Treasures of the Dardanelles

Its seaside promenade is a lovely place in which to spend an afternoon, so we suggest independent travelers stay in a small hotel within the city itself rather than in its outskirts, home to a few large resorts that cater to tour operators and large groups. One option is Anzac Hotel, an unpretentious but highly popular place due to great customer service. It’s not fancy but it has a wonderful location, close to the Cimenlik Fortress. Rates start at $54 per room.

It’s not all history here, folks—travelers can hop on a ferry to Gokceada, the largest of the Turkish islands, to visit traditional villages and monasteries and enjoy the waters and underwater marvels that surround it. Natural beaches are all around, and some offshore sections now form part of a national underwater park.

Whether from the movie, history class or a read of Homer, Troy is a big draw for visitors. Archaeologists, whether real or imaginary, love this place. Lest clients get too excited, let them know that the original Trojan horse, if there ever was one, is not here. There are, however, many traces of nine settlement periods in the area—including ruins of city walls, a theater and temples—as well as a symbolic wooden horse that they can climb into. The remains in the area point to civilizations dating back to 3,000 B.C.

Besides Troy, Canakkale and Gallipoli, Trafalgar Tours’ 15-day Best of Turkey visits other “musts” in the country, including Istanbul, the Cappadocia region, the ancient city of Ephesus, Ankara, Konya (birthplace of the whirling dervishes) and much more. The 9-day Highlights of Turkey also visits Gallipoli and the area around the Dardanelles. Prices for 2010 were not available as of press time. The trips have at least two optional excursions that are worth the extra cash. One is a half-day cruise along the Bosporus, which allows for an eye-opening look at Istanbul and at both the Asian and European components of Turkey. The other is a performance by whirling dervishes, which is entrancing.

According to Adam Leavitt, v.p. of marketing for the tour operator, Trafalgar is extending its Be My Guest dining experience to additional Europe tours, as well as itineraries in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, South America, Australia and New Zealand. This is an immersive excursion where travelers get to visit local homes—from the most rustic to palatial abodes—and enjoy a home-cooked meal along with a first-person view of local customs and family traditions. Additionally, last month a new Trafalgar DVD was released that serves as a great selling tool for agents to help sell the tour operator’s “experience” to clients.