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If you’re dreaming of a holiday on a stunning stretch of Mediterranean coastline, there are many places to choose from. You could enjoy the epic beaches of Croatia, go island-hopping in Greece or explore the Albanian Riviera, for example.
Another equally worthy option, however, is holidaying on the gorgeous south coast of Turkey, home to beautiful seaside cities like Bodrum and Antalya.
In fact, I’m not exaggerating when I say that the Turkish Riviera, which is also known by the enticing name of “Turquoise Coast,” boasts some of southern Europe’s most incredible holiday destinations. This is a true coastal paradise, set at the meeting point of Europe and the Middle East.
Enough about that, though. You’ve landed on this page, so you probably already know about the beauty of the Turkish Riviera. Maybe you’re even making vacation plans already!
Whatever planning stage you’re at, we’re here to help you figure out the best destination for your specific trip. Below, we’ll help you how to choose between Bodrum or Antalya.
We’ll compare Antalya versus Bodrum, look at each city’s attractions and downsides, as well as list a few awesome day trips you can take. Hopefully, this Antalya or Bodrum guide makes your decision a bit easier!
Set on the Bodrum Peninsula, which juts out from the southwestern corner of Turkey, the city of Bodrum sits on not one but two bays. This peninsula is essentially where the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas meet, and numerous Greek Islands are just a short ferry ride away.
Bodrum is a pretty small city—calling it a large town would be appropriate, too—and is home to about 40,000 people. This makes it a place that’s very easy to explore, with the added benefit of a much quieter atmosphere. There’s plenty to see and do in Bodrum, though.
Founded by the Ancient Greeks as Halicarnassus, this was a thriving port city for centuries. It is most famous for being the former site of the iconic Mausoleum of Mausolus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The tomb of the former ruler of Caria, Mausolus, is the very building after which all other above-ground tombs, or “mausoleums,” are named.
Later on, the Knights Hospitaller built the mighty Bodrum Castle with stones from the mausoleum. This imposing castle still dominates the Bodrum skyline, overlooking both bays, and is one of the city’s top tourist attractions.
Elsewhere on the Bodrum Peninsula, a collection of inlets, bays, and caves are home to beautiful beaches, photogenic villages, resorts, and marinas.
It’s easy to see why Bodrum is a favorite destination among Turkish celebrities—there’s a vibe of glitz and glamor, while luxurious resorts offer world-class amenities. “Normal” people will also find many accommodation options, ranging from budget hotels to boutique beach hotels.
Why You Should Visit Bodrum
So, is Bodrum worth visiting? Absolutely, it is! This marvelous destination offers lots of variety and a relatively relaxed atmosphere, mainly because it’s so small. Here are some reasons why you should visit Bodrum over Antalya.
- Thanks to its small size, the town of Bodrum is a destination that’s very easy to explore. It’s not a sprawling port city like Antalya. Instead, it offers a charming coastal town vibe and accessible beaches.
- There are many resorts and hotels scattered around the Bodrum Peninsula, ranging from budget to luxurious. All types of visitors will find a suitable resort to stay in Bodrum, making this an attractively cosmopolitan town.
- Whether it’s in Bodrum town or elsewhere on the Bodrum Peninsula, you can easily discover the region from your hotel or resort. You’ll be in the picturesque countryside or on a beautiful stretch of meandering coastline in no time.
- Bodrum is not a mass tourism destination like Antalya. It’s much quieter, and you can enjoy peaceful scenery without hordes of other tourists vying for the same space.
- You can visit some stunning historical sites around Bodrum, especially the ruins of the Mausoleum of Mausolus and the striking Bodrum Castle.
- Last but not least, Bodrum just a short ferry ride away from the gorgeous Greek Islands of Kos and Rhodes. Home to white-washed houses, Bodrum is arguably Turkey’s best place to enjoy the Aegean Sea vibe.
Reasons Not To Visit Bodrum
Okay, now that we’ve covered the pros of visiting Bodrum, let’s take a look at some of the cons. While I generally don’t like talking about the “bad” things about destinations, I feel that it’s important to know some downsides when choosing between Bodrum or Antalya.
- If you’re looking to party all night long at nightclubs, you could do that in Bodrum, especially in the town of Gumbet just west of Bodrum, but Antalya has the upper hand here. There are many more large clubs in Antalya, which is, after all, the region’s largest city.
- Authentic Turkish cuisine is a bit harder to find in Bodrum than in Antalya. This is mainly due to the fact that Bodrum is small yet quite touristy. Antalya has many more locals and local restaurants serving up Turkish dishes.
- Although the Bodrum Peninsula is absolutely gorgeous with all its coves, bays, and beaches, nature lovers will find more variety and options for adventure around Antalya.
- Families with children have more options for kid-friendly activities, such as a plethora of waterparks and theme parks, accessible public beaches, and fun nature excursions.
- There’s only one beach in Bodrum town, and it’s pretty small.
Day Trips From Bodrum
Located on the southwestern tip of Turkey, at the meeting point of the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea, Bodrum offers a wide array of amazing day trip options. These are the best ones.
When answering the question ‘is Bodrum or Antalya better?’, you need to consider what you want from your Turquoise Coast holiday. Antalya is much bigger than Bodrum. This is a proper city, home to more than 1 million people (remember that Bodrum only has a population of about 40,000).
This huge coastal city is actually the largest international sea resort in Turkey. Situated roughly in the middle of the Turkish south coast, Antalya is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the entire Mediterranean. Not surprisingly, there is a lot to see and do here.
Attractions include stunning beaches, a wonderful waterfront and harbor, and a walled Old Town home to cobbled streets. Other absolute highlights are a visit to Antalya’s excellent museums—especially the Archaeology Museum is phenomenal—and ancient historic sites, including Hadrian’s Gate, the Hidirlik Tower, the Clock Tower, and the nearby Aspendos Theater, one of the world’s largest intact Roman amphitheaters.
Antalya is also known for its beautiful waterfalls, particularly the Düden, Manavgat, and Kurşunlu waterfalls and numerous wonderful urban parks and green spaces. The region’s also home to a couple of spectacular national parks.
All in all, this is a great holiday destination offering a wealth of historical attractions, resorts and hotels, beaches, and natural scenery. Additionally, Antalya has its share of waterparks and theme parks too, which may be interesting for families with kids. It’s a big city, though, so keep that in mind when choosing between Antalya or Bodrum.
Why You Should Visit Antalya
Antalya has a lot going for it. Besides being super-accessible, this large city has tons of attractions, accommodations, parks, and beaches to choose from. Here are our top reasons to choose Antalya for your Turkish Riviera holiday.
- Antalya has a myriad of accommodations, including many huge and luxurious resorts that will impress even the richest visitors.
- There are also great options for families, thanks to the availability of all-inclusive packages.
- Antalya is much warmer than Bodrum due to its more easterly location and, as such, has a longer summer season. The resorts in Antalya are popular even in winter.
- There are a few iconic ruins to visit just outside the city center, most notably the spectacular ruins of Perge and the amazingly well-preserved Aspendos Amphitheater.
- Several waterparks and theme parks also make Antalya a great family destination.
- In a beach comparison between Bodrum and Antalya, Antalya is the winner. While Bodrum has several wondrous beaches nearby, Antalya has some excellent public beaches within the city.
- Additionally, there are some breathtaking waterfalls to visit and enjoy around Antalya, including a spectacular one that drops down straight into the Mediterranean Sea.
Reasons Not To Visit Antalya
While many things might make you choose Antalya over Bodrum, it’s also important to be aware of some of the city’s downsides to (some) visitors. Take the following into consideration, too, when deciding between Bodrum versus Antalya.
- Antalya is a huge city, and it’s more of a hassle to get from place to place than it is in a smaller place like Bodrum. Getting around the city is less convenient, and many visitors tend to stay in the general vicinity of their resort, except on day trips.
- Compared with Bodrum, the top sights outside of the city are less accessible by public transportation in Antalya. You’ll probably need a Turkey rental car to visit the area’s tourist attractions.
- Nightlife in Bodrum happens in the city center—and particularly in nearby Gumbet—while in Antalya, nightlife mainly takes place in the all-inclusive resorts rather than inside the city. If you’d like to party and mingle, Bodrum might be a better choice.
- Did we mention that Antalya is huge compared with Bodrum? This is an extremely crowded destination.
Day Trips From Antalya
Antalya is in the middle of Turkey’s south coast, putting it conveniently close to a number of top attractions in southern Turkey. Although a day trip from Antalya to Bodrum might not be feasible—it’s a 6-hour drive—there are other great destinations within closer proximity.
If the possibility for fabulous day trips is a factor in your Antalya vs. Bodrum decision-making process, here are the best day trips from Antalya.
- Pamukkale – beautiful hot springs and travertine terraces
- Köprülü Canyon – stunning canyon offering excellent hiking, whitewater rafting, natural scenery, and archaeological sites
- Altinbesik Cave National Park – national park home to the world’s largest underground water cave, as well as abundant wildlife
- Termessos Ruins – a collection of ancient ruins set within a gorgeous mountain landscape
- Çirali – coastal town home to one of the best beaches in Turkey, the Olympos Ruins and legendary Chimaera Mountain
Hopefully, this Bodrum vs. Antalya comparison helped you come closer to a decision. Both destinations are exceptional in their own way and, honestly, you can’t make a wrong choice here. Enjoy your holiday on the Turkish Riviera!