Bozcaada (pronounced boz-DJA-ah-dah) is an island in the Aegean Sea, near the western exit of the Dardanelles, in the Southern Marmara Region of Turkey. In 2018 it had a population of 3023, concentrated around its port and sole town, which is likewise called Bozcaada. Its ancient name was 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 decreed 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" means grey-coloured and is also the name of the sole town of the island, 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.
The climate is slightly colder than average for the Mediterranean. It has sultry, muggy summers with little rainfall, and cool, rainy winters. Spring and fall are mild to warm and showery - these are the best times to go. See also the climate info for Gökçeada, which is very similar.
As you travel here by ferry, check the forecast for southerly Lodos windstorms and the northerly Etesians, either of which can cancel ferries.
There isn't a physical TIC but see the island website. Accommodation touts meet the ferries, and travel offices in town can also assist.
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 km drive or five hour 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 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 4 or 5 times a day year-round, taking 40 min. Only returns are sold, which in Jul 2023 are adult 50 TL, car 550 TL plus 15 TL per passenger, and it's somehow good to hear that a tractor is 265 TL. They don't check your ticket on the return, no point.
Gestaş previously also had a waterbus on summer weekends for foot passengers from Çanakkale. Since Covid it's been an on-off affair, and it's not sailing in 2023.
The town is small and walkable. From June to Sept, dolmuşes ply from the square by the castle entrance to Ayazma and Habbele beaches. They run every 15 min or so and take 15 min, for a single fare of 3.5 TL. One evening service runs to Cape Polente, the westernmost point of the island, where it's traditional to watch the sunset.
The island roads are paved but narrow, with no side-walk.
- Bozcaada Castle (Kalesi). Daily 08:30-19:30. This looms over the harbour. An earlier castle was demolished after the 14th century war with Genoa. The present structure was built for Mehmet II in 1455, and repaired by Mahmut II in 1815. There's a bailey, citadel, and dry moat on the landward side. Adult 5 TL.
- Town centre has retained its traditional architecture and narrow cobbled streets. Look for Kimisis Teodoku (Virgin Mary Church), Namazgah Fountain of 1703, the dilapidated Alay Bey Mosque of 1700, and Yalı Cami of 1655.
- Bozcaada Museum, Lale Sk 7. May-Oct daily 10:00-17:00. Eclectic display of island artifacts down the years. Signage is only in Turkish. Adult 10 TL.
- 1 Bozcaada Windmill (Yel Değirmeni) is on the headland beyond the cove north of the castle. This windy island once had many, but they've all succumbed to time, electrification and, yes, the wind. Since 2019 there's been a project to rebuild them, and this is a first successful example. No interior access, you just come for the walk and the view.
- North cove between castle and windmill is one to view, not to swim off - this is where the town sewage gets dumped out raw.
- 2 Yeni Kale means "new castle", which you'd never guess from its tumbledown state. It was built in the 1820s, and Mahmut II may have been emulating the "star" fortress design of that era, but if so, he hired a shoddy contractor. You can reach it up farm tracks from town.
- 3 Ayazma Monastery was built in 1734 and was Greek Orthodox - ayazma means a holy spring. It's nowadays a restaurant, which remains closed in 2022. They may or may not attempt to observe the saint's day of 26 July: St Paraskevi of Rome was a 2nd century Christian martyr. Her healing of eyesight was in no way impeded by her own decapitation.
- Beaches: the best for beach lazing and swimming are grouped on the south coast. Ayazma beach below the monastery has surprisingly cold water, as fresh springs emerge into the sea. 500 m west is Sulubahçe beach, then the strip ends with bluffs beyond Habbele beach. Continue along the twisty turny lane to the island's west point, sunset views and wind turbines.
- East coast is not as scenic, but more sheltered. South of town find Poyraz Liman, Tekirbahçe and Tuzburnu beaches.
- Adakale Supermarket is at Çınarlı Çarşı Cd 63, open daily 08:30-23:00.
- Four ATMs are along the Cumhuriyet Cd restaurant strip.
- Red Poppy Syrup is an island oddity, made by boiling up poppy heads, perhaps with raisins, aniseed or liquorice. It's a colouring agent and mildly sedative folk remedy. The opiate content is negligible but enough to get you sniffed out and arrested at the airport, fortunately, before its other toxic contents can do anyone any harm.
- The witching hour for dinner is 20:00 - either get in and order before then, or make a reservation. Otherwise you may have to wait until 22:00, or sample the quiet cafe that everyone's avoiding for some reason.
- Sehir, Kurtuluş Cd, ☏ . Daily 09:00-01:30. Good fish restaurant right on the harbour.
- Cumhuriyet Cd is the main eating strip, looking over the castle and harbour. Hereabouts are Yalova 1940, Ada'm, Salkim, Madam Niça[dead link] and Nevreste.
- 1 Maya, American Cesme Mevkii, Kume Evleri, ☏ . M-Sa 17:30-21:00. Great reviews for this restaurant with 12 tables in a vineyard - watch out for the dusty narrow turn-off. Fresh food prepared daily, reservations essential.
- Tomato jam is an island specialty. Slather it into pide with cheese and olives.
- Wine - as early as the first century BC, a bunch of grapes adorned the island's coinage. Producers are Corvus[dead link], Yunatçılar Camlibag, Talay, Ataol and Gülerada. Turkey doesn't have geographically defined wine regions but plants a mix of grapes: some local varieties are vasilaki (white), karalahna (red), kuntra (red) and karasakiz (red).
- Salhane, Cumhuriyet Cd (Yellow building on the cove north of castle), ☏ . Daily 10:00-01:30. The island's best known drinking establishment, with views of the cove and castle.
- Cumhuriyet Cd the restaurant strip also has Kedi, Cabbar, Sapa, Lemon, In Vino, Bakkal and Tenedion Winehouse.
Accommodation is clustered around the harbour, with dozens of small hotels and pansiyons. You need to book both in mid-summer, and out-of-season since many places close up. In 2022 you might pay 500 TL for B&B double in a 2 / 3-star place. Older accommodation often lacks A/C - not a problem on the many windy days, and the breeze also deters mosquitoes, but still, sultry days are less pleasant.
- Aika Hotel Alaybey, Namazgah Cd 8 (near the harbour), ☏ . 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. Their other island hotels at Andon and Akvaryum remain closed. B&B double 1500 TL.
- Ayapetro Otel, Hacı Hasan Sk, ☏ . Comfortable mid-range place, has parking. B&B double 1000 TL.
- Gümüş Hotel, Kurtuluş Cd 28 (first street left exiting harbour), ☏ . Pleasant clean rooms with en suite bathrooms right by the harbour. There's an old and a new wing, the old has no air conditioning. They're creative in finding extras to add to your bill. B&B double 1200 TL.
- Bozcaada Biz Otel, Atatürk Cd 36, ☏ . Simple hotel in a traditional building.
- 1 Siesta Hotel, Tekirbahce Mevkii 7, ☏ . Clean welcoming place on beach strip 2 km south of port. B&B double 1200 TL.
- 2 Bozcaada Camping, Cumhuriyet Mahallesi Eskikule Mevkii, ☏ . Campsite by Sulubahçe beach. Booking essential: two nights minimum, three on holiday weekends. Limited parking nearby.
- Helvacıoğlu Butik Otel, Türk Mahallesi, ☏ .
As of May 2022, most of the island has 4G from Turkcell, though with lots of dead spots in the hills. The other carriers only have a signal at the harbour. 5G has not rolled out in Turkey.
- 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.
|Routes through Bozcaada|
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