15km (9 1/3 miles) north of Çanakkale; 310km (193 miles) southwest of Istanbul
For millennia, the Dardanelles have been a strategic point of contention -- from King Xerxes of Persia, who in the 5th century B.C. created a bridge of boats to transport his troops to Greece; to Alexander the Great, who swept into Asia from the West in 334 B.C. Mehmet the Conqueror knew the tactical value of the straits as well and had two fortresses built as part of his plan to subdue Constantinople.
In modern times, Çanakkale was once again forced onto the front lines with an Allied campaign to take the Dardanelles during WWI. The battlefields of the Gallipoli Peninsula theater became a tragic site for all involved, with almost 200,000 fallen in 8 months. Yet at 86,000 deaths, in spite of taking the heaviest losses, the Turks, led by a gutsy lieutenant colonel named Mustafa Kemal (better known as Atatürk), ferociously repelled the assault on their homeland, and a new nation was born.
The name Gallipoli means different things to different nations. For the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (or Anzacs), who suffered the largest numbers of Allied casualties, Gallipoli is a national icon. For Turks, Gallipoli represents above all victory by Turkish forces, many of whom were simple farmers, in defending their homeland. But the battlefields of the Gallipoli Peninsula are a solemn reminder to visitors of all nationalities of the brutality of war: jagged cliffs, pockmarked hills, and sprawling valleys where a handful of the scorched earth will most certainly bring up a piece of shrapnel. It was on these fateful shores in 1915 that Australian and New Zealand landing boats went afoul of their intended landing point, unknowingly forced northward where instead of a beach, the troops encountered impossibly vertical cliffs and enemy fire. In spite of the odds, the Anzac troops managed to grab a toehold on the heights, bravely holding out for 249 days until the massacre of the last soldier. The peninsula is now a national park home to 31 war cemeteries and a number of important monuments. The peninsula is accessible by car or bus from Istanbul, and by ferry from the nearby town of Çanakkale on the Asian side of the Dardanelles.
Each year on April 25 the anniversary of the Anzacs' landing is commemorated on the battlefields. The day marks a series of memorial services at a number of the grave sites. Passenger cars are not permitted entry on this day.
For a self-guided tour of Gallipoli, you'll need a car, as the various battlefields, cemeteries, and memorials are spread out over an area of nearly 331.5 sq. km (128 sq. miles). It's also possible to sign up for guided tours or hire a taxi (about 130TL in high season for a half-day unguided tour of the Anzac battlefields).