Marmaris or Bodrum is a question that thousands of would-be visitors to Turkey ask before they click book on the holiday form. The reason? These are arguably the two front-running resorts of the Turkish Riviera. They’re both tried-and-tested places to seek out that endless Eurasian sun, gorgeous Mediterranean beaches and coves, and hard-earned R&R by the sea.
But they aren’t carbon copies of each other. Nope, Bodrum is further south around the Mediterranean side of Turkey, at one end of a region known as the Turquoise Coast. It’s also famed for its buzzing nightlife and beach bars. Then you get Marmaris, which is really the gateway to a whole peninsular where there’s stacks of ancient history, culture, sailing, and – of course – hidden sands.
This guide to Marmaris or Bodrum will help you decide between the two places. It will unpick a number of key aspects about each to give you an idea of which one’s the one for you and your travel crew this year. So, pack the sunscreen, ready the passports, it’s time to jet off to at least one of these lovely towns on the wave-lapped shores of western Turkey…
Marmaris or Bodrum for ease of getting there?
It shouldn’t be very hard to get to either Marmaris or Bodrum. Both of these places count booming tourist numbers in the summer months, so hundreds of thousands of people make the trip every week. You’ll be in good company when you look to jet in or sail across.
Marmaris is closest to Dalaman Airport. It sits just a little down the Turquoise Coast to the east and south of the main town. The drive from the runways is about 1.5-2 hours in moderate traffic, which you’ll almost always encounter if you’re coming during the main travel season. Dalaman Airport is pretty big. It’s used by upwards of 4.5 million people each year. That translates into flight connections from all over Europe, on both flag-carrying premium airlines like Aeroflot and low-cost fliers like Jet2.
The vast majority of the flights that land here run between May and September, while some will last into October. Either way, there aren’t many that go all year round. If you’re not keen on flying, check out the option to sail to Marmaris. That’s doable from Rhodes, in Greece. The crossing is regular in the warmer months and takes up to two hours each way.
Bodrum actually has its own dedicated airport. It’s not as big as Dalaman Airport…yet – recent expansions to the terminals have upped capacity to around the five million mark. That should draw in more flight connections, but for now you can pick from a range of carriers that includes easyJet, Jet2.com, Qatar Airways, Wizz Air, and charter holiday sellers TUI. The best news is that the Milas-Bodrum Airport is only 40 minutes’ transfer from the town itself, so you can be splashing in the Aegean Sea less than an hour after touching down in Turkey. There are also daily ferries linking to Kos and Rhodes in Greece, which take a couple of hours each.
Winner: Bodrum. With its very own airport and ferry links to a couple of Greek islands, it’s probably a touch easier to get to than Marmaris.
Marmaris or Bodrum for hotels?
There are cracking hotels in both of these salt-washed spots by the Med. Let’s start with Bodrum. As a hotspot for Turkish A-listers and jet setters, there’s a noticeable number of high-class resort hotels and chic rental villas in these parts. These are rarely found in the middle of the town itself but prefer to stud the dusty hillsides of the greater Bodrum Peninsula to the west and north. They come with Turkish hammams, infinity pools, degustation restaurants – you name it. Oh, and they have price tags to match. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. We love the abundance of boutique B&Bs that dot the smaller coves of the peninsula here, for example, and there are lots of inner-town aparthotels for those looking to stay closer to the main harbors and history sights of central Bodrum. Here are some top recommendations:
- The Bodrum EDITION ($$$) – It really is honeymoon stuff at this five-star resort. Marble bathrooms, front-row sea views, steam rooms – you name it!
- Oza Boutique Hotel ($$) – A fun little B&B that has stylish rooms with polished concrete and balconies that offer views of the sunset over the Greek islands.
- Zest Exclusive Hotel ($$) – A fun place to stay for families and couples who want sunbeds ready and waiting on one of Bodrum’s best beaches.
Marmaris, as one of the biggest summer boom resorts in the country, also comes with stacks of accommodation choices. You might find that the bulk of them will close for the low season, but we’ll assume that you’re planning a visit sometime between May and October, so should have the full selection. Cue a whole smorgasbord of hotels, from midrange three-starers to uber-chic resorts with lane pools and lush gardens on the very edge of Marmaris bay. There are also plenty of cheap and cheerful rentals for the 18-30s folk looking to hit Bar Street and party all night. Our recommendations would include:
- Marti Resort Deluxe Hotel ($$$) – The very definition of resort living in Marmaris, where guests enjoy multiple pools right by the calm waters of the Med.
- 8 oDa Marmaris ($$) – An interesting city center hotel that oozes traditional Turkish style, complete with hidden patio areas and bougainvillea-strewn suites.
- Mets Boutique Hotel ($$) – Mets Boutique Hotel strikes the perfect balance between the modern and the traditional, offering old-style rooms with sun-splashed café terraces.
Winner: Bodrum, for the wealth of hotels on the greater peninsula.
Marmaris or Bodrum for price?
Since they aren’t too far from each other along the Turkish Riviera, Marmaris and Bodrum should cost roughly the same to travel to. However, most estimations make Bodrum the slightly pricier of the two. Price collator Champion Traveler estimates that a week-long trip for a couple in the midrange bracket there to be around the $2,100-4,100 mark for a whole week. Compare that to their estimation for Marmaris, which sits at $1,820-$3,522 for a week.
One important thing to remember here is that both destinations are sure to be far more expensive during their peak holiday months of June, July, and August. If you’re determined to do it on a budget, then you can save oodles by visiting in shoulder season months like May or September. Prices can be up to 50% less then for everything from hotels to flights, but the weather this far south in Europe should also stay nice and balmy with plenty of sun to go around.
Winner: Marmaris but only just.
Marmaris or Bodrum for nightlife?
Marmaris isn’t hailed as one of the main nightlife destinations on the Turkish Riviera for nothing. It’s positively buzzing for virtually the whole summer season from May until October. You can’t swing a shisha without hitting a bouncing club or a beach bar (don’t do that though – the bouncers probably won’t take too kindly!). There are two main areas that come up trumps when the sun has dipped below the Greek islands to the west. The first is the main beach, known as Urban Beach, and the latter is aptly named Bar Street. Hit the beachfront for the golden hour to sip beers and cocktails while watching the light fade on the Turkish mountains. Then head to Bar Street where the action will continue well into the early hours. That’s thanks to pumping clubs like Joy or Club Areena.
Bodrum is by no means a shy place, but you could say that when compared to Marmaris. Basically, the nightlife here is like Marmaris on the down low. Things are way more chilled; way easier going. There are a few clubs, most notably the big Club Catamaran (think booze cruises to end all booze cruises), but the nightlife scene has changed since the closure of the flagship Halicarnassus Disco. Now, most people are content chatting and drinking the evenings away in Bodrum. To get the best venues, simply hit the main street east of Bodrum Castle – there’s loads there. An alternative is to head across to Sami Beach to the west, where hilltop cocktail lounges and enticing tavernas take over.
Marmaris or Bodrum for beaches?
Bodrum is legendary throughout Turkey for its beaches. There are more blue flag ratings than you can shake a plate of mezze olives at here, along with a couple of darn fantastic urban beaches that are enough to keep you going if you prefer not to travel too far to get your fix of sun and sea. The thing is, Bodrum is best seen as the gateway to the greater Bodrum Peninsula. That’s a wonderworld of fantastic bays and coves, all knitted together by winding roadways. You can explore the lot in a week with ease, and there’s loads to enjoy on the beach front:
- Gumbet Beach – A thousand-meter-long run of sand that’s in the next bay around from Bodrum town. Great for families and groups who like to have the beach bars near, it gets busy but is close to the hotels.
- Kadikalesi Beach – Just a smattering of small hotels pops up at this remote beach, which is often one of the quietest on the whole peninsula.
- Fener beach – A windsurfer’s delight, this beachfront gets the full whack of the crosswinds that make Bodrum such a sailing mecca.
Marmaris offers up a wealth of gorgeous coastal spots of its own. Sat at the end of the Turquoise Riviera, its beaches are best known for their clear blue waters. Marmaris itself is sat in a deep, sheltered bay, making the main Urban Beach and Long Beach very safe affairs with fantastic swimming. However, if you want to sample the shimmering sea color that the area is famed for, you’ll need to head north to Cleopatra Beach (a particularly stunning island destination and a great day trip option). Other places on the peninsular that are 100% worth having the radar include:
- Kumlubuk Beach – A wide sweep of pebbly sand between two green headlands. Simply gorgeous.
- Kiz Kumu Beach – 22 miles from Marmaris town but worth the drive for the shallow sand spit that lets you walk on water.
- Akcapinar Beach – One for the kitesurfers.
Winner: Bodrum, but only just!
Marmaris or Bodrum for things to do?
Loads of people head to this corner of Turkey each year to simply kick back, crack a beer, soak up the sun, and swim in the sea. That’s awesome, so do that if you like. We won’t blame you! However, an action-packed holiday should be easy to string together in both Bodrum and Marmaris if you were looking for something a little more hands-on from your adventure on the Med.
In Bodrum, it’s hard to ignore the history. The town here can trace its roots back more than 3,000 years, when the area was inhabited by Mycenean Greeks. Later, the town became Halikarnassus, and was the site of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. You can still see the ruins of that mighty structure today, though you’ll more likely be drawn to the outline of Bodrum Castle, a later fortification that was raised by the Crusaders of the 1400s. We’d also say it’s worth making the trip out to Karakaya Village. That’s got real time-stood-still vibes and a lovely location amid the mountains.
Marmaris tones down the culture a touch, but still offers its own castle – Marmaris Castle – from the medieval period. What’s more, it’s a great jump-off point for seeing some of the richest history in the region, including the haunting Lycian tombs of Dalyan. That said, there’s really no escaping the fact that Marmaris is a brash party town at heart. It’s the one to pick here if you like booze cruises and dancing down the strip. By day, that energy is channeled into more classic holiday pursuits – aqua parks, banana boat rides, sea safaris.
Winner: Bodrum, for the uber-rich history.
Marmaris or Bodrum for general vibe?
Marmaris has a regular population of about 50,000 people. When the summer swings around, though, that can swell to a whopping quarter of a million. Naturally, that changes the vibe completely, with the quaysides bursting with life and action. You’ll find buzzy Bar Street – the nightlife hub of Bodrum – positively pumping and the beaches laden with bodies. It’s great if you like your resorts very energetic and happening. Not so great if you prefer chilling and R&R.
Bodrum, meanwhile, isn’t just a town but also a whole peninsula of villages, smaller resorts, and beach escapes. That means you have loads of places to discover, and plenty of options for escaping the summer rush if you want to. For relaxed areas, head north to the mountain villages or go west to Turgutreis and Gumusluk – they have slow-paced, Greek island sort of atmospheres. The center of Bodrum does get lively but it’s not quite as brash as Marmaris, even in the peak summer months.
Winner: Marmaris for us. It’s more chilled.
We can’t really imagine anyone having a bad trip in either of these places. There are loads of reasons they are up there with the most-visited spots in Turkey. Both offer seriously lovely beaches and clear seas, sailing and swimming galore. We’d say that Bodrum is more chilled, more upscale, and just a touch cooler (temperature wise) than Marmaris. Marmaris, on the other hand, excels on the nightlife front and offers more of that classic R&R on the Med vibe for those keen on simply kicking back for a spell.