Just like St Tropez, modern-day Bodrum attracts royalty and celebrities. The Duchess of Cornwall and Kate Moss were both spotted aboard boats there last summer, using it as a convenient base to gently meander along southwest Turkey's coastline.
There are 11 towns around Bodrum's steep green peninsula, some densely built and loud, but most low-key, where small restaurants beside the sea serve plates piled with mezze.
Bargain basement bucket-and-spade holidays are never far away on the Turkish coast, but Bodrum has an increasingly upmarket buzz that's impossible to ignore.
Starry names have arrived to cater for Bodrum's stellar guests. There's an Aman Hotel, Cipriani Restaurant and the bluntly named Billionaire nightclub, all on the northern coast between the A-list towns of Türkbükü and Yalikavak. In between the dense pine forests, olive groves and small bays on this prime stretch is Yalikavak's new 400-berth marina, Turkey's first mega-yacht project.
Asian super-brand makes its mark
The newest arrival is Asian super-brand Mandarin Oriental, set to open its first European resort among the hills overlooking Paradise Bay outside Türkbükü early next year. Along with 102 hotel rooms and suites there are 98 villas and 116 apartments for sale at Mandarin Oriental Residences, linked to the hotel by a waterfront boardwalk threaded around artfully landscaped gardens and due for completion this summer.
These are possibly the most exceptional resort properties being built on Europe's coastline this year, aimed at wealthy international buyers who want space — the villas range from 6,030sq ft to a whopping 8,180sq ft — subtle interiors of pale grey-veined marble and teak flooring, all backed by a serious brand name.
The location on three private bays of the Aegean, the contemporary glass and stone architecture, and Mandarin Oriental's legendary service level are causing quite a stir. Turkish developers Astas Holding, whose previous projects include Kempinski and Four Seasons Hotels in Istanbul, have defied the recession to sell more than 70 per cent of the resort to buyers from Europe, Turkey and Asia.
"Bodrum is about sailing, good food, good weather and an easy and sociable lifestyle," says Meral Asci, of Astas Holding. "It has the potential to be a leading Mediterranean resort, and by bringing the best brands we are placing a marker on the world stage."
Prices start from £1.03 million for two- to four-bedroom apartments and from £2.8 million for four-bedroom villas. As you would expect from this brand, facilities are extensive. There's a 29,600sq ft spa, fitness centre, pools with entrancing views across the turquoise sea, tennis courts, beach club and six bars and restaurants.
Homeowners get 24-hour concierge and access to all the hotel's facilities, including a discreetly placed helipad.
Spectacular villas in picturesque locations
Bodrum's traditional local architecture of angular white houses, dotted like sugar cubes on the green hillsides, is being updated to create some spectacular new villas.
In Yalikavak, a newly completed sleek three-bedroom white villa, above the coast with private pool and garden, is £293,800, and a four-bedroom detached villa by the sea in Türkbükü is £487,890, both available through Place Overseas.
Spot Blue has attractive three-bedroom villas in Gumusluk Bay in the west of the peninsula, with good sea views and private pools, from £301,700 and two-bedroom resale apartments from only £42,380, proving that, for now at least, Bodrum can provide an impressive range of property.
CONTACTS AND FACTFILE
* Mandarin Oriental Residences: mandarinorientalresidencesbodrum.com; 00 90 (252) 357 7462
*Place Overseas: propertyturkeyforsale.com; 020 8371 0059
*Spot Blue: spotblue.com; 020 8337 6036
* VAT: VAT at 18 per cent is payable on newbuild property.
* Travel: Pegasus, easyJet and Turkish Airlines fly from Stansted, Gatwick or Heathrow to Bodrum