The river known in English as Maritsa, in Turkish as Meriç and in Greek as Έβρος (Evros) breaks up into a swampy delta as it flows into the Gulf of Saros. By its outlet is the tip of a ridge, providing firm ground where a port developed and a trade route wound inland. That port became known as Ainos (Greek Αίνος, Latin Aenus) and it exported the corn, timber and fruit of Thrace, plus its own fish and sea-salt. Ainos is first mentioned in around 500 BC and, given its name, the poet Virgil couldn't resist weaving it into the Iliad legend as a place founded by Aeneas in his flight from Troy. Certainly it was inhabited by Hellenistic people, one of the many proto-Greek settlements along the coast.
Over the next 1500 years Ainos was raided and occupied by rival powers on multiple occasions, with its longest spell of rule by the Byzantine Empire into the medieval period. From the 1360s the Ottomans came to rule Thrace and beyond, though Ainos fell under Genoa until 1456. From then on it was part of the Ottoman Empire. It had a large Greek population throughout, as did many other coastal towns in Thrace, and from the 19th century ethnic conflicts and nationalistic aspirations fractured Ottoman control of the Balkans. One of those conflicts, far to the northwest in Bosnia, escalated into the First World War. Afterwards, the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne drew the borders of Turkey in their present position, and required Greek communities to leave Turkey while Turkish communities left Greece and Bulgaria.
Overnight Enez became a provincial backwater, a dead-end, hard up against an unfriendly border. It was a garrison town and military zone, off-limits to foreigners, right into the 21st century. Foreigners are now permitted but few visit, and Enez makes a living from local tourism, as Edirne-by-the-sea. Better highways and rising property prices closer to Istanbul are also bringing weekenders here from the big city - it's too far to day trip. The original town therefore has a steady population (it was 3826 in 2010) while the beach strip oscillates from perhaps 6000 June-Aug, to near zero in winter. The border remains sensitive: Greek-Turkish relations have waxed and waned but the crucial factor is that it's the border of the European Union, which is in a moral panic over refugees and jihadists from the Middle East. This is a bonus for the delta wildlife, as it's curbed development.
There is no border crossing to Greece though it's just the other side of the river. Lots of smugglers and migrants try to cross illegally, and the border guards will assume that anyone larking about in the river or just offshore is trying to do so. The nearest border crossing is at Ipsala, so Enez is something of a dead end.
Metroturizm buses run direct to Enez from Istanbul Bayrampaşa, taking almost five hours via Silivri, Tekirdağ and Keşan, for a fare (as of Aug 2021) of 100 TL. There are 3 or 4 per day, one of them overnight. If the through-bus is sold out, take any bus to Keşan then pick up a local bus or dolmuş to continue to Enez, a one-hour ride. Keşan has frequent buses by rival operators, mostly from Istanbul Esenler and heading for Gallipoli and Çanakkale; there are also a few from Edirne. They all use the modern otogar 2 km from Keşan town centre: until 2020 some village dolmuşes continued to use the old central bus station, but it was then demolished.
Most routes are via Keşan: that includes from Bulgaria and Edirne, from Istanbul, and from Çanakkale and the Gallipoli peninsula. The Enez road branches off D-550 south edge of Keşan.
From Greece you cross the border at Ipsala and look for the short-cut 5 km into Turkey: it's clearly signposted for Enez.
The town is in three parts, straggling over 5 km:
- Old town centre is the most northerly, backing on to the river on the border.
- Harbour and Pırlanta Beach, 3 km southwest across the lagoon.
- Altınkum Sahili Beach, another 2 km south and shown on the map as Gaziömerbey, is the main resort strip.
Dolmuşes link them every couple of hours. Hitchhiking will also work.
- 1 Enez Castle was first built for the 6th century Byzantine Empire, and reinforced by the Ottomans from the 13th. Ayasofya Kilisesi is an old church here but there's not much to see in the castle, you come for the view across the river into Greece. In 2020 the area was poorly maintained, with dumped trash.
- Has Yunus Bey Türbesi is a historic mosque and graveyard 300 m south of the castle. As can be guessed from its appearance, it was originally a Byzantine chapel, which the commander who claimed the town for the Ottomans took a fancy to. So he was interred in it, and the building has been named after him.
- 2 Kral Kızı Bazilikası is the crumbling remnants of a church basilica overlooking the inner bay.
- 3 Sahil Kervansarayı is the ruined shell of an Ottoman caravanserai in the beach strip, which might have functioned as a customs office. It's believed to date back to the 16th century, and at that time to be on the coastline, now 500 m away. Local account attributes a military function during the First World War, and it's therefore known as the İngiliz Kışlası ("English barracks").
- 4 Lake Gala National Park (Gala Gölü Milli Parkı) is a wetland and forest wildlife reserve. Since 2018 thousands of flamingos have over-wintered here. A short way west between two distributaries of the Maritsa delta is the similar Parko Delta Evrou; the birds fly back and forth but it's in Greece, a long way round by road to reach it.
- 5 Sultaniçe and Gülçavuş: see Keşan for these and other beach resorts further east along the Gulf of Saros.
- Take a stroll in the pine woods near the beach.
- Swim in the crystal blue sea. Keep an eye on children, as the beach shelves away steeply to deeper water, and beware sea urchins.
- Birdwatching in the delta wetlands.
- Watch the sun set behind the Greek island of Samothrace, that big black mountain rising starkly from the sea.
- Migros is the big supermarket in town centre, but it only opens in summer for the holiday trade.
- Bim nearby is open daily.
- Town centre has ATMs.
- Özkan in town centre is a safe bet.
- Yakamoz by the harbour does good seafood.
- Ayışığı by Altinkum beach is a friendly cafe.
- Ali Karatepe is a cheerful relaxed place south end of the beach strip.
The three parts of town all have cafes and bars.
- 1 Ege Otel, Gaziömerbey Kale Cd 7, ☏ . Probably the best of an indifferent choice in town centre.
- 2 Enez Altun Motel, Gaziömerbey Mahallesi Kışlaaltı Mevkii, ☏ . Beachfront motel, some rooms tired but generally clean and comfy.
- 3 Enez Balci Motel, Gaziömerbey Mahallesi Altınkum Sahili, ☏ . Friendly clean place a block back from beach.
- Keep out of the river, the line of its main outflow, and anywhere marked as a restricted border area. The border guards will assume that anyone messing around there, including at sea, is trying to smuggle or cross illegally, or at least making a recce. Enez is not a port of entry into Turkey so small craft approaching from Greek waters must radio the Turkish coastguard and await instructions. They'll probably direct you to Çanakkale to clear immigration and customs.
- Unless there's a breeze, the mosquitoes will greet you in great swarms: they're a scourge around the delta swamps. No risk of malaria here, but the bites are unpleasant, so bring a repellent, screen, and anything else that might keep them away.
- Sea urchins are always a hazard in the Med. They prefer rocks - Enez is sandy - but whenever swimming in to shore, take a good look down before planting your feet or hands.
As of Aug 2021, Enez has 4G from Turkcell and Vodafone and a mobile signal from Türk Telekom. The signal is poor along the highway from Keşan. 5G has not reached this area.
- Keşan is the transport hub. You have to go that way to reach the Gulf of Saros resorts of Erikli, Mecidiye, Sazlıdere and Adilhan, though you can reach Sultaniçe direct.
- Head north from Keşan to Edirne, a fascinating historic city but overlooked by tourists as it's so far west.
- Samothrace is the mountainous island seen to the southwest. To get there you have to go north to cross into Greece at Ipsala, then down to Alexandroupoli on the coast, then take the ferry.
- South from Keşan is the Gallipoli peninsula, with the 1915 battle sites and memorials around Eceabat.