The extreme northwestern end of Minor Asia reaches the Aegean Sea and the Strait of Dardanelles, forming a small peninsula. This is a typical subtropical land with olives, pine trees, and a beautiful coastline. But it keeps secrets of thousands of years of history. The main city here is called Çanakkale, and its main gem is the famous legendary Troy. Here is the origin of the Trojan Horse. So, let’s go on a journey to Çanakkale and Troy, and let’s explore this area and its secrets!
Çanakkale is the main city of Biga Peninsula, called also Troad or Troas. The city is located on the Asian side of the Strait of Dardanelles, and it is the main on-land entry point for Troad and the whole of Western Turkey.
On the west, Biga Peninsula reaches the Aegean Sea, and there is a small island in front of it, called Bozcaada, as well as several smaller islets. Cape Baba, located in this area is the westernmost point of mainland Anatolia.
On the south, the area borders the Gulf of Edremit, with Kaz Mountains that descend straight into this gulf. And on the east, Biga Peninsula just merges with the rest of Anatolia north of Edremit.
The whole area of Troad is hilly, covered by agricultural fields, olive trees, and relatively low mountains, covered by subtropical deciduous and pine forests. So, it is a great place, proper for the development of civilizations from ancient times.
History of Çanakkale and Troad
As a result of the great geographical conditions, the area around Çanakkale has a long history. It can be shortly divided into several main periods.
Prehistory and Bronze Age (unknown times until 1100 BC)
The first signs of civilization discovered in the area are considered to date from around 4000 BC. And the earliest traces of the main city of Troad called Troy (Ilion, or Wilusa) date from around 3000 BC.
The archaeologists identified 6 (or 7, including “Layer 0”) historical layers of Troy, as follows:
- Layer 0 (around 3600-3000 BC)- only some potteries and other artifacts, no walls.
- Layer 1 (3000-2550 BC)- earliest remains of houses and walls.
- Layer 2 (2550-2300 BC)
- Layers 3-5 (2300-1750 BC)
- Layers 6-7a (1750-1180 BC)- ended with destruction, today identified as the cause of the Trojan War. This is the end of this age, as a part of the so-called Bronze Age Collapse.
Along with Troy, there were many other minor cities, but not much has remained from them that belongs to this age.
Dark Age, Homer Age, early Greek Age (1100 to 336 BC)
This is a relatively dark and unclear time. The first centuries of this age are called the “Dark Age”, marked mainly by wars and destruction. Later, during the so-called “Homer Age”, the civilization was slowly restored by settlers, called Aeolian Greeks. They restored Troy too and built the “Layer 8” of the city.
The Kingdom of Lydia conquered Troad in the 7th century BC. Then, it became a part of the Persian Empire around 512 BC. After some temporary periods of independence and again under Persian rule, Troad was conquered by Alexander the Great in 336 BC.
Hellenistic and Early Roman Age (336 BC to 314 AD)
This is an era of bloom. The area was first a part of the Macedonian Empire and its descendant kingdoms and then was included in the Attalid Kingdom of Pergamon until 133 BC. After that, it was included in the Roman Republic which became Roman Empire.
During that age, some new cities emerged in Troad. One of them is Alexandria Troas, mentioned in the Bible, known as the place where Paul the Apostle raised a boy from the dead. The Romans contribute to the city of Troy (Ilion) too, by building new constructions (the last Layer 9).
Byzantine Age (314 to 1367)
Troy and the other ancient cities existed during this age, but most of them gradually declined. Some suffered from destructions caused by earthquakes and wars, and little by little all of them were abandoned.
Troy was the seat of the Christian bishop of Ilion, probably until the 10th century. Later, the whole area was a part of the Latin Empire and again the Byzantine Empire. It was also attacked by the Seljuks, and conquered by the Karasid Dynasty. Later the Ottoman Turks came until it was fully conquered by the new Ottoman Empire.
Ottoman Age (1367 to 1924)
When the Ottoman Turks conquered the area, the ancient cities (including Troy) were already abandoned and remained in ruins. The Turks build new cities and villages that remained today.
One of these new cities was Çanakkale, built as a fortress in 1462. The Ottoman Turks built two forts- two castles on the two sides of the Dardanelles to control the sea transport through the strait.
Later, in 1915, during World War One, there was an important battle at Çanakkale, the Turks won an important victory against the British and the French navies. It is today commemorated in the town of Eceabad, on the European side of the Dardanelles.
Modern Age (1924 until today)
This is the age of the Republic of Turkey, established by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Around the years of its establishment, there was a war between Greece and Turkey, and as a result, the Greek population from Troad, as well as the rest of Turkey was transferred to Greece. Thus, the whole area of Western Turkey became 100% Turkish.
However, the Turks didn’t erase the Greek cultural and historical inheritance. In recent years, with the rise of tourism, the Turkish government preserved and restored a lot of artifacts and ruins. Çanakkale became a modern tourist destination, and Troy, as well as some other ancient cities (like Assos), became a well-arranged tourist destination.
Our trip to Çanakkale and Troy
All of these facts inspired us to include Çanakkale and Troy in our 15-day Western Turkey journey by car. We came from Bulgaria, entered Turkey at Edirne, and traveled on the road to Çanakkale. Then, we crossed the Strait of Dardanelles through the 1915 Çanakkale Bridge- the longest suspension bridge in the world, which opened in May 2022 and arrived in the city.
We explored the most attractive part of Çanakkale- the alley at the sea coast with Çanakkale’s symbol- the Trojan Horse and walked around the center. From there, we proceeded straight to the Ancient Troy National Park, then we visited also the ancient city of Alexandria Troas.
We also visited Assos, but we did it on our way back, before arriving in Çanakkale again and proceeding back to Edirne and Bulgaria. There are many other places of interest and things to do in the Biga (Troad) Peninsula, but we focused only on the most important of them.
Anyway, here is what we visited and what we would visit and do if we had more time…
Places to visit and things to do in Çanakkale and Troad
In general, Çanakkale is the main starting point for exploring the area, so, let’s start with the city itself.
The Center of Çanakkale
Çanakkale is a mid-sized city, rapidly growing in recent years (like most of the cities in Turkey and in the world). But while the periphery is relatively new, the center of the city is older and still preserved the atmosphere of the recent past. The city is divided by the Çanakkale Stream and the old part is located on the north side of the stream.
Here you can dive into the quarter with narrow streets, full of souvenirs, traditional crafts, and other shops, cafes, and restaurants, as well as some historical landmarks like the Clock Tower, the City Museum, and the Armenian Apostolic Church.
A special hidden gem is the Rhapsodos Mozaik- a site with a mosaic exhibition that tells the story of Troy in a very attractive way. The story is portraited by 43 mosaic pictures- a worth-seeing site by art lovers.
Çimenlik Castle and the Military Naval Museum
This site is located right beside the old part of Çanakkale, at the coast of the Dardanelles, and it brings you to the history of the last several centuries. Here, in 1462 Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror built Çimenlik Castle as a fort on a very strategic point, at the narrowest part of the Dardanelles. The castle had an important historical and military role and today is turned into a museum.
Along with it, the area also includes the Military Naval Museum. It presents vessels from the Ottoman and modern periods, including the Ataturk’s boat, the replica of the minelayer Nusret, as well as some other exhibitions.
Both Çimenlik Castle and the Military Naval Museum belong to one site. The entrance to its open-air area is free, and the exhibition in the Çimenlik Castle, as well as boarding on the Nusret replica, requires an entrance fee: 20 TL.
Çanakkale Waterfront and the Trojan Horse
This is the most attractive, most beautiful, and most symbolic place in Çanakkale. It is a seaside walking alley that starts from the pier and goes northward beside the Çanakkale marina port. From here, you can enjoy some great views of the city, the Dardanelles, and the lands in Europe beyond the strait.
But the most iconic spot here is the Trojan Horse. This version of the legendary horse was designed especially for the movie “Troy” (2004) with Brad Pitt, and if you have watched it, you will recognize the same horse on the waterfront of the city. And yes, this is the same horse! It was donated to Çanakkale by Warner Brothers, and now you can see it there.
Besides the Horse, there is also a small model of ancient Troy, as well as an art pyramid presenting a battle. So, if you plan to go ahead to the ruins of Troy, this place is a good “warming-up” point before your archeological exploration.
But before we head to Troy, let’s also mention Eceabad, located in Europe, on the other side of the Dardanelles. Although it is not located in Biga (Troad) Peninsula, it is still a part of Çanakkale, at least thematically.
Eceabad is a small town, located almost in front of Çanakkale. The landscape around it is beautiful- the large water strip of the Dardanelles, combined with the hills of the Gallipoli Peninsula create picturesque landscapes.
But besides its beautiful location, Eceabad is also full of history, mainly from the Ottoman era and World War One. When you arrive at the main pier and walk south of it on the seafront alley, you can see the WW1 (1915) Battle of Gallipoli thematic composition that consists of a monument, a large terrain map of the area, and a model of the battle.
Then, you can go south of Eceabad. You can see a lot of other local landmarks- monuments and parks. But the most interesting place is the Kilitbahir Castle- the other one of the pair guard castles of Dardanelles, along with Çimenlik Castle. Kilitbahir Castle is also turned into a museum, and the entrance fee for its interior is 15 TL.
Now, let’s back to Çanakkale and Troad, and head to the most iconic site in the area- the ancient city of Troy.
Ancient City of Troy
This is the site with the ruins of Troy, called also Ilion, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Wilusa. It is located about 32 km southwest of Çanakkale, and today is turned into a national park and declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Troy Historical National Park includes the city ruins of Troy and its surroundings. A well-established road connects the main road from Çanakkale to Izmir with the ruins and ends at the main gate of the tourist site. Here you have to pay a 150 TL entrance fee to enter and explore it.
The first thing you can see inside is another Trojan Horse. But this one looks quite different than the horse on Çanakkale’s waterfront. Of course, nobody knows what exactly the original horse looked like (if this story is real at all), but the horse at the Troy ruins can offer another good proposal.
Then, a well-arranged alley with signs and explanations guides you around the ruins. The historical layers, from 1 to 9 are marked, so you can get an idea of how the city looked like during the various ages in the past.
Normally, you would need at least 2-3 hours to explore the ruins of Troy without a hurry. But when you go out, don’t be too fast to leave. There is another place of interest, only 700 m from the ruins- the Museum of Troy.
Museum of Troy
So, when you back from the ruins of Troy, you will see the sign for the museum, and the museum building itself on the right side of the road. This is the best archeological museum in this part of Turkey, presenting a lot of artifacts from ancient times, not only from Troy but from the whole Biga (Troad) Peninsula. It has a separate entrance fee: 60 TL.
Besides Troy, there are more than 17 other ancient cities in Biga (Troad) Peninsula. Today, all of them are just ruins, with some new Turkish cities established on or beside them. Most of these cities remain undeveloped as tourist sites, but two of them deserve special attention and are worth visiting. They are Alexandria Troas and Assos, called also Behramkale.
This city is newer than Troy, established and developed during the Hellenistic Age (336-133 BC). It reached its bloom during the Roman times when it became an important seaport. At that time Alexandria Troas was so large that Julius Caesar, and later Constantine I The Great considered it to become the capital of the Roman Empire!
Alexandria Troas is one of the cities in Turkey mentioned in the Bible. In the 1st century AD, there was a fellowship of Christians there, and Paul the Apostle visited them on his way from Greece to Jerusalem. During his visit, there was a meeting in one of the three-story buildings in the city (yes, the city was rich and its houses were tall for that time). The meeting was long, until late at night.
The story of raising from the dead
A boy named Eutychus was in this meeting, sitting on the window on the third floor of the house. He gradually fell asleep. Then, he suddenly fell down and died. Paul immediately went down and raised him, so, this miracle of resurrection became a part of this meeting. After that, Paul proceeded on his trip to Assos.
In the following centuries, Alexandria Troas gradually declined. It is now known when it was destroyed and fully abandoned, but in general, during the Ottoman Empire, its ruins were known as a “place for bandits”. Today, the ruins are turned into a small tourist site. Entrance: free.
When you go to Alexandria Troas, especially after visiting Troy, you will notice that this site is too small. And you may ask: “How is it possible for such an important and big city during Roman times to be so small?” This is because the site includes only a part of the ancient city. But there are many more ruins, scattered around the hills and the woods around, and you can see various signs directing you to some of them, outside of the main site.
This is an ancient city, built on a high hill beside the southern coast of Biga (Troad) Peninsula, established around 1000-900 BC by Aeolian Greek colonists. It flourished during the Classical Greek, Hellenistic, and Roman ages, and is best known as the city of Aristotle, who lived in Assos and married the niece of the local King Hermeias.
Assos is also one of the Turkish cities mentioned in the Bible, just as one of the stops of Paul the Apostle on his trip to Jerusalem, after visiting Alexandria Troas (and raising the boy Eutychus from the dead).
In the following centuries, Assos gradually declined, but unlike most of the other ancient cities, it wasn’t entirely abandoned and destroyed. Its later inhabitants just left the top of the hill and settled at the hill’s northern side. Nowadays, this settlement, known as the town of Behram is still there.
Today, the town of Behram and the ancient ruins of Assos on the top of the hill are turned into a tourist attraction. Behram has colorful narrow streets with souvenir shops, cafes, restaurants, and old traditional buildings- a typical “old town”. And its main street ascends to the entrance of the ancient ruins of Assos.
Of them, the most significant is the Temple of Athena, located on the top of the hill, with a breathtaking view of the Gulf of Edremit and Lesbos Island in the distance. And on the southern slope, you can walk around the Ancient Theatre of Assos, the Agora, and more ancient buildings, walls, and temples. Entrance fee for the ruins: 50 TL.
Other ancient ruins
As I mentioned above, there are many other ancient cities in Biga (Troad) Peninsula, but in general, they remained abandoned and undeveloped. This is because Troy, Alexandria Troas, and Assos already draw the tourist stream, and the other cities “somehow” don’t have anything more to offer.
But, if you are really interested in the ancient history of the area, you can explore more ancient cities. Among them, I would mention the following ones:
- Achilleion. It is located near Yeniköy, at the seacoast. Notable for the suggested Tomb of Achilles.
- Dardanus. This city gave its name to the Strait of Dardanelles. It is located south of Çanakkale.
- Gargara. There are two Gargaras- old and new (but both ancient). It is located at the coast of the Gulf of Edremit, at the end of the campsites and resort chain. Today only the Altar of Zeus and some stones can be identified.
- Kolonai. It is known as the city of King Cycnus from the Trojan War, killed by Achilles. It is located about 3 km east of Alemşah village, south of Alexandria Troas.
- Lamponeia. Its ruins are located north of the Gulf of Edremit’s northern coast, between the two roads from Çanakkale that descend to the sea.
- Lampsacus. The city is located on the coast of the Dardanelles, northeast of Çanakkale. Today, the new Turkish town of Lapseki is established beside its ruins.
- Larisa Troad. This is another city in the area around Alexandria Troas. It was abandoned early, during the Roman era.
- Neandreia. It is located east of Alexandria Troas. Little is known about it, but its ruins are relatively well-preserved.
- Ophryneion. This city is located near the coast of the Dardanelles, southwest of Çanakkale. Considered the site of the Tomb of Hector.
- Rhoiteion. This is another city, close to Ophryneion. Known as the place of the Tomb of Ajax.
- Scepsis. It is located more deeply inside the mainland, near the town of Bayramiç. Known as the place of the library of Aristotle.
- Sigeion. It is located at the promontory where the Dardanelles open into the Aegean Sea. Not much has left of it, but there are beautiful views in the area.
- Thymbra. This is a small ancient city, just next to Troy, the place of the Tomb of Apollo.
Now, let’s take a look at something more different and modern.
Seacoast and beaches
The coastline of the Biga (Troad) Peninsula is highly diverse. It can be divided into three sections- the northern coast (the Asian coast of the Dardanelles), the western coast (Aegean Sea), and the southern coast (the northern coast of the Gulf of Edremit).
Although these coasts offer spectacular views of the sea, the mountains around, and the lands of Europe, Bozcaada, and Lesbos islands, they are relatively poor in nice beaches. If you are looking for good sand beaches, you can find them only on the western coast.
The best among them are Papaz Beach, Eyvah Beach, Güneştepe Beach, Kumbağlar Beach, and the small Apollon Beach. But again, their sand is not so fine.
The northern coast of the Gulf of Edremit also doesn’t offer nice sandy beaches. Nevertheless, there is a long chain of resorts, campsites, hotels, and restaurants all along the coast. Its “beaches” are stony and very narrow. But the views of the gulf and Lesbos Island are impressive, the water is calm and clean, probably that’s why it attracted the tourists there. And they are a great place for spending the night before or after exploring the ancient cities of Troad.
Bozcaada is the largest island near the coast of the Biga (Troad) Peninsula. It is one of the hidden gems in Turkey that is not so famous but offers a lot of beautiful and interesting sites.
The largest settlement here is the town of Bozcaada- a nice place with picturesque old streets and houses with traditional architecture. Like many other “old towns”, this one is also turned into a tourist attraction with cafes, restaurants, hotels, souvenir shops, and more. And its most notable landmark is the well-preserved Bozcaada Castle, built in the Byzantine era (entrance fee: 15 TL).
Bozcaada is connected to the mainland by ferry that travels between Geyikli and Bozcaada town. Once you arrive on the island, you can walk around the town, and then around the whole island (there are minibusses you can use). The most attractive points on the island are Ayazma Monastery and the beaches on the southern coast.
So, how to explore this amazing region? It’s easy. It is also safe and well-arranged. If you come from abroad, you would need just the necessary documents to enter Turkey (a passport, a visa, or just an ID card, depending on which country you come from- for more information see the Visa policy of Turkey).
Then, the main things you have to consider are the transportation and accommodation, as well as some other important details.
Your main starting point for exploring this area is the city of Çanakkale unless you come from Izmir. Çanakkale is well-connected to the other parts of Turkey- by air and by roads. Although Çanakkale Airport is only a domestic airport, connected to Istanbul, Ankara, and Gaziantep, the city is easily accessible by buses from Istanbul, Izmir, Bursa, and Edirne (and Bulgaria).
Once you arrive in Çanakkale, you can use domestic buses (and minibusses) to all cities and towns in the area, to most of the villages and the tourist sites. However, the best way of transportation is by car.
You can reach Çanakkale from Europe in two ways- by ferry from Eceabad (135 TL for a car, regardless of how many passengers travel in the car), or from the new 1915 Çanakkale Bridge (218 TL).
Or, if you come to Çanakkale by bus or plane, you can rent a car and use it to travel around Biga (Troad) Peninsula and beyond. Still, traveling by car is the best option, because you have the freedom to go wherever you want, whenever you want.
The area around Çanakkale is a touristy place, so, there are a lot of options to spend the night- hotels, guesthouses, homestays, resorts, campsites, and more.
You can find all kinds of hotels- from budget to splurge. But in general, hotels and guesthouses in Çanakkale and in most of Turkey are relatively expensive. A cheaper option is Airbnb- the cheapest Airbnbs are not only cheaper than the cheapest hotels but also much more comfortable than them. Just make sure to check for good reviews and chat with the host in advance, to avoid some rare, but possible scams.
Finally, if you are more adventurous, you can sleep on a campsite. There are a lot of campsites in the area, mainly at the seacoast, especially on the northern coast of the Gulf of Edremit. The campsites are cheap- you can bring your own tent and usually pay 100 TL per person. Or, you can sleep in tents or caravans that they offer for 300 to 500 TL per night.
Besides these important details, it is necessary to have in mind the following:
- Tourist SIM Card. I would strongly advise you to buy a local tourist SIM card (the best ones are offered by Turkcell). You will pay around 400 TL, and it will give you freedom of communication for 30 days with 20 GB of mobile internet. Otherwise, have in mind that roaming in Turkey is VERY expensive!
- Money. Turkey is a quite cheap country. And fortunately, you can pay by credit card almost everywhere- in shops, supermarkets (like Migros, Bim, or Şok), tourist sites, restaurants, and even street stalls with souvenirs.
- Safety. This area is safe. Of course, it is not perfectly safe (and there is no perfectly safe place on the Earth!)- there is still some risk of pickpocketing in crowded places or drunk excessions in the late evening near the nightclubs.
So, this is Çanakkale, Troy, and the area around them. We left this place and proceeded our trip further in Western Turkey, to Pergamon (Pergamum), one of the Seven Churches of Revelation, then to Izmir and further south. But on our way back, we visited Assos and back on the same road to Bulgaria. So, we can confirm and recommend- this place is definitely worth exploring and will leave you with a lot of impressions.
Take a look at this video for more impressions from Çanakkale and Troy:
Check some travel books about Turkey and Troy:
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Hi, we are Krasen and Ying Ying. Krasen is from Bulgaria, and Ying Ying is from China. We are passionate about geography and history, and we believe that the best way to experience it is by exploring the Earth in reality, not in a school, and not virtually.
So, we created this blog Journey Beyond the Horizon, where we share geographical knowledge, travel guides and tips how to experience it when you explore our planet, and a lot of inspiration.
And we wish you a happy journey, not just virtually, but most of all- in reality.