About Marmaris and Icmeler beaches
Marmaris has one of the world’s largest natural harbours, a sweeping bay that has attracted everyone from Mark Anthony to the Crusaders and the gin palaces of today’s international yachting fraternity. Behind the harbour, the town has always existed as a resort and market, a lively town with a buzzing bazaar and noisy bar scene, sandwiched between the sea and steep pine-clad mountains. Many of the larger hotels are actually in Icmeler, a few kilometres from the centre in the next bay or in nearby Turunc.
Marmaris Beach is more popular than it perhaps deserves. The view is fabulous, but the stretch of sand is fairly small and very overcrowded while the sand itself is a dirty grey and gritty. Icmeler is still a mix of sand and shingle, but is far longer, yellower and less crowded. For a truly beautiful local beach, head offshore to Cleopatra Island. This was given to Cleopatra as a wedding present by Mark Anthony and legend says that he imported the fine white shell sand for her. There’s a wide range of watersports available off Icmeler Beach, from pedalos and banana boats to power boats and parasailing.
Beyond the beach:
Marmaris is one of the oldest and most sophisticated of Turkey’s resorts, and offers a great place for a laid-back holiday with a wide range of activities on, off and under the water. This is at the heart of the Turquoise Coast and there are numerous boat trips along the coast, to outlying islands to snorkel, dive and bask on deserted beaches, visit the phosphorus caves and even moonlight boat trips. On shore there are wonderful walks up through the heavily forested mountains and a huge range of sports and activities including horse riding, mountain and quad biking, jeep safaris and village tours. The only historic monument in town is the Ottoman fort, heavily rebuilt in recent years and now home to an archaeology museum.
Turkey is generally very child-friendly and Icmeler Beach in particular is pleasant for children with its broad, gently sloping sand. Most of the larger hotels have good facilities for children, including kids’ clubs, and the Atlantis Waterpark (www.marmarisinfo.com/waterpark), with its slides and rides, offers a change from the natural waves and there are a few thrill rides such as the revers. The bazaar is always entertaining and there is plenty of space for running around, although the midday heat may knock children flat.
Marmaris isn’t as close to the great historic sites as some of the other resorts, but you can’t move along the Turkish coast without falling over some history and there is still some around here. Take a trip along the Datça Peninsula to ancient Knidos or back towards Dalaman to visit Kaunos. Inland are the lovely regional capital, Mugla, with its Ottoman houses and excellent Thursday market, and Milas, home to the local carpet industry. About four hours’ drive from the coast are Hierapolis and the ‘frozen’ waterfall of Pamukkale, its limestone pools cascading spectacularly down the mountain. Or take your passport and a boat and head across to the Greek island of Rhodes with its great Crusader castles for the day.
Surprisingly, Marmaris doesn’t have any totally stand-out places for a really special night out, although there are some very good restaurants. Try Mr Zek, near the castle, or Dede or Uno Momento near the harbour. Five minutes’ drive east of Datça, on the peninsula south of Marmaris, an American couple have set up the Mountain of Roses olive farm (www.olivefarm.net), where you can tour the mill, taste and buy the finest olive oil and, on Fridays, taste their very moreish olive bread. It may still be noisy and laden with alcohol, but for a magical night dancing under the stars, try a moonlight cruise from the jetty in front of the Crazy Daisy Bar.