Bozcaada (pronounced boz-DJA-ah-dah) is an island on the Aegean Sea, near the western exit of Dardanelles in Turkey. Its ancient name is Tenedos.
A bad anchorage
In Book 2 of Virgil's Aeneid, the Greeks pretend to abandon their assault on Troy and sail home. But their fleet hides behind Tenedos, present-day Bozcaada, in statio male fida carinis - a bad anchorage, where no-one will look for them. And they leave behind a giant wooden horse. Trojan curiosity overcomes caution, and Troy is destroyed by importing this malware from "the Greeks bearing gifts".
Bozcaada is a triangular island, about 5-6 km on each side, lying 5 km from the Turkish mainland. It's been inhabited at least since the Bronze Age, and under various names was mentioned in classical texts. This sea area is often raked in summer by "etesian winds" - stiff cold northerlies from the Black Sea, which can blow up without warning to gale force. They can blow for days, so ancient shipping trying to enter the Dardanelles had to anchor for shelter here until conditions improved. The island was therefore important beyond its size, and was fought over on many occasions.
The last major conflict was World War I (when it was a supply base for the British Gallipoli campaign) and the Greek-Turkish war that followed. The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne awarded most of the Aegean islands to Greece, and mandated exchanges of Greek and Turkish populations to reflect new national borders, but Tenedos / Bozcaada was an exception. It was awarded to Turkey but with no eviction of its Greeks, and all sorts of fine promises about safeguarding their religion, language and culture. Those promises proved hollow and most Greeks left, but some remain as a distinct community.
Bozcaada is also the name of the sole town of the island, with a population in 2012 of 2465, on the northeast corner facing the mainland. An eczema of holiday homes spreads along the coast, while inland are vineyards, a few pine woods, and scrubby maquis. There isn't a TIC but accommodation touts meet the ferries, and travel offices in town can also assist.
Bozcaada has a slightly colder than average Mediterranean climate with very warm, muggy summers with little to no rainfall, and cool, rainy winters. Spring and fall are mild to warm and showery. Late spring and early fall are the best times to go.
As the island is accessible by ferry, you should be checking for southerly Lodos windstorms and the northerly Etesians, both infamous high winds of the Marmara region, as they can cancel ferries.
Snow in winter is uncommon this far south, but on the off chance that it does happen, be ready for major travel delays.
For more information, check the Gokceada article, which has a very similar climate, and a useful climate chart.
Bozcaada has no air service and can only be reached by ferry from Geyikli or Çanakkale. See those pages for how to get there, but it will generally involve a 350-400 km drive or very tedious bus journey from Istanbul. Long-distance buses to Geyikli are timed to connect with the ferries and go all the way to the ferry port. Once on the island you can buy your return bus ticket from local agents, which avoids an anxious queue at a mainland ticket kiosk while your bus is revving to depart. A short-haul dolmuş eg from Çanakkale might only run to Geyikli town centre, so you'd need another dolmuş or taxi the last few km.
Gestaş Ferry sails from 1 Geyikli to 2 Bozcaada harbour 3 or 4 times a day year-round, taking 40 min. Only returns are sold, which in 2020 were adult 11 TL, car with up to 7 occupants 115 TL, and it's somehow good to know that a tractor is 90 TL. They don't check your ticket on the return, no point.
In summer, Gestaş also has a fast waterbus for foot passengers from Çanakkale. In summer 2020 this sailed F Sa Su at 10:00 and returned from Bozcaada at 20:00 but with Covid it was an on-off affair, while the Geyikli ferry kept running. Times and fares for the waterbus in 2021 are not yet posted.
There are frequent minibuses heading for Ayazma and Habbele beaches. Their departure is in the square right next to the entrance of the castle. A one-way ride costs 3 TL per person (no student discounts available) and takes about 15 minutes. There is also a minibus service once every day (at sunset time) to Cape Polente, the westernmost point of the island and where the electricity-generating wind turbines are located.
Although they are well-paved in most sections, most of the roads on the island are narrow. Nevertheless, there is little traffic anyway, so it is no problem that they are narrow.
The town is really small — you can walk from one edge of it to another in approximately ten minutes.
- 1 Bozcaada Castle. The castle, surrounded by sea at one side and by a now-dry (or marshy at best) moat at the others, served for Byzantines, Venetians and Genoans, although there is no evidence indicating who exactly built the castle. Still maintaining its glory, this is one of the castles that are in best condition in Turkey. Entrance fee: 5 TL (3 TL for students).
- Streets. The old cobbled streets and districts in the center of the town maintain their traditional architecture.
- Beaches. Although you can swim even in the small harbor, the beaches are located on the southern part of the island, namely Ayazma and Habbele where you can find some beach cafes around. Renting two deckchairs and a beach umbrella for half a day in Ayazma beach costs 5 TL. The fee is collected twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon by employees walking around the deckchairs one by one (not at the entrance). You can of course swim and sunbathe free of charge in nearby areas which are out of the beach club property.
- Swimming. Due to freshwater discharges from the sea floor, the seawater in Ayazma beach is shockingly cold, even in the hottest months, which is pretty good for those preferring a (very) refreshing seabath.
There are two ATMs in town and they accept foreign Visa cards. One is located at the main square and other on the exterior wall of Ziraat Bankası in the town square.
In summer 2006, there was only one supermarket in the island (located at one of the cobblestone streets, past one of the wine shops, leading to the town square). There you can find anything you may need as a casual traveller. Despite its monopolistic situation, the prices were at about the same level as the mainland.
- Locally produced wine and natural Red Poppy Syrup.
- Tomato jam – This delicious jam can be only found on the island in Turkey. It can be obtained from the shop with a big “Salto” sign on the town square, or from the only supermarket of the town (it cost 7 TL in summer 2006, there are also other locally produced jams being sold at both stores), or from villager stalls (same price).
Locally available books that are worth a look are:
- Kalaafiyet The book of Bozcaada recipes. A list of 100 recipes and Aegean food, island food and also island life.
- Anayurt (Mother Land) by Dimitri Kakmioglu. This is a memoir about an island childhood set in the late 1960s. Available in Turkish and English.
Definitely fish restaurants. A fish, some green salad, and a glass of raki cost about 20 TL per person in summer 2006. You can see the prices for different kinds of fish on the boards in front of many restaurants. Keep in mind that almost all restaurants in the town gets really crowded between 20:00 and 22:00 and it is almost impossible to find a seat between these hours unless you either, be seated before 20:00 or after 22:00, or better yet, reserve a seat during the day.
- There is also a cheaper (did cost about 15 TL for a filling meal for two persons in summer 2006) outdoor restaurant in the first street to the left (when walking from the harbour) which serves traditional Turkish cuisine. You can recognise it by its checked tablecloths.
- Ucmuz Ada. Restaurant serving delicious meals and great chocolate soufflé—this is the only place on the island serving that dessert.
- Maya, American Cesme Mevkii, Kume Evleri (Its about 50 meters from American Fountain), ☏ . 8AM-11PM. This is small restaurant serving daily home made dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The owner is the chef and he prepares everything daily; freshly baked breads and treats, home made cheeses and jams and wines. Reservations are a must as its small but worth the experience! Moderate.
- Wine - this is a wine-land where they imprinted a bunch of grapes on their coins thousands of years ago! The local wine producers are Corvus, Yunatçılar Camlibag, Talay, Ataol and Gülerada. There are various local grapes such as vasilaki (white), karalahna (red), kuntra (red), karasakiz (red).
- Red Poppy Syrup. A local specialty of Ada Cafe.
- Salhane Bar (in the yellow building on the far edge of the cove enclosed by the citadel, town, and mountains), ☏ . Probably the most famous drinking establishment of the island. Also has some open air deckchair-like seats just on the edge of the sea, facing some scary looking rocks ascending suddenly from the sea. Quite lukewarm waiters.
- Fuska bar behind the castle has a lovely terrace by the sea. There are also other nice bars behind the castle.
- There are also some other bars located on the sides of the street leading to Salhane, too.
Average price in the hotels and pensions of the island is about 50 TL (and upwards) per person per night. This price generally includes breakfast too. There is also a campsite near Habbele beach which should be much cheaper.
If you are given a chance to choose between a cheaper/non-air conditioned room and a more expensive/AC room, go for non-A/C one, as it is always windy in Bozcaada and you won’t need to use the air-conditioner. Why pay more for a useless A/C? It’s unlikely but even if you feel hot, you can simply wide open the window (except if you are staying in the street-level floor for obvious reasons) even if there is no mosquito screen installed, as mosquitoes cannot survive in this windy climate and theft from the hotel rooms (by entering through the window) is virtually unknown.
Be aware, it is almost impossible to find a room without booking beforehand in summer.
- Bozcaada Biz Hotel and Private Houses. If you wish to feel like an islander during your visit, rent one of the renovated traditional houses located in the Greek quarter of the town center or stay in comfortable rooms of Biz Hotel right across to the only one church of the island. Double room costs 220 TL with full breakfast (summer 2011).
- Gümüş Hotel (on the first street to left when walking out of harbour), ☏ . Very clean rooms with air-con and en suite bathroom. Rooms offer a nice view of harbour, fish restaurants, and the castle. Booking is highly advised in summer. Double rooms: 50 TL per person/night (summer 2006). Breakfast included.
- Baghane Pension and Traditional Town Houses. You can either rent traditional houses located in the Greek quarter of the island or just share a room in the farm house with large breakfast. Double rooms 110 TL (summer 2008).
- Aika Hotel Bozcaada, Alaybey Mh. Namazgah Cd. N. 8/ Cumhuriyet Mh. Meserret Sk. N. 27 (near the harbour), ☏ . Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 14:00. A boutique hotel in the old town, with a kitchenette and a shared living/dining area. All rooms feature en-suite bathrooms, A/C, free wi-fi, and satellite TV. Breakfasts boast homemade and organic ingredients. 100-120 TL pp/night (breakfast included; 2012).
It is sometimes possible to find a job as a waiter or waitress in one of the not-so-many cafés in the town. You may also try to work as a picker during grape-harvest time (August to October). But don’t rely on either of these before going to Bozcaada anyway.
Don’t swim in the stony beach between the castle and Salhane bar (that yellow building located between the mountain and the shoreline) in the town centre. As you’ll soon find out by the smell, there is a raw sewage discharge into the sea from two different points in that beach. The aforementioned beaches are perfectly pure, though.
As of Dec 2020, there is a mobile signal (and 4G if you're lucky) from Turkcell in the main villages. The other carriers only have a signal at the ferry pier. 5G has not reached this area.
- Back to the mainland it must be. North of Geyikli on the road to Çanakkale is ancient Troy.
- The islands seen from Bozcaada are Gökçeada north, Limnos west and Lesvos south.