Eceabat (pronounced ay-JAY-ah-baht) is a town on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Eastern Thrace, in the west of Turkey. It's on the European bank of the Straits of Dardanelles and is one of the main crossing points: on the Asia side is Çanakkale, the chief city of the area. It stands to lose this role in 2022 when a huge suspension bridge is completed to the north.
The Gallipoli landing sites of 1915 are nearby, and the area is dotted with war memorials and cemeteries of both sides. This page therefore covers Eceabat town, its associated ferry ports of Kilitbahir and Kabatepe, and sights across the lower Gallipoli peninsula. Eceabat itself in 2012 had a population of 5380, with another 3000 across the wider area.
The Straits of Dardanelles control access from the Mediterranean to the Sea of Marmara, Istanbul, and thence via the Bosphorus to the Black Sea. Ottoman rulers fortified the straits to ensure that control, and Istanbul became the metropolis of the sprawling Ottoman Empire. By the 19th century this empire was crumbling, but western powers propped it up as a bulwark against Russian expansion. It was Germany that provided most financial, technical and military assistance, yet by the outbreak of war in 1914 the Ottomans were unsure which side if any to take. They were tipped off the fence when two German warships were allowed to pass through the straits and attack Russia in the Black Sea, while the straits were slammed shut against the pursuing British vessels. By Nov 1914 the Ottomans had joined the Great War on the German side.
Britain and France soon became mired in trench warfare against Germany, and their ally Russia was detached: to the west by Germany, to the north by ice-bound seas, and to the south by the closure of the straits. The west therefore attempted to blast their way through the straits on 18 March 1915, but their fleet was shattered by gunfire and mines. That date is still celebrated in Turkey as a great victory. The Allies therefore landed troops - mainly Australian and New Zealander - on the Gallipoli peninsula to silence the guns and take control of the straits. Landings began on 25 April and all the target beachheads were taken, at great cost, but they were unable to advance beyond. They spent the next few months pinned down by gunfire until the whole campaign was abandoned in December. Altogether it took the lives of 46,000 from the western nations and about 80,000 Ottomans. The campaign shaped the national identities of Australia, New Zealand and modern Turkey, and for simplicity on this page the defending side is referred to as Turkey / Turkish.
The monuments and cemeteries are free to visit at all hours, while individual museums may charge. The area is described as a National Park and is overseen by CATAB, an arm of the government's Ministry of Tourism and Culture. This is more like a coordinating agency to protect the monuments and surrounds, and doesn't have the apparatus of rangers, visitor centres and docents that you might find in a western park.
Eceabat's climate is Mediterranean, but with chillier winters. This means hot, dry summers and cool to chilly winters with a decent amount of both rain and snowfall.
Before saying anything else, it is crucial to mention that Eceabat (and Gallipoli in general) is very windy, especailly during Lodos windstorms. These events will most likely cancel ferries, so watch out for them if you are planning to take one.
If you plan on going in summer, plan the same way you would for another Mediterranean climate; light clothing and some protection from the sun is absolutely necessary. Rain will probably not be an issue.
Spring and fall are mild and both ideal times to go, especially during the warmer parts of both seasons. That being said, nights can be on the cooler side, and rain will most likely fall multiple times during a week-long trip.
Winter is when Eceabat becomes a little different than the stereotypical Mediterranean climate. The climate is influenced by the continental Balkans in winter, leading to occasional cold snaps with snowfall. Milder days, on the other hand, will most likely be influenced by Mediterranean air masses, which makes them equally troublesome unless you plan on getting soaked.
For more information, nearby Çanakkale has more information on its page.
- DUR YOLCU! Bilmeden gelip bastığın, bu toprak, bir devrin battığı yerdir
- "Stop, traveller! The soil you heedlessly tread once witnessed the end of an era"
- - opening lines of a poem of 1915, carved in the hillside above Kilitbahir
Two ferry routes cross the straits to Çanakkale, both operated by Gestaş. One sails from 1 Eceabat ferry pier, hourly 07:00-00:00 and every two hours through the night, taking 25 min. Adult single is 2 TL, car plus driver is 40 TL.
The other sails from 2 Kilitbahir a few km south, every 30 min 07:00-22:00 taking 15 min, no night service. Adult single is 2 TL, car plus driver 35 TL.
It's not known what ferry service will continue once the bridge opens. But there's likely to be one, else Eceabat will be isolated from its regional capital.
Most buses between Istanbul and Çanakkale use these ferries, so Eceabat for the time being enjoys a good bus service. But some (especially Pamukkale bus company) use the Gelibolu-Lapseki ferry further north, so these bypass Eceabat.
By car from Istanbul follow D110/E84 west to Keşan then D550/E87 south down the peninsula, about 340 km total.
The main highway on the east of the peninsula has buses, but you need a car for the battlefields on the west coast. Otherwise join an organised tour, or negotiate with a taxi driver to take you around for a few hours.
- Eceabat town is modern. Merkez Cami is the mosque by the harbour; otherwise the only sight is vehicles driving on and off ferries.
- Epic Promotion Centre (Çanakkale Destanı Tanıtım Merkezi), Kabatepe (East edge of Kabatepe at junction for Gökçeada ferry and village). W-M 09:00-17:00. War museum, most signage in Turkish, the best of it is the film presentation. Adult 8 TL, film show 20 TL.
- 1 Kilye Castle is a sorry stump of masonry, you only stop for the view over the bay. Best guess is that it was Byzantine like Sestos Castle.
- 2 Bigali Fortress is on the main highway 6 km north of Eceabat. It's a crumbling ruin built from 1790 as a shore artillery position. In 2020 access is blocked for repairs, which come not a moment too soon.
- Sestos Castle further north has almost disappeared, as its stone was taken to build Bigali. It's at another pinch-point in the Dardanelles, where in legend Leander swam across nightly to tryst with Hero, and Lord Byron really swam it in 1810. See Gelibolu for these and other sights to the north, in the middle section of the peninsula.
- 3 Çamburnu Castle is an early 19th century fortress on the coast between Eceabat and Kilitbahir.
- Kilitbahir means "lock of the sea" as it's the first pinch-point sailing up the Dardanelles. Even early cannon could blast more than halfway across the straits here, so with an artillery battery on each side you controlled sea traffic. The main sight is the castle, next to the historic harbour and village centre 200 m south of the modern ferry pier. The small Tabib Hasan Pasha Mosque is by the harbour, İbrahim Pasha Fountain is in the village square, and the Cahidi mosque and shrine is higher up - in the 17th century he founded a sect of Sufism. There's also a small war museum just inland from the castle entrance.
"We fired our guns and the British kept a-coming, but there wasn't half as many as there was a while ago"
Early cannon could control the straits. Making bigger cannon involved folding a sheet of gun-metal into a tube, but then the seam was a weak point. In the 19th century Alfred Krupp devised methods of making very large single castings; he made a lot of money from train tyres, but he also produced massive guns. Every Great Power tooled up: Turkish artillery positions were no longer confined to the straits, but were built further along the shore to put the wider sea approaches within range. Along with other weaponry such as sea-mines, it was a formidable defence that you’d be foolhardy to attack.
- Kilitbahir Castle, Yalı Cd. Tu-Su 08:00-17:00. Impressive citadel built by Fatih Sultan Mehmet in 1463, along with Çimenlik Castle across the straits in Çanakkale. Mehmet conquered Constantinople / Byzantium / Istanbul in 1453, and the pair of forts turned the entire Dardanelles into a great Barbican entrance for shipping, halting the Venetians and consolidating Ottoman power. Later rulers reinforced the position. You approach up the lane from the south side of the hill. There's a central clover-shaped tower and sturdy walls overlooking the waterfront. The outer sea wall has been lost beneath the modern coast highway of Yalı Cd or "Wharf St", but this spared the old village centre along Çarşı Cd, "Market Street". Adult 20 TL.
- Tomb of Kaşıklı Dede is a cultural oddity, 50 m north of Kilitbahir ferry pier on the busy main highway (no parking here). This gentleman was a supplier and caterer to the workforce building the castle. A legend grew up that spoons placed on his grave acquired healing properties, for instance by spoon-feeding children with disabilities. So there's now a mawkish custom of laying spoons here to take the unfortunate child.
- Fort Namazgah is 300 m south of the castle on the main highway; ample parking. It's a bastion and artillery position built in 1885 and taking its name from the troops' praying area (namazgah) on the highway. The open area is free to stroll around, the small museum within (2 TL) may be open.
- Mecidiye bastion another 200 m down the highway was built a few years after Namazgah and was a similar artillery position. It was bombarded in March 1915 as the British Royal Navy tried to knock out the guns guarding the straits: the bastion's big gun wasn't hit but the crane that moved the massive shells to the gun was damaged, and many gunners were injured. The legendary Corporal Seyit single-handedly hefted three 275 kg shells to load the gun. Two of those shots did no harm, but the third damaged HMS Ocean, which drifted, hit a mine and sank. The naval assault failed, and the Gallipoli landings were planned instead. Seyit became a hero; asked later to pose holding a shell, he couldn't budge it, but declared "If war breaks out again, I'll lift it again." So they gave him a wooden dummy shell for the sake of the photo.
- Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives ... you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace.
- There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours ...
- - postwar speech by Kemal Atatürk
- 4 Cape Helles on 25 April 1915 was the landing point of British and French troops. Their aim was to knock out the shore guns around Kilitbahir that prevented the Allied navies from entering the Dardanelles. The simultaneous attack at Anzac Cove was to prevent Turkish reinforcements moving down the peninsula, while other attacks that day were feints or diversions. The Helles landings were bungled: at two beaches the troops were slaughtered by light defences, while relatively unscathed troops on other beaches stood still, awaiting orders and neither assisting the stricken beaches or capturing the heights. Belatedly there was an advance inland towards Krithia, but it became trapped under heavy fire and stalled. Over the following weeks further costly attacks were made on Krithia but all were fought off, and the Allies never advanced up the peninsula or silenced the Dardanelles guns. Within 1 km of the landing cove are several cemeteries of both sides, 2 or 3 small museums, and the imposing Çanakkale Martyrs' Memorial (Çanakkale Şehitler Abidesi).
- 5 Alçıtepe is the former Krithia, which had been Greek until 1914 when the Turks forced the villagers out. After the war it was re-settled with Turks ousted from Romania. There are several Turkish war cemeteries and monuments and a couple of small museums.
- There are some 50 Turkish cemeteries on the peninsula including these, but most are on the Asia side towards Çanakkale. Others lie in Edirnekapı cemetery in Istanbul. Turkish commemorations are on 18 March, when the naval attack was repulsed.
- 6 Kum Beach: no memorials, no cemeteries, just a beach for relaxing and a resort hotel, see Sleep. Yet this was the scene of the most successful landing on 25 April 1915 - by the French. They established a beachhead with their force largely intact and the Turks surrendered. So, job done, the French re-embarked and sailed away - if only they'd pressed on! But Kum was only a diversion from the main landings; the Turks realised this and didn't commit much to the defence. They also weren't fooled by a feint elsewhere on the coast, where there was a show of loading troops into landing boats, before retrieving them and moving on.
- 7 Anzac Cove (Anzak Koyu) was the scene of landings by Australian and New Zealand troops on 25 April 1915. They came in three waves, with great loss of life, and by the end of that day had a beachhead. But they were never able to advance and consolidate positions in the hills around, so the beachhead remained under fire. This came from Turkish mobile defences, shore batteries at Kabatepe, and Turkish warships in the straits firing right over the peninsula. It became a stalemate, in a campaign that for the Allies depended on speed. The Anzacs remained stuck there for 8 months: in August the British landed at Suvla Bay 10 km north, but the two forces were unable to fight their way towards each other. It's estimated that 754 Australian, 147 New Zealand and perhaps 2000 Turkish soldiers were killed on the first day, for each a small percentage of the toll during the campaign here, which lasted until evacuation in December. The hills within 1 km are dotted with memorials and cemeteries. The landings (known in Turkish as the Arıburnu Battle) are commemorated at dawn on 25 April at a site near the south end of the cove, just inland from the original memorial site and access road which have suffered coastal erosion.
- 8 Pine Ridge or Lone Pine was a plateau within the Anzac Cove beachhead. On 6-9 Aug 1915 Anzac (principally Australian) forces launched a major attack here, which was primarily a diversion to draw the Turks away from Suvla Bay where the British were creating a new beachhead to the north. The 1981 film Gallipoli climaxes with this assault, which advanced the Anzac front by about 150 m for great loss of life. Both sides then dug in and it remained stalemate for the rest of the campaign. Pine Ridge is now the main cemetery and commemoration site for Australians killed in the campaign.
- 9 Chunuk Bair (Conk Bayırı) is a ridge on the heights north of Anzac Cove, which those troops captured on 7-8 Aug 1915. It was a rare success, a chance to break out of the Cove beachhead and to link with the new British beachhead at Suvla Bay. But what would have succeeded as a swift attack, when the position was barely defended, was fatally delayed and gave time for Turkish reinforcements to pour in. The Anzacs thus suffered huge losses, while Mustafa Kemal switched defending troops from Suvla Bay (where he'd got the British nicely pinned down) and recaptured the hill from a spent Anzac force. There's now a CWGC cemetery in the area dubbed "The Farm", a memorial to the Anzac dead, and a statue of Mustafa Kemal, later known as Kemal Atatürk, Turkey's first President.
- 10 Suvla Bay is on the west coast: in 2020 the access lane is in bad shape. The beach is stony; you can swim or scuba-dive but beware strong currents. Just inland is a salt lake helpfully called Tuz Gölü meaning "salt lake" (which, this being Turkey, doesn't much narrow it down). In Aug 1915 Suvla Bay was the scene of a major British assault: Anzac troops had a bridgehead at the cove 10 km south but were bottled up. Seizing the hills here, especially "Hill 10", would enable them to break out, would block the advance of Turkish reinforcements and revive the entire campaign. But the seaborne approach, landings, shore fighting and advance into the hills were all bungled beyond belief, and a light Turkish defence was able to hold back a vastly superior attack. After a couple of days Turkish reinforcements arrived, led by Mustafa Kemal: he soon had the British so badly pinned down that he was able to switch his attack to Chunuk Bair. This debacle spelled the failure of the entire Gallipoli campaign and the Allies never again went on the attack. The British endured their bad position until December, with many soldiers dying of cold, then were evacuated, as were the Anzac and Helles beachheads. A monument on the promontory north commemorates the Turks' successful defence, and Hill 10 north side of the salt lake is a CWGC Cemetery.
- Ride the ferry from Eceabat to Çanakkale and back, just for the view of the straits. The ferry from Kilitbahir is a bit too quick for a relaxing boat trip.
- Find a Commonwealth War Grave: CWGC has online records for some 1.7 million men and women, which are free and easy to search.
- Scuba dive the many wrecks off the Gallipoli coast. A local operator is Troy Boat in Kabatepe, while Saros Diving are based in Çanakkale.
- Fuel: this is a long peninsula, the sights are well scattered, and you may do more mileage than you expected. Opet on the town bypass is open 24 hours and has a convenience shop.
- Lots of little shops in town, no big store.
- There's a couple of ATMs next to the ferry pier and another a short way south at Ziraat Bank.
- Lots of little cafes near the ferry piers at Eceabat and Kilitbahir.
- Boomerang Cafe Bar at the north end of Eceabat town is an Oz bar and may have camping.
- There are two wineries up Ismetpasa Mahallesi, the lane branching off just inland from Opet filling station on the bypass: Etruscan, and Suvla Wine Factory which has a restaurant.
- Ece Hotel and Hotel Crowded House by Eceabat ferry pier are basic but clean and convenient.
- There's a cluster a short walk south of the pier: Hotel Ejder, König, Gezen, Aqua Boss and Bahceli Konak Pension get reasonable reviews.
- Maidos Hotel on the Eceabat bypass is consistently clean, comfy and welcoming.
- Kilitbahir Apart Hotel one block south of Kilitbahir village market gets good reviews and may be the your option there.
- Hotel Kum, Kum Beach (Coast road 4 km south of Kabatepe ferry pier), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Resort hotel near shore but some distance from anything else, you need a car. Budget to mid-price, gets mixed reviews for comfort and service. They also have a caravan park.
- 1 Gallipoli Houses, Kocadere (above Bigali within National park), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Charming well-run country hotel open April-Oct, in several traditional stone houses. Rooms have air-con, showers, central heating and wifi. Seven rooms have terraces, the other three have balconies. Visa and Mastercard accepted. B&B double €70.
As of Dec 2020, there is a good 4G signal from all Turkish carriers in Eceabat and along the coast highway. You'll also be able to make a call on the ferry to Çanakkale and along the road to Kabatebe for the Gökçeada ferry. 5G has not reached this area.
- Çanakkale across the straits has a few sights, but it's mainly a stopover and transport hub on the route south to Troy and the island of Bozcaada.
- Gökçeada island is reached by ferry from Kabatepe west of Eceabat.
- Gelibolu of course is not the Gallipoli of 1915 - the attack never got that far - but it's the base for sights in the middle section of the peninsula.
|Routes through Eceabat|
|Keşan ← Gallipoli National Park entrance ←||N S||→ Çanakkale → Izmir|