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MARMARİS

Admiral Nelson's bolthole                                    Population: 30,000 (official, winter) - 200,000 (unofficial, summer)

Marmaris1Market days: Thursday and Sunday (smaller)

Once upon a time Marmaris was a typically gorgeous little Eastern Mediterranean fishing village overlooking spectacular mountain scenery. Then it was discovered for mass tourism and today only the quaint and narrow streets around its little kale (castle) hint at what went before.

I'll be honest and say that I'm not a great Marmaris fan. Having said that, I've had some great times here, and on my latest visit was astonished at how pretty the area around the castle and the Netsel Marina was during the day. The trouble basically comes down to the high-summer crowds, the thunderous noise of Bar Street at night and the dull sprawl of concrete spreading west towards İçmeler. But the sign registering the Marmaris Milli Parki (National Park) on the way down the hill into town is a reminder that some of Turkey's most glorious coastal scenery is tucked away in this corner of the country. 

In any case the waterfront is still a wonderful place to while an hour or so over a meal at one of the many restaurants that line the harbour. Afterwards if that's your scene you can dance the night away in your pick of the nightclubs along Barlar Sokak (Bar Street), an extraordinary chaos of flashing lasers, pavement shots bars and tourists wearing remarkably little clothing. The action doesn't get going until around 10pm - during the day it all seems deceptively innocent.

There's a thin strip of sand along the waterfront heading out towards neighbouring İçmeler. It's backed with palms and a hedge of pretty red oleander, but it's barely enough for the summer crowds, many of whom take boat tours to the sands at İztuzu near Dalyan. There's a better beach at İçmeler but that is also jampacked in summer.

Unfortunately the sprawl around the bazaar is unignorable. Despite recent attempts to improve things with a better seafront promenade and town square, this is really only a resort for those in search of a rocking holiday, not for those in search of the "real Turkey". It says everything for Marmaris that the core population figure jumps to at least five times as much in the summer with many of the visitors from the UK. 

In a footnote to history Admiral Nelson used Marmaris as a base when he was getting ready to try and drive the French out of Egypt in 1798.

marmariscastleAround town

The town's small Archaeology Museum is housed inside the castle which was built by Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent in 1522 when he was assembling troops to besiege the Knights of St John on Rhodes. 

At the foot of the castle on the western side it's easy to overlook the remains of the caravanserai that was built at the same time. The Bedesten nearby is pleasant enough but was built quite recently and not as part of the original complex.

The narrow streets around the castle are delightful during the day before noise from Barlar Sokak banishes all hope of exploring them in peace. One can only dream of what might have been had Marmaris come to tourism later in the day and Bar Street been developed on the outskirts of town. marmaris2

Spreading inland from the waterfront Yeni Kordon Caddesi is the town's huge covered market. It's a good enough place to while away a few hours although most of its produce is aimed far and square at the tourist market. A few small lokantas still serve the local workers if you're looking for a cheapish, goodish lunch.

The Armutalan Hamamı (Turkish bath) is said to be one of the largest in Turkey. It's certainly one of the busiest - you don't want to be visiting when a coach party arrives. The Armutalan neighbourhood is about two km inland.

Marmaris has two marinas, the Netsel just at the end of Barlar Sokak and the much bigger Yat Marina, way out of town but with great views back across the bay. 

Eating

There are some great unexpectedly pleasant places to eat dotted about town although prices are pretty high in comparison with elsewhere. The best views to go with your meal are to be found in the pricey places facing the harbour and in the surprisingly pleasant Netsel Marina (Pineapple has been going for ever and from its terrace you could almost imagine yourself in the south of France. Yes, really!).

The quaintest places hide away in the narrow streets of the Kale where Birgül is a good option. The Panorama Bar offers just what its name suggests, a glorious view of the harbour to go with a range of drinks and a menu of uninspiring international staples. The steps up to it don't do it justice unlike the more inviting steps up to the nearby Castle Bar.

The pretty streets at the bottom of the castle also offer a few decent options although they get noisy at night. One long-lived option turning out a range of tasty fish dishes is The Drunken Crab (tel: 0252-412 3970).

Beside the stream at the back of Marmaris near the Netsel Marina is an inviting branch of Kahve Dünyası, a Turkish coffeehouse chain that offers a decent choice of hot drinks at not too outrageous prices.

NetselSleeping

There is no shortage of places to stay here but most are aimed fairly and squarely at the package holiday market which can mean that it's hard for a casual visitor to find a room at a reasonable price in high season. Surprisingly, most of the hotels also close over the winter. If you want to stay you will almost certainly get a better deal by booking through a package-holiday company. 

Marmaris used to have a reputation for tackiness in terms of accommodation but these days there are some very smart hotels, especially as you head out of town towards İçmeler. 

Halıcı Hotel

Pupa Yat Hotel

Transport info

The nearest airports are at Dalaman and Bodrum (Milas).

Marmaris otogar lies 2km to the north of town and offers a reasonable choice of buses east along the coast to Fethiye, north to Muğla (for Bodrum and Akyaka) and west to Datça. Bozburun and Turunç.

The cafes at the otogar behave like the airports and overcharge for everything but there's a good wi-fi signal from some of them.

A fleet of small buses run around town all the time. Flat fares can still be paid in cash. 

In summer there are daily catamaran services to Rhodes (Greece). You should book a day ahead and will need to show your passport. The services are timed to make day trips possible.

Day trip destinations

Akyaka (Gökova)

Amos

Bozburun

Cleopatra's Island

Datça

Hisarönü

İçmeler

Orhaniye

Rhodes

Selimiye

Söğüt

Turgut

Turunç

Read more about Marmaris: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-318362-testing-package-holiday-territory-marmaris-akyaka-and-around.html 

Read some personal memories of Marmaris: http://www.turkeyfromtheinside.com/blogbloggingaboutturkey/entry/69-marmaris-revisited.html

marmariscatNe kadar? One tin of Whiskas, please.

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