Keşan is a city in Eastern Thrace in the northwest of Turkey. It's at a major crossroads, with highways west to the border crossing with Greece at Ipsala, north to the city of Edirne, south down the Gallipoli peninsula, and east to Istanbul. In 2018 Keşan town had a population of 63,965. Another 20,000 live in the small villages and beach resorts on the Gulf of Saros to the south, and these are also described here.
This area is fertile, and the town has long made a living from agriculture, in between spells of getting wrecked by warring empires. In the second century BC it was Kission, a stopover on the Via Egnatia between Rome and Byzantium. The Bulgarians took it several times as Byzantium weakened, but it was Ottoman from the 1360s. The Russians, Bulgarians and Greeks had periods of occupation in the 19th / 20th centuries, but from 1922 it was assigned to Turkey.
Small resorts grew up on the coast during the 20th century - they were within a weekend trip from Istanbul, but never attracted mass tourism. East-west traffic through Keşan ebbed and flowed with Greek-Turkish relations, while the north-south traffic was greatly reduced in March 2022 when O-6 and the Çanakkale bridge were completed. Local businesses are still adjusting to this.
Keşan is 20 km from the border with Greece, and is the first large Turkish town you encounter eastbound. To Istanbul is another 210 km east along a modern divided two-lane highway, reckon 3 hours.
Buses run hourly from Istanbul's main Europe-side terminal Esenler Otogar, taking 3-4 hours to Keşan depending on the traffic and route: they may also call at Silivri and Tekirdağ. A single fare in 2022 is 200 TL. Bus companies on the route are Truva Turizm, Metro (from Istanbul Bayrampaşa), and the locally-based Keşan Birlik.
From Keşan most of the buses continue south down the peninsula to Gelibolu and across the bridge to Çanakkale. Along with the bridge came a new motorway O-6, bypassing well to the east of Keşan, so some operators no longer serve the town.
In normal times long-distance buses continue west from Keşan to İpsala and Greece. In 2022 these remain suspended; there may be a dolmuş then you could try attracting a lift as walking across the bridge that forms the border isn't allowed. See below for facilities at İpsala village in case you get stuck.
1 Keşan bus station is on Highway D550 at the north edge of town, 2 km from the centre and 1 km from the junction with the east-west Highway D110. There's a couple of cafes and an ATM. Your ticket may include a connecting minibus to town, enquire when booking, otherwise look for a dolmuş or taxi. Until 2020 some of the village dolmuşes continued to use the old bus station in town centre, but then it was demolished and they took the hint.
You need your own wheels. The occasional countryside dolmuş will be scheduled to bring villagers into Keşan in the morning for necessities then bring them home.
- Keşan town square is entirely modern, a bland plaza resembling an airport parking lot surrounded by low-rise office blocks.
- South of town are low hills, some pine-clad or farmed, others gouged out by quarries. Roads wind through the hills to the coast of Saros Bay, Saros Körfezi, which has many small resort villages.
- 1 Çamlıca, 10 km south of Keşan, used to be the Greek village of Grabuna, and has some well-preserved stone buildings. On Bocuk Gecesi ("witches night") in mid-January, the villagers parade on a Halloween-type ghost walk with torches and costumes; see the organizers' official social media account for the exact dates of the next event.
- 2 Sazlıdere is a small beach resort reached by taking the turn-off east just before the road enters Gökçetepe. This lane eventually meanders east to join the main highway down the Gallipoli peninsula.
- 3 Gökçetepe is a larger beach resort: the old village is 3 km inland with nothing to see. On the coast east is the stump of a Genoese castle, besieged by modern holiday bungalows. The main attraction is just west, Gökçetepe Nature Park (Gökçetepe Tabiat Parkı, entrance fee), ranged along a shingle beach between an attractive cove and pine-clad mountains. There are food outlets, a campsite and self-catering cabins. The park gets very crowded on summer weekends. The sea here is refreshingly clear and cold.
- 4 İbrice Limanı is a cove and marina usually reached via Mecidiye, but it's also linked by dirt road along the coast to Gökçetepe Nature Park. Scuba-diving trips sail from here, see Do.
- 5 Mecidiye is a large resort village, though it's 3 km inland. The headland south is riven by big ugly quarries.
- 6 Erikli (which means "plums") is the largest resort. It's backed by a salt lake helpfully called "Salt Lake" - Tuzla Gölü - Turkey has lots. There's a sandy beach, hotels and camping. Danişment Forest Camp on the coast 2 km west is basic and grubby.
- 7 Yayla means "highland" so that's another common name. There's a resort village with a marina.
- 8 Vakıf is a small straggly beach resort next to a salt lake called - oh go on, guess. "Vakıf" corresponds to Arabic waqf, a plot of land endowed for religious charitable purposes.
- 9 Sultaniçe is a beach resort with marina. 1 km east across the creek is Gülçavuş village.
- 10 Enez beach is the last resort area before the river and lagoons on the border with Greece. The town straggles for 10 km. There's no border crossing here, you have to head north to Ipsala.
- 11 Archipelago of Saros comprises three islands near the head of the bay: Big Island (Büyükada, 1 km long), Small (Küçükada) and Little (Minikada). They're just scrub, with nothing to see, and potentially dangerous to visit since they had long been used as shooting targets by the navy.
- Samothrace is the properly big island poking up in the distance west. It's part of Greece and you reach it by ferry from Alexandroupolis.
- You might be able to make out Gökçeada island south of Samothrace. It's Turkish and you reach it by ferry from Kabatepe near Eceabat.
- 12 İpsala but only if you get stuck at the border: it's the nearest settlement on the Turkish side. The main highway continues to the crossing with Greece, with the usual money-exchanges and filling stations. The village straggles along a minor road branching north: local buses and dolmuş from Keşan come this far. Mevlana Otel is at the junction, with a string of pansyon and cafes on Enez Cd towards the village. Yöre Restaurant[dead link] at the junction might be the place to pick up a lift. Not much to see here: in town square Alaca Mustafa Paşa Mosque may be 15th century, but the clock tower is modern.
- Scuba diving: Dive shacks and schools at Ibrice Limani are Argos[dead link], Ibrice Dive Centre, YDM Dalış, Saroz, and Decodiving.
- There are several supermarkets on the main highways, serving self-catering trippers and second-home owners stocking up for their weekend at the beach. There's a cluster at the highway interchange including 5M Migros. On D550 south at the mid-town exit, Carrefour is open M-F 10:00-20:00, Sa Su 10:00-17:00. There's another Migros at Bendis open-air shopping complex on the road to Enez just past the interchange with D550, so is more convenient for the traffic heading south.
- The villages just have small convenience stores, if that.
- Keşan town centre has lots of little places. Kaymaz gets decent reviews and is open M-Sa 07:30-22:00.
- Nothing in Çamlıca village, but there's little cluster north at Bahçeköy, where the coast road branches off the main highway.
- Mecidiye has Güler Balık fish restaurant, good food but pricey, open daily 11:00-00:00.
- Erikli has several. Saros Balık restaurant is reliable.
- Yayla has Beyaz Ahtapot, good reviews, open 09:00-00:00.
- The other beach resorts all have cafe-restaurants, nothing special.
- Keşan has a cluster of bars in town centre, trad male-oriented places, dark and shuttered in 2021.
- The beach resorts have bars at Erikli, Altunhan, Vakif and Sultaniçe.
- 1 Saros Hotel, Yukarı Zaferiye, Mahallesi, Paşa Yiğit Cd 26, ☏ . Simple budget to mid-range place is one of the more reliable town centre places, clean and helpful.
- In Keşan town centre close to the Saros are Çetin Otel, Prestige Hotel[dead link], Urek Hotel and Bay Hostel.
- Keşan bypass D550 one km west of the centre has Bendis Otel[dead link], Çınar İstanbul and Hotel Ağadayı Tesisleri. Further north at the interchange with D110 are the Linda and Mira hotels.
- Erikli has a beach strip including Saros Çetin Apart Otel, self-catering flats and campsites.
- 2 Dubara Hotel, Güler Kent Yanı Sultaniçe Köyü Sahili 51/A, ☏ . Clean well-run resort hotel in pine woods 500 m from Sultaniçe beach.
As of Jan 2021, Keşan town and its approach highways have 4G from all Turkish carriers. The villages around Saros Bay have patchy service, but you might manage a call with Vodafone.
- Enez is on the Aegean coast 60 km southwest, with long sandy beaches and a Byzantine citadel.
- Edirne is a fascinating historic city - being so far west, most travellers pass it by.
- Uzunköprü on the way to Edirne has a remarkable 15th century stone bridge of 170+ arches.
- Gelibolu in the middle of the peninsula has ferries to Asia-side Turkey as well as a bridge whisking you away in the same direction.
- Eceabat is surrounded by memorials of the Gallipoli landings of 1915.
|Routes through Keşan
|→ Tekirdağ → Istanbul ()
|Kırklareli ← Uzunköprü ←
|→ Gelibolu → → Çanakkale
|Alexandroupolis ← İpsala/Kipi ←
|→ Gelibolu → → Bursa