Kilitbahir is a pretty village on the European bank of the Dardanelles. Backed by craggy mountains of the Gallipoli Peninsula that are covered by lush forests of pine and olives, it is a very scenic place with cobbled streets and stone buildings, and with great views over the strait towards Çanakkale and the rest of the Asian mainland.
The name of the village, morphed from older Kilidülbahir, is Ottoman Turkish for "the lock of the sea", as this is where the Dardanelles, a major sea passage connecting the Mediterranean with the Black Sea, is at its narrowest (1.2 km/0.75 mi) between the village and Çanakkale just across. In a typically Thracian way, locals tend to call their village Kilitbayır, as speakers of the local Turkish dialect often avoid pronouncing the 'h' sound.
A road through the forests just above the waterline leads from Eceabat (5 km), offering a highly scenic if a little strenuous drive with lots of sharp turns.
The narrow, cobbled, and hilly streets of Kilitbahir are not great for looking around for a parking space, so it is best to park your car on the main street along the coast and walk around. The main entrance to the village centre, uphill from the shore, is near the ferry harbour, marked with a brown signpost of Kilitbahir Kültür Merkezi (Kilitbahir Cultural Centre); there are also other alleys heading up there.
Kilitbahir has plenty of sights for its size, largely due to its strategic positioning on the chokepoint of the Dardanelles, also known as "the Narrows".
- 1 [dead link] Kilitbahir Castle (Kilitbahir Kalesi) (south from the harbour along the coast; entrance is past a wall gate straddling the street. Carpark available). Lending its name to the village, this is an immediately impressive citadel with a central clover-shaped tower which some liken to a heart, and extended walls towards a secondary tower in its south. Paired with the Çimenlik Castle, its Asian counterpart across in Çanakkale, it was built by Ottoman emperor Mehmet the Conqueror, either just before or just after his conquest of Constantinople (1453), in order to control the shipping of the Dardanelles.
- 2 Fort Namazgah (Namazgah Tabyası) (just south of the castle; has carpark). The modern cousin of the medieval castle dates back to the Gallipoli Campaign of World War I.
Other sights are dispersed around the village.
- 3 Tabib Hasan Pasha Mosque (Tabib Hasan Paşa Camii) (right on the coastline past the harbour).
- 4 İbrahim Pasha Fountain (İbrahim Paşa Çeşmesi) (at the village square). A monumental marble fountain.
- 5 Cahidi Sultan Shrine (Cahidi Sultan Türbesi) (at the top of the village). Has a commanding view of the village and the castle below, and the Dardanelles and Çanakkale beyond.
A number of small, family-run guesthouses exists in the village, making Kilitbahir a nice and calmer alternative to Eceabat and Çanakkale to base yourself for a tour of the Gallipoli war sites and memorials.
The road from Eceabat continues along the Dardanelles towards the southern tip of the Gallipoli Peninsula, Cape Helles, known in Turkish as Seddülbahir, "the wall of the sea". The area is the site of the main Turkish memorial, Abide, to those lost during the 1915 Dardanelles Campaign as well as little visited battlefields and Allied memorials.