Bodrum Family Travel
Following eight very active days in Istanbul and Cappadocia, we wanted to relax. So we traveled to Bodrum, in southwest Turkey, where Turks go in the summer to…relax!
We flew in from Nevsehir (Cappadocia), via Istanbul. It was supposed to be roughly an hour-long flight from Nevsehir to Istanbul and then another hour to Bodrum. Unfortunately a jet ahead of us got a flat tire upon landing in Bodrum and blocked the runway for a few hours. We were forced to divert to Izmir until the airport reopened, and ended up arriving roughly five hours late. Not a big deal, but a good reminder to always travel with charged power banks and snacks.
Once we arrived we fell immediately into relaxation mode. And over two days, that’s pretty much all we did – at our hotel and on a gulet (a traditional wooden Turkish boat). We visited the Castle of St. Peter too, the major attraction in Bodrum, but that’s about it. And in talking to people around Turkey who visit Bodrum regularly, that seems to be a standard plan of action: do nothing at your resort and/or spend a week or two on a gulet. Eating well is mandatory. Shopping not so much.
Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay Bodrum
Given that a lot of people base their Bodrum holidays around their resort, and we spent the majority of our time in Bodrum at the resort, I’ll start with where we stayed. Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay Bodrum was excellent – on par with other Kempinski properties that we’ve been to. Specific things that make us want to return:
- We had separate rooms (1406 and 1407), but could easily create a suite by closing an outer door and leaving our room doors open. It’s a perfect setup for families.
- The pool is excellent!
- There’s a game room with pool, ping pong and foosball. If you asked my kids what three things they would choose for a game room, it would be those. We spent hours there. Perfect.
- My kids loved exploring around the hotel and heading down to the water.
- The food was excellent. We had breakfast every day at the hotel and two dinners – one at Olives and one at Saigon. Saigon’s view set it apart. We heard great things about La Luce as well.
And the hotel at night was magical!
I also liked that my kids received Kempinski Barbaros Bay parrots at check-in. They’re almost getting too old for stuffed animals at check-in, but not yet!
Castle of St. Peter (Bodrum Castle)
In Istanbul we used Sea Song Tours for all of our transfers and sightseeing. So we went with them again in Bodrum. They picked us up at the airport, took us to our hotel, and then they handled all of our driving and sightseeing on day two. We loved Elif. Not only did she take my wife to the supermarket to buy Turkish ingredients to bring home, she was an excellent guide at the Castle of St. Peter.
The castle is amazing and well worth a visit. We had it mostly to ourselves, and the kids had a great time running around. And the castle contains the Museum of Underwater Archeology, Glasswreck Hall and the Carian Princess exhibit. Unfortunately most exhibits are closed for restoration (as of mid-2019), but the shipwreck exhibits we saw (with Elif’s narration) were excellent. It’s unusual for my kids to be that interested in a museum.
The highlight of our trip to Bodrum was our day on a gulet. Typically Turks rent gulets with friends and go out for several days or even several weeks, anchoring in different coves for swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding and snorkeling, and running into small towns occasionally. We only had a day but wanted to experience a gulet, and Sea Song arranged an excellent one for us – the Atalante. Following our castle tour with Elif, we walked a minute or so to the Bodrum marina and straight onto our gulet.
This couldn’t have been a better day! We started with roughly a half hour sail to a cove where we stayed for several hours. The kids loved jumping off the boat and swimming. We also kayaked and paddle boarded, we relaxed on the boat, and we had an excellent lunch. Several days earlier we were asked to choose a menu for the day, as they needed to stock the kitchen in advance. We chose seafood (seemed appropriate) and loved it. There were also constant snacks for the kids (and us).
After lunch we sailed to another spot where we did it all again – minus the lunch. If we could have changed anything, it would have been to book several days on the gulet – and have friends join us. We can see why Turks plan the same vacations year after year. It’s addictive doing nothing in a gorgeous setting with amazing food!
Bodrum to Kos
Our final day we headed back to the marina with Elif for the ferry from Bodrum to Kos, Greece. We booked 9:30am Bodrum Express tickets online. Elif exchanged our vouchers for tickets in the Bodrum Express office, and we went through Turkish passport control and onto the boat. The journey to Kos on a mostly-empty ferry took 45 minutes. We then got in, went through Greek immigration in minutes (a literal shack), drove across the island (we had a driver waiting for us), and easily made our 12:10pm flight to Athens. The alternative would have been to fly to Istanbul, connect and then fly on to Greece. The ferry was easier and less expensive.
Bodrum with kids doesn’t have to be expensive. Our trip was a splurge though. We received a media rate from Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay and Sea Song Tours. Rooms at Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay start at 133 Euros a night including breakfast. In the summer rooms are closer to 400 Euros a night. Sea Song charges $425/day for a guide and driver not including entrance or parking fees.
Our gulet, the Atalante, is $1,850/day for one day, but far less per day for extended bookings. That includes transportation to/from the gulet, lunch and wine on board, and a guided Bodrum Castle tour. There are also a less-expensive gulet option (a smaller boat) for $950/day and a more luxurious one for $2,700/day.
Have you been to Bodrum with kids? What do you recommend? Did we miss out by not spending much time in town?