At the head of a bay encircled by high wooded hills is the resort of Marmaris.
To give you a sense of how much this place has taken off in the last 50 years, the population was just 3,000 in the 1960s and now swells to more than 250,000 in the summer.
For good reason too, as Marmaris has pretty much all you could want from a Mediterranean holiday.
There’s blissful nature at uninhabited islands, coves and pine-decked hills, but you’ve also got the heady fun of a modern resort full of bars, nightclubs and countless places to dine.
There’s culture too at archaeological sites and a superb museum in town, while boats set sail from the resort’s chic marina to coastal nature reserves and remote islands.
1. Marmaris Castle and Archaeology Museum
This town was fortified as long ago as 3000 BCE, but the origins of the castle on the little peninsula between the main beach and marina are 16th-century.
Marmaris Castle was reworked at this time by Suleiman the Magnificent (1494-1566) during his Rhodes campaign.
That building took heavy damage from French warships in the First World War and came through a ten-year restoration in the 1980s.
You have to go in for the exceptional archaeology museum, a repository for artefacts unearthed at digs all around the Marmaris and Muğla areas.
There’s pottery, glassware, architectural fragments, coins, amphorae and much more, from the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine periods.
The museum also has an ethnographic section, displaying the local crafts and ways of life during the Ottoman era.
2. İçmeler Plajı
While Marmaris has a perfectly serviceable beach, if you’re willing to travel the extra mile your reward will be the kind of beaches that photos can’t do justice.
A good place to begin is İçmeler, 15 minutes around the Bay of Marmaris and walled by pine-cloaked hills.
This slightly smaller resort has a fabulous 500-metre beach, tucked into a cove and with sea buffered by Keçi Island a little way offshore.
İçmeler Plajı is a perennial Blue Flag beach, for its hygiene and facilities, and has mostly soft sand, a light shade of brown.
The water is like a swimming pool, and just as clear, so children will be able frolic in safety.
3. Sedir Island (Cleopatra Island)
The contrast between modern, bustling Marmaris and this gorgeous uninhabited island on the north side of the peninsula could hardly be starker.
To get to Sedir Island you’ll need to make the relatively easy trip to the village of Çamlı, and from there you can make the short boat crossing.
The island is often named after Cleopatra, as a legend has it that Cleopatra and Mark Antony bathed here 2000 years ago.
The island can be traversed in a few minutes on foot, and in a cove on the north side is the paradisiacal Cleopatra Beach, with a big sweep of glimmering turquoise water that stays shallow for almost 100 metres.
Sedir is also home to the ancient settlement of Cedrae, the remnants of which are peppered throughout the island and include an agora and theatre.
4. Marmaris National Park
If the resort at Marmaris ever feels chaotic you’ve always got almost 30,000 hectares of protected nature all around you.
The national park surrounds Marmaris on land and encompasses the islands in the bay.
The landscape is one of tall rocky hills under a mantle of pine, sweet gum and eucalyptus.
Wild boar and wild goats are common while Eurasian lynxes have been recorded in the national park, and a variety of kestrels, falcons, eagles and hawks have their territory here.
The panoramas in the park’s hills are sensational and the terrain attracts walkers, mountain bikers and horseback riders (more later). If you have a car, Turunç, down the west side of the bay, is near the site of the ancient city of Amos, where the ruins of a temple, theatre and sculptural plinths are clearly visible in a beautiful coastal setting.
5. Marmaris Marina
No self-respecting 21st-century resort could be without an upscale marina, but the harbour in Marmaris is all the more alluring against the castle and hills of the Marmaris National Park.
The quays and jetties are paved and you can go on a stroll to check out the forest of masts, the superyachts and the rugged topography around the bay.
The main quay has a line of cafes, boutiques and restaurants, which continues along the west bank of the river and then along the action-packed Bar Street, which we’ll come to later.
The marina is also your stepping stone for boat tours of Marmaris Bay and voyages to the Dalyan River Delta.
6. Dancing Fountain
One symptom of Marmaris’ high-speed regeneration is Youth Square, a plaza at the heart of the resort that took the place of a run-down building from the 20th century.
What grabs your attention here, at the lower end of Ulusal Egemenlik Cd., is the circular fountain.
This has two basins, and draws the crowds at 21:00 and 22:00 in the high season when there’s an automated light and music show.
The Dancing Fountain looks especially pretty at night against the clock tower on the north side.
7. Turunç Plajı
Half an hour south of the resort by road is the village of Turunç facing east on the Bay of Marmaris couched in a bowl of rocky hills covered with forest.
The beach withdrawn from the coastline, in a cove where the water is a darker shade of aquamarine and as calm as can be.
The beach at Turunç is Blue Flag and has a blend of coarse sand and pebbles, covered with sun loungers and parasols for a blissful afternoon in the sun.
There’s also a small promenade fringing the cove, and if you’re in the area you can head down to the railings first thing to watch the sun come up.
8. Incekum Plajı
There are scores of far flung beaches waiting to be discovered on the Marmaris Peninsula’s indented coastline.
This sublime example on the north side, opposite Sedir Island, is a cove lapped by clear and shallow turquoise waters.
Incekum Plajı has fine sand, strewn with large rocks and backed by pine trees that give extra shade to bathers.
The beach faces back to the Gulf of Gokova, with Sedir Island and Muğla’s coastal mountains looming dramatically behind.
The whole beach is attached to a restaurant and there’s a small fee to enter.
Road traffic is prohibited here, and instead there’s a brief tractor ride from the car park a couple of kilometres along the coast.
9. Marmaris Safari
A great way to traverse the rugged landscapes of the Marmaris National Park is on horseback.
On this outing listed with GetYourGuide.com you’ll be saddling up within half an hour of departing your hotel.
You won’t need any previous riding experience, and will take a leisurely trek through fragrant pine forest, beside orange groves and through traditional little villages.
Your horse will be calm and steady, and all you’ll have to do is it in the saddle and watch the scenery roll by.
Children will be able to ride along, provided a parent is in the group, and of course a helmet will be provided.
10. All-Inclusive Boat Tour with Lunch
Such is the amount of natural beauty around the Bay of Marmaris that it’s a good idea to sit back and just be shown around on a cruise.
This experience, also through GetYourGuide.com, is a seven-hour odyssey on a comfortable, well-equipped boat to see the best of the bay, its islands and innumerable coves.
You’ll step ashore at paradise island, lounge on deserted beaches and swim in the strange, phosphorescent waters of the Phosphorus Cave.
Your vessel will also call in at Turunç, which we talked about above, as well as another picture perfect bay at Kumlubük a little way south.
There’s lunch on board, cold drinks when you need them, and room to stretch out in the sun on deck.
11. Marmaris Beach
While you’ll be rewarded if you’re willing to travel to find the perfect beach, the main beach in the busy centre of the resort, is well-maintained, convenient and slopes gradually into crystal clear waters.
There’s a hectic promenade tight behind with an endless row of cafes and restaurants.
Many of these, together with the waterfront hotels, manage the beach clubs all along the shore, leaving barely a patch of gravelly sand without regimented lines of sun loungers.
Facing out to sea, the view of the Bay of Marmaris, its pool-like water, islands and rocky terrain, will help you forget your cares.
The public section can be found towards the north end.
12. Dalyan River
Further out, the Dalyan Delta, about 30 kilometres east of Marmaris proper, is a nature conservation area set up to protect the loggerhead sea turtles that nest in the sandy beach and can be spotted swimming in the water.
With GetYourGuide.com the “Full-Day Dalyan Boat Tour from Marmaris with Lunch” is an exciting trip along delta’s tangle of channels.
The marshy environment here feels like a world away from the craggy coves of Marmaris, and there will be some unforgettable moments on the trip.
You’ll stop at sulphur springs and mud baths to be caked from head to toe (if you like), and around one bend you’ll be wowed by the spectacular tombs hewn from the cliff-face over the ancient Lycian city of Kaunos.
Finally the trip makes a pause at Turtle Beach at the mouth of the river, where you can while away an hour or two sunbathing and swimming.
13. Marmaris Bar Street
The place to go out in Marmaris is one street in from the waterfront next to the marina.
True to its name, Bar Street is rammed with bars and clubs catering to people in their late-teens and twenties.
Come high season the place is heaving, and each venue starts to fill up around 23:00, with the party continuing until daylight.
Special mention to Greenhouse Dance Club, Backstreet Disco, Crazy Daisy Bar & Nightclub, Club Areena and Rock Bar.
Most tastes are catered for, whether you’re into EDM, rock, pop, Turkish pop, reggae or want to hear some live music.
Some venues are also geared towards certain nationalities, be they Turkish, Russian or British.
14. Marmaris Atlantis Waterpark
Handy if you’re holidaying with children and teenagers, there’s a waterpark near the south end of the main beach in Marmaris.
Although space in the middle of the resort is at a premium Atlantis Waterpark has eight slides, varying in speed and length, as well as a wave pool where you can lie back in an inflatable ring.
There’s also a kids’ pool with its own play equipment and fountains, soft play areas, a mini golf course, restaurants, bars and lots of sun loungers under parasols and awnings.
15. Grand Bazaar
Put it down as one of those touristy things you can’t avoid in a Turkish resort: The Grand Bazaar in Marmaris has grown to serious proportions, on a series of interconnected alleys under a vaulted roof and with shops manned by eager, even pushy traders.
We’re talking rugs, pottery, colourful lamps, pashminas, Turkish delight, tea and coffee sets and a whole world of fakes.
You can haggle here, and if you’re patient you can get a discount of up to half of the quoted price.