South of the main Ionian sites the southern Aegean begins with reminders of another ancient civilization, the Carians, a purportedly barbarous people indigenous to the area (a rarity in Anatolia) who spoke a language distantly related to Greek. Bafa Gölü (or Lake Bafa) and ancient Heracleia ad Latmos on its northeast shore make a suitably dramatic introduction to this once isolated and mysterious region. From the nearest substantial town, Milas, the ancient sites of Euromos, Labranda and Iassos provide tempting excursions.
South of Milas, on the Gulf of Gökova, Ören is a rare treat: an attractive coastal resort not yet steamrollered by tourism. Most visitors bypass Ören in favour of Bodrum and its peninsula, very much the big event on this coast. While the tentacles of development creep over the surrounding land, in places what first attracted outsiders to the area still shines through on occasion.
Further south, Marmaris is another big – and rather overblown – resort, from which the Loryma (Hisarönü) peninsula beyond, bereft of a sandy shoreline but blessed with magnificent scenery, offers the closest escape. As a compromise, Datça and its surroundings might fit the bill, with remote beaches nearby more rewarding than the much-touted ruins of ancient Knidos.