Whether visiting the battlefields independently, or on a tour, Çanakkale, or Eceabat in the south of the peninsula, are the best places to base yourself. Modern Gelibolu town at the northern end of the peninsula is too remote to be of much practical use as a base.
The numerous open-air sites have no admission fees or fixed opening hours. Even with your own transport, you’ll need a day – two for enthusiasts – to see the major cemeteries and cenotaphs. You’ll also want time to wander a little, take in the natural beauty and, in season, swim. Outside the villages of Eceabat and Seddülbahir there are few amenities, so lunch stops must be carefully planned.
Independent visits to the sites can also be made using a combination of minibus rides and walking. Minibuses run from Eceabat to Kabatepe dock via the Kabatepe Information Centre/Museum, and from Eceabat to Kilitbahir. From the information centre, you can walk around the main sites just north within a couple of hours. At Kilitbahir, minibuses meet the Çanakkale car ferries in summer and take passengers to Seddülbahir via Alçıtepe, from where you can tour the surrounding cemeteries and memorials on foot. It’s also usually possible to rent montain bikes in Eceabat, but some roads are steep, and secondary tracks can be rough and muddy in winter.
There’s little to choose between the many mainstream companies that offer guided tours of the battlefields – all are supposed to have licensed, English-speaking guides with a thorough knowledge of the sites. Tours all cost the same, are the same length and visit identical sites, usually preceded by a screening of the 1987 documentary, The Fatal Shore and/or Peter Weir’s 1981 film Gallipoli, and sometimes a picnic lunch. Itineraries, with a strong Anzac emphasis, don’t stray much from a core area just north of the park boundary and visit – in this order – the Kabatepe Museum, several beach cemeteries nearby, the Lone Pine cemetery, Johnston’s Jolly, the Turkish 57th Regiment cemetery, The Nek and Çonkbayırı hill.