that he helped excavate. Hearing firsthand about the underwater dig and the backstory behind some of the museum’s holdings—like a Syrian shipwreck comprised of pieced-together glass found under the sea—will turn what could have been a run-of-the-mill museum visit into one of the most thrilling experiences of your trip.
Spend the day at a local beach club. As you swim, relax, listen to music, eat and altogether chill out, you’ll understand why Turks do this every weekend. Some are open to the public, others are private—but I can get you into whichever is the trendy one for the season.
May to July. The sun is out but it’s not sweltering; the sea is calm; and summer crowds haven’t arrived.
September to October. Same as the above, but on the other side of summer.
August. It’s too crowded and hot, and the sea is thick with boats.
Not booking a gulet (sailboat) charter—or making your sail too short.
Not doing your research on your gulet (sailboat) charter. Be sure to review the crew’s credentials and request extensive photos of the boat. You’ll want to get an idea of the quality and layout before you book anything. Being out on the beautiful sea in one of our really comfortable gulet boats makes for a great vacation—and is the best way to see this pretty part of the Aegean coast. Every gulet has a chef on board, and we’ve booked hundreds of boats and have never gotten a complaint about food. Each day you wake up to an amazing Turkish breakfast—cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, honey, fresh bread—and then wonder what you’ll do next, from snorkeling in secluded coves to exploring ancient cities. People who book three or four nights always wish they’d booked six or seven.
Thinking any alcohol is easy to get in Turkey. Imported alcoholic beverages are very expensive here: A bottle of wine that costs $50 in the states could cost $250 here. Turkish wines are amazing, but if you want a specific brand of alcohol pick it up at the Duty Free.
Drive to the windmills of Bodrum—which sit high on a hill overlooking Bodrum Harbor—to get a perfect aerial shot of the town: the Greek-looking whitewashed buildings, a castle on the edge of the water, and gulets in the harbor.
In Datca: The village’s honey and almonds, easily purchased in the town, are said to be the world’s best.
In Bodrum: Buy handmade sandals, in styles from gladiator to flip-flop, from Guney Sandalet, and pick up olive oil soap at the outdoor markets in Bodrum (on Fridays) or Ortakent (on Wednesdays).
Bodrum Mobil Guide. Find all things in Bodrum—hotels, bars, restaurants, sights, shops and even hospitals—and map your way there.
Tip 10 percent in restaurants, a few lira at your discretion in a taxi, and 5 to 10 percent of the charter rate for a gulet’s crew. Tip in cash only.
A sunhat. As the summer sun beats down, a hat will be your best friend.