9 Top-Rated Attractions in Çanakkale, Gallipoli Peninsula & Troy
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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. Find the best places to visit with our list of the top attractions in Çanakkale, the Gallipoli Peninsula & Troy.
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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 AD 500).
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. Troy Museum
Opened in 2018, the Troy Museum, right beside the entrance to the Troy archaeological site, exhibits 2,000 artifacts unearthed during excavation of the site; many of them never having been displayed before. This is a great opportunity to get your head around Troy's vast history, plus explore the site's famous place in mythology and legend.
On display, you'll find marble statuary, coinage, ceramics, and altars that walk you through the different ages of Troy's settlements. Come here straight after a walk through the ruins to help you piece together and understand the 5,000 years of history that the ruins represent.
3. 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 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. Southern Gallipoli Battlefields
The southern Gallipoli Peninsula is home to more memorials and cemeteries from the Gallipoli campaign. The village of Alçitepe 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 Sehitleri Aniti) at Morto Bay remembers all of Gallipolis' fallen Turkish soldiers.
8. 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 Aydincik 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.
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.
Where to Stay for Sightseeing
The main center to stay if you would like to explore this region is the town of Çanakkale, which is within easy day-tripping distance to both the Gallipoli Peninsula WWI battlefields and Troy. This is also the only town with a decent amount of accommodation. Across the Dardanelles, on the Gallipoli Peninsula itself, the village of Eceabat also has a handful of small hotel options.
Artur Hotel: In a good central Çanakkale position near the harbor, this friendly and modern three-star hotel offers stylish small rooms, a restaurant, and an included breakfast.
Kervansaray Hotel: Another central Çanakkale option within walking distance of all of the town's sights and its cafe and restaurant life, this local hotel has clean, bright rooms; helpful staff; and an included breakfast.
Hotel Crowded House: Eceabat's most popular place to stay, this friendly guesthouse has lots of local knowledge on offer from staff, organizes recommended tours of the Gallipoli battlefields, and breakfast is included.
Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to the Çanakkale Area
- Gallipoli and Troy Tour from Istanbul: This two-day small group Gallipoli and Troy tour includes round-trip transport from Istanbul, one night's accommodation in Çanakkale, three meals, and entrance fees and guided tours of both the Troy archaeological site and all the main sites of the Gallipoli WWI battlefields. It's a good way to fit in all of Çanakkale's major attractions at a leisurely pace.
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Heading South: Road trip your way south, checking out the North Aegean area, which is home to the fabulous ruins of Bergama (Ancient Pergamum), the island of Bozcaada, and charming seaside towns such as Ayvalik. If you continue south, you'll get to Turkey's major Roman ruin, Ephesus, with enough temples and columns, theaters, and crumbled houses to satisfy you for a day.
Heading Inland: Although most visitors stick to the coast, there's much to see inland as well. From Çanakkale head southeast to Pamukkale, famed for its white calcite travertines and Roman ruins. From here, it's an easy hop to the vast Roman ruins of Laodikeia, with its colonnaded streets, theater, and acropolis. Farther east, you get to Konya, home to the Mevlana Museum and a central city district full of grand mosques and museums.