Both the town and the peninsula of Datça were called Reşadiye for a brief period in the beginning of the 20th century, honoring the penultimate Ottoman Sultan Mehmed V Reşad, and some maps may still refer to the peninsula under this name; today Reşadiye is the name of one of the quarters of the town.
The long and narrow Datça Peninsula, whose outline follows the undulations of small bays and coves facing south or north all along its length which reaches near 100 km (62 mi), corresponds almost exactly to the Datça district, with the addition beyond its isthmus of a small panhandle in the direction of the south-east. The isthmus itself is only several hundred meters wide.
The extreme end of the western tip of the district and the peninsula, the locality called Tekir, is the location of the ancient city of Knidos. There is an ongoing debate on whether or not this location was the original site of the ancient city, a number of sources claiming that until the mid-4th century BCE, Knidos was halfway along the peninsula, near the present-day district center.
The peninsula’s eastern end is marked by the fjord-like indentation of Bencik Cove, 1.5 km in length, at the end of which the narrow isthmus where it joins the mainland is found. This point is a natural curiosity which offers a wide view of the Gulf of Gökovain the north and the Gulf of Hisarönü in the south and is called Balıkaşıran (literally, the place where fish may leap across) and is also often used for the portage of small boats. According to Herodotus, during the Persian invasions in 540 BC, the Knidians had sought to dig a canal at this spot as a defensive measure and in order to transform their territory into an island. But an oracle was consulted who reportedly said “If the gods had so willed, they would have made your land an island. Do not pierce the isthmus.” Whereupon they surrendered to the Persians.
The quarters of the city of Datça are Reşadiye, Eski Datça ‘Old Datça’ and İskele ‘quay’, separated by about a mile from each other. Reşadiye was the original administrative core when the town was renamed Datça and turned into a district center in 1928, before it was moved to İskele quarter. The center town is crossed by the short course of the Datça Stream (Datça Çayı in Turkish).
The Datça district has nine villages scattered along the peninsula. These are; Cumalı, Emecik, Hızırşah, Karaköy, Kızlan, Mesudiye, Sındı, Yakaköy, Yazıköy. Historically, apart from small coastal patches, Datça Peninsula has two fertile areas along its length. The whole of the eastern half is bare, mountainous and scarcely inhabited. The western part is also mountainous, rising in places over 1,000 meters, but has towards its western end on the south side a considerable extent of well-watered land reaching to the coast at Palamutbükü locality and supporting a group of villages known collectively as Betçe (the five villages). These are; Mesudiye, Sındı, Yakaköy, Yazıköy, Cumalı. The village of Mesudiye, very near the sea shore has a jetty owned by the community of villagers. The village’s bay is called Hayıtbükü. Palamutbükülocality, more to the west, also has a little pier which allows boats to moore. Palamutbükü today is a holiday village with a long beach.
The second and larger area of good land is in the middle of the peninsula southwest of the median isthmus dividing the two halves and centered on the town of Datça. The region’s promising potential was noted already in the 1880s by the hydrographer Thomas Abel B. Spratt in the following terms:
The plain and valley of Datça is very fertile, having fine groves of olive and valonia, and of almonds and other fruit trees, with abundance of water, if properly utilized.
A point of note on the general settlement pattern of these villages is that the locations chosen were never in the immediate coastline, but always at a mile’s distance or more from the sea and at a relatively safe altitude on the slopes of a hill. The reason was from times immemorial was the fear of pirates, advantaged as they were by the intricate geology of shores of southwestern Turkey and of the many islands and islets that are its natural extensions, in an environment not unlike that of the Caribbean Sea. Piracy remained a serious security problem well until the beginning of the 20th century and especially during the weakening of the Ottoman Empire and the issue often necessitated foreign intervention.
At around 10 PM, 29 August 2012, a forest fire raged through the town of Emecik, Datca, reducing 75 hectares of forested land to ash. The fire broke out near Karaincir Resort in Emecik, quickly growing out of control with the aid of wind gusts. It took 300 firefighters, 28 water pumpers, 13 water tankers, 8 ranger vehicles, 10 ground teams and 6 bulldozers to bring the fire under control. According to Özkan Şahin, the Marmaris Forest Ranger Chief, this has been the 10th forest fire in the past two weeks. The fact that it had spread from some point near the roadside and reached the seaside within five minutes indicates the possibility of arson. He continued to say that quantities of gasoline might have been spilled at intervals between these two points in order to allow the fire to advance at such a high speed.
Datça Peninsula is a prized location for tourists visiting Turkey, especially by sea, because of the beauty of its many coves and larger bays, which are favored ports of call for those undertaking the celebrated Blue Cruise along Turkey‘s spectacular southwest coast. Boats (usually gulets) depart either from Bodrum or Marmaris, or from Datça itself for these tours.
The road from Marmaris to Datça may still be a little bumpy in some parts, and winds along a fauna that gradually but strikingly differs from that of the mainland.
Apart from the traditional settlements, there are also a dozen recently constructed vacation villages in the peninsula. The balance between preserving the natural way of life and fauna and investing in large-scale infrastructures for the tourism industry is a vividly ongoing debate for Datça, as for the entire region of southwestern Turkey. The inhabitants of the Datça peninsula have shown themselves clearly opposed to gigantism and are in favor of developing the tourism potential of the region through family pensions and inns and small hotels well integrated into their environment, while governments in the past displayed approaches to the debate in mere foreign exchange entry terms.