8 Top-Rated Attractions in Çanakkale, Gallipoli Peninsula & Troy
Full of history, both ancient and modern, the area around the famed Dardanelles has been the crossing point of invading armies for centuries. The legendary story of the Trojan wars took place here; the Ottoman sultans built defensive castles that still lord over the coast today; and in the modern era, this is the somber site of World War I's Gallipoli Campaign, the most famous battle between Allied forces and the Ottoman army of the war. This has left the region with plenty of historic attractions for tourists.
1 Troy (Truva)
By far one of the top things to do while in town is visit Troy. The discovery of ancient Troy (the city thought to be the site of the Homeric legend of the Trojan Wars) was mostly thanks to amateur German archaeologist and treasure hunter Heinrich Schliemann, who began digging here in 1871. Later, archaeologists working here have excavated not just the one famed city of King Priam who fought the Greeks in a long 10-year war (as told in Homer's Iliad) but several layers of different settlements that flourished here over a course of 2,500 years (from 3000 BC to 500 AD). The site can be difficult to understand due to the nature of the complicated excavations, lack of standing monuments (you are looking mostly at foundations), and a dire shortage of information panels. For most visitors though, the sheer wonder of this tourist attraction is standing on the site where the myth of Achilles, Hector, Paris, and the Trojan horse all walked into history.
2 Military Museum
Çanakkale's Military Museum sits in a park facing the Gallipoli Peninsula across the Dardanelles Strait, where World War I's Allied attack on Turkish forces was played out. The park is scattered with old military equipment, and the Ottoman building inside the park has interesting exhibits explaining the Gallipoli campaign. A visit here is a good opportunity to further understand the battle that took place here from the Turkish perspective. The panoramic views over the water from the park are another reason to come here.
Nearby is Çimenlik Castle (Çimenlik Kalesi), built in 1452 by the Ottoman sultan Mehmet the Conqueror (who took Istanbul from the Byzantines). The ramparts of this castle, with cannons still pointed out towards the Dardanelles, have fine views across the area, and inside are some paintings portraying the Gallipoli battles.
3 Trojan Horse
Film-buff alert. Çanakkale's waterfront is home to the wooden Trojan horse model used in the 2004 Wolfgang Petersen movie Troy. Nearly every tourist in town stops here to snap a photo of this old movie prop, which once rubbed shoulders with Brad Pitt. If you're also interested in the history of Troy and are heading that way, at the base of the horse is an informative model of the site, which can help with understanding the scale of the ruins and planning and organizing your trip.
4 Kilitbahir Fortress
The pretty fishing harbor of Kilitbahir is dominated by this impressive fortress, which like Çimenlik Castle in Çanakkale, was built by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1452. Süleyman the Magnificent added the sturdy interior tower in the 16th century. As long as you have a head for heights, climbing up to the top of the ramparts here is great fun and provides commanding views across the Dardanelles back to Çanakkale. The ferry here from Çanakkale dock leaves throughout the day when full.
Address: Kilitbahir village, Gallipoli Peninsula
5 Northern Gallipoli Battlefields
For most visitors to the Gallipoli Peninsula (both Turkish and foreign), a trip here is a pilgrimage and a remembrance of the horror of war. In World War I, Allied forces (British, Australian, New Zealand, Indian, and French troops) landed here on 25 April, 1915 to launch an attack on the Ottoman Empire (fighting on Germany's side). The brutal nine-month campaign, which the Turks finally won under the brilliant strategic command of army officer Mustafa Kemal (later to become Atatürk, founder of modern Turkey) resulted in 130,000 dead and more than half a million casualties, and today the pine covered hills are scattered with sobering memorials.
The Anzac Cove area (where the Allies landed) has a moving commemorative monument and many cemeteries, while the Lone Pine Cemetery area with the most Australian graves (where a four-day battle left 7,000 dead), and up past the Turkish monument commemorating the Ottoman 57th regiment to the Chunuk Bair New Zealand Cemetery and Chunuk Bair Mehmet Memorials hold more important battlefields and graves. Many visitors find that taking an organized tour of the battlefields is worthwhile to help make sense of the history.
6 Southern Gallipoli Battlefields
The southern Gallipoli Peninsula is home to more memorials and cemeteries from the Gallipoli campaign. The village of Alçıtepe is home to the Salim Mutlu War Museum, with plenty of finds displayed from the battlefields, and the Gallery of the Gallipoli Campaign, with photos and dioramas illustrating the battles. Turkish, British, and French cemeteries of soldiers killed during the campaign are all scattered to the south. The mammoth Abide Monument (Çanakkale Şehitleri Anıtı) at Morto Bay remembers all of Gallipolis' fallen Turkish soldiers.
7 Gökçeada Island
The peaceful ambience of Gökçeada Island makes it a lovely place to rest up for a couple of days, particularly if you need a break from sightseeing. You can admire white-sand beaches backed by lushly-forested slopes and olive groves and explore several old Greek villages, full of abandoned and dilapidated old stone houses. Tepeköy village is the most beautiful, and Aydıncık beach is the best place to throw down your towel. During summer, the island can be crammed with local tourists, particularly on weekends, so try to plan your visit for a weekday if you're traveling at this time.
Location: The island is accessed by ferry from Kabatepe village on the Gallipoli Peninsula
The coastline hugging the Dardanelles is home to plenty of lesser-seen ruins and monuments that most tourists miss in their haste to see Troy or explore Gallipoli's WWI battlefields. If you have time, small sites such as Alexandria Trois are well worth seeking out for their atmosphere of half-forgotten glory. For those looking to splash about in the Dardanelles, the only beach where you're allowed to officially swim on the Gallipoli Peninsula is Brighton Beach near Kabatepe village. This is a great place to come for a bit of sand, sun, and sea relaxation after you've finished sightseeing.