Turks have no shortage of national pride and this is felt deeply in the city of Çanakkale, the site of the Battle of Gallipoli, a huge victory for the Turks in 1915. In this article you will learn about things to do in Çanakkale, Turkey, but before we jump into sites and activities, let’s learn a little more about what makes Çanakkale so significant.
Battle of Gallipoli
During the First World War, the allied powers sought to capture the Dardanelles in Gallipoli (present day Çanakkale) and weaken the Ottoman Empire. However, after many casualties on both sides the allied powers abandoned their mission and the strategic peninsula remained in the hands of the Ottomans.
This battle was successfully carried out by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who would become the founder of the Turkish Republic several years later in 1923. The Ottoman Empire was crumbling at the time of the First World War, and Çanakkale may be the site where the pride of the Turkish people was born. With a major victory, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk continued to successfully lead the Turks to the establishment of the Republic, defeating the allied powers who sought to parcel the land in Turkey for themselves (goodbye colonialism).
It is important to be aware of this history when visiting this city, just as you would want to be aware of the history of the Holocaust or communism in Berlin, Germany.
Ferry from Çanakkale to Eceabat to see Gallipoli
In order to see the location where the battle of Gallipoli took place, you must take the ferry from Çanakkale’s city center to Eceabat and drive from there. A simple search on google will give you the directions you need. There are two essential places to visit in Gallipoli, or in Turkish Gelibolu: Lone Pine Cemetery and Memorial and Conkbayiri, also known as Chunuk Bair.
Lone Pine Cemetery & Memorial
During the war, there were many casualties from Britain, New Zealand and Australia. The Lone Pine Cemetery is the burial site for these allied fallen soldiers.
It is hard to imagine such a bloody war taking place in such a green, beautiful place full of flowers, thyme plants and olive groves.
It is considered one of the bloodiest battles of the Great War, with nearly half a million casualties total.
The burial site of the Turkish soldiers, as well as memorials can be found at Conkbayiri. You will see many Turkish tourists here, whereas not that many people visited the Lone Pine Memorial. Both locations are very moving.
This location is where Ataturk and the ottoman army kept watch, and where he was allegedly shot in his watch that was gifted by the German general Otto Liman von Sanders. The watch saved his life!
This location was integral to the victory of the Turks. It was a watchpoint and gave its inhabitants an upper hand in the battle. On the night of August 10th, the Turks sealed their victory when they secured Conkbayiri once and for all from the allies.
There is a memorial there gifted from New Zealand to honor their fallen soldiers. It’s inscribed “From the Uttermost Ends of the Earth.” The placement is meaningful, since it overlooks the Dardanelles Straits, displaying the reason they came to fight. Here is another great article that shares the significance of Conkbayiri.
After visiting the Gallipoli war sites, head down the road to see the Kilitbahir Castle. It was a fortress built to protect the straits during the Ottoman Empire. It’s a gorgeous location. It was not open the day we went but it was a beautiful site to visit nonetheless.
Explore Çanakkale’s City Center and Local Shops
There is a lovely downtown area in Çanakkale’s city center. There are many shops and cute cafes to stop in for tea or Turkish coffee. If you haven’t tried Turkish coffee yet at this point on your visit to Turkey, you should now!
Get donuts at the Berliner
There is one small shop called the Berliner, in which a Turkish man who lived many years in Germany sells his homemade donuts. He makes them fresh every day and they usually sell out by 4 pm. In case you did not know, donuts are not really available in Turkey (unless you go to a mall in Istanbul where there is Krispy Kreme), so to find these home-made, delicious soft donuts in the small city of Çanakkale was a real treat for this American expat!
See the Trojan horse from Troy
If you walk by the seaside for a while going north of the city center, you will eventually spot a large trojan horse. Çanakkale is not only Gallipoli, it is also where ancient Troy is. Remember the movie Troy with Brad Pitt? That was based on this city! To honor them, the horse from the movie stands proud in their city next to the lovely Dardanelles.
Drive down to the Ruins of Ancient Troy
So the horse from the movie is pretty cool, but if you drive south of the city for about twenty minutes you can find the old ruins of Troy. In Turkish, they call it Truva. Do the Illiad and the Odyssey ring a bell from ninth grade English? Perhaps Helen of Troy? There is extensive history here and the ruins are among some of the oldest in the country and world.
If you google the ancient city of Troy for directions, it is not too far from central Çanakkale and is located in a province called Hisarlik. It is only about 6 kilometers from the sea, so you’ll never get too far from the coastline. It is a lovely short drive in between Çanakkale and Troy (Hisarlik)!
This is a bit more modern and less historical than the last two activities. Bozcaada is beloved in Turkey. Turks love to visit over the holidays and on the weekends, so you can really get a feel for local tourism here and spend time interacting with Turks.
In Greek, the island is known as Tenedos and still holds many classic Greek-style homes that have been converted into boutique hotels. Some Bozcaada attractions include:
- Corvus Vineyard
- Church of St Mary
- Bozcaada Castle
- Bozcaada Museum
- Shopping in the city center
- Beaches (Akvaryum, Ayazma, Ayana)
Take a boat tour of the Dardanelles
For about an hour and a half and a very affordable price, you can take a boat tour of the Dardanelles to see the beautiful Canakkale coastline. The water is deep blue and the coast is lush green. You’ll spot castles, Greek style homes, and locals buzzing about shopping and drinking teas in cafes.
Eat at a restaurant by the water for some yummy food and drinks
There are a few small restaurants in Çanakkale very close to the ferry station in either direction. I recommend taking a seat, ordering some yummy food and taking in the sunset views with a nice Efes or Tuborg beer. We settled on a small pub, but the other locations looked nice too.
Transportation to Çanakkale
There is no airport in Canakkale, so the closest cities people often travel from are Izmir and Istanbul. I recommend either renting a car from one of these cities and driving, or taking a bus through Turkish bus lines such as Pamukkale or Kamilkoc. If you are planning a tour around Turkey, I recommend adding this small city to your itinerary.
There are surely many more things to do and see in Çanakkale, I hope this list gets you off to a great start! You can probably accomplish each of these things in 2-3 days. If you’ve made it this far, congrats! My husband and I came to Çanakkale to celebrate our first anniversary. We loved it and look forward to visiting again one day!
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