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Mid-September Is My Favorite Time to Visit Bodrum

Coastal villages, chill beach days, and endless mezzes.

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Mina Dilber
Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Mina Dilber

Mina Dilber, founder and creative director of Turkish lifestyle brand Anim, has spent summers in Bodrum from an early age and makes it back there a few times each year. “Ideally in the beginning of May or mid-September, right before and after the crowds take over,” she says, adding that the sun’s out nearly every day and you can even expect high 80s going into fall. A short one-hour-and-change flight from Istanbul, where Dilber is based, Bodrum is situated in the heart of the Turkish Riviera, otherwise known as the Turquoise Coast. It’s become a somewhat less obvious alternative to places like Mykonos, but is similar in the sense that all of the beaches are at beach clubs. There’s a lot of beach-club hopping, to be sure, but also tons of swimming in the Aegean sea shaded by olive trees and snacking on traditional mezze platters. “Last summer, we had some friends from all over the world travel to Turkey — coming from London and Los Angeles — so we could show them our special slice of paradise,” Mina says. After a few days taking them around her hometown of Istanbul, they departed for four days in Bodrum. “It’s fun to see familiar places through the lens of outsiders.”

Day 1

9 a.m.: Check into the hotel

We flew from Istanbul to Bodrum, which is a little over an hour. When we landed at Bodrum airport, I had already arranged a pick up earlier with a reliable car company, Bodrum VIP Transfers, so they were there waiting at baggage claim with a sign. After about a 45-minute drive, we finally arrived at Amanruya (Göltürkbükü, Demir Mevkii, Bülent Ecevit Cd., 48483) and checked into the hotel. I have stayed here three times before and am always mesmerized by the whole ambiance of the property. It’s so calm compared to the sceney beach clubs that make up much of Bodrum and so vast and breathtaking. I would also recommend Bella Sombra and No81 Hotel as they’re great, more affordable options in Bodrum. After a quick change in our rooms, we took buggies provided by the hotel to the beach on the property.

1 p.m.: Eat lahmacun by the sea

We spent the afternoon relaxing by the water. It’s a super-calm vibe here compared to other beach clubs in Bodrum. We sipped on a glass of cold white wine while munching on lahmacun, traditional Middle Eastern flatbread topped with meat, veggies, and herbs. It was delicious.

7 p.m.: Boat over to Macakizi for the evening

We took a speedboat provided by Amanruya to Macakizi (Göltürkbükü, Narçiçeği Sokak, 48400), one of my favorite hotels and beach clubs in Bodrum. Captain Musa picked us up in his super-sweet and speedy boat for the 20-minute ride there. We lounged by the water a bit, then got some margaritas at the bar — they’re so good here. The music at Macakizi also always makes me so happy. Eventually, we made our way upstairs to dinner. The seafood spaghetti is one of the best dishes here.

Disclaimer: Bodrum is not cheap. To access any of the beach clubs in Bodrum during the high season, there’s a minimum spend. At Macakizi, the minimum spend during May through September is 140 euro per sunbed, but the food and drinks are so good, I think it’s worth it. I highly recommend staying at Macakizi if you want to be a part of the action as it has a fun scene during the day with a cool, young crowd.

Day 2

10 a.m.: Eat a traditional Turkish breakfast

We woke up and headed to breakfast at Asmali Cardak (Yalıkavak, No:52 48400, Kayacık Cd., 48990). They have the best traditional Turkish breakfast with a variety of fresh pastries and an array of crazy delicious jams. My favorite is always the Bodrum Mandarin jam. The Turkish breakfast consists of an assortment of cheeses, like feta and eski kasar, and tomato and cucumber salad and olives. Honey and kaymak (like a soft cream cheese that you spread on bread) is probably the best part of a Turkish breakfast. Also Turkish tea! Asmali Cardak’s super-cute ambiance within a small garden with shabby tables makes you feel almost at home.

1 p.m.: Have a delicious Italian lunch

We took a 35-minute cab ride to Bodrum Loft (Göltürkbükü, 48483) for a very chill beach day. Bodrum Loft is a villa compound on the hills of Golturkbuku, with amazing views as well as amazing waters, that people can rent throughout the summer. We visited because a friend was staying there, though it’s also open to guests not staying on the compound as there are various restaurants on site. The beach is so calm that you want to stay there all day. Also Paper Moon, one of the best Italian restaurants from Istanbul, has a restaurant on the property, so we had some delicious salad and pizza under the sea breeze. Nearby, Naru (Gölköy Mahallesi, Gökburun Mevkii, 48400) is a new addition to the Bodrum dining scene and worth checking out if you’re in the area for lunch or dinner.

5 p.m. Visit a gallery before dinner

We went back to the hotel for a quick change and started getting ready for the night. We took a 30-minute cab to Pilevneli Gallery (Yalıkavak, 6047. Sk No: 7/A, 48990), one of Istanbul’s pioneer galleries up in the hills of Yalikavak. It’s located in a beautiful villa with great views, featuring artworks by contemporary Turkish and international artists, and is host to ever-changing exhibitions in the summertime. (This summer, Wim Delvoye had a solo show there.) After a quick stroll through the gallery, we stopped for dinner at an Istanbul-based restaurant called Sisko Perihan (Pilevneli Yalikavak Mah 47sk No:7/A). We shared a terrific Turkish mezze feast while Turkish music played in the background — the perfect combination.

Day 3

10 a.m.: Head back to our favorite beach club for the day

We hopped in a cab and headed back to Macakizi — this time to chill around the beach, have some lunch, and check out their amazing boutique, 74ESCAPE, curated by Istanbul 74. We strolled down through the mimosa trees while the sea breeze welcomed us at the entrance of Macakizi. After making our way down the steps that weave through the property, we arrived at the beach. The Macakizi staff is always the most genuine and sweet and so welcoming. Since it was a really hot day, we had to get into the water every 20 minutes. We treated ourselves to the best Bloody Mary any of us have ever had and ordered another lahmacun to share.

3 p.m. Walk through Turkbuku for a scoop of mandarin ice cream

We eventually made our way back up the stairs to check out the boutique. From beachwear to jewelry, bags, ceramics and more, the curation is fantastic. The ambiance is also great, surrounded by greenery and interiors swathed in rattan. We did a little shopping, then followed the path to exit the property and walked five minutes to Bella Sombra Hotel (Bağarası Mahallesi, Bağarası Cd. No:24, 48400) for drinks at their bar. This boutique hotel combines the sweet essence of Bodrum with a Tuscany kind of feeling.

We made one last visit before dinner: a pit stop at Dogal Dondurma in the Türkbükü area (Göltürkbükü, Liman Cd. No:55, 48483) and had a bite of their amazing mandarin ice cream. Türkbükü, which is walking distance from Bella Sombra, is a really nice coastal village with lots of nice shops and seafood restaurants along the port, like Garo’s Restaurant, which I’ve been coming to since I was young. We then walked through Türkbükü Market, the open-air market that’s open daily, selling a variety of items, from pottery to jewelry to homeware and other unique souvenirs to bring home. After a little shopping, we headed back to our hotel, which took about 20 minutes by cab.

7 p.m. Have a seaside dinner in Gumusluk

After freshening up at the hotel, we took a 40-minute drive over to Mimoza Restaurant (Yalı Mavkii No 104, Gumusluk 48400) in Gümüşlük, near the water. Since this is a longer drive, we hired a driver from the same company we used on the first day. After a long way with some bumpy roads, we arrived at Gümüşlük, one of the sweetest bays and towns of Bodrum, surrounded by local craftsmen shops where they sell everything from handmade jewelry to hand-embroidered textiles to ceramics. This town feels a bit more authentic than Türkbükü with its sleepy fishing village and scarcity of beach clubs. You come here to stroll through the charming town and escape the bustling scene you’ll find in other parts of Bodrum. After popping into some shops, we finally arrived at Mimoza, a place that makes your heart warm with its colors, people, and unreal sunset. Colorful light fixtures were hanging all over the restaurant and the food was great — literally all the mezzes. Then Turkish music started playing a little later at night, and we found ourselves dancing around the tables!

Day 4

10 a.m.: Get in a morning stretch

Since it was our last day, we decided to chill around the beautiful pool at the hotel and have a little bit of breakfast and coffee there. We ventured up to their yoga studio with an incredible view for a morning stretch to kick start our day.

1 p.m.: Share ceviche by the beach

Right after breakfast and pool time we went to Lucca Beach & Restaurant (Göltürkbükü, Cennet Koyu Cd 314. Sok No: 12/1, 48483 Bodrum/Muğla). Lucca is by far the coolest new spot in Bodrum. Originally from Istanbul, they now have the best beach spot along with a huge restaurant. Their appetizers are great to share and the ceviche is my favorite.

6 p.m.: Watch the Bodrum sunset one last time

After a long day of lounging, it was time for some drinks. We took a 15-minute cab to Limon Gumusluk (Gümüşlük, Kardak Sk. No: 7, 48970). Limon Cafe claims to have the “most delicious sunset out there,” and I would have to agree. I can’t decide if the sunset or the cocktails are better. They serve some of their best cocktails in big glass jars. I ordered the Satsuma Witch, a margarita-adjacent cocktail with citrus fruits. It was the perfect combination of acidic and refreshing.

8 p.m.: Pick up rattan souvenirs before heading home

After the sun set, we took a ten-minute cab to one of my favorite places in Bodrum: Derekoy Lokantasi (Dereköy, Derekoy Yolu No:133, 48960) for our final dinner. Located in a beautiful garden, this place has a relaxed atmosphere. They serve Mediterranean food and Turkish mezzes with a twist. The sailor’s pie and crispy chickpeas are really good. After dinner, we strolled around the property. Right near Derekoy restaurant is another one of my favorite stores, called Leleg Living (Dereköy, Derekoy Yolu No:133, 48960). They sell home furniture and mostly rattan accessories, like wooden cooking utensils and raffia poufs and décor — nearly everything is made from natural materials. After a few days in Bodrum, it’s the perfect place to pick up some mementos to bring a little slice of this paradise back home with you.

Mina’s Bodrum Packing List

I pack printed bandanas for every vacation, but they’re especially ideal for Bodrum, where the sun is always shining.

A cool pair of sandals, like K Jacques or a pair of ancient-Greek sandals, will go with any outfit.

These beach towels are ultrasoft and lightweight on one side, peshtemal on the other — best of both worlds.

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Mid-September Is My Favorite Time to Visit Bodrum