For many decades, Brits have adored Marmaris, a bustling town of the Turkish Riviera. One reason it attracts thousands of holidaymakers every year is the stunningly beautiful landscapes.
Set in a vast valley, most people’s first view of Marmaris is as they descend the swirling mountain roads backing it. Green hills fronting a long sandy beach, and the crystal blue sea are understandably eye-catching and a pleasant introduction to the region that also has a large expat population.
This introduction for first-time visitors to Marmaris covers travel basics, and we think you will be pleasantly surprised with what the town offers.
Marmaris Travel Guide: The History
No-one knows when Marmaris was founded, but historians do know it was part of the 6th century BC Caria Kingdom. Years later, they suffered the wrath of Alexander the Great who was on an invasion spree of the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts of current day Turkey.
In the 13th century, it gained its current name of which there are two stories about its significance. The first says it means “hang the architect” reflecting the reaction by Ottoman Sultan Suleman the Magnificent when he saw the castle’s reconstruction work. This was in the 16th century though, so another legend says the name refers to its ancient trading status as a marble exporter.
The castle has played a strategic part in battles over the years. Suleman the magnificent used it during his conquest of Rhodes, and in the 18th century, Lord Nelson sheltered his fleet in the bay, during a break of fighting Napoleon’s armada. These days it keeps a more peaceful existence as a museum.
Exploring Marmaris Town
First-time visitors should firstly head to the old town. The harbour district displays everything a traditional seaside lifestyle should look like, and just soaking up laidback ambience is a pleasure within itself.
Marmaris’ most famous landmark is the Ottoman castle, portraying a nostalgic look into the region's past, but nearby, the marina still upholds its prestigious social status. Despite being overshadowed in recent years by the megayacht Marina of Yalikavak, it still makes a roaring trade with international yachts and every October, helps organize the annual sailing regatta.
The harbour restaurants are a fabulous place for dinner. Their international menus also feature fresh fish and seafood and epitomise al fresco dining at its best. Should you want to step up the partying a notch, nearby bar street is one of Turkey’s most lively nightlife scenes. Otherwise, practise newly found bartering skills in souvenir shops lining the bazaar.
Coming away from the old town, visitors arrive at Marmaris’ long sandy beachfront. It is one of the best and most famous in Turkey, hence the rows of sunbeds and umbrellas lining it, and let’s not forget the massive range of water sports on offer. The promenade backed by restaurants and cafes nearly runs the full length before it breaks off into the main road leading to neighbouring Icmeler.
Getting Out and About
Within Marmaris, there are so many things to do including waterparks, Turkish bath, shopping, nightlife and of course beaching it. However, one reason, Marmaris is a winner for us, is that it makes an excellent base for exploring the surrounding districts, each of which has their own characteristics and reasons to visit.
Explore Rhodes: A one-hour catamaran trip to Rhodes, the largest Dodecanese Island introduces you to the medieval knights of Saint John, through spectacular ruins in the old part. The island also enjoys an esteemed reputation for shopping or merely put your feet up in a traditional tavern and set to work on tasting their famous wines and traditional Greek cuisine.
A Mountain Road Jeep Safari: Go off the beaten track to explore mountain villages and the hidden beauty spot of Turgut falls, a well-kept secret of Marmaris. If you prefer alternative transport methods, local tour shops also sell quad-bike and horse safaris.
Road Trip the Bozburun Peninsula: Head west from Marmaris and past Icmeler to the Bozburun peninsula. For many decades, the region enjoyed an esteemed reputation for their handcrafted gulet boats, but these days, people visit to get away from it all. Untouched by tourism and keeping its traditional seaside ambience, villages include Selimiye and Orhaniye, both renowned for their peaceful atmosphere. Otherwise, Kumlubuk has the best beach and fish restaurants in the region.
One Day Lazy Boat Trips: Any Marmaris travel guide should feature the most popular daytime activity that is a lazy day boat cruise around the coast. Leaving from the harbour in the morning, as well as serving a tasty BBQ lunch, they stop for swimming breaks in stunningly scenic places of the Turkish Riviera like Kumlubuk, Paradise Island and Aquarium Bay. All you must do is bring the sun cream!
Visit Datca: 90 minutes’ drive away, the Datca peninsula is another picture postcard destination worth visiting. Although it rarely features in foreign travel magazines, it has always been a favourite place for holidaying Turks. You can visit within a day, but we recommend an overnight trip. Find out what to do and see in our article here.