All about Anzac Day in Gallipoli
Gallipoli has long held an important place in the hearts of Australians. Many believe this spot marks the defining moment of the foundation of the Anzac national consciousness and the separation from the Motherland, a.k.a. Great Britain. Remembering the events that took place in Turkey a century ago honours the lives of the many Australian soldiers who died in battle, and a pilgrimage to the battlegrounds of Gallipoli is high on the wish list of young Aussies travelling in Europe. Here's all you need to know about celebrating Anzac Day in Gallipoli.
The site of Gallipoli sits on a beautiful 40 kilometre-long peninsula fringed by turquoise waters in the northwest of Turkey. It was here that the Australian and New Zealand armies, responding the call of Mother Britain, landed to fight the Ottoman Empire as part of a strategic World War I campaign to secure the important Dardenelles Strait, a critical sea route linking ally Russia from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. The battle for Gallipoli lasted eight months until the Allied forces were eventually overcome and retreated. The once bleak and scarred battlefields that saw over 8,000 young Aussies killed in action are now covered in dense pine forests and wildflowers sitting in a protected landscape, which is held in high importance in the national narratives of Aussies and Kiwis, as well as the Turkish.
When to go
Although you can visit at any time, as an Aussie you’ll probably want to head to Gallipoli for Anzac Day on April 25, which marks the anniversary of the Anzac battle that began at dawn. A huge pilgrimage of tens of thousands of Aussies takes place each year for the sombre but dignified Anzac dawn service, which will fill you with national pride. The Turks have their own commemorative day here on March 18 each year, although they also join in the events on April 25 too.
Where to go
The newly opened Gallipoli Simulation Centre is a good place to get your bearings. Located on the Northern Peninsula, the centre is packed full of 3D exhibits, which take you on a historical journey through Gallipoli. Anzac Cove, once the base for the Anzac troops throughout the Gallipoli campaign, was officially recognised by the Turkish government at Anzac Day in 1985. The dawn service was held here until 1999 when it had to be moved to the Anzac Commemorative Site at nearby North Beach to accommodate all the international visitors. If you want to cover the main sites in a day, take the Anzac Walk, which takes you from North Beach, past Anzac Cove, up through Lone Pine and all the way back up past the Turkish Memorial.
Where to stay
While ugly, the town of Ecearbat is the easiest base for accessing the Gallipoli battlefields, and there will be local guided day tours available from here. Çanakkale, on the eastern shore, is a much prettier historic town with cobbled streets and a vibrant student population. You can get to Çanakkale via a 30-minute ferry ride from Ecearbat. Anzac Day visitors can stay in the Anzac Commemorative Site overnight on April 24 to wait for the 5:30am Dawn Service.
The best and easiest way to see Gallipoli is to hop aboard a tour as it's a five-hour bus ride from Istanbul. Many tour operators with young Aussies as clientele will include a trip to Gallipoli as part of a wider tour of Turkey. If you want to take an in-depth Gallipoli tour, Busabout’s epic 10-day Anzac Tour is a great option. For those with less time on their hands, Contiki’s ANZAC Classic and ANZAC Odyssey are a four-day and five-day inclusive tour respectively, which take you to visit the most important landmarks in Gallipoli from Istanbul.
To be there for Anzac Day itself, On the Go Tours provides a four-day Pure Anzac tour and Intrepid has a dedicated tour that takes in the Anzac Day Dawn Service as well as the Gallipoli Pilgrimage guided tour that's available throughout the year.