Last updated on February 25, 2023 by Wandering our World
The Turkish Riviera is home to some stunning resort towns, with Bodrum and Marmaris standing out as two of the prettiest places of all. But many travelers struggle to choose between these fabulous destinations, and it’s not hard to see why.
That’s because while Bodrum and Marmaris have such a lot to offer, from scenic beaches to vibrant nightlife scenes, they also have some key differences in terms of their general vibes and things to do.
The two towns have quite different landscapes too, with Marmaris backing onto lush, green hills and pine forests, while Bodrum is more of a rocky and barren land. Weather conditions differ as well, with Marmaris being a warmer destination.
Culture and vibes are also a little different between Marmaris and Bodrum; the former is regarded as more of a glitzy and glamorous, all-inclusive resort town which is well-developed and well-suited for R&R. While Bodrum has more of an authentic Turkish feel, with more cultural activities and historic sites to see.
However that’s just the beginning!
That’s why right here we use our expertise to show you everything that sets Bodrum and Marmaris apart from each other.
Below we’ll go over all of the key differences, as well as show you which has the better beaches, activities, nightlife, which is better for families and lots more. Let’s get started!
- A Quick Overview
- Which Is Better For Beaches?
- Which Is Best For Activities?
- Which Is Better For Nightlife?
- Which Is Better For Hiking & Nature?
- Which Is Best For Day Trips?
- Where To Stay According To Your Budget
- Which Is Best For Families?
- Which Is Best For Couples & Honeymoons?
- Which Is Cheaper?
- Which Is Easier To Get To?
- Which Is Easier To Get Around?
- Which Is The Better Choice?
A Quick Overview Of Bodrum vs Marmaris
Bodrum: A Quick Overview
Bodrum is a port city in Turkey’s Mugla Province, which is situated in the southwest section of the country.
It looks out across the Aegean Sea, near to the point where the Aegean meets the Mediterranean, and it’s situated just a short boat ride away from Greek islands like Kos and Kalymnos – which are perfect for a day trip.
This city has a long and storied past. It was originally known as Halicarnassus, when it was founded by the Ancient Greeks, and it once served as home to the legendary Tomb of Mausolus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
This tomb was destroyed by earthquakes, centuries ago, but Bodrum still has a lot of intriguing historic sites to see.
Bodrum town itself is relatively small – smaller than the main urban area of Marmaris – but it serves as a gateway to other towns and resorts all around the Bodrum Peninsula, giving tourists lots of different places to see and things to do.
Marmaris: A Quick Overview
Only 48 miles separate Marmaris from Bodrum as the crow flies, but it’s about two hours away by car in a more southern position on the country’s Turquoise Coast.
Part of Mugla Province, this city looks out across the Mediterranean Sea.
Once a sleepy fishing village, Marmaris has rapidly developed in recent years into a popular package holiday destination for Brits and other European travelers. If you’re looking for an easy, convenient holiday, this city could be it.
The city’s population multiplies enormously during the summer season, with large crowds gathering in the streets and on the beaches of Marmaris to enjoy its charming marinas and luxurious hotels.
Compared to Bodrum, Marmaris is more tourist-oriented. It doesn’t have the same authentic Turkish vibes, but it’s a wonderful place for relaxation and entertainment, with lots of beaches, hotels, and things to do all centered in the main urban area.
Which Is Better For Beaches?
Of course, if you’re heading to a Turkish coastal resort like Bodrum or Marmaris, it’s highly likely that you’ll want to spend some time down by the beach, soaking up the sun, dipping your toes in the sea, and appreciating the soft sands and scenic views of this special part of the world.
Both of these cities have beautiful Blue Flag beaches with clean sands and sublime conditions for swimming and sunbathing, but there are some differences between them, especially in terms of access.
For example, many of Marmaris’ beaches are close by and easy to get to, but Bodrum’s best beaches are spread out across the peninsula and will take more time to reach.
Bodrum also has a whole lot of diversity in its beaches, with everything from pebble bays and secret coves to long, sandy expanses for sunset strolls and lazy afternoons.
The beaches of Marmaris are a little more uniform in their style and vibe, but they do have great amenities (more than in Bodrum), lots of sun loungers, and safe swimming conditions.
Below we look at the beaches and coastline in each destination in more detail, so you can see which one suits your vacation plans best.
Bodrum: The Beaches
If you’re hoping to find a big and beautiful beach right in the heart of Bodrum itself, you are going to be a little disappointed.
Most of the area’s beaches are a short drive out of Bodrum, and if you want to simply walk from your hotel to the sands, you’ll have to be content with Kumbahce Beach – a 300m stretch of sand and pebbles with lovely views of Bodrum Castle.
For bigger and more diverse coastal hotspots, you’ll have to head out of the main urban area.
Bodrum Municipality Public Beach is a great place to get started. It’s about 15 minutes from the city center and has free sunbeds and handy amenities, but you’ll need to arrive early to nab one of the loungers.
Bodrum Yali Beach is another good, local spot, just half an hour from Bodrum, boasting a lush, green backdrop and super clear waters.
Or you could try Ortakent Beach, which is one of the best places for watersports like windsurfing – this beach is also nicely located for visits to other local landmarks, like the Dibeklihan Culture and Art Village.
With your own rental car, you’ll be able to get out and explore some of the more diverse beaches of the Bodrum Peninsula, like the pebble beach of Yalikavak, which boasts amazing views of the local Merkez Mosque, or Aspat Beach, which sits at the foot of the stunning Aspat Hill and has its own marble sculpture park.
Gumusluk Port Beach is a top spot for peace and tranquility, while Yahsi Beach is more developed, with easy access to cafes and hotels, and there are many other options to uncover all around the Peninsula.
Marmaris: The Beaches
The beaches of Marmaris are closer together and easier to get to. They’re also well-developed, and mostly located in a sheltered bay, which helps to ensure that the waters are nice and calm.
Swimming conditions are ideal here, and Marmaris Urban Beach is a great example of this. This is the closest beach to the city center, boasting amazing views of the surrounding green hills.
Uzunyali Beach, also known as Long Beach to the locals, is another great spot. It’s situated just up the coast from Marmaris Urban Beach, so you can hop between the two with ease.
As the nickname suggests, Long Beach is really long, providing plenty of space for all, so it never feels too crowded, even in the peak summer months.
Siteler Beach is another nearby location with incredible views and awesome amenities – there are lots of great cafes, bars, and even shops just a short walk away from the sand, giving you all you need for a full day of fun and sun.
If you don’t mind taking a short drive or bus ride out of the town, you can find even more magical beaches in the surrounding area.
Icmeler Beach, for example, has some of the most gorgeous golden sands in the region and is immaculately maintained by local workers. It’s a good spot for watersports, too, and you can hire jet skis, water skis, and other equipment from local providers.
Even further away, beaches like Turunc offer more calm waters and awe-inspiring views, while the famous Cleopatra Beach is one of the best places to swim and sunbathe in the whole of Turkey.
Overall, both Bodrum and Marmaris have some super beaches. But if you just want sun and sand with easy access, Marmaris is definitely the better option. However if you’re looking for a little more diversity and don’t mind spending some time on the road to find it, Bodrum might be better-suited for you.
Which Is Best For Activities?
The beaches may take up some of your time in Bodrum or Marmaris, but these towns offer several other fun and interesting things for travelers to do, including some unique cultural and historical sites.
In general though, despite looking and feeling like quite a laid-back location, Marmaris has all sorts to offer for adventurers and thrill-seekers. It’s definitely a more diverse location in terms of activities, with everything from wildlife walks to water parks. Meanwhile Bodrum has more in terms of authentic Turkish culture and history.
Below we show you the main activities and highlights in each, by doing so you can see which city will likely suit you more!
Bodrum: The Activities
One of the best things to do in Bodrum is visit the city’s medieval castle. It was made partly from the remains of the famous Tomb of Mausolus, with the Knights Hospitalier constructing it back in the 15th century.
Once a powerful fortification for the local area, the castle is now a tourist landmark and houses the city’s Museum of Underwater Archaeology.
For history fans, there are several more museums dotted around the Bodrum area, including the Maritime Museum, as well as an Old Town district and historic marina, where you can watch fancy yachts sailing in and out.
It’s also possible and strongly recommended to take a tour of the ruined remains of Ancient Greek city of Halicarnassus, Bodrum’s historical predecessor.
Those who prefer fancy boutiques and souvenir shops instead of historic landmarks can also have a great time in Bodrum. You’ll find some nice stores in the city itself, and the aforementioned Dibeklihan Culture Village is a great place to grab some locally-made arts and crafts.
In terms of day trips and exploration, Bodrum is nicely positioned for trips across the sea to Greek islands, like Kos, and the Bodrum Peninsula has plenty of pretty coastal towns to visit and explore, like the glamorous Yalikavak, vibrant Gumbet, or traditional Bitez.
But where Bodrum really excels is in historical sites, so if that’s something you love to explore and visit when on holiday this city will be perfect.
Marmaris: The Activities
Marmais has a castle, too – the Marmaris Castle was constructed under the orders of Suleiman I, one of the greatest rulers of the Ottoman Empire.
Earthquakes have damaged and destroyed parts of the castle over the years, and it was actually inhibited by locals as recently as the 1970s. These days, it houses an archaeology museum.
In addition, Marmaris also has its own Old Town, consisting of winding streets and narrow alleys, with lovely buildings and Ottoman architecture. Plus, there’s a lovely marina where you can sit and watch the boats or admire the sunsets in the evening.
Shopping in Marmaris isn’t bad, either. The whole town feels like one big bazaar, with stalls and stands lining the sides of many of the main city streets.
The Marmaris Grand Bazaar, or Carsi Market, is one of the top spots to shop, and you can pick up all sorts of goodies here, from designer clothes to authentic Turkish vases and carpets.
Yet while this city doesn’t have the same historic landmarks as Bodrum, it’s actually a more diverse place for activities.
You’ll find all sorts of fun things to try here, including boat tours of the Mediterranean, ATV rides in Marmaris National Park, river cruises along Dalyan River, or cave exploration in nearby Nimara Caves. And that’s on top of the beach activities right on your doorstep.
Which Is Better For Nightlife?
Clearly, you won’t run out of things to fill up your days in either Bodrum or Marmaris, but what about the nights? Well, both Bodrum and Marmaris have vibrant nightlife scenes to keep party-lovers entertained.
Bodrum is pretty famous for its nightlife scene and was once one of the liveliest party resorts in Turkey. Things have calmed down a little in recent years, with partygoers spreading out into neighboring areas, like Gumbet, but Bodrum still has its own ‘Bar Street’ with lots of pubs and clubs.
Many young people flock to Bodrum for its clubs like Mood, Haspa, and Adamik, and you can take the short drive over to Gumbet for even more lively spots like Club X, Club Sapphire, and Temple Bar.
From fun discos with laser lights and pumping music to more chilled-out spots, there’s a nice selection of options here.
Marmaris also has quite a lively nightlife scene, albeit a little more laid-back than Bodrum, with some fabulous beachfront bars and clubs looking out over the sea. Like many other resort towns, it has a so-called Bar Street with a long line of spots to dance, drink, and have fun.
You can also head to the area around Marmaris Marina to find more upscale pubs and evening locations, or take a short trip to neighboring Icmeler, where the nightlife scene is a little quieter and more tailored towards a mature audience.
Overall, both of these cities have decent nightlife. Marmaris is the slightly more subdued location of the two, and its bars and clubs tend to be cheaper, while Bodrum has some glitzy and high-end clubs that draw in Turkey’s rich and famous crowd.
Which Is Better For Hiking & Nature?
If you like to get out in nature and enjoy long walks across scenic landscapes, both Bodrum and Marmaris have a few options to keep you busy. But nature lovers may find themselves more drawn to Marmaris over Bodrum.
That’s because Marmaris has nearby mountains that are wonderful for long walks and tricky treks, as well as local villages and waterfalls to discover.
Marmaris National Park is also a haven for hikers. Measuring over 720,000 acres, this national park has an array of gorgeous landscapes, with thick forests to explore and wooden walkways to walk along.
Over in Bodrum, hiking paths are a little harder to find. There are some nice trails along the coast, as well as in nearby villages, but you need to be more prudent when planning out your routes as the signs aren’t always very clear or easy to spot.
The Lelag Way, or Bodrum Leleg Yolu, is the most famous set of trails in the area, with a mixture of hard and easy treks to try.
Which Is Best For Day Trips?
One of the best things about both Marmaris and Bodrum is that they’re nicely-situated for day trips to nearby towns, cities, resorts, or even islands, and there are lots of different places you can go, if you have the time and budget to do so.
Bodrum is nicely located for trips around the Bodrum Peninsula itself. There are some charming seaside villages here, like Gundogan, Gumusluk, and Turgutreis, and each town has its own unique features and vibes, with some being more touristic and others more traditional.
Since it’s situated on the Aegean, Bodrum is also a great place to take ferry rides out to local Greek islands, like Kos.
It takes less than half an hour to get to Kos from Bodrum’s port, and prices are pretty cheap, with several ferries running daily during the summer months.
It’s also possible to get to Greek islands from Marmaris too. Specifically, there’s an hour-long ferry ride that will take you straight to Rhodes, one of the most historic and fascinating of all the islands.
Otherwise, you can head out across the province and beyond, exploring other towns and resorts along the Turquoise Coast, like Dalyan, Dalaman, and even Fethiye, home of the iconic Lycian Rock Tombs.
Overall, both of these cities offer great day trip potential, and the best option for you will mostly depend on which places you want to visit more.
Where To Stay According To Your Budget
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.
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: Set in a small bay in Aktas area, Carikci Hotel is a budget accomodation that sits just a few steps away from the beach, yet still near the mountains. Despite the price, it still has an outdoor pool and a children’s pool, and is one of the highest rated hotels in the region. See photos and rates!
Luxury: The Blue Grand Azur is a wonderful five-star resort set right on a private beachfront with gorgeous sea views. It has everything you’ll need for a luxury stay in Marmaris – including and indoor and outdoor pool – and the service is known for being exceptional. See photos and rates!
Which Is Best For Families?
Both Marmaris and Bodrum are family-friendly locations, with great hotels that cater to guests of all ages and some interesting activities for folks of all ages.
However, of the two, Marmaris may be the best option for travelers with children.
This is due to the fact that there are simply more kid-friendly activities and attractions in and around Marmaris. Not only are the beaches more accessible, but you’ll also find water parks, go-kart tracks, boat tours, and even a dolphin park called Marmaris Dolphinarium.
In contrast, due to its less touristic nature, Bodrum isn’t quite as kid-friendly.
There are still some good things to do with little ones here, and some nice beaches for games and swimming. But the range of activities is more restricted and kids could get bored at having to travel around from beach to beach and place to place.
Which Is Best For Couples & Honeymoons?
For couples, the choice between Marmaris and Bodrum may be a more challenging one, and it will all depend on what kind of activities and experiences you and your partner tend to enjoy the most.
Marmaris has the warmer weather and better beaches, making it a fine choice for couples who want to spend quality time together on the sand or in the water. It’s also got great hotels, fine dining, and some good hiking potential, too.
Bodrum, meanwhile, has more of the cultural and historic sites that might appeal to certain kinds of travelers, and is said by many to have more of an authentic Turkish feel. But it lacks the diverse attractions of the Marmaris area.
Overall, Marmaris will probably appeal to more couples than Bodrum, thanks to its great mixture of activities, romantic beaches, and cosmopolitan vibes.
But Bodrum is still worth considering if you and your partner like touring historic sites and hopping from town to town.
Which Is Cheaper?
Of course we also have to take price into account. So, which works out cheaper between Bodrum and Marmaris?
In reality, there’s not a huge difference in terms of the average prices for accommodation, food, and activities in Bodrum and Marmaris. Average prices are pretty similar for both locations, especially during the summer season.
With that said, Marmaris hotels can have slightly lower nightly rates, especially if you book in advance.
Plus, since everything is quite close together in Marmaris, you’ll probably spend less getting around, so a trip to this city should work out just a little cheaper overall.
Which Is Easier To Get To?
Getting to either Bodrum or Marmaris shouldn’t be too difficult, as they’re both located near to international airports with lots of direct connections to major European cities in places like the UK, France, and Germany.
However, getting to Bodrum is a little easier for most people. The local airport – Milas-Bodrum Airport – has more direct flights to surrounding countries, and it’s only 30-40 minutes away from the city itself.
Meanwhile, Marmaris’ closest airport is Dalaman, which is over an hour away from the city itself.
It’s still pretty easy to fly there, but you’ll have to be prepared to spend some time on the road before arriving at your hotel.
Which Is Easier To Get Around?
Getting to Marmaris takes more time than getting to Bodrum, but once you’ve arrived, you’ll find Marmaris to be a highly walkable and easy place to navigate. Most of the main sights and landmarks are all within walking distance of one another.
There are plenty of rental bikes in Marmaris, too, and it’s quite a nice place to cycle around. Or, you can count on local buses and minibuses to visit the main beaches and surrounding attractions with ease.
You probably won’t need to rent a car unless you want to head out and visit neighboring resorts like Turgutkoy and Sogutkoy.
Bodrum also has buses to help you get around, but many travelers find that the places they want to see are more spread out, increasing the need for a rental car. For this reason, we can say that Marmaris is the easier of the two towns to get around.
Bodrum vs Marmaris: Which Is The Better Choice?
Overall, no matter which city you choose between Bodrum and Marmaris, you’re sure to have a wonderful experience. Both of these beautiful cities offer fantastic hotels, great food, fun activities, and stunning surroundings.
With that said, Marmaris is probably the better option of the two for most people, since it has a more diverse range of things to do. The added tourist development of Marmaris also makes it more appealing to those who want a relaxing or all-inclusive getaway.
Whether you’re looking for seaside relaxation or adventures in the wilderness, Marmaris has you covered. There’s simply so much to do, and it’s even a little cheaper, too, making it the better option for backpackers and budget travelers.
Bodrum is still a worthy contender for anyone planning a trip to Turkey, and it has Marmaris beat in terms of culture and history. So, if those kinds of things matter more to you, you might like to choose Bodrum instead.