Çanakkale (Dardanelles) and Gelibolu (Gallipoli) Battles Zones
Çanakkale (Dardanelles) and Gelibolu (Gallipoli) Battles Zones in the First World War is part of the Tentative list of Turkiye in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.
The First World War Battle Zones of the Dardanelles and Gallipoli represent the land battle during that war. They hold an extensive range of sunken ships, guns, trenches, forts, bastions and a myriad of other war related artefacts together with Turkish, Australian, New Zealand, English and French war graves and memorials.
Map of Çanakkale (Dardanelles) and Gelibolu (Gallipoli) Battles ZonesLoad map
The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.
I visited the area on a moody day of December 2022.
The official description is rather vague, as it seems to encompass everything about the war in the whole area, and all the motivations and values of the site appear to lie on the intangible side. Anyway, the whole southern part of Gallipoli's peninsula in front of Çanakkale, this extreme corner of Turkey, is a national park and protected area, and, more in particular, most of the interest gravitates around the ANZAC cove, west of Eceabat on the Aegean. Here, the cove itself and its hinterland are dotted with countless very simple, elegant war cemeteries and explanatory signs and boards. On the hills, many trenches, now mostly in the woods (there were far fewer trees at the time of WW1) can be seen and explored. The site would be simply a beautiful natural park of Mediterranean vegetation and steep hills, were it not for the intense and tragic memories associated with it.
The ANZAC sector, which includes the famous cove, is what most people visit, and so did I, with one of many tours departing from Çanakkale/Eceabat. Most tours go here, and with a reason, as it was the place where the harshest and most important episodes of Gallipoli's campaign took place. To do it justice, a good afternoon is needed, and the same, if not more, for the southern tip around Seddülbahir (so I was told). When I was there, it was a mild but cloudy and melancholic day, suited to the events that the guide told us. At the cove, the rythmic sound of waves under the grey sky, brushing the small and tidy cemetery with pale graves, fitted the sadness that emanates from the ultimate feeling of futility and failure I got learning more about this episode of WW1. The narrative (which is all this proposal is about), probably because of the usual audience (more than half of the group consisted of Australians and "kiwis"), is skewed towards the side of the Triple Entente and so, maybe, of a "Western" public, in that it gives more emphasis to the assailers than to the Turkish side. But while it is true that both sides had incredible losses, the Ottoman Empire/Turkey clenched a probably unexpected victory under the helm of Atatürk, who started his climb to power after becoming famous as the "heroes of the Dardanelles" (despite subsequent developments of a disastrous war for the Turkish side and diplomatic treaties made this battle an end in itself; the Allied forces eventually did manage to occupy Istanbul); for the other side, it was just a humiliating demise, also due to a series of errors. And probably this perceived tragedy is what strikes most the imaginations, and the reason that Gallipoli has become such an important part of the national identity in Australia and New Zealand, even beyond its objective "merits". In fact, this was one of the factor that made me so curious about visiting the war memorials, ever since quite some years ago I browsed my guidebook in preparation for a trip to Turkey (which however brought me elsewhere): I wanted to see what it is all about, how these places originated such an emotional attachment. And it surely makes an impression to walk on the same spots, now so peaceful, trying to imagine the fierce combat of few days and the unnerving trench grind of the remaining months, to understand how the terrain shaped this act of war. A good example for this is the Nek, where one wonders about the sanity of performing a direct assault given how narrow the space is.
The visit might disappoint those who have no particular interest in this page of history or who are not willing to get emotionally involved, since, as said, there's not really much apart from nice landscapes, and the cemeteries can become repetitive. That's why I think that one of the best ways to visit the site is indeed through one of the many tours that local companies have specialised in. In my case, this was Crowded House, one of the historical names, and I was not disappointed. These tours (around 30-35€) start late, at around 11/12, to wait for people coming from Istanbul, and include the lunch. Ours took us first to the beach cemeteries and the ANZAC cove (one of the most suggestive sites, and with many explanatory panels), then on the hills to Lone Pine (another cemetery), various trenches and tunnels, Johnston's Jolly (it's remarkable how every place has its particular name), the Nek, stopped at the Turkish cemetery of the 57th regiment and ends at Chunuk Bair/Çanak bayır/Conk bayırı, the highest, panoramic point of the peninsula, with the New Zealand memorial and the statue of the victorious Atatürk telling the anecdote of how he was saved by his pocket watch stopping a bullet (I am not ready to defend the veracity of this story...). Before sunset, I was again in Çanakkale. I was very satisfied, as the order of the sightseeing and the great experience of the guide (at times very repetitive, but always clear and on point) was able to make us fully understand and relive Gallipoli's campaign. The pace was also very good and allowed us to enjoy the stops well enough. Overall, it was very professional and enjoyable. The most conspicuous monument I missed was the martyr's memorial in the south, which by the way is being restored. We also did not go to the visitor's centre in Kabatepe: this would have been a nice addition, but probably made secondary by the guide's explanations.
I think it's very easy to arrange a visit, especially locally. Just go to the tourism office in Çanakkale and ask, or ring one of the local agencies. You do not need more than a couple days advance in my experience: there should always be a place, maybe even on the same day. Now, I personally had a slightly more turbulent experience: given that I visited Turkey coming from a longer trip in Sudan, and that there, on my last day, my phone got stolen, I was pretty much disconnected (as I did not want to take a new phone on the fly, and anyway I then would need my old number for the obnoxious two-factor verification... a vicious circle) and so unable to pay online a tour I had already booked via an Istanbul-based agency (OK, maybe I indulged a bit into this disconnection, it was so mid-end '00s). They stubbornly insisted for that notwithstanding that I had given them all the needed data and confirmation and had explained my situation, and that most other agencies accept a "live" payment. Of course on the pre-arranged morning nobody came to my hotel, so I just went to the tourist office (I greatly recommend it for the friendliness - and patience - of the staff). There were a couple of places for a tour on the same morning, in ~30 minutes, so I was ready to start! But there was a misunderstanding, as no more than 5 minutes later, calling again to confirm, those places were gone... the information guy had not immediately given them my name! Well, that was unfortunate. But this just meant that (apart from losing a morning, but OK, I also needed to recover some sleep...) I booked the last place for the day after (with Crowded House), and in the meantime did a late excursion to Troy, instead of the contrary (though renouncing to Assos). Now, later the Gallipoli guide explained me that this high demand was rather unusual in a very low season day as that one. Moral of the story: with a bare minimum of flexibility you will always find a spot on a tour; and favour local companies. Well, around the 25th of April (Anzac Day) it might get more complicated.
The roads are visibly renovated and in very good conditions: they are narrow and go up and down the hills, and some routes are one-way. Driving here should be a breeze. There is a "touristic hub" at the monuments of the 57th regiment, where you can find toilets, a café, and shops which sell a very detailed (and tiny-written) historical map of the area. The peninsula has also many hiking trails that connect the monuments, but it is vast. Nature is surely pleasant here for a walk, and you should always find some shade (just be prepared for the many stray dogs, "harmless" as they might be). Under the sea lie many shipwrecks of the naval battle of March 18th, 1915: I wonder if someone organises tours to see them. But don't worry, there are also very modern military ships and even submarines cruising the Dardanelles to help your imagination...
I don't think there is much for an inscription here. Despite all the emotional ties and creative works these events sparked (check for example this musical take by Sabaton, in their usual bombastic style), it all seems of rather local (including Australia & New Zealand) importance to me, as much as it would be nominating the frozen Alpine remains of the White War in Italy, where it has mythical status while probably living the rest of the world rather cold. Sure, it is a monument to the idiocies and plagues of war, but one of many even in WW1. More interesting is how this encounter of three then young or coalescing nations, confronted with the ultimate futility of this unforeseen enterprise, forged a kind of enduring mutual comprehension and friendship... but this goes much beyond the war itself, is difficult to evaluate and is simply intangible and, again, local. Anyway, there are only very faint remains (even the terrain has changed, e.g. woods) and the tangible parts are cemeteries ad memoriam: memory and narrative is all that sustains this site. And finally, it would probably be considered to lie in a controversial category with respect to recent WHS's policies, not less so because of the rhetoric about "martyrs" (note the blend of religious terminology, instead maybe of a more martial "heroes"), which has always been present (the Martyrs' Memorial dates from the 50s), but is especially pursued and pushed by the current regime, as also highlighted by our guide. New cemeteries and memorials for Turkish soldiers are popping up everywhere and the whole area is turned into a national(istic) sanctuary where the red crescent-adorned flag flaps around every corner, in front of the already existing ANZAC cemeteries, somewhat dissonant from the famous Atatürk's discourse of "no difference between Johnnies and Mehmetçiks". In front of Çanakkale, an enormous writing on the hillside with the verses Dur yolcu... "Stay, wanderer.." asks to remind the "end of an era". In sum, I feel that a crucial moment for Turkish history is exploited to justify some politics in the present, and do not like that as much as I respect the historical events.
I can very much recommend Çanakkale as a good base for the area, including the nearby WHS of Troy. It is a very lively town with a nice position on the strait, where you won't miss anything, and the tourist office is very helpful. As usual, my suggestion is to overnight here instead of doing a one-day tour from Istanbul: the area is well connected (but take into account good 4,5 hours by bus) and you can arrange everything here. Then you are ready to move on to other (T)WHSs like Pergamon, Ephesus and beyond, and maybe even cross to Greece to Chios. As its name ("pottery castle") implies, a good souvenir from the town are ceramics: you will find very nice ones at the university's shop in the clocktower square (Şair Ece Ayhan meydanı). The old town is a small labyrinth with some nice minor sights and a couple of interesting museums, especially the promising Naval Museum (which I unfortunately had to skip). I don't think there are any advantages in staying at Eceabat: the Bosphorus, which was so harshly fought over in the millennia, from Troy, through Xerxes, the Ottomans and up to WW1, is now easily crossed by frequent ferries from the busy docks; also the big bridge at Gallipoli was completed this year and changed some traffic routes. So, ferries don't bring you anymore to Istanbul (as still shown on more than one map), but can bring you to the weird, trilobate castle of sleepy Kilitbahir (visible from the seaside), recently restored and a lovely small museum centered on the Medieval defenses; just in front of the castle, you have the bunkers hosting the Namazgâh museum; they should also be part of Gallipoli's proposal.
PHOTO: the cemetery at Lone Pine.
Uhhhh, "battle zones", that alone will not bode well with any committee reviewing it for inscription into the WHS list. On my attempt to cover all three war tentative site in one year (the other two in Belgium and France are rather easy to visit anyway) I drove through Gallipoli on my way to Troy. The scenery here is beautiful. It made me think about the Mel Gibson movie a lot but actually none of the scenes were filmed in Turkey. This is an important part of ANZAC history.
The first section I came across was a cemetery. There are lots of these around the area, often split into ANZAC and Turkish cemetery sites. The roads here are really good, with some reports online worrying me they must be outdated. The roads are new and an additional bridge across the bay is now buying built to replace the ferries. My main goal was the Anzac cove, the landing area of the Anzac troops and where they had their main camps. The most interesting site here is the 'Sphinx' rock that doesn't look like anything close to the sphinx and more of a manatee/mermaid situation - you don't get out of the house much and anything looks interesting.
I recommend a drive through Gallipoli for its history and scenery but I don't believe this is world heritage criteria.
2014 Added to Tentative List
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