Çanakkale (pronounced chah-NAK-kah-leh) is a city in the Southern Marmara region of Turkey. It stands at the outlet of the Dardanelles, the straits between European and Asian Turkey, and has been a travel hub in peace and war since antiquity. With a population in 2014 of 186,116, it has a student buzz thanks to ÇOMÜ, the Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University.
This area has been settled at least since 3000 BC. Çanakkale is the closest modern town to ancient Troy: the ten-year conflict described in Odyssey and Iliad is fictional but the Hellenistic city-states were often at war. The Grecian settlement here was called Dardanellia (Δαρδανέλλια). It was at a pinchpoint in the straits of Dardanelles, here only 1.5 km across, so it had double strategic value: as a crossing place, and as a redoubt for controlling shipping through the straits. The Persian Empire under Xerxes and the Macedonians under Alexander the Great were two of the armies that marched this way.
The stakes were raised in 1462 when the Ottomans became established in Thrace, and built the fortress of Kale-i-Sultaniye. By then a cannon-blast could reach over halfway across the straits, so with an artillery position here and another on the opposite bank at Kilitbahir you had control. Those straits to the northeast broaden out into the Sea of Marmara, then pinch again into the Bosphorus, so Çanakkale controlled access to Istanbul, the Black Sea, and Russia.
This enabled the Ottomans to build a great empire by land and sea. The town became known for its fine-glazed pottery and from the 18th century was dubbed Çanak kalesi - "pottery castle". During the 19th and 20th century the Ottoman Empire crumbled, with national independence movements and other Great Powers wresting away territories in the Balkans, and Russia chafing at being bottled up in the Black Sea. During World War I, Turkey sided with Germany and Austria, separating the western Allies from Russia, so it was the nut that the west needed to crack.
By then, artillery power had greatly increased thanks to the engineering advances of Alfred Krupp. Gun positions didn't just line the straits, but were ranged around the coasts to control the sea approaches. In March 1915 the Allied navies tried to blast their way into the straits, fatally underestimating the firepower of this "pottery castle". A combination of minefields and cannonade inflicted great damage on them and on 18 March the survivors of their fleet limped away, a date still celebrated in Turkey. The Allies therefore made shore landings on the Gallipoli peninsula from 25 April to knock out those guns. They also sought to stop Turkish reinforcements pouring into the area and re-arming the coast. It was never their plan to fight a land battle all the way up the peninsula, but once the fleet could sail through the straits, Turkey's flank would be turned and its defences would unravel. The landings did capture their beachheads but the whole operation was bungled and far too slow, so the Allies were pinned down, couldn't advance beyond the beachheads and never silenced the guns: see Eceabat#Understand for more. The Allies endured their hopeless positions for almost a year, with great loss of life on both sides, then evacuated. It was a conflict that became seared into western political memory, and shaped the modern identity of Turkey.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
The climate of Çanakkale is Mediterranean, but the slight influence of the oceanic Black Sea coast and the continental Balkans causes it to experience colder than average winter temperatures for typical Mediterranean climates. Therefore, Çanakkale experiences hot, dry summers and cool to chilly, rainy winters with occasional snow. The city is famously very windy year-round.
Summers are hot, with highs around 30°C, even though the hottest days can have highs above 35°C. Rain is uncommon, but a few, moderately heavy showers can interrupt the generally sunny, dry weather.
Winters are cool, sometimes chilly, with highs just below 10°C and occasional night-time frosts. Rain is common, and rainy spells often follow the infamous violent windstorms of the Marmara region, a southwesterly called Lodos. These windstorms tend to cancel ferries, so watch out for these days if you want to take them. Snow isn't very common, but falls and accumulates almost every year and heavier snowstorms can happen once every two or three years.
Spring (especially April and May) and fall are mild, and therefore are the best times to visit the city. There are occasional rain showers, but these generally don't last for long.
Çanakkale is 310 km from Istanbul, 325 km from Izmir and 653 km from Ankara.
From Istanbul, head west then south on O-6 down the Gallipoli peninsula. From Europe head for Keşan, by E90 coming from Greece or by E87 coming from Bulgaria, then go south to join O-6. Keşan and E87 was the route from Istanbul before the bridge and otoyol opened.
1915 Çanakkale Bridge opened in March 2022. This 3.563 km suspension bridge sweeps across the Dardanelles high above Gelibolu. The toll is 200 TL for a standard car, which can be paid by e-tag, bank card or cash at the toll gates. The bridge is closed to high-sided vehicles if winds exceed 50 kph, and to all traffic above 125 kph. Asia-side of the bridge, take the first Lapseki exit to go east along the Marmara coast towards Bursa, but for Çanakkale stay on to rejoin the former highway at Kemiklialan.
Ferries continue to cross the Dardanelles, see below and Gelibolu#Get in.
You can also reach Çanakkale from Istanbul by circling the Sea of Marmara clockwise via Bursa. It's a much slower route but you might take it for a tourist itinerary.
Buses from Istanbul run around the clock, taking 5 hours. Operators on the route are Pamukkale, Metro Turizm, Flixbus and Truva Turizm. This competition means that, except at very busy times, you should be able to stroll into Istanbul Avrupa / Esenler bus station any time and find a departure within the next hour, for an adult single fare around 200 TL. The operators' websites are only in Turkish but are easy to use - the only pitfall is that no buses go to "Canakkale", you must use the letter "Ç" not standard on western keyboards. Either select your extended character set or cut-and-paste from the correct spelling.
1 Otogar the bus station is 5 km east of town in the industrial park at the intersection of D200 and D210. So you need a dolmus or taxi to get anywhere in town. Buses no longer drop off at the ferry port downtown, as they approach by bridge and motorway instead.
- From Eceabat sailing hourly 07:00-00:00 and every two hours through the night, 25 min. Adult 2 TL, car 40 TL.
- From Kilitbahir (5 km south of Eceabat) sailing every 30 min 07:00-22:00, 15 min, no overnight service. Adult 2 TL, car 35 TL.
- In summer there's a waterbus for foot passengers to the island of Gökçeada, one hour. Otherwise take the year-round car-ferry from Kabatepe, 12 km west of Eceabat.
Extra sailings are laid on at peak times, with long fractious queues to join them. Sailings may of course be suspended in bad weather.
- 3 Çanakkale Airport (CKZ IATA). This has flights three days a week from Ankara (ESB IATA), taking 75 min and operated by AnadoluJet the Turkish Airlines subsidiary. The airport is only 2 km southeast of city centre, so for ground transport just take a taxi. (You could walk, but flights are often late night or early morning.) There are car rental kiosks at the airport.
Most of the places in Çanakkale are in walking distance. Dolmuşes run toward the War History Museum and beach strip to the south.
The Tourist Office has closed down, but lots of travel agents will sell you tours. These are the best way to reach Troy and the Gallipoli memorials if you don't have your own car.
- City Museum, Fetvane Sokak 31 (By ferry pier), ☏ . Tu-Su 10:00-19:00. Small museum of city history and, uh, local bicycling? It's cramped and signage in only in Turkish. Free.
- 1 Trojan Horse (Truva Atı): The war has dragged on for nine years, the troops are near mutiny, and the last counter-attack from the beseiged city was costly - we may have to quit. Say, let's pretend to quit and sail away, but leave behind by a giant model horse full of malware, which they'll import into the city . . . the tumult of Athens against Troy was matched by the tumoils of making the film Troy in 2004. Its Mediterranean scenes were filmed in Malta; it got mixed critical reviews but had a big-name cast and did well at the box office. When the movie-makers left (or pretended to do so) they left behind this giant steel and fibreglass film prop. The Maltese were understandably suspicious and wouldn't accept it, so it ended up here. Whatever you do, don't open it up!
- A cannon used in the battle of 1915 now guards Cumhuriyet Blvd by the ferry pier. It was this and similar artillery plus minefields that repulsed the naval attack, with the Allied fleet retreating on 18 March, a date still celebrated as a national victory. So the Allies' next ploy was the Gallipoli landings from April 25, to try to knock out the shore guns.
- 2 (Deniz Müzesi), Fevzipaşa Mahallesi, Çimenlik Sokak, ☏ . Tu-Su 09:00-12:00, 13:30-17:00. This is centred on Çimenlik Castle (aka Kale-i Sultaniye), built in 1452 to command the straits, and remaining in use to 1915, when it was bombarded by the Allies. The museum has various boats, artefacts and exhibits on local battles. At anchor is a replica of the minelayer Nusret. The original ship laid mines that sank three Allied warships and crippled three others. She had various post-war roles and sank near Mersin in 1989. She was eventually refloated and converted into a museum ship in Mersin, meanwhile this replica had been built, and opened as a museum in 2011. Adult 13 TL.
- Piri Reis (Ahmet Muhiddin Piri 1465-1553) was an admiral, best known for his maps, among the first to depict North America. This gallery is near the Trojan Horse. The collection has also been housed in the Naval Museum and it's not known which, if any, are open in 2022.
- Necip Paşa Mosque is at the north end of the promenade. It's a rebuild of 1953, as an earthquake in 1903 beach demolished the original.
- 3 Ceramics Museum, Kaya Sokak 31, ☏ . Tu-Su 09:00-17:00. Museum with interesting ceramics - many of the modern pieces are for sale - sited in an old hammam. Free.
- Colouring-book stairs (Renkli Kitap Merdivenler) are a piece of street art a block south of the Ceramic Museum.
- Commonwealth war graves are in two plots 1 km inland up İsmetpaşa.
- 4 War History Museum (Anadolu Hamidiye Tabyası-Çanakkale Savaşları Tarih Müzesi), Aziziye Cd, ☏ . Tu-Su 10:00-17:00. Extensive museum set in the shore fortifications depicting the battles of World War I.
- 5 Dardanos tumulus is an ancient burial chamber. In 2022 the site is a mess. In legend Dardanos was the son of Zeus and Elektra, and an ancestor of Aeneas. Zeus flooded the world so only a few mountain tops remained as islands, so Dardanos initially lived on Samothrace but moved to found a settlement on Mount Ida. The real mountain of that name is 50 km further south, and Dardanos little suspected that when the waters receded, they would uncover the seaside resort that now bears his name.
- 6 Güzelyalı is the next beach strip south. You're unlikely to find the village museum open, nor the military museum 1 km inland.
- See Geyikli for sights further south, and for ferries to Bozcaada.
- 7 Radar Hill is the pleasant forested hill overlooking the town.
- 8 Atikhisar Castle is a gnarly stump 6 km east of town off D210 towards Çan. The oldest parts may be 2700 years old, and they look every day of that. The castle remained in use to about 1000 AD, guarding the road through the mountains, and nowadays it overlooks a reservoir lake.
- 9 Nara Castle 6 km north of town is a fortress built in 1807, but off-limits as it's still in military use. It was built over the site of ancient Abydos, so nothing remains of that. From 670 BC it was a fishing port (especially for tuna) and the main ferry port for crossing the Dardanelles. Someone should have mentioned this to Leander, who in legend swam across nightly to visit his ladyfriend Hero in Sestos, but who met a watery end. Lord Byron in 1810 also swam the straits with even less excuse, as he'd brought a Royal Navy frigate with him: see Gelibolu for more on both stories and for the ruins of Sestos. Abydos was abandoned by the 14th century when the crossing route shifted north, and its masonry was briskly removed for use elsewhere.
- Aqualand on the coast between Tepez and Dardanos beaches has water-rides, flumes and so on. Suitable for younger children, older teens will be bored. It's open year-round daily 10:00-18:00, adult 80 TL, child 50-60 TL.
- Don't swim across the Hellespont unless you're an experienced distance swimmer and have proper back-up and local expertise over currents and shipping lanes. Swimming specialist agencies can organise this, such as Swimtrek, and there's an annual Hellespont swim race in late August. Never treat it as an afternoon lark of "last across buys the beers". The channel here is 1.5 km wide by 70 m deep, and the pinchpoint makes the currents all the stronger. The main flow is outbound, as all the drainage into the Black Sea comes this way to join the Med. But there's a deep backflow, and where they meet creates turbulence felt on the surface.
- Observe the centenary of the Turkish Republic on 29 Oct 2023. Events will be nationwide; the programme has not yet been announced but given their place in the nation's history, the Çanakkale and Gallipoli areas are sure to feature prominently.
- Lots of ATMs near the ferry pier. The stores are a few blocks inland.
- Local specialties are bomba (a döner in half a loaf with an omelette inside), and peynir helvasi a dessert of cheese, egg yolk, semolina and sugar.
- There are several places around the ferry pier and east along the waterfont, but the main cluster is west on Yalı Cd towards the Naval Museum.
- Husmenoglu is a patisserie famous for its peynir helvasi. It's at Yalı Cd 29 and open daily 08:00-23:30.
- Town nightlife is west of the harbour near the clock tower. Many places have live music at weekends.
- Barduck, Fetvane Sk 17/A, ☏ . Daily 12:00-02:00. Coffees, beers and cocktails in a renovated historic house and its open-air backyard where smoking is allowed. It mostly gets rotten reviews, but for some it's just the place.
- Yalı Hanı, Fetvane Sk 31. 08:00-00:00. A coffee house with rustic wooden tables and chairs, offering tea, coffee, and beer in the courtyard of an inn dating back to the 1880s. Visit in the spring, when the huge wisteria vine covering the courtyard is in full purple bloom - in summer the yard lacks shade. No food, but you can bring in eats from a nearby bakery.
This isn't a tourist town, but its position as regional capital means lots of small hotels for business and other domestic travel. They're clustered along the street leading from the ferry pier. Another strip is by the beach a few km south.
- Hotel Helen, Özay İş Hanı, Cumhuriyet Bvd 57, ☏ . The first hotel you encounter coming off the ferry. Basic place, mostly good reviews. B&B double 350 TL.
- Anzac Hotel, Fetvane Sokak 8, ☏ . Basic but very central hotel, cleanliness erratic. B&B double 250 TL.
- Hotel Kervansaray, Fetvane Sokak 13, ☏ . Pleasant central hotel 2 blocks back from waterfront. Small but comfortable rooms, helpful staff and lovely courtyard. Some street noise. B&B double 300 TL.
- 1 Hotel Akol, Kayserili Ahmet Paşa Cd 32, ☏ . Clean comfy place with waterfront views. B&B double 600 TL.
- Büyük Truva Hotel, Mehmet Akif Ersoy Cd 2 (one block northeast of Hotel Akol), ☏ . Clean spacious waterfront hotel. B&B double 600 TL.
- 2 Otel Marmara, Setboyu Cd 113, ☏ . Comfy enough but street-facing rooms get a lot of traffic noise. B&B double 300 TL.
- 3 Cura Hotel, Troya Cd 26, ☏ . Smart hotel with free parking. B&B double 500 TL.
- 4 Kolin Hotel, Atatürk Cd 2, Kepez, ☏ . Pleasant hotel with pool on Kepez beach strip. B&B double 900 TL.
- 5 Sunsan Hotel, Dardanos Cd 31, ☏ . Spacious hotel on Dardanos beach. B&B double 500 TL.
- 6 Iris Hotel, Mola Cd 68, Güzelyalı, ☏ . Good reviews for comfort and service at this smart beach hotel. B&B double 600 TL.
There is 4G from all Turkish carriers in the city and on the approach highways and ferries. As of Jan 2022, 5G has not rolled out in Turkey.
Lotus Game Center is an internet cafe by the ferry pier, open daily 09:00-01:00.
- Kilitbahir is reached by a short ferry crossing from Çanakkale. Near it are the artillery positions which the ANZAC landings of 1915 were trying to knock out, so that Allied warships could sail up the straits to Istanbul. Over on the west coast are the ANZAC beachheads, pinned down by the Turkish defence so the Allies never reached the shore guns and their campaign was a disaster. You need a vehicle to reach these, or join an organised tour.
- Gökçeada is an island reached by ferry from Kabatepe west of Eceabat, or by summer water-bus from Çanakkale. It has semi-abandoned Greek villages.
- Bozcaada the island to the south is reached by ferry from Geyikli. It has an attractive old town and vineyards.
- Troy 30 km south is the ruins of an ancient city, in legend the target of the Trojan War. It has an excellent museum and the inevitable mock-up wooden horse.
- Assos or Behramkale 100 km south is an old harbour with a hilltop Temple of Athena and great views over the Aegean; Aristotle founded a philosophy academy there.
- Along the Troad Coast is an itinerary south of Çanakkale combining visits to Troy, Assos, and other historic sites along the Aegean coast.
- Istanbul to Izmir is an itinerary with one branch following the Gallipoli peninsula then crossing through Çanakkale towards Troy.
|Routes through Çanakkale|
|Keşan ← Eceabat ←||N S||→ Troy → Izmir|
|Ends at ←||W E||→ Merges with at Lapseki (N / E)|