Two regions spanning across the European and Asian border, Canakkale lies on the narrowest point of the Dardanelle Strait. It is south from the touristic capital of Istanbul. Host to a budding university crowd and lively nightlife, the city has also played host to many ancient settlers, most famously the Trojans.
Meanwhile, the Gallipoli Peninsula sits on the opposite banks, a poignant landmark in 20th century history. Here, the Battle of Gallipoli took place. Gallipoli Tours can take you to some of the many monuments dotted across the region.
The Ancient City of Troy
Founded over 4,000 years ago, these ancient ruins are home to a replica of the legendary Trojan horse, used in battle to smuggle warriors into the enemy’s fortress. The site may not be as awe inspiring as some of Turkey’s other historical locations, but the UNESCO World Heritage site, since 1998, is worth a visit. It is open daily and located close to Canakkale.
German archaeologist, Heinrich Schliemann, discovered Troy in the late 19th century. Excavations began in 1871 and have been ongoing. Troy, or Truva in Turkish, dates back to 3,000 BC. Once a prosperous trading port, it is a complex combination of 9 ancient cities. The ruins of each city lie upon the remains of the last. While parts of the site are still largely overgrown, you can still enjoy a stroll through the old stones and typical amphitheater and imagine how it was to live many millennia before.
While this is not an original Trojan structure, the oversized wooden horse that stands on Canakkale’s seafront is the actual model that starred alongside Brad Pitt in the popular 2004 movie of Troy. As you take a walk along Canakkale’s pretty promenade, you will be sure to pass this modern monument which typically surrounded by locals and tourists posing for photos.
The village of Kilitbahir, located on the opposite banks of the Dardanelle Strait, takes on the name of the fortress that dominates the nearby hill. Built by Mehmet the Conqueror in the 15th century, additional fortifications were added in the 16th century. The castle remains in incredibly good condition. Today you can take the car and passenger ferry from Canakkale harbour and walk from the village to the turrets of Kilitbahir for pleasant views over the region.
Canakkale City Centre
Within the city centre of Canakkale,you have some interesting places to visit. The town boasts an extensive Military Museum on the waterfront. History buffs will certainly want to visit for the full explanation of the events that took place during 1915. You can see antique artifacts in the inside display. The museum itself sits in the centre of a park that is dotted with equipment of the Ottoman military. You may also want to stop by the Archaeological Museum, Ceramic Museum, and the grand Clock Tower. You will see scattered eateries and bars along the old town streets. Young and lively crowds fill them in the evenings.
On the outskirts of Canakkale is a 15th century Ottoman castle, Cimenlik Kalesi. The impressive fortress still houses original cannons within its tough stone walls. Inside you will see paintings depicting the Battle of Gallipoli. Make sure to bring a camera because Cimenlik Castle also offers good panoramic views.
The Dardanelle Strait
The Dardanelle Strait connects the Aegean Sea to the mouth of the Marmara Sea. It divides the European and Asian continents and earned its name from the World War I Dardanelles Campaign. Taking the regular car ferry between Canakkale and Eceabat on the Gallipoli Peninsula gives you the unique opportunity to cross from one to another and enjoy the views to either sides of the channel. The coastline on both sides is home to both ancient and modern historical sites. International tourists tend to visit these less frequently.
This was the original landing point of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps on April 25, 1915, when the battle to control the Black Sea’s trading route began. It was the main base for the Allied forces until they evacuated in October that same year. Close to the bay is at least one sunken warcraft. It still sits below the crystal-clear waters. You can see it by boat and snorkel or dive over the wreckage.
World War I Monuments
The Gallipoli Peninsula is scattered with monuments of the brave soldiers who died during the many battles. The peninsula is of great importance in modern history and draws visitors, particularly from Turkey, New Zealand and Australia.
These sites are located fairly close together and close to the original trenches and battlefields. Three of the most significant are:
- Lone Pine Memorial: This memorial stands upon a hilltop and is dedicated to the 1,167 deceased members of the Australian forces. Among these are the graves of 504 unidentified soldiers.
- Chunuk Bair: New Zealand’s Memorial, where troops were held captive above Anzacs Cove.
- Turkish 57th Regiment Memorial: Here’s where the Turkish forces were repeatedly attacked and suffered most with losses.
The Gallipoli Peninsula is home to various small towns. Most offer basic accommodations and restaurants, none have grown into large cities or tourist resorts. Therefore, they each maintain their Turkish authenticity. The town of Eceabat has found a happy balance between local life and tourism, with connections to points of interest on the peninsula and regular ferries across the channel. Eceabat has a charming waterfront and is a quieter alternative to Canakkale.
When you need a break from visiting ancient cities, battlefields, and monuments, you might want to take the 75-minute ferry from the village of Kabatepe, on the Gallipoli Peninsula, to Gokceada Island. You will enjoy pristine sandy beaches and rich blue water. You will enjoy seeing olive orchards, lush green hills and a touch of Greek architecture. The island is a blissful retreat from the modern world. Aydincik Beach is one of the most popular and fills up with weekend visitors from Izmir and Istanbul. On the island you can visit some of the rural villages and find plenty of opportunities for watersports and trekking.
During the last weeks of April, the Gallipoli Peninsula routinely becomes crowded with international and national tourists who come to pay their respects during the April 25th memorial service. The ceremonies typically begin in the early hours of the morning, as the sun is rising, and continue until midday. People come to visit the Lone Pine, Chunuk Bair, and 57th Turkish Regiment Memorials. It is wise to book accommodation and transport or an Istanbul to Gallipoli Tour well in advance if you want to see the region’s highlights during this period.