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The Gelibolu Peninsula

The Gelibolu Peninsula
The Gelibolu Peninsula, better known as Gallipoli and aside from its infamy as the landing site of the Allied troops in 1915, has some very beautiful scenery and beaches. The peninsula is 60km in length and between 4km and 18km wide and forms the narrow strait connecting the Aegean with the Sea of Marmara. The road into the peninsula has sweeping bends and plunges down past the Saros Gulf.  

Visiting Battlefiels and Cemeteries in Gelibolu

As would be expected here there are many battlefields and cemeteries highlighting the tragic defeat of the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps), British, Irish and French by the Turkish army. This is also an important site for the Turkish as Mustafa Kemal gained his fame as one of the commanders at the battle and who later became known as Ataturk (“Father of the Turks”) statesman and founder of the Republic of Turkey, was the first president and a man still greatly revered by Turks today.


In the beautiful pine forested rolling countryside and scattered along the peninsula are the moving sights of these battlefields and Allied cemeteries and is hard to imagine the bloodshed that occurred in 1915. Even today pieces of old equipment, shrapnel fragments, human bones and unexploded munitions are being found.  Tours to the northern sites can be taken from many different places including Gelibolu, Eceabat and Çanakkale and all vary in duration and price and it is recommended that you shop around.

The tour companies should have Ministry of Tourism licensed guides with full knowledge of the sites and who speak good English.  Independent visits to the north and south parts of the peninsula are possible by using a combination of short rides on dolmuş (minibuses) and by walking. In summer the dolmus meet the car ferries from Canakkale and take passengers to Alçitepe and Seddülbahir where you can tour the cemeteries and memorials on foot. The dolmuş also take visitors to the Turkish Memorial. There are no admission fees or restricted hours to the open air sites. Bicycle rentals are available in Eceabat should you want to cycle the steep climbing roads.

Gallipoli History

By 1915 the Western Front was clearly deadlocked and the Russians were being threatened by the Turks in the Caucasus and appealed for assistance. Sir Winston Churchill, who was then in his first important role as First Lord of the Admiralty, mounted a naval expedition to attack and take the Gallipoli Peninsula on the western shore of the Dardanelles. This plan was to force Istanbul into submission taking Turkey out of the war and possibly persuade the Balkan states to join the Allies and all of which would greatly weaken Germany. On 19 February naval attacks began but bad weather caused delays and was abandoned after three battleships were sunk, others badly damaged and 100’s of men killed. It took several months to prepare a military assault and because of this delay the Turks had time to organise their defences and their army was now six times larger than when the campaign commenced.

On 25th April the Allied troops were sent in to land along the peninsula where the commanders had planned an Anglo-French attack at Cape Helles, Seddülbahir and Morto Bay with a simultaneous ANZAC attack at Kabatepe Beach, all to drive towards each other, join up and take out the Turkish shore batteries controlling the Dardanelles. The plan was doomed, the French were virtually wiped out and in two days only managed to get 6.5km inland. The ANZAC landing was an even more horrific disaster, caused by a signal buoy drifting away, and the troops disembarking on the flat white sands of the beach instead of a cove 2km north and lost over 2,000 troops on the first day.

Although managing to advance inland and with the Turks retreating the ANZAC threatened the Turkish overhead strongpoint of Çonkbayırı where Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) rushed in reinforcements and the ANZAC never made it further than 800m inland. After fierce battles to gain the summit in August failed, long term trench battles continued till around Christmas of 1915 when the Allies eventually pulled out with the last of the troops leaving on 8th January 1916. During this time half a million men were deployed from both sides with 50% of them being killed, wounded or missing.  April 25th is now designated as ANZAC day, a solemn holiday held in Australia and New Zealand.

Gelibou or Gelibolu

Gelibou is the chief town on the peninsula and lies 35km north of the main battlefield sites. During the Crimean War the town served as the Anglo-French headquarters and has history dating back as far as the 5th century BC when it was allied with Athens during the Persian raids. It still serves as a military outpost where many young Turkish men completing their 2-year National Service in the surrounding military installations come to practice drills for their passing-out parade.

Places to Visit in Gelibolu

Byzantine Callipolis Fortress - Piri Reis Museum

In the town centre is a square fishing harbour surrounded by cafés and restaurants and separated by a wide stone tower which is all that remains of the Byzantine Callipolis fortress. In the early 14th century the fortress was held for 7 years by an army of rebelling Catalan mercenaries and in 1354 after being taken by the Ottomans was rebuilt and expanded. The tower now houses the Piri Reis Museum dedicated to the legendary 15th century Turkish cartographer who was the first man to fully map the Americas and also has a number of archaeological finds and old photographs.

Mosque and Tombs

There is a historic mosque in the market place in town and to the northeast, well inland, are sites of some Ottoman tombs.  

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