Çanakkale (pronounced chah-NAK-kah-leh) is a city in the Southern Marmara Region of Turkey, on the Dardanelles. A vibrant town thanks to the quite large student population of the local university, it also serves as a lively hub to travellers of diverse backgrounds and interests.
The city is on the southern, Asian bank of the Dardanelles (known in the classical antiquity as the Hellespont; Turkish: Çanakkale Boğazı, "Çanakkale Strait"), a narrow, meandering, and internationally significant waterway collectively known as the Turkish Straits together with the Bosphorus. The Dardanelles links the Aegean Sea (an arm of the Mediterranean) with the Sea of Marmara (and by extension, the Black Sea) while separating Europe (the Gallipoli Peninsula) from Asia (the Troad).
There has been evidence of a settlement in the Çanakkale area since 3000 BC—almost countless ancient cities lined both banks of the Dardanelles. Due to its strategic location on a major sea passage, the area is rich in history and culture, and was the scene of the Trojan War and the crossings of Xerxes' Persians and Alexander the Great's Macedonians in opposite directions about one century and a half apart.
During World War I, Çanakkale and the adjoining areas on both sides of the Dardanelles were the stage of a year-long battle between the United Kingdom, France and the Ottoman Empire. From April 1915 to January 1916, a joint British and French operation was mounted to capture the Ottoman capital of Constantinople (now Istanbul), with the fieriest conflict taking place on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The attempt failed, but not without heavy casualties on both sides.
There are buses from Istanbul at any time, day or night. Just go to Istanbul's otogar, and look for 'Çanakkale' signs on the windowpanes of bus company offices. It takes 5½-6 hours to get from Istanbul to Çanakkale.
- Kamil Koç, İstanbul Otogar, Bayrampaşa-Esenler, ☏ , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. One of the bus companies transporting passengers for 50 TL pp between Istanbul and Çanakkale.
- Truva Turizm, İstanbul Otogar no: 137, Bayrampaşa-Esenler, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Covers the same route for 45 TL pp (might be a few liras cheaper if the ticket is bought online through their website, but you will need Turkish language skills for that). )
Most buses drop their passengers off just next to ferry harbour—which is located in the city centre—after crossing the strait by ferry.
Çanakkale is linked by the well-maintained highways of E87/E90/D550 to the north, E90/D200 to the east and E87/D550 to the south. However, as there is no bridge spanning over the Dardanelles, you will have to take one of the ferry lines making the crossing (see the Get in: By boat section below for a full discussion) when arriving from Istanbul and elsewhere in Thrace.
Four ferry lines operate across the strait, between three ports on either bank. Each line has its merits and disadvantages:
- Gelibolu (Europe)–Çardak (Asia) — a relatively shorter crossing than the Gelibolu–Lapsekli line, but this gain in time is likely to be offset by the fact that the landing pier at Çardak is 5 km east of Lapseki, hence further away from Çanakkale. The waiting lines can be extremely long (up to 3 hours) from time to time, as this line is often preferred by trucks. Once every hour day and night.
- Gelibolu (E)–Lapseki (A) — the longest line crossing the strait. Upgraded to motorway standards, the road down to Çanakkale following the Asian bank is much better than its counterpart along the European bank. Twice every hour between 07:00 and 23:00, once every hour during the night.
- Eceabat (E)–Çanakkale (A) — a relatively short line. The 40-km drive down to Eceabat from Gelibolu is partially under construction as of early 2018. Once every hour between 06:00 and midnight, once every two hours late night.
- Kilitbahir (E)–Çanakkale (A) — the shortest crossing. The 5-km road between Eceabat and Kilitbahir is quite narrow and has lots of sharp turns, but goes through an extremely scenic geography with the deep blue waters of the Dardanelles on one side and mountains covered by forests of pines and wild olives on the other. Relatively older boats than Eceabat–Çanakkale. Twice or three times every hour between 08:00 and 21:45, once every hour between 06:00 and 08:00 and also between 22:30 and 01:00, no services between 01:00 and 06:00.
All of the ports have public transport connections of sorts. A passenger ticket is 2 TL on the Kilitbahir–Çanakkale line and 3 TL on the other lines. The flat fare for cars is 35 TL for Kilitbahir–Çanakkale, and 40 TL for the others. A return ticket, which costs 45 TL/car, is available for all of the lines except Gelibolu–Çardak, but the crossings both ways should be made on the same date, before the midnight.
During the high season and especially the national holidays with a week-long breaks each, the voyages may be more frequent. In contrast, under bad weather conditions, the sea-traffic in the strait is limited or cancelled, and crossing the strait may become impossible.
Most of the places in Çanakkale are in walking distance. There is a Tourist Information office several meters from ferryboat station (on the right if you are coming from the ferry). You can pick up a free tourist map of Çanakkale and the surrounding areas. They also have schedules of the minibuses to Troy and ferries to Bozcaada.
- 1 Archaeological Museum (Arkeoloji Müzesi), İzmir Caddesi (on the highway to Izmir, about 30 min away from the ferry harbour on foot; minibuses are also available), ☏ , fax: . Tu-Su 08:30-12:30, 13:30-17:30. Artifacts excavated from archaeological sites in the countryside surrounding Çanakkale, mostly amphorae and pottery, is among the exhibited in this museum.
- Korfmann Library (The ÇOMÜ Korfmann Archeology Library), Fevzipaşa Mahallesi, Tifli Sokak 16, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 2 [dead link] (Deniz Müzesi), Fevzipaşa Mahallesi, Çimenlik Sokak (on the waterfront, just west of ferry harbour), ☏ , fax: . Tu-W F-Su 09:00-12:00, 13:00-17:00. The museum positioned around (and including) the Çimenlik Castle (Çimenlik Kalesi, also known as Kale-i Sultaniye) which dates back to 1461. A replica of a minelayer named Nusret that was employed in the naval battle of Dardanelles and photos taken during the period is among the exhibition of the museum.
- Trojan Horse (2 minute walk east of the ferry harbour, on the waterfront). The one that was used in the movie Troy was donated to the city. free.
Many travellers to Çanakkale are also attracted by the sites in the surrounding area; see the Go next section below for some suggestions.
One thing not to miss while in Çanakkale is bomba, which is the usual döner in half a bread plus an omelette added in. There are lots of buffets making it in the cluster of shops located just across the street from ferry harbor. Totally local, so don't expect to find it in anywhere else.
- Restaurant Damak Tadi, Yali Cad. 20. small place, tasty food. Close to the justice building and the Naval Museum.
- Peynir Helvasi. A special dessert made of cheese, yolk, semolina and sugar. Husmenoglu is a patisserie famous with that dessert.
Most nightlife in town revolves around the lively old town surrounding the historic clock tower, west of the ferry harbour. Many establishments offer live music during the weekend nights.
- 1 Barduck, Fetvane Sk 17/A. Coffees, beers and cocktails in a renovated historic house and its open-air backyard where smoking is allowed. 6-25 TL.
- 2 Yalı Hanı, Fetvane Sk 31. A coffeehouse with rustic wooden tables and chairs, offering tea, coffee, and beer in the courtyard of a converted inn building dating back to the 1880s. Visit in the spring, when the huge wisteria vine covering pretty much all of the courtyard is in full bloom of its purple flowers.
- [dead link] Anafartalar Hotel, İskele Meydanı 17100, ☏ .
- Anzac Hotel.
- Anzac House, Cumhuriyet Meydanı N:61 17100, ☏ .
- Otel Efes, Fetvane Sokak 5, ☏ . Small, clean and friendly hotel close to the ferry terminal. 20 TL.
- Kolin Hotel, Kepez 17100, ☏ .
- [formerly dead link] Akol Hotel, Kayserili Ahmet Paşa cad. Kordonboyu, ☏ .
- Buyuk Truva Hotel, Cevatpaşa Mah. M.Akif Ersoy cad.No:2, ☏ .
- Hotel Kervansaray, Fetvane Sokak 13, ☏ . Nice hotel close to waterfront. Comfortable rooms, helpful staff and lovely courtyard.
There is a public bathroom outside the ferry harbor area, but it costs 0.5 TL, has no toilet paper (napkins on a table outside the bathroom door), and has squat-type holes rather than toilets on the women's side. It is probably best to use a bathroom at a restaurant or your hostel.
Hero and Leander
Two lovers separated by the Dardanelles according to an ancient Greek myth, Hero was an Aphrodite temple priestess in Sestos, on the European side of the Dardanelles, while Leander was a young man from Abydos, just across the strait. Guided by a lantern lit by Hero, Leander would swim across the Dardanelles every night to meet his lover. One night during a storm, the lantern got blown out, leaving Leander without guidance through the strong currents, and he drowned. Upon hearing about her lover's death, Hero killed herself. In 1810, while his ship was awaiting passage to Constantinople, English romantic poet Lord Bryon swam across between Abydos and Sestos, resurrecting the semi-forgotten legend.
Cape Nara (Nara Burnu, other names include Nagara Point and Point Pesquies, 6 km north of Çanakkale), on which Abydos was situated, is today occupied by the Nara Citadel, a beautiful early 19th century Ottoman fortress. Due to its strategic location on the Dardanelles Narrows, it is inside a military zone and is not open to the public. On the other side of the strait, only very scant ruins of the citadel of Sestos survive, near a Turkish WWI military cemetery (Akbaş Şehitliği), on the highway 11 km northeast of Eceabat.
In remembrance of the myth and the poet, the local Rotary Club holds a swimming competition across the Dardanelles every August. The swim takes place between Eceabat and Çanakkale, considerably longer than the original Abydos–Sestos route, but still within the Narrows.
Çanakkale is a convenient base to explore many nearby sights from.
- The Gallipoli Peninsula is on the opposite banks of the Dardanelles. A self drive to the historic battlefield of Anzac Cove, filled with the memorials and commemorative areas, will cost more than 160 TL including car hire, fuel, and ferry toll. At 70 TL per person, tours are cheaper, but you will be rushed and unable to do it at your own pace.
- Kilitbahir — a village just across the narrowest section of the Dardanelles known for its extremely well preserved castle, which is the most obvious landmark seen from the waterfront when illuminated at night. The village has frequent ferry services from Çanakkale, and is a convenient starting point for visits onward to the southern and decidedly less-visited World War I monuments of Gallipoli, such as Cape Helles.
- Gökçeada (Imbros) and Bozcaada (Tenedos) — two of the biggest islands of Turkey, also the only significant Turkish islands in the Aegean Sea, are nearby. Both islands are multicultural to a degree, and have native Greek communities as well as Turkish ones. Gökçeada, the northern and much bigger of the couple, has long been known for its atmospheric abandoned villages that have started to be revitalized. Bozcaada is a lively, charming island with a beautiful old town and a millenia-old wine-making tradition.
- Dardanos and Güzelyalı — two low-rise seaside suburbs surrounded by pine forests just south of the city. Dardanos is also the site of an ancient settlement as a burial mound (tümülüs) attests.
- Troy (Truva or Troya in Turkish) — an archaeological site about 30 km away. Ruins of the legendary city of the Illiad fame with the (re-constructed) wooden horse.
- Assos (also known as Behramkale; about 100 km away) is a pleasant seaside village with a hilltop Temple of Athena and mind-blowing views over the Aegean—which might have helped Aristotle to decide establishing a philosophy academy there.
- Along the Troad Coast — an itinerary south of Çanakkale combining visits to Troy, Assos, and a number of other historic sites along the Aegean coast.
|Routes through Çanakkale|
|Keşan ← Eceabat ←||N S||→ Troy → Izmir|
|Merges with ←||N E||→ Bandirma → Bursa|