The Best Routes For Exploring Çanakkale

Five different itineraries for exploring the history, nature, museums, legends and tastes of Çanakkale, in easy reach now by air.

For a historical tour of Çanakkale, whose history dates back to antiquity, you can start from the Gallipoli peninsula, where extensive ruins and city museums, most notably Assos and Troy, will enrich your itinerary.

An ancient settlement that has survived to our day and will probably last as long as man himself, Assos is a virtual open air museum. On these fertile lands, where Aristotle founded one of the oldest schools of philosophy in Anatolia, you may see Byzantine and Roman ruins as well as monuments going back to the Hellenistic and Archaic periods. A crystal clear sea seems to harbor millennia-old secrets at Assos, where Kadırga Cove offers the most beautiful sunsets. The perfect spot for a couple days’ rest after an exhausting Dardanelles Tour, Assos offers accommodation to fit every budget.

Its legends forming the stuff of classical western literature, Troy is a 3,200-year-old site where a new layer of settlement is discovered almost every year in the excavations that have been under way here for 200 years. The magnificent treasure of Troy, one of the world’s most famous and best known ancient cities, was discovered by German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in 1871. Something new is learned with every passing day about Troy, where the mythological heroes Achilles, Hector and Paris settled their accounts, and the Olympian deities Zeus, Hera, Athena and Aphrodite interfered endlessly in each other’s affairs.

Scene of the world’s first beauty contest, Çanakkale is a nature lover’s paradise with its mountains and forests that have inspired artists. You will derive untold pleasure from roaming around these natural areas and fishing towns perched at the westernmost tip of Anatolia and the entire Asian continent.

At the westernmost point of Turkey and Asia, Babakale is a small fishing town of rustic fish restaurants and quiet coffeehouses. With its whitewashed houses and streets that end at the sea, it is situated on the slopes of an ancient harbor in a spot that will charm you at first glance.

What would you say to refreshing yourself in the oxygen-laden air of the legendary Mount Ida of Greek mythology, aka Kazdağı? Its pure air scientifically proven to offer ideal respiratory conditions, Kazdağı is literally bursting with fountains and natural springs. This natural area, said to have hosted the first beauty contest in history, was declared a national park in 1993. Its boutique hotels in the foothills of the mountains at the edge of the sea are used today for occasions galore all the way from honeymoons to cooking classes and philosophy days. The most popular of the countless hiking trails in this region noteworthy for its rich flora are Hasanboğuldu and Sutüven Falls, which inspired Turkish writers Sabahattin Ali and Mustafa Seyit Sutüven.

Childhood home of world-renowned Turkish film director Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Yenice boasts one of the most beautiful natural areas in Çanakkale. And the Yenice Forests, which were an inspiration to the famed filmmaker, who took the award for best director at the Cannes Festival, make a matchless backdrop to the neighboring towns and villages scattered like marbles throughout the countryside. The forests that surround the town of Yenice in the foothills of Mt. Baklaçal exhibit endemic species of trees. While touring Yenice, where you will also discover the mosques with no minarets that are peculiar to this locale, you will feel as if you have set off on a journey through Ceylan’s films, Cocoon, Small Town, and Clouds of May.

Fought here on the Gallipoli peninsula, the Battle of the Dardanelles determined the fate of a nation. It is steeped now in legend as a place where thousands of men lost their lives. You may find it difficult to control your emotions as you follow the ‘Victory Route’ on this peninsula covered with monuments, museums and cemeteries.

A series of ceremonies and other events will be organized this year March 13-18 in honor of Victory Week to mark the 95th anniversary of the Dardanelles Naval Battles. Tens of thousands of visitors from many different countries, mainly Australia and New Zealand, are expected to take part in the Memorial Ceremonies for the Dardanelles Land Battles, held each year at Anzac Cove on April 24-25. In addition, the Bozcaada Art, Culture and Grape Harvesting Festival will take place this year as every year in the first week of September. Call the Çanakkale Province Department of Culture and Tourism for further details about these important days. Tel: +90286 217 23 71.

“Stop, Traveler!” said the poet Mehmet Akif. “This land were you step unwittingly is the place where an era ended.” Seeing Eceabat, Arıburnu, Kanlı Sirt, Conkbayırı, Seddülbahir, and the 57th Infantry Regiment’s Cemeter and Memorial is essential for knowing these lands and understanding Çanakkale’s importance in recent history. Besides the Gallipoli Memorial and the museums and cemeteries large and small, other must-see’s include Anzac Cove and memorial, the Corporal Seyit Memorial, and the Namahgâh Redoubt and earthworks. Nor should Kilitbahir Castle, which looks heart-shaped when viewed from above, be overlooked. We recommend that you allow a full day for your tour of Gallipoli Peninsula Historical National Park.

Victory Week, March 13-18, is an excellent opportunity for touring the Gallipoli Peninsula, scene of one of the greatest land battles in recent history, and for honoring the memory of Ataturk and our now-departed comrades-in-arms. You may find it difficult to contain your emotions as you tour this peninsula covered with seventy some cemeteries and monuments erected to the memory of the Turkish, Australian, French, England and New Zealand troops who fought here, as well as museums documenting the tragedy of war. How then to tour the Gallipoli Peninsula, which is like a giant open air museum exhibiting vestiges of the battle on every side? As a rough itinerary, a good choice would be to start from Abbas on the coastal rode to Eceabat. After the village of Bigalı, location of the house, now a museum, where Gazi Mustafa Kemal Ataturk had his headquarters, you can visit the area between Conkbayırı (Chunuk Bair) and Arıburunu where the fighting was at its most fierce. The route through Anzac Cove, Kabatepe and Açıtepe ends at the colossal Victory Monument that rises at Hisarlık Burnu.

The local cuisine will make your Çanakkale tour a memorable one. We recommend you not conclude your visit without trying tomato jam at Bozcaada, sardines and Mevlevi Turkish delight at Gelibolu, keşkek (a meat and cracked wheat dish with hot red pepper) at Bayramiç and fried calamari at Babakale.

No visit to Çanakkale is complete without a stop at the fish restaurants along the esplanade or without a taste of the famous ‘cheese halvah’ sold in the shops around İskele Meydan, the square at the boat landing. Its iconic four-story clock tower, built in 1897, offers one of the best vantage points for viewing the texture of the old town and its century-old houses stretching from the tower to Çimenlik Castle. And the streets immediately behind the Clock Tower are a virtual culture center with their historic hans, secondhand bookshops, art studios and music clubs. The historic Yalı Han, described in İlhami Algör’s book, “The Yalı Han and Its Residents’, hosts exhibitions, interviews and films all year round.

An entertaining and educational museum where you can observe the different stages of olive oil production, which has a special place in the local culture, and sample its taste on wholesome village bread. Continuing to produce olive oil today in a restored former soap factory, the museum offers displays of the tools and equipment of olive, olive oil and soap production. Opened in 2001 as the first museum of its kind in Turkey, it features ancient olive oil presses, olive harvesting equipment, transport and storage containers, and a variety of folkloric objects. Open daily 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Küçükkuyu, Çanakkale. Tel: +90286 752 13 03

If you’re bent on raising your adrenaline level during your Çanakkale tour, then be sure to include some sports activities. Nature walks, mountain biking, swimming, line fishing and scuba diving are just a few of the many sports that await you here.

A popular place for swimming, sunbathing, surfing and camping, this gulf is one of Turkey’s leading scuba diving sites. More than 240 species of sea creatures have been identified in its waters, which have been dubbed a natural aquarium by diving enthusiasts. The area off the coasts of Mecidiye and Erikli, which offer divers continuous, clear visibility thanks to their currents, are the gulf’s best scuba diving zones. The Minnos rock formations 20 meters off the coast at Kömür Limanı are well-suited to wall diving. And you can see giant corals at Toplar Burnu, a headland named for the historic cannon balls that lie on the sea-floor here.

With its pristine beaches and tranquil villages that blend Turkish and Greek culture, Gökçeada is Turkey’s largest island. Overnighting in an old stone house hidden among the olive trees, listening to the cry of the gulls and the lap of the waves at Kefaloz, and hiking to Marmaros Falls are just a few of the attractions this island has to offer. Turkey’s first underwater national park is located at Yıldızkoy, one of the island’s loveliest coves with its fascinating rock formations. And Zeytinliköy with its historic venues where you can taste the island’s famous ‘dibek’ coffee, and Kaleköy, location of İskiter Castle, one of the island’s oldest structures, are well worth a visit.