Once a sleepy fishing village, Marmaris has turned into one of the largest resorts on the Aegean coast of Turkey. Little of its history remains, as the town is now a modern development with tourism at its heart and soul. The population swells to a massive 150,000 in the summer, with most hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and shops catering to low-cost package holidays, although there are facilities for all budgets.
Despite the development which reaches around 10km along the west of the bay, Marmaris is also well-known for its expanse of green, present the whole year round thanks to the pine-covered hills which surround the town. There are many beaches around the bay, and there are ancient cities and seaside villages close by for day trips. The yacht harbour is the biggest and newest in Turkey, and therefore the busiest charter port especially for trips along the Turquoise Coast.
In addition to the climate, beaches and facilities of the town, the transportation infrastructure is a definite plus for attracting visitors. It has easy connections to the nearby airport Dalaman, ferries to Rhodes, and on the road to Datca and Fethiye. The harbour has attracted by private boats from around the world, with yacht maintenance and production in the workshops on the Yalanci Strait. With the climate being comfortable even in winter, and the nearby impressive mountains and pine forests, Marmaris is likely to remain a popular and practical holiday spot for a long time.
The climate of Marmaris is Aegean with approximately 179 sunny days a year, mild wintertime, nice hot weather starting in the end of April till the middle of July. The following period starting from the middle of July till the end of August is extremely hot, with air temperature rising to 42C sometimes! The average yearly rainfall is 200 mm per sq.m with a high of 870 mm in January and a low of 2 mm in July. Sea temperatures vary from 19-24 C during the summer, yet never drops below 15 C during the cooler seasons.
The town of Marmaris is located at the meeting place of the Aegean and Mediterranean seas, on the world's largest natural harbour, surrounded by pine-clad hills. Situated in Southwest Turkey, in the province of Mugla, Marmaris is one of Turkey's biggest tourist resorts. To the north lies the Gulf of Gokova, to the south the Mediterranean. On the west is Datca peninsula and to the east Koycegiz lake; all year round Marmaris is surrounded by blue and green. The hills running in to the sea and the beautiful bays make Marmaris very special.
The old part of town is a residential area around the castle. The old houses, all under preservation order and the narrow streets leading to them are a delight to explore: there are some classic examples of Mugla architecture on display. Marmaris later began to spread out around the castle hill and along the shore, but the growth of tourism resulted in housing being prohibited along the shoreline and planning permission granted only to tourist hotels. Marmaris is a year-round home for many foreigners, a large number of whom have yachts in the modern 2.000-berth marina. The population rises from 30.000 in winter to around 150.000 in summer due to available hotel accommodation.
Marmaris is 60 kilometres away from the provincial capital Mugla, and the mountainous landscape of the surrounding countryside shows that forestry plays an important part in the area's economy. The town boundaries enclose and area of 86 000 hectares, 65 000 of which are forested. The beauty of Marmaris stems from this just as much as from the natural harbour.
It is not known when Marmaris was founded, but Physkos as Marmaris was previously known, was part of the Carian Empire in the 6th century B.C. when overrun by the Lydians. Another invasion by the Lydians in 334 B.C. led to the partition of the Roman Empire of Alexander the Great.
According to the historian Herodotus, the Carians settled in what is now the province of Mugla after coming from Crete. They also took over the town of Physkos with its large natural harbour, and used it as a military base for their campaigns against the Phoenicians in Rhodes and other Aegean islands. The Carian civilisation entered a dark period after 300 B.C., coming under the rule of the Egyptians, Asstrians, Ionians and Dorians successively. The Dorians turned the Carian province into 9 colony cities, also including Halicarnassos and Knidos, which became an active trading centre for Anatolia and led to an increase in handicrafts and maritime trade.
In 138 B.C. Attalos the 3rd, King of Bergama, whose predecessors had ruled Caria for 90 years, ceded Physkos to Rome and the city was ruled from Rhodes by Roman generals. The city became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1425, and the castle was built in 1521 AD for use in a planned assault on Rhodes. The Ottoman Sultan at the time, Kanuni Sultan Suleyman, changed the name of the town to Mimaras, which then became Marmaris according to the historian Evlija Celebi.
A local rumour has it that the reason for the change of name Mimaras was that Suleyman, on returning from his expedition to Rhodes, disliked the castle and exclaimed "mimar as!", which means "hang the architect!" Unfortunately there is no evidence to support this amusing story.
According to the historian Herodotus, there has been a castle in Marmaris since 3000B.C. Long after this, during the Hellenistic Age, Alexander the Great invaded Caria and the castle was besieged. The 600 inhabitants of the town realized that they had no chance against the invading army and burned their valuables in the castle before escaping to the hills with their women and children. The invaders realized the strategic value of the castle and repaired several of the destroyed sections to house a few hundred soldiers before the main army returned home.
The 17th century writer Evliya Celebi mentions the castle, which was rebuilt by Kanuni Sultan Suleyman in 1522 when he invaded Rhodes.
Since 1979 restoration work has been continuing at the castle in order to restore it to near its original condition. Under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture the castle has been converted into a museum. There are 7 galleries, the largest of which is used as an exhibition hall and the courtyard is decorated with seasonal flowers. In addition to the permanent displays, cultural and artistic activities are offered.