Gökçeada, formerly called Imvros, is an Aegean island in Eastern Thrace in Turkey, with a population in 2020 of 10,106. It's near the entrance to the Dardanelles, and is hilly and windswept. It was Greek until 1923, when along with Tenedos / Bozcaada it was assigned to Turkey, making its Cape Avlaka / İnce Burun the westernmost point of Turkey.
The North Anatolian Fault sunders the Gallipoli (Europe-side) and Troiad (Asia-side) peninsulas of Turkey, and flooded to create the Dardanelles strait. It remains seismically active, with destructive earthquakes every few decades, and frequent minor tremors. Gökçeada is a volcanic island thrown up along this fault line. In legend the sea nearby held the underwater palace of the goddess Thetis, and Poseidon (the Greek god of the sea and "earth-shaker" who unsuccessfully courted her), hobbled his horses down there while he stormed ashore to attack the Trojans. And from the breezy headlands of Gökçeada, you see the white horses of the wind-blown sea, and sometimes feel the rumble of their impatient hooves.
Athens beat Troy and grew to be rulers of the Aegean including this island, which they called Ίμβρος, Imvros. It became a Hellenistic settlement (though held for a century by the Persians) and eventually joined the Roman Empire. When that empire broke up, it was initially the city-state of Genoa who held Imvros, and built the fort at Kaleköy. Later Byzantium the eastern capital held it, to be supplanted by the Ottomans. But culturally Imvros like the other Aegean islands remained Greek, with a population of around 8500 by the start of the 20th century. They lived in some half a dozen inland villages, turning their backs on the sea: protection from pirates was one motive, but shelter from the wind was another. The region was then shaken by ethnic tremors within the Ottoman Empire, escalating into the Balkan Wars then the First World War.
Turkey sided with Germany and Austria in that war, and in 1915 famously repulsed naval then beach-landing attacks by the Allies on the Gallipoli peninsula - Imvros acted as an Allied staging post. Turkey lost the war and was immediately embroiled in the follow-on Greek-Turkish war, which brought Mustafa Kemal Atatürk to power and created the Turkish Republic. In 1923 the Treaty of Lausanne re-drew the borders between Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria, and mandated exchanges of ethnic minorities that found themselves wrong side of the line. All the Aegean islands were awarded to Greece except Imvros and Tenedos, awarded to Turkey but with special protections for their Greeks, and no exchanges. Those protections lasted about as long as it took the ink on the treaty signatures to dry.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
The Greeks persisted on Imvros and Tenedos, but were systematically oppressed from 1960 when the larger conflict of Cyprus erupted. Turkey was determined to make Imvros Turkish, re-named it Gökçeada, brought in mainland settlers, and gave the Greeks every reason to leave. The height of their exodus was 1974, when Turkey invaded the north of Cyprus and holds it to this day. Gökçeada became a military zone, off-limits to foreigners until 1991. The Greek population reached a low of about 300 in 2015 but has recovered slightly with the "earthquake diplomacy" and thaw between the two nations. The island has opened to tourism, which is predominantly by the citizens of Istanbul four hours drive away. Its old Greek villages are its chief attraction but are crumbling through neglect, earth tremors and modern development.
The climate is Mediterranean but kept cool by the wind; summer nights can feel sticky. Late spring and early autumn are ideal times to visit. Winters are cool and wet, and the ferries are often disrupted.
Gökçeada has an airstrip but no air service and can only be reached by ferry, usually from Kabatepe.
Gestaş Ferry takes 90 min from Kabatepe to Gökçeada, sailing M-F 3 or 4 times and Sa Su twice. The single fare in 2020 was adult 6 TL, car 64 TL plus 1.5 TL per passenger; all fares are cash only.
In summer Gestaş also operates a waterbus for foot passengers from Çanakkale, a one hour crossing. It's more likely to be blown out by bad weather than the car ferry. The schedule and fares for 2022 have not been posted.
The island's ferry port is 1 Kuzu Limanı, 4 km east of the main town Merkez. Dolmuşes for Merkez, Yenibademli and Kaleköy meet the ferries.
The mainland port Kabatepe is a tiny place on the west coast of the tip of Gallipoli. There may be a direct bus from Istanbul, connecting with the ferries. But normally you have to take a bus heading for Çanakkale, which arrives in Eceabat on the east coast in order to cross the Dardanelles. Get off at Eceabat and take a dolmuş the last 12 km across the peninsula to Kabatepe. If there isn't one running, that suggests no ferry is due any time soon, in which case you'll find Kabatepe very peaceful indeed.
By road follow D550/E87/E90 south past Gallipoli, and look for signs for “Kabatepe-Gökçeada Feribot” as you approach Eceabat. The side-road to the port is a well-made modern highway.
2 Merkez the main village is the island crossroads and hub of its minibus service. These ply several times a day to the harbour Kuzulimanı 4 km east, and every couple of hours to Yenibademli and Kaleköy 3 km north. There are only one of two a day south to Eşelek and Aydıncık (Kefalos beach), and west to Dereköy and Uğurlu. There is no minibus to Zeytinli or Tepeköy but the Uğurlu minibus drops you at the lane ends.
Bike hire is available and in summer you've a good chance of thumbing a lift, but in winter the roads are deserted.
Taxis are few and expensive.
- Merkez is modern low-rise. The name means "town centre" and every conurbation in Turkey has a "Merkez" district. It's also called Çınarlı meaning "place with plane trees" or Gökçeada same as the island itself, but this page sticks to Merkez. The town museum at the foot of İnönü Cd is open W-M 09:00-18:00. Fatih Mosque is along that street, Merkez Mosque is south side on Cami Sk.
- 1 Bademli means "almonds". It's also known as Eskibademli - Old Bademli - to distinguish it from the modern ticky-tacky Yenibademli. Formerly the Greek village of Γλυκή (Gliki, "sweet") it has great views of the island, the sea, and the Greek island of Samothrace.
- 2 Kaleköy next to Bademli means "castle village" and was Κάστρον (Kastron) in Greek. Skip the newer part and make for the charming old village (Yukarı Kaleköy) on a hill sloping away from the sea. The Genoan / Ottoman castle is just a few scraps of a citadel. Yıldız Koyu is an attractive cove a little way east, the start of the marine park.
- 3 Zeytinli means "olives" and is set on slopes covered with groves. In Greek it was Άγιοι Θεόδοροι (Agia Theodori).
- 4 Tepeköy means "hill village", which in Turkey is about as much help in locating a place as saying it's near an olive grove. Tepeköy faces away from the sea towards the artificial lake; in Greek it was Αγρίδια (Agridia).
- 5 Dereköy straggling above the road to Uğurlu once had a population of 10,000, but is now a derelict ghost town. Dere means "stream"; in Greek it was Σκινούδι (Skinoudi).
- 6 Kefalos Beach or Aydıncık is the main area for windsurfing. A dune separates the sea from a very shallow and muddy salt lake, which like dozens of others in Turkey is called Tuz Gölü meaning, guess what, salt lake. It was used for salt extraction until modern times, and implausible claims made for its therapeutic value. You'll need a good rinse in the sea afterwards.
- Swim anywhere on the coast that you can gain access. The main beaches are Yıldız Bay in the north, Kefalos / Aydıncık in the south, and Gizli Liman near Uğurlu in the west, so you should always be able to find a sheltered coast. Beware sea urchins!
- The Marine Park extends from Yıldız Bay near Kaleköy to Çiftlik Bay. This area is a protected habitat, which you should only explore above or below water with the guidance of a park ranger. There's an underwater trail, with sea grass and the usual Med marine life. As of 2021 the ranger base and facilities are closed, and it's not obvious that the park is getting any protection.
- Surf: Kefalos / Aydıncık beach on the south coast has a surf shack.
- Merkez has lots of convenience stores. Don't be fooled by the Carrefour supermarket marked on Google map; there it isn't.
- The only ATM is at Türkiye İş Bankası in Merkez. Always have extra cash with you on the island, lots of places (including accommodation) only accept cash, and neither ATMs or ferries always work smoothly.
- Honey is locally produced. Don't buy any food item as a souvenir without checking your home country's import regulations: fresh food (including honey) is usually prohibited.
- Merkez places are Kokina, Gastronomi Atölyesi, Gökçemadam Meyhane, Dami Rum Meyhanesi, Ecem Mantı and Pizza Gökçeada.
- Bademli / Kaleköy has Gün Batımı Et ve Balık, Toroman Kokorec, Kaleköy Kokoreççisi, Eleni Rum, İmroz Poseidon and Mustafa'nın Kayfesi.
- In Zeytinliköy are İmrozkeçi and Mylos Imvros, and in Tepeköy are Barba Yorgo, Kardeliz and Meraklis Taverna.
- Further west beyond Dereköy are Temel Baba and Sahil Et Balık.
- Fish is neither abundant nor cheap, the islanders prefer mutton.
- Buy some bread, feta cheese and salad items, pick mulberries and figs from an unowned tree, that's breakfast sorted.
- Barba Yorgo in Tepeköy is a famous Greek tavern.
- Turkish coffee is always good for reviving you, Madam’ın Yeri in Zeytinli is one renowned cafe.
- Water: bring plenty when hiking and exploring the old villages, the sun is hot and you might not find a drinkable source.
Most accommodation is in Merkez the main village. The other cluster is around Yenibademli / Kaleköy 3 km north on the coast. They're all small family-run places.
- Panos Kiftlik is at Eski Bademli Köyü mah. 29.
- Meydani Otel is at the main crossroads on Atatürk Cd.
- Petrino Gökçeada Hotel, Kadri Üçok Cd 43, ☏ . Friendly place in an early 20th century manor. They have bike hire. B&B double 600 TL.
- Gökçeada Marmaros Butik Otel, Atatürk Cd 4, ☏ . Newly opened in 2021, clean and eager to please. B&B double 300 TL.
- Hotel Kale Palace is at Atatürk Cd 54.
- Papruna is 200 m south of the centre on Tuzla Sk.
- Porta Troya Hotel is east edge of the village at Kızılay Cd 67.
- Self-catering: lots of apartments available.
Yenibademli / Kaleköy
- Yenibademli is all boxy modern bungalows, but there are lots available.
- Anemos Hotel, Yukarı Kaleköy 98, ☏ . Boutique hotel with pool and restaurant. Each room is decorated with artworks and stones from the island. B&B double 760 TL.
- Petit Jardin Hotel is just up the lane from Anemos.
- Elfin Butik Otel is at Yukarı Kale Köyü 27.
- Değirmen Konukevi is at Yukarı Kale Köyü 78.
- Kale Motel is down by the harbour at Barbaros Cd 42/1.
- Aliş B Otel is up the lane on Barbaros Cd 10.
- Gökçeada Batıhan Otel, Kuzulimanı Sahili 10 Sk 11 (At ferry harbour), ☏ . Friendly clean place by ferry pier.
- Eşelek on the south coast has Otel Kefalos and a surf hostel.
- Camping is possible almost anywhere on the island. There's a site at Aydıncık beach.
- Protect yourself against the fierce sun - the sea breeze means you won't realise how frazzled you're getting.
- Usual care of valuables, crime on the island is uncommon, but there are lowlife visitors.
- Always assume that around the next corner will be a pick-up truck hurtling to meet the ferry.
- Stay away from military areas, which are very clearly marked and fenced off.
- The goats will sniff out and try to gobble up any loose food, so they welcome campers.
As of Sept 2021, there is 4G in Merkez, across most of the island, and on the ferry with Türk Telekom or Turkcell, but there's no signal from Vodafone. 5G has not yet reached this area.
- The ferry takes you back to Kabatepe on the Gallipoli peninsula. The 1915 Great War landing and memorial sites are in this area and south, around Eceabat and Kilitbahir. Gelibolu town which shares its name with the peninsula was well north of the battle front.
- Çanakkale the regional capital can be reached direct by the summer ferry, or year-round by the short ferry across the Dardanelles. Go that way for sites such as Troy and Pergamon, and Turkey's other inhabited island Bozcaada.
- The Greek island to the southwest is Lemnos and to the northwest is Samothrace. They have no ferry links to Turkey so reaching either is a complicated journey via mainland Greece.