Hiking On Bodrum Peninsula

IF YOU LEAVE BEHIND THE CROWDED COASTAL VILLAGES AND EXPLORE THE PENINSULA’S MOUNTAINS STARTING FROM THE VILLAGES TUCKED AWAY IN THE HILLS, YOU’LL FIND A LITTLE KNOWN BODRUM.

Who considers that this was once the glorious Carian capital of Halicarnassus?

Who remembers that almost 2,400 years ago the famous Carian King Mausolos exiled the residents of the Lelegian capital Pedasa (inside today’s Konacık) and settled them here to swell the population of his new capital city? 

Who would believe that until just 40-50 years ago the Bodrum Peninsula was plagued by a chronic water shortage and all winter long watered the fields with rain water collected in domed cisterns built for the purpose 300-400 years ago?  Who remembers that summer used to be a time of scarcity in Bodrum and winter the season of merriment and plenty?

It is not that long ago that a boat was the only mode of transportation from one of the peninsula’s coves to another. Some of the footpaths that used to link the villages have been lost today due to construction, but the hiking and mule trails used for centuries in the inland areas are still in good shape. And one of them connects Ortakent (ancient Müsgebi) to Sandıma (today’s Yalıkavak).

A group of us decide to hike this trail. We arrange to meet at Bodrum Bus Station at 10 a.m. Hikes usually always start from here because we start from one point and finish at another. We leave immediately since any dolmuş (share cab) going to Turgutreis will drop us at Ortakent.

From Kemer Street opposite the school at Ortakent city center we start walking to our first goal, the village of Yaka. The villagers we encounter along the way greet us warmly, with a smile. With still about three or four hours to go till we reach the mountains, we turn left, to the Bodrum Golf Club. Come on, let’s have our first tea of the day in this pleasant environment!

From there we take the pebble road to the north. On our right and left, olive trees, bent by the ages, attract our attention. Although the road is wide and easy to walk on, we are in a sweat by the time we reach the village. But the view makes it all worthwhile. Dotted with cypress trees, the vast Ortakent Plain lies right behind us.

We follow the road through the village briefly and then head uphill. A cat ensconced in the tree branches eyes us with curiosity. A little ways ahead a dog tethered in a garden, his front paws planted on a log, watches our little group as if he can’t believe his eyes. The road narrows and the landscape becomes more beautiful as we climb higher. Ortakent - the seashore at Yahşi, Çelebi Island, the Datça Peninsula, Kos-Istanköy… All lie at our feet!

Eventually we reach the pass to the highest point of our climb. We still can’t see the northern side of the peninsula from here. But Turgutreis and the islands off the coast, Dereköy Plain and the volanic rock Partipanas whose strange shape draws everyone’s interest are spread before us.

We continue down a narrow path to the slope’s middle elevation. The old hiking trail is further down but is obstructed now by thick brush. Proceeding to the northern pass amidst wild pear trees, we come across an elderly shepherd woman, trying to repair a shelter for baby goats with a hammer, a tiny saw and a few nails. We offer to help but she declines...

After we negotiate the pass, Yalıkavak Cove and the Küdür Peninsula lie below us in all their glory. We continue to the left, down a rather wide dirt road, to Partipanas. We know we’ve reached Sandıma when we come to a spring that flows summer and winter under an enormous mulberry tree on our left.

Due to the abundance of water, Sandıma’s terraced gardens are in this area. Although the olive, fig and citrus trees are, like the vines, neglected, their former beauty and fertility are still apparent. We’ve been hiking for three hours and it’s time now for a picnic. We have food with us, and we get drinking water from the spring. After half an hour we set off on the final leg of our hike, descending to the village of Sandıma, which was large and prosperous until 40-50 years ago.

One by one families abandoned first the nearby citrus orchards and then this ancient settlement to tourism. An elderly man and an artist couple who moved here from Istanbul keep life going in Sandıma. The Sanatevi (Art House) they created by combining several old stone houses and restoring them at their own expense is a virtual open air museum.

To the accompaniment of tea, we listen to the sculptor’s tales before setting out to explore Sandıma. All around us are modest examples of traditional Bodrum architecture. Descending from Sandıma to Yalıkavak, we come across two well-maintained cisterns. The rain water that dripped on their domed roofs was once channeled indoors and collected in a deep, round pool.

These aesthetically pleasing structures were cool and refreshing even in the scorching summer heat. The sunlight seeping through their side apertures and the marvelous acoustics of the water created a magical atmosphere. If only we had a ney (traditional Turkish flute)! In lieu of a ney, one of our friends breaks into a haunting Turkish folk song instead. Passing the citrus orchards, we come to Yalıkavak. While we wait for the Bodrum dolmuş, we drink a restorative tea in a tea garden next to a restored windmill, agreeing, of course, to meet again soon on another hiking trail.

AND THREE MORE HIKING TRAILS
Bitez harbor - Adaboğazı (Aquarium)
Lelegian capital Pedasa down to Demir cove
Gölköy Grove - villages of Girel/Kibrel and Dağbelen

BEAUTIFUL IN SUMMER TOO
1 Bitez - Adaboğazı Trail (an hour and a half there and back).The path that starts from the harbor east of Bitez Cove first follows the shore and later veers left (east) up a slope, eventually arriving at Adaboğazı Cove on the other side of the hill, aka Aquarium for its clear water. The whitewashed cistern here is still used for watering animals. Swimming is possible at several points.

FOR ARCHAEOLOGY BUFFS
2 Pedasa (Gökçeler) Castle down to Demir Cove (2 hours).To reach Pedasa, capital of the Lelegians, the first known civilization on Bodrum Peninsula, take a dolmuş as far as the upper district of Konacık and walk the approximately two kilometers from there through pine forest. A must-see open air museum has been created here recently under the auspices of Muğla University. After touring Pedasa Castle and necropolis, a comfortable stroll will take you down to Demir Cove west of Torba.

IN THE LAND OF CISTERNS
3 Gölköy Grove to the villages of Girel and Dağbelen (4 hours). Our starting point is the valley called Gölköy Korusu (Grove) on the Torba-Gölköy road. Following a steep climb through forest, we come to a wonderful meadow in the middle of which stands a splendid cistern under an enormous tree. From here the abandoned village of Girel is reached between Oyuklu and Karadağ. From there you can either head for the cistern on the opposite hill, and then down from Gazderesi to the Bitez junction, or you can continue westward along the ancient paths and walk as far as the village of Dağbelen.