Marmaris is 590km (366 miles) west of Antalya; 165km (102 miles) southeast of Bodrum; 900km (558 miles) south of Istanbul; 185km (115 miles) southwest of Pamukkale; 120km (74 miles) northwest of Dalaman.
After commissioning the construction of the castle on the hill as a preliminary to his siege on Rhodes, Süleyman the Magnificent returned from an expedition and exclaimed, “Mimar as!” (Hang the architect!). Locals use this story to explain how Marmaris got its name; and although this is another of those cute Turkish anecdotes, this one is particularly apt — not for the castle, but for what this town has become. Urban blight has stricken “ocean drive,” characterized by seedy-looking signage and fast-food stands advertising baked potatoes to a high concentration of low-budget English tourists lazing about on the bleak public beach.
That said, the pine-covered mountains surrounding central Marmaris provide a breathtaking backdrop to the small bays, inlets, and coves of the Datça Peninsula, the land separation between the Aegean and Mediterranean seas, which is accessible via a handful of well-worn rough asphalt roads that wind slowly through exceptionally breathtaking mountain terrain.
Closest to Marmaris is Içmeler, a smaller seaside resort at the base of a beautifully crested, pine-covered mountain range, and home to a number of luxury resort hotels.
About 81km (50 miles) west across a wilderness of pine-clad mountain ranges (a little over an hour by car from Marmaris) is the oft-overlooked seaside town of Datça, the old Greek inland village of Eski or Old Datça, and farther west along a slow-going road toward the tip of the peninsula, the ancient city of Knidos.
The Datça Peninsula still remains somewhat underdeveloped, probably because most of its visitors sail in with their own accommodations. Although this is the preferred method of travel in these parts, it’s just this lack of attention that has preserved the ruggedness of the terrain and charm of the more remote fishing villages.
The road west from Marmaris is in neglect, and west of Datça town it’s almost nonexistent. So, if traveling by land, you may want to tackle the region of Marmaris separately from the region around Datça town — reached via ferryboat from Bodrum in under 2 hours.
These days, Marmaris is top-heavy with cheap tourism, and it shows. But a short drive out of town reveals the original appeal that drew visitors in the first place. Leaving their mark along the peninsula are a slew of ancient civilizations, some woven into the daily fabric of humble villages, tourist marinas, and magnificent beaches. North of Marmaris on the road to Mugla is Gökova, another stop on the yachting trail, dotted with clusters of picturesque wooden houses built in the two-story Ottoman style.Just outside of Marmaris is the lovely resort of Içmeler, magnificently sited in a sheltered cove at the base of rippling pine-covered mountains. The fit and ambitious may want to sample a portion of the scenic trail that runs all the way from Içmeler to Degirmenyani, about 19km (12 miles) west.
The village of Turunç, farther south, sustains the charm of tradition and the comforts of modernity. A popular stop for yachts, it accommodates its visitors with handcrafted products such as honey, garden thyme, and sage tea. The long and winding road southwest to Selimiye is well worth the effort.
Frozen in time, this settlement is an ideal spot for enjoying local fish, village wine, and magical sunsets following a day on Siliman Beach.
Take your time traveling south from Hisarönü, though: You can walk on water at the beach of Kizkumu [ST] in Orhaniye, just beyond Hisarönü, where a lengthy sand bar extends 800m (2,624 ft.) into the bay. In the heat of summer, you may want to stop off at the waterfall near Turgut village, stroll through the Carpet Weavers Corporation, and relax over gözleme (a crepe filled with cheese, spinach, or both) and ayran (a Turkish yogurt drink).
It wouldn’t be fair to finish off this section without mentioning the Marmaris Castle Museum (tel. 0252/412-1459), in the fortress in the old section of Marmaris. Perched above the harbor, the best access is through the bazaar behind the Atatürk statue; follow the signs through the narrow streets up the hill to the museum entrance. The exhibit isn’t terribly interesting, but the views of the harbor and castle itself might be worth the 1.35YTL ($1) admission fee. The museum is open daily from 8am to noon and from 1 to 5:30pm.