BODRUM; TURKEY Was the Top Holiday Spot for Britons Last Year, According to One Survey, and This Summer Bodrum Is Expected to Lead the League as Our Most Favoured Resort There. Gareth Huw Davies Checked out How Far [Pounds Sterling]100 Goes in the Town Being Spoken of as Another St Tropez or Marbella (All Prices Are for Two People)

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Byline: GARETH HUW DAVIES

TREASURE CHEST OF WRECKS A PENINSULA OF PERFECTION DO AS THE ROMANS DID THE New York Times has just named Bodrum as one of its top destinations, citing its swanky hotels, chic new marina, prowling paparazzi and high-decibel nightlife.

It scores over many other Turkish resorts by being so close to an airport - just 22 miles away.

By day Bodrum, with its handsome ranks of white stucco houses and borders of bougainvillea, shimmers on a hill above two bays. By night it basks in the glow of the lit-up St Peter's Castle, home of the fabulous Museum of Underwater Archaeology ([pounds sterling]7). There are wondrous riches under Turkey's coastal waters - 20,000 or more wrecked boats from 1000 BC and earlier. A tiny number have been recovered and the very best are here, with a tantalising taste of their treasure.

Above ground we are 500 years too late for the astounding 'Seven Wonders of the World' Mausoleum (Bodrum was then Halicarnassus), which the Knights of Malta made into the castle. But the base is worth seeing, and there's much more left of the amphitheatre and the thunderous Myndus Gate, which Alexander the Great, below, tried to beat down when this was the strongest fortified city in Asia Minor (all these are free).

I THINK Bodrum and its 15 miles of peninsula to the west sum up the success of the Turkish tourist boom. While it turned small villages such as Gumbet into 24-hour resorts, neighbouring beaches remained havens of peace.

Until 30 years ago it was easier to travel by boat than by land around this rugged out-thrust, where the Aegean and Mediterranean meet.

Roads are good now, but consider hiring a car (and by the day) for longer trips only.

The peninsula villages of Bitez, Gundogan, Ortakent, Turgutreis and Yalikavak, which provide plenty of beach life, watersports and diving, are all easily reached by dolmus (little bus) for a few pounds. Any dolmus trip takes you through high and ancient farmland of terraced fields and beehives, with thrilling glimpses over a latticework of islands, capes and inlets looking out on to a brilliant aquamarine sea. …