Last updated on February 28, 2023 by Wandering our World
Turkey is a country that offers a unique blend of culture, history, and natural beauty. From the bustling streets of Istanbul to the tranquil beaches of the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, there is something for every type of traveler.
Among the many excellent holiday destinations in Turkey, two are particularly special: Bodrum and Dalaman.
Each offers a unique experience that’s ready and waiting to trigger that DRD4-7R gene (the so-called “wanderlust gene”) in even the most adverse people! From the vibrant culture and friendly locals to the remarkable natural wonders of each place, Bodrum and Dalaman are a sight to behold. But despite their similarities they are also very different.
For example, Bodrum is busier, bigger, more catered to tourists, has a lively nightlife and is arguably better for cultural and historical sites. In contrast, Dalaman isn’t a tourist town so feels a little more authentic and has more nature activities as it’s closer to the mountains than the sea.
But that’s just the start when it comes to how these two destinations are different and similar!
That’s why we’ve put together our honest comparison to help you pick which Turkish getaway is the best for you. So pack your bags and prepare for an adventure; after all, that’s what we do best!
- A Quick Overview
- Which Is Better For Cultural & Historical Tourism?
- Which Is Best For Nature & Outdoor Activities
- The Best Beaches To Visit
- Which Has Better Nightlife?
- Which Is Better For Families?
- Where to Stay According to Your Budget
- How To Get Around
A Quick Overview
Bodrum is located in the Southwestern Aegean region of Turkey and has become one of the nation’s most attractive tourist destinations.
Sitting on a peninsula, it is surrounded on three sides by the Aegean sea, which plays host to a variety of islands and bays. Inland, the landscape is covered in low-rolling hills with rocky outcrops and lush forestry.
The town is steeped in history; once known as Halicarnassus, it was an important part of the ancient world and a trade port that connected the Mediterranean with Asian and Black Sea trade routes.
It saw the rise and fall of many an empire, with remnants of these times still being found today, including one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus.
Today, the city is a flourishing seaside town known for its rich cultural diversity, archaeological wonders, and tourism industry. It offers foreigners the opportunity to see life from another perspective in a destination bustling with activity and sightseeing. All of which, is why we’ve named Bodrum one of our favorite Turkish Riviera hotspots previously.
Dalaman sits in the Mediterranean region of South-west Turkey. This historical and cultural town is surrounded by gorgeous natural scenery and beaches, with miles of untouched land, making it an attractive destination to nature lovers across the globe.
The town dates back to ancient times and, like Bodrum, it was an important trade center for the Turkish Nation, seeing travelers come from land and sea to reach the bustling port.
While Dalaman still shows some remnants of these bygone times, the surrounding villages provide a more unique insight into the past, with historical sites like the Lycian Tombs providing a window into history for visitors.
Today, the town still stands as a pillar of history, staying relatively opposed to the idea of gentrification; you can still find beautiful architecture of ancient times mixed in with a touch of modern life.
Dalaman offers a unique tourism opportunity to all its visitors. It has recently become a hit amongst foreigners for its natural beauty, vibrant culture, and incredible sightseeing opportunities.
Some buses travel out of the city on a route, with a few dedicated to trips to tourist sites in the surrounding areas.
Which Is Better For Cultural & Historical Tourism?
Both cities have culture and history in abundance, and which you may like better might come down to individual sites that you really want to visit. That’s why below we include some of the highlights in both Bodrum and Dalaman.
However, in general we think Bodrum may be the winner in this category. It offers many great sites at a stone’s throw away from the city and hosts many more tourist opportunities that immerse foreigners in the culture.
Plus, the fact that it’s home to one of the Seven Ancient Wonders is on many wanderlust soul’s bucket list, so that has to count for something, right?
Bodrum: Cultural & Historical Tourism
Bodrum is a wealth of culture and history, built from a long-past civilization. As such, the modern city still hosts a bevy of interesting architectural, archaeological, and cultural spots that can really put things into perspective.
Bodrum’s origin dates back to before the 5th century BC when it was still known as Halicarnassus. It was a powerful city with excellent connections to ancient world trade routes. However, from around the 4th century BC, the Persian Empire conquered the original town.
Today, ruins of the ancient civilization can be found throughout the Bodrum district and surrounding towns, including one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, which is a must-see site for any visiting tourist!
For those planning day trips, the city is in close proximity to other ruins, such as those found in Ephesus, which are about 2 hours away.
The Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology is also a must-visit attraction, especially if you have kids!
And if you’re interested in seeing a more modern historical site, the Bodrum Windmills are a must! Dating back to the 17th century, they were in use until the late 70s before finally retiring to become a beautiful piece of the past overlooking the Aegean sea.
While the city still holds fast to its past, so many new and innovative cultural activities can also be found there too!
One such activity would be attending the Turgutreis Bazaar, where vendors are haggled down for the best deal on authentic Turkish products ranging from excellent food to beautiful, hand-made clothes and more. The Bazaar sees throngs of activity throughout the year and is a great place to stop for a souvenir or six.
You can also go for a journey through their majestic countryside and visit the Karnas Vineyards for a day of wine tasting and immersing yourself in the farmlands of the Peninsula.
Dalaman: Cultural & Historical Tourism
Much like Bodrum, Dalaman once played host to a bustling trade center that attracted voyagers from ancient history to its shores so you’ll find plenty of historical sites there.
It underwent hierarchal changes in the 5th century BC when the Persians conquered most of Turkey and continuously saw the rise and fall of empires like the Ottomans, Lycians, and Grecians. To date, the Dalaman countryside is littered with relics from lost kingdoms that are available to be seen by the public.
A mere 2 km from Dalaman’s center, the ruins of Kalynda, a fallen Carian city, and while just the bare bones remain, you can almost picture the incredible town that once fit into the stone walls.
The Kayakoy Ghost Town – see photo below – while falling more into the brackets of Dark Tourism, is also an interesting historical site to visit. When a population change occurred in 1923, the entire town was abandoned; now, most structures remain hollowed versions of themselves in a site that is both eerie and hauntingly beautiful.
The Lycian Rock Tombs might be a good choice if you’re looking for a day trip. Found on the outskirts of Dalaman, the Lycian Rock Tombs are built into the faces of mountains, where the Lycians believed angels could reach their dead. It’s a glorious feat of ancient architecture and has held up incredibly well for centuries.
Plus, you can also take a trip to visit Myra; why? Well, it’s the home of the O.G. Saint Nicholas, who inspired the Santa Claus we know and love today!
And if the ancient ruins do not interest you and you’re looking for a more modern culture vulture experience, we suggest immersing yourself in the ways of the Dalaman Locals.
Find a guide, or purchase a cultural tour and explore the many hidden gems the city has to offer, including the array of markets that litter the streets; who knows, you might find an incredible hand-made keepsake to remember your trip by!
And remember to indulge in some local Turkish cuisine while you’re out; from street vendors to the many restaurants in the city, you can embrace the robust flavors of authentic Turkish cooking.
Which Is Best For Nature & Outdoor Activities?
As we’ll show you below, while both destinations have so many appealing nature tourism opportunities, Dalaman simply offers more.
From catching glimpses of rare species to exploring untouched island caverns and indulging in a spot of adventure sports, the natural tourism industry in Dalaman is simply the best option for people who prefer to spend their days out in the open-air, hiking and being at one with nature.
Bodrum: Nature & Outdoor Activities
The resort town of Bodrum is nestled on a stunning peninsula in the Aegean region. Surrounded by rolling natural landscapes, there is so much to explore for avid eco-adventurers who want to enjoy a relaxing time in the great outdoors.
Turkey has recognized its natural beauty and dedicated a good portion of their tourism industry to bringing awareness and activity to the beautiful wilderness here and its potential.
Bodrum is especially well-known for its pristine coastline and the opportunity for those who enjoy snorkeling, scuba diving, and boating out on the crystal waters. The shores are littered with islands, reefs, and even ship and plane wrecks which make for excellent dive spots.
The town hosts many different dive schools too, which offer lessons and guided tours to give you an up close and personal experience with Bodrum’s colorful marine life. So you don’t need to be an expert to dive here.
And if you’re willing to venture further out, you can discover the tiny uninhabited islands via boat tours, where you can enjoy a picnic on a lonely beach overlooking the peninsula and, if you’re lucky, you could encounter the endangered Mediterranean Monk Seal, which calls this sub-tropical paradise home.
The beaches offered throughout the district are also amongst some of Turkey’s best and attract hoards of visitors throughout the year.
Those beaches have also recently garnered the attention of A-List celebrities, who can be spotted splashing through the waters on their own little getaways.
And remember, Bodrum is only the tip of the iceberg with tour companies offering day trips further afield to Turtle Beach and the Dalyan Mud Baths.
All in all, Bodrum has something for everyone who wants to experience the area’s natural wonders. From exploring the crystalline waters to discovering untamed beaches, you will surely fall in love with the natural tourism Bodrum offers.
Dalaman: Nature & Outdoor Activities
What sets Dalaman apart from Bodrum when it comes to nature tourism is the variety and the fact it’s surrounding by forests and mountains. In this case, we think that puts Dalaman at the forefront for being the better of the two destinations in this category.
This charming and traditional destination in the Mediterranean region offers a variety of nature tourism opportunities that will appeal to visitors who want to experience the area’s scenery and explore its diverse flora and fauna.
One of the highlights of nature tourism in Dalaman is the Butterfly Valley, a protected area of natural beauty where visitors can discover a wide range of butterfly species in a lush and secluded valley.
The Valley offers hiking trails and guided tours that are perfect for nature lovers, where visitors can spot some of the region’s rarest and most beautiful butterfly species.
The area also offers a variety of outdoor activities, such as hiking, trekking, kayaking and swimming in the crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The nearby Oludeniz, also known as the Blue Lagoon, is a famous spot for paragliding and is one of the area’s must-see places.
The Blue Lagoon is surrounded by a national park, where visitors can discover a wide range of plant and animal species, and it’s an ideal place for nature photography.
Dalaman also includes your choice of guided tours and activities that focus solely on the area’s natural beauty, such as guided nature walks, bird watching, and sea turtle conservation.
On top of that, you can take private boat trips to explore the nearby islands and bays, interact with the marine life and discover hidden coves and beaches.
The Best Beaches To Visit
There’s not much to separate these two when it comes to the beaches, with both offering golden sands and sparkling waters.
But to give you an idea of what to expect, here’s the best beaches in both Bodrum and Dalaman.
Beaches In Bodrum
1. Aspat Beach
Tucked in the Aspat Hills, Aspat Beach is a quiet reprieve surrounded by natural beauty.
Relatively untouched, visitors and locals love the clear, pristine waters where you can watch the fish and enjoy a cooling dip.
2. Bodrum Yali Public Beach
A public beach with inviting golden shores, perfect for families with young kids, the shallow waters and safety nets make it a wonderful place to swim and sunbathe in Turkey.
3. Gümbet Beach
If you’re looking for a thrill, Gümbet Beach is for you, it’s known for the variety of watersports available along the stretch, and it’s close proximity for scuba enthusiasts to explore the Big Reef.
Beaches In Dalaman
1. Sarsala Bay
They always say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” well, in this case, we mean the Turks! Sarsala Bay is a local gem a short drive from Dalaman that offers pristine golden shores, clear waters, and uninterrupted views.
It’s most popular amongst locals, but occasionally you’ll find a wised-up tourist amongst the crowd.
A bustling beach and one of the best in Turkey, known for its paragliding activities, soft sands, and refreshing waters.
This beach can be extremely busy, so make sure you get there early to find the best spot on the sand.
3. Cleopatra’s Bath
Once the stuff of legends, this beach often attracts tourists for its beautiful shores and shallow wading waters, perfect for families and couples. Cleopatra’s Bath will make you feel relaxed and rejuvenated.
Which Is Better For Nightlife?
Bodrum: The Nightlife
The nightlife in Bodrum is well-known for its lively and diverse atmosphere, with something for everyone.
The city center, known as Bardakci, is the place to be for those looking for a lively night out, with a wide variety of clubs, bars, and restaurants. Visitors can dance the night away to the latest music, enjoy a cocktail or two, and sample some delicious Turkish cuisine.
For those looking for something a bit more laid-back, the nearby towns of Gumbet and Bitez offer a more relaxed nightlife scene, with various bars and pubs that are perfect for a casual drink or two with friends.
Visitors can also enjoy live music and performances in some of the bars and pubs, and with Bodrum being such a cultural hub, you can enjoy either traditional folk or something a little closer to home.
For those who prefer a more cultural night out, Bodrum also offers a variety of local meyhanes (traditional Turkish taverns) where visitors can sample delicious local cuisine and enjoy live music and folk dances.
From lively clubs and bars to laid-back pubs and traditional meyhanes, tourists can party the night away like the locals do or simply enjoy a casual drink with friends while taking in the beauty of the Aegean Sea.
Not to mention the romance of the street lights and the boats floating about the marina setting the mood for a whimsical evening for honeymooners.
Dalaman: The Nightlife
Unlike Bodrum, Dalaman is a far more laid-back setting, but this doesn’t mean the locals and tourists don’t know how to party.
The nightlife in Dalaman is known for its traditional and relaxed atmosphere, with bars, restaurants, and cafes offering a casual atmosphere for guests to enjoy a quiet nightcap.
While there are one, or two clubs in the city center, most of the action sits with the bars and restaurants, where live music performances and sea views set the mood for an easy-going night on the town.
The nearby town of Fethiye is also popular with visitors if Dalaman feels too crowded or listless. The town is known for its seafood restaurants, but it also has a few bars and taverns to sit back and enjoy a drink at. The evenings here are more authentic and blend closer to the normal Turkish culture.
But don’t worry, you can still find plenty of that in Dalaman, whose taverns are exactly what the doctor ordered if you prefer some culture with your cocktail.
The traditional taverns are often lively with dancing and local music where locals no longer feel like strangers. So don’t be surprised if you end the night off trying your hand at joining in their folk dances.
For a quiet night out, you can sit at one of the many restaurants and indulge in some local cuisine, stroll the charming streets, or simply go amble about the bazaars for some much-needed retail therapy.
Dalaman might be quieter than Bodrum, but there’s still plenty of activity happening after dark!
But realistically we know anybody looking at information on nightlife is interested in a vibrant night out on the town. In that case, Bodrum definitely seems more appealing; with its bevy of restaurants, clubs, and pubs, we’re sure you’ll have no trouble finding your zone and pushing your bedtime to 3 am.
Which Is Best For A Family Trip?
Overall, the better choice for a family trip depend on your kids and the type of family you are.
But for a great all-rounder, Bodrum is the best choice between the two as it offers a versatile range of activities in a safe, fun environment that everyone can enjoy.
Bodrum may suit younger kids more too, while we think Dalaman could be appreciated a little more by older children.
Bodrum: Family Trip
This city is a perfect destination for families looking for a holiday that combines natural beauty, adventure, and relaxation.
The stunning beaches offer a variety of choices, from bustling beaches with tons of activities and watersports to secluded spots where you can spend the day building sand castles and swimming in shallow waters.
The locals here are friendly, and the town is very safe, offering ease of mind that your kids will be well protected.
Being a resort town with a flourishing tourism industry, the restaurants are much more versatile than Dalaman, which bodes well for families with fussy little ones, as you have far more to choose from!
The cultural, historical, and natural attractions also make for perfect family outings, and depending on the tours you choose (if you choose any!), you can find something that’s entertaining for the kids that’ll have them tuckered out by the time you and your partner are ready to take to the streets for an evening of romancing!
The kids will love it here, no matter their age, and so will you; it’s everything a happy family could hope for.
Dalaman: Family Trip
Dalaman offers a superb getaway for an active family and has plenty of activities to keep the kids busy and happy throughout your trip.
Although a bit more traditional, the town has a versatile appeal that brings in everyone from adventurers to history buffs that just want to enjoy the sightseeing. Not to mention the gorgeous beaches that line the coast, right on the Mediterranean sea.
The town is smaller, but similarly to Bodrum, it offers a safe and happy community that can put even the most worrisome of parents at ease.
But given the nature of the area’s activities, we’d suggest families with older kids may be better suited to Dalaman than younger ones. While it’s safe for all ages and still has plenty to keep little ones smiling, older kids will have a much better appreciation for the many nature activities available.
Where To Stay According To your Budget?
Luxury: Luxury hotels get no better than METT Hotel & Beach Resort. Nestled on the coast of Bodrum, this gorgeous hotel offers a private beach, indoor and outdoor pools, a restaurant, and an inclusive breakfast (that comes with a buffet)! You find pictures and details here.
Budget: Artunc Hotel is bougie budgeting! Located centrally to all the best Bodrum has to offer, this hotel is a steal for anyone looking to relax in luxury without emptying their wallets.
Gorgeous private rooms, a cafe on the premises, a lovely garden, and a pool – you can’t get better than this for the price. Find pictures and details here.
Shoestring: Arden’s House will be the perfect fit if you’re on a shoestring budget. Inviting and luxurious in its own ways, you can enjoy being in the city center with your own private room and an included breakfast.
There’s also a shared lounge, a garden, and close access to public transport. You can find pictures and details here.
Luxury: For a luxury home-away-from-home, enjoy a stay at Dalaman Villa Karya. This luxurious 3-bedroom villa is in the heart of the bustling resort town, with a private garden, pool, and scenic views!
And with it being so central, you can enjoy everything Dalaman offers, right outside your doorstep. You can see pictures and details here.
Budget: Karya Bungalov Villa is situated in central Dalaman, a stone’s throw from the airport. This gorgeous villa is set with scenic views, a magnificent pool and garden, and all the privacy you need to feel right at home. You can find pictures and details here.
Shoestring: Doğa Park Suites Holiday Apartments is the perfect place to stay on a budget; offering a private place to unwind from a busy day in Dalaman; you can enjoy a private terrace, swimming pool, and a garden. Find pictures and details here.
How To Get Around
Bodrum: Getting Around
Bodrum has a host of means to travel to and from the city. Depending on the journey you want and your budget, you can often catch a train, ferry, or flight through to Bodrum. But aside from getting there, getting around the city and its surroundings present a new challenge.
One of Bodrum’s unique travel mechanisms is known as a Dolmus. Think of it as a bus, only bite-sized. While technically considered a “taxi” of sorts, the Dolmus travel along set routes throughout the towns and sometimes further afield and act as a kind of rideshare.
Anybody can use them, making them one of the city’s most common public transport methods.
You generally pay a small fee to the driver, which varies depending on your route. Then, you join a crowd of other tourists and locals heading along the same path. After that, all you do is watch the stops and ensure you get off at the right one.
Dalaman: Getting Around
Dalaman is usually easiest to get to via flying as the nearest airport sits about 13 kilometers from the city center and provides all means of transport into the city for you to reach your destination.
However, it’s getting around the city and surrounding areas that can prove to be a challenge if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Luckily, if a rental car is out of your budget, there are plenty of different types of public transport, including buses, dolmus, and taxis, that can get you from points A to B.
The easiest ways for in-city travel are generally using the dolmus and buses, which pass along set routes and require set fees. However, if you’re planning day trips outside the city walls, you might want to look at the dolmus and private taxis if you don’t have a car to drive.