If you are from New Zealand or Australia ANZAC Day in Gallipoli Turkey, will sound like a once in a lifetime visit!
Recently we found ourselves altering travel plans slightly and booking tickets to Turkey. It just so happened to be two days out from the ANZAC memorial service held at Gallipoli every year on the 25th of April.
We are from New Zealand. So when we realized we would have the possibility to visit Gallipoli for the dawn service, it was a no brainer. We immediately put plans in motion to make sure IT WOULD happen.
However, we did find that information online was a little lacking. This was likely due to the cancellation of the last two years with Covid. Therefore we have put together the below, so as to give you an overview on our experience. Hopefully this will provide you with some information that we would have found helpful when planning our visit to Gallipoli.
If you plan to visit Gallipoli for the ANZAC Dawn Service OR you are visiting ANZAC Cove at a different time of year and want to navigate or understand how best to do it, then read on.
This post shares a little of the World War I history and what happened in Gallipoli. We explain how to get to ANZAC Cove and the Gallipoli Peninsula, how to plan a guided tour or self guided visit, including links to register for the ANZAC Dawn Service.
For all the key points of interest and our thoughts on visiting Gallipoli then we have all your questions covered here.
Where is Gallipoli & ANZAC Cove?
*This post may have affiliate links, which means I may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through links I provide (at no extra cost to you).
Anzac Cove (ANZAC Koyu Beach) is on the South Western side of the of the Gallipoli peninsula. This is approximately a four hour drive from Istanbul, or just a short ferry ride over the Dardanelles Strait from Çanakkale to Eceabat.
From Eceabat it is then a short 15 minute drive over to the Gallipoli Peninsula and Anzac Cove.
How to Get to There: Tour or Self-Drive
If you like the self-drive option then check out our complete road trip guide to Turkey right here!
You can get to the Gallipoli region numerous ways, with public buses, ferries, organized tours and even drivers from Istanbul.
This full-day guided tour below from Istanbul is a Get Your Guide original and comes extremely highly rated. So if you are pushed for time and looking for value for money this is definitely a great option.
You can also arrange tours with pickups from Çanakkale and Eceabat. Choose from the below between a six hour or full-day visit of Gallipoli and the City of Troy.
Alternatively, rent a car and drive yourself. We used QEEQ to rent a car for our Turkey road trip and it was definitely the best booking platform for options and value for money. We rented a cheap four door Fiat Egea at a fraction of the price from other booking platforms.
Istanbul to Çanakkale or Eceabat
Both destination are great options to stay, depending on what you are looking for. The quickest route from Istanbul is West out of the city, this is the European side of Turkey. The drive is easy going and there is plenty of picturesque scenery to please the eye.
And if you are heading to Çanakkale, then you’ll take the new bridge over the Dardanelles. The toll for this crossing is kind of hefty at over TL200, but its pretty cool to say you have driven over the 1915 Çanakkale Bridge, the largest suspension bridge in the world.
Between Çanakkale and Eceabat, you won’t need to go back via the bridge, but instead a short ferry ride.
Ferry Between Çanakkale and Eceabat
The ferries, both car and pedestrian, run every hour from Çanakkale. They are extremely easy to catch and are a reasonable price at 12.50 NZD one way when we used it. You just need to drive to the terminal, pay as you enter and wait. Check online for the latest updates (NB: the prices were not up to date last we checked). However most sites advise you to arrive about 30 minutes before you depart.
Navigating ANZAC Sites
The road that connects the ANZAC Sites is a nice, easy drive. The road splits at the Mimoza Otopark where you can either proceed onto ANZAC Cove to the left, or take the one way loop road to the right up to Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair. This approximately 11km loop road is oneway and reenters the main road at the Kabatepe Gallipoli Museum. See the map at the end of this post for a better understanding of the layout.
The Significance of Gallipoli & the ANZACs
So to be honest, we didn’t know a massive amount about ANZAC. We had attended a couple of dawn services over the years, and knew it was a day of remembrance for the New Zealand and Australian armed forces. And that it drew its initial history around the battle of Gallipoli. But we didn’t know a lot of detail beyond this.
We both also had Great Grandparents that fort in WWI, both lucky enough to return home. But as for the significance around ANZAC, we only started to query this in the weeks leading up to our visit to Gallipoli.
What Happened in Gallipoli
New Zealand and Australian forces joined WWI on the 6th of August 1914. Many young men from both countries were quick to sign up to serve both King and Country, while having what was sold as a great adventure.
The first ships sailed from New Zealand on the 16th of October, meeting up with the Australian contingent in Western Australia on the 1st of November. From there they sailed onto Egypt for basic training, before joining the Allied forces.
Many were initially dispatched to Turkey, joining British, French and Indian troops as part of the assault on the Gallipoli peninsula and Dardanelles. This was primarily planned as a Naval assault, with ships to sail up the Dardanelles to Constantinople. Thereby giving the British a clear sea route to their Russian allies, at the same time crippling the Ottoman Empire and hindering their threat to neighbouring Russia.
To assist with this plan, ground troops were to land on the Gallipoli peninsula, then make their way inland. Atleast that was the plan.
ANZAC Cove 25th of April 1915
Under the command of General Ian Hamilton, on the morning of the 25th of April 1915, Australian troops landed on the beaches of ANZAC cove, with the New Zealand contingent following from early morning.
Unfortunately, things did not go as planned. But not due to a lack of grit, determination, spirit and sacrifice from the soldiers on the ground.
With a combination of factors, including poor command and communication from the Allied forces, a major underestimation of the strength of the Turkish troops and their command, and a bit of bad bloody luck… plans went awry.
This led to the Allied forces being stuck in an eight month long battle. During this time very little ground was made, and finally resulting in the withdrawal of troops between the 15th and 20th of December.
Over those eight months the Allied forces suffered over 250,000 casualties, including some 46,000 dead. New Zealand suffering 2,779 deaths and 5,212 wounded, and Australia 8,709 deaths and 19,441 wounded. With the Turks also having an estimated 250,000 casualties, with approximately 86,000 dead.
And there we have it… a tragic history was made.
How to Visit Gallipoli for the ANZAC Dawn Service
To attend the dawn service, you could either make your own arrangements or book as part of a tour. Read below for a step by step guide on both options.
Both however did require you to register in advance which we did here. This Australian Government website provided us with some of the best information leading up to the day.
Self-Guided Visit to Gallipoli
Given our personal preferences towards self-guided and budget travel we decided to make our own arrangements. This basically meant renting a car, making our way to Gallipoli, finding accommodation, then driving ourselves on the morning of the 25th to the allocated parking site.
It would have been easy if we had better access to online information. So this is where we tell you how to visit Gallipoli for the Dawn Service – the self guided option!
Parking & Road Closures for the ANZAC Dawn Service
They do close certain sections of the roads from the 24th
- Do make sure to register, even if you are going as part of a small tour. This registration is what the team use to set up the car park spaces.
- The last 3km of the road from Mimoza Otopark to the ANZAC Memorial Site is closed from the 24th to allow the team to make the final preparations for the following day.
- The main road from the museum down to Mimoza Otopark and ring road is closed from 5pm on the 24th.
- This road is reopened from midnight to 3am on the 25th to allow access to attendees. There is a shuttle bus from Mimoza Otopark to ANZAC Cove for these hours. However the last shuttle to the ANZAC Memorial Site is at 3am so you need to make sure you are there before then.
Visiting the Dawn Service and the ceremonies with kids was easy with the free shuttles available to our little walkers. All you need to do is register for this at the information tents on the day.
The free shuttle bus is provided by the Australian Department of Veterans’ Affairs. They will drive you the last 3km from the carpark to the ANZAC Commemorative Site (ACS).
Then after the dawn service, if the 45 min walk straight up through Artillery Road seems a bit challenging there is a shuttle bus waiting nearby to get you to the top.
There is also a further shuttle bus available to get you from Chunuk Bair or Lone Pine back to the carpark.
Keep in mind that you will pass through security checkpoints before entering the ACS. Basically standard international airport rules are applied. No liquids over 100ml, no items that may be considered a possible weapon and other items such as drones, professional camera equipment – unless a permit is acquired.
Food & Drink
As you have to pass though security check points taking your own water is not possible. However both water, tea and instant coffee is available free of charge in designated tents.
We did take our own food and snacks with us, but at both the dawn and NZ service, food stalls were available if you wanted to purchase breakfast, snacks, drinks or a Cappuccino if that’s what ticks your box at 5:30am.
As always, we did have our LifeStraw bottles so filled these up a couple of times at various points we found along the way.
What to Wear & Take With You
In short, you should be prepared for all four seasons as April is spring in Turkey. If the weather is clear (as we had) the nights are cold and dewy, with the days hot. However it’s not uncommon to get rain.
- So warm clothing and a good rain coat is a must but be prepared for a hot day (sunblock and hat).
- Also a ground sheet, swag, blankets or sleeping bags are a welcome bonus, but you will need to be prepared to carry these with you from the the ACS up to Chunuk Bair.
- Food for the day or cash if you want to purchase from the pop up stalls.
- Phone and camera, however no drones or any equipment that could be considered professional as these need to be preregistered.
- Please note that items may be confiscated, and we were advised that there is no guarantee that you will get them back. So our thoughts were… if in doubt maybe best not to take.
What Time to Get There
The road closures listed above dictate what time you need to arrive. Therefore it will be an early wake up and arrival based on the midnight to 3:00 am window of open roads.
Our day started with a 1:00 am alarm, as we planned on getting to the carpark by 2:00 am. Therefore, it was a very quick get up, clothes on, Nanopresso coffee made, kids bundled into the car and off we went.
We arrived at the car park on time as planned and were greeted by the awesome team of volunteers that showed us to the shuttle bus. And within 10 minutes of parking our car we were on our way to the dawn service area.
The next stop was the security check, after which we were give a small Gallipoli tote bag. This was packed with a face mask, hand sanitizer, plastic poncho and a booklet that included the programme for the dawn service and the other events to follow.
From here it was a short walk to the ACS. At this point we found ourselves a patch of grass, then laid down to wait out the night until the dawn service started. Tip: Bring a blanket as it gets very dewy and cold on the grass.
The Dawn Service at the ANZAC Commemorative Site
As part of the service the event organisers set up a big screen for those that find it difficult to get any shut eye. Various documentaries were screened on Gallipoli and the ANZACs. This was a huge learning experience actually and really helped set the tone for the rest of the day.
The dawn service started at 5:30 am and finished by 7:00 am. And as stories were shared and recounted, it became an extremely emotional hour or more. Made all the more powerful as the sun begins to shed some light on your surroundings. And there is a real feeling of oneness as you sit on your blanket surrounded by hundreds of other Kiwis and Ozzies, a deeply moving shared experience.
After the service finished and the various dignitaries left, we were then advised that we could make our way up to either the Australian National Service at Lone Pine that started at 10:00 am, or the New Zealand National Service at Chunuk Bair that started at 11:30 am.
We were also advised that you could only choose one. This was due to the distance between them making it impossible to do both in the short time frames between services. However we did meet a couple of people that were able leg it up the 3 km and do both.
Getting to the New Zealand & Australian Services
This is where you need to make the decision to use the mobility service or to stretch those legs and walk up to the top via Artillery Road.
The walk from ANZAC cove to Lone Pine is along the coast, in the direction of the carpark. Before you get to the car park, a sign directs you left up Artillery road. And the hike begins. It’s an uphill walk of around 2½ to 3 km. For most the walk is manageable, especially knowing that you have plenty of time to get there.
As mentioned above they do have the mobility assistance for those that require it. Knowing our kids, and concerned that they had been awake since 1:00 am, we pre-registered for the shuttle service.
We picked this up where the Artillery Road track started, and went as far as Lone Pine. We decided to walk the last 3km on the main ring road from Lone Pine to Chunuk Bair.
It is an up hill walk and as the weather was clear it was rather hot. However as the road also passes several smaller cemeteries and memorials, both Allied and Turks, it was a must if you are able. We were also fortunate enough to meet up with another New Zealand family. This was great for the kids as they were kept occupied by their new found friends.
New Zealand Service at Chunuk Bair
We cannot comment on the Australian service at Lone Pine as we attended the New Zealand service. We reached Chunuk Bair around 10:30 am and passed through another set of security gates. A couple members of the NZ armed forces and volunteers were there to greet us. They provided us with water and explained what to expect next.
There was a Turkish service in process at this point and the fenced in waiting area served as a holding bay. But there was shade, bathrooms and a food stall available.
The service started at 11:30 am sharp, so we were ushered to the public gallery around 11:00 am, where we waited for the various dignitaries that came up from the Australian service. As expected the service was an amazing and very moving experience. There were numerous speeches, each of which were followed by a waiata (song) from the team set up by the NZ armed forces.
The NZ service finished around 12:30 pm, after which we went back to the waiting area. When it was time we were ushered onto the various coaches. This had us back to our car around 1:00 pm and back at our AirBnB by 2:00pm.
Visiting Gallipoli ANZAC Dawn Service as a Tour
The other way to attend the service was as part of an organised tour. For a large scale well-organised group tour then check out TravelTalk. With TravelTalk you can visit Gallipoli for the ANZAC Dawn Service on the 25th of April and include other sights of Turkey. This tour includes everything, flights, accommodation… the whole package. We saw a few of these groups and it seemed like a fun way to visit Gallipoli.
The second tour option is for those already in Turkey and don’t want to deal with car parking and so on. This can be arranged through hotels in Eceabat, such as Hotel Crowded House. We had friends who took this option for a fee through their accommodation in Eceabat. We felt the price quoted was a bit steep, and given we had our own car we decided to figure it out on our own.
From our understanding, they pick you up from your hotel, provide you with food and drinks and drop you off at the last check point beside the ACS. Here you enter the same security check point as everyone else before walking the last 500 meters. They then pick you up at the end of the day by Chunuk Bair memorial, after the NZ service.
How Many Days to Stay in Gallipoli
We recommend staying locally in Eceabat and also to stay an extra day or two after the 25th. A lot of people attending the service came straight in from Istanbul and Çanakkale and moved on that afternoon or the following day.
There are numerous places to check out including Boomerang Café at the Northern end of Eceabat as you head out of town. We had an awesome dinner here and a couple of beers on the night of the 25th with the owner Mesut, his friends and dogs, who were more than welcoming.
Also by staying the extra day or two, this gives you a chance to go back and spend the time visiting some of the smaller memorials, cemeteries and walks, at your own pace and to reflect further.
We had originally planned to move on the following day, however decided that day to stay on and revisit the sites on the 26th. Sites such as Beach Cemetery, Ari Burnu Cemetery, Shrapnel Valley Cemetery and the 15 minute walk up to Plugges Plateau Cemetery were all really interesting places to visit. We then drove the ring road and stopped off at Lone Pine and Quinn’s Post which we would definitely recommend to those who have time.
Places to Visit in Gallipoli and ANZAC Cove
Many of the places we recommend that you visit in Gallipoli are already mentioned above. But for anyone wanting to narrow down the list for a visit at a different time of the year, we highlight some of the must-see locations below.
Also see the map at the end of this post for a better understanding of the location of each of these sites mentioned.
ANZAC Commemorative Site & ANZAC Cove
This is the landing spot where battalions arrived on the beaches on that infamous date in April 1915. The ANZAC Commemorative Site is the spot where hundreds gather for the dawn service every 25th of April. It’s hard to imagine this tranquil spot was once the location to such a bloody history.
Beach Cemetery & Ari Burnu Cemetery
These cemeteries are easy to access and should be a must visit on your list. A couple of large trees, perfectly manicured grass and the quiet bay provide the perfect backdrop and resting place. Plaques display information about how many souls are laid to rest in each location. After you’ve read this, wander the graves and read the messages displayed on each headstone.
In Beach Cemetery you will find the headstone for Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick. He was well-known for transporting wounded men to safety by means of donkey.
Shrapnel Valley Cemetery
Shrapnel Valley lies on the opposite side of the road. This gulley was a key route for leading supplies into ANZAC positions and therefore received heavy fire from the Turkish. There are 527 Australian, 56 New Zealand and 28 British soldiers buried in Shrapnel Valley Cemetery.
I recommend the short 15 minute walk to Plugges Point. There is a smaller cemetery up here on the hill and a great view towards the beaches.
Lone Pine serves as the main memorial and cemetery for Australian battalions. This was due to it being the furtherest point taken during the campaign, which was initially done by the Australian contingent. The large pine tree that sits perched in the centre of the Cemetery isn’t the original Lone Pine. However it is an offspring from the original.
Chunuk Bair Memorial
The New Zealander’s will find a memorial and cemetery at Chunuk Bair in honour of the kiwi soldiers who lost their lives. The view point alone is worth the visit. Secondly the bench seats and fortified trenches offer a quiet place to sit and reflect.
Chunuk Bair was taken by New Zealand’s Wellington regiment on the morning of August 8th and then reinforced by the Auckland and Otago divisions. However, it was only held for two days before being retaken by the Ottoman Empire. Knowing the significance of this high point and taking advantage of the New Zealand regiments being cut off and isolated, the Ottomans raised a heavy counterattack. Check out the 1992 film ‘Chunuk Bair’ for a good overview.
Other Sites Worth Mentioning
On the main ring road there are a couple of spots worth visiting. If you have your own vehicle access is easy, and it is just a case of stopping where you choose.
We found some of the Turkish memorial sites very interesting to wander around. And also the trenches etched into the landscape create for a somber thought along the road side.
Quinn’s Post is just one example of a site worth visiting along the main road between Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair.
Where to Stay in Gallipoli
We stayed in both Çanakkale and Eceabat and were glad that we did.
You might like to break up your trip and spend a couple of nights in each. If this is the case you’ll find Çanakkale is a lot busier while Eceabat is calmer, with more of a close-knit village feel.
Çanakkale – this town is the busier of the two and there is definitely a few interesting places to explore. The Hotel des Etrangers is a fabulous choice for accommodation and right next to the ferry terminal.
If you want to visit UNESCO World Heritage Site, City of Troy, then definitely plan to spend a night here. Half an hour from town is the old city and museum which we really enjoyed a quick visit out to. Also if you are a real Troy movie buff, you’ll be interested to know that the giant wooden horse from the movie now sits in the town centre.
Eceabat – honestly there isn’t a whole lot to do here. Which is probably what we enjoyed the most from this sleepy little town. It is the perfect base if you plan on returning to the ANZAC cemeteries more than once. Check out Crowded House Hotel for a good clean and central hotel.
Tip: Eat at the roadside cafe/restaurant Doyuranlar Gözleme on the way to the ANZAC memorials. The food is super tasty and the staff super friendly.
Other General Tips When Travelling in Turkey
- Prices – though out our stay in Turkey we found that prices were constantly changing. We were advised this was due to the borders only recently reopening, the war in Ukraine and the drop in the Turkish Lira. Be prepared that information shared online may not be completely accurate or up to date.
- Tip – when ordering food or being provided a service, ask for the price first. This was great advice that proved very beneficial for us. That way if you’re not happy feel free to leave. Vendors just love to hike prices up for tourists. Read our Guide to a Turkish Road Trip (post coming soon).
Final Thoughts & Map to Anzac Sites
Click this map for an interactive display of all the places listed here in this post.
If you have ever thought of a visit to Gallipoli for the dawn service, then do it. It seemed a little daunting when we were doing our homework, but on the day it was extremely easy. It truly was a once in a life time experience that neither of us will ever forget.
A hundred plus years on, and the planet still has lessons to learn it seems. With all that is currently going on in the world today, there is still so much relevance. The words repeated regularly throughout our visit to Gallipoli resonated… lest we forget, we will remember them.
If you are planning a visit to Gallipoli at some point in time, then bookmark of pin this post for later.
Check out our other posts in this series on Turkey –
- A complete road trip guide to Turkey
- The best things to do and see in Cappadocia
- 4 awesome days in Istanbul
- Planning the perfect visit to the white terraces of Pamukkale
We now travel full-time and have plenty more itineraries and guides to share on all the destinations we visit. Sign up to follow our journey! (And don’t worry we won’t spam you with unnecessary emails.)