840km (522 miles) south of Istanbul; 240km (149 miles) south of Izmir; 180km (112 miles) west of Marmaris; 25km (16 miles) south of Bodrum Airport

When Turkish people wax lyrical over Bodrum, they are often describing the heavenly bays of the Bodrum Peninsula, namely Torba and Türkbükü. But even the center of Bodrum, with its Greek-style whitewashed houses dotting the hillside overlooking twin bays, is something to write home about.

Imagine that in 1925, shortly after the founding of the Republic and at a time when feelings of nationalism were high, Turkish writer (and Oxford-educated) Cevat Sakir Kabaagaçli was sentenced to 3 years of imprisonment in Bodrum for penning an article for which he was accused of "alienating the public from military service." Okay, so he was sent to the dungeon of St. Peter's Castle, but having made a friend of the local governor, was released after a year and a half and found a house overlooking the sea in which to live out his charmed period of exile. (His publisher wasn't so lucky; he was sent to Sinop, on the Black Sea.) The view from his home was so picturesque that it inspired him to pen piles of essays on the beauty and allure of life in what was then a backwater fishing village. It was these writings that attracted the intelligentsia of Turkey to Bodrum, a slow trickle that transformed this tiny fishing port of fewer than 5,000 inhabitants to Turkey's most popular seaside destination.

In spite of the hype, Bodrum strikes the perfect balance among whitewashed stucco hillside houses dripping in bougainvillea, magnificent vistas, historic imprints, and blowout nightlife. St. Peter's Castle dominates every corner of Bodrum from its spot at the middle of the resort town's twin harbors. The crumbled yet enduring remains of the Mausoleum, one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, also resides in Bodrum. And although it's Turkey's most popular "party destination," by day Bodrum is a quiet but thriving holiday beach resort, albeit with minimal actual beach. In the summertime the city's twin harbors become densely packed with hundreds of the wooden gulets offering trips to the nearby islands or for the Mavi Yoluculu (the "Blue Cruise"), Cevat's romanticized weeklong journey along the glorious coastlines of the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, Bodrum's nightlife -- an all-night party organized by club owners each trying to outdo the excesses and spectacle of the others -- is infamous throughout Turkey. Bodrum's popularity seems to have no limits, and as fast as the Turkish jet set can lay its claim to a secluded cove or sandy bay, tourism follows, spurring the entitled class to seek new unspoiled hunting grounds. Examples of this can be seen all along the Bodrum Peninsula, in the boutique hotels and beaches of Torba and Türkbükü; in the expansive coastlines at Yalikavak, Turgutreis, Ortakent, and Akyarlar; and in the poetry of the sunken ruins and waterside fish restaurants of Gümüslük. Bodrum is much more than the twin bays, and it still has quite a long way to go before becoming just another one of Turkey's overbuilt seaside resorts.

The Maltese Falcon -- After Süleyman the Magnificent's conquest of Rhodes, Charles V ended the Knights Hospitalers' 8-year exile in 1530, granting them Malta and Tripoli to block Ottoman presence in the western Mediterranean. The annual fee was one falcon, the namesake of a famous American classic, The Maltese Falcon.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.