The importance of the Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey, cannot be overestimated. Had the British Empire's troops prevailed at the battle there, 125 mi/200 km southwest of Istanbul, World War I would have been considerably shorter and the course of modern history changed.
As it was, Turkish machine-gun fire kept the Allies pinned along the beaches on the Dardanelles strait across from Canakkale, cutting them to shreds, preventing them from gaining the heights that would have allowed control of the waterway, and effectively forestalling Allied movement on the Eastern Front.
The overwhelming majority of the Allied forces on the beaches at Gallipoli came from the Australia-New Zealand Army Corps (the ANZACs), and the place is a pilgrimage destination for visitors from Down Under, especially on or around ANZAC Day (25 April). Memorial crowds then are massive, so plan hotel and other reservations well in advance.
Most of the battlefield is now part of a national park, and the scenery—pine trees, green hills, ocher cliffs and sandy beaches—would be well worth a look even without the historical attractions that are discreetly present. The most important sites are fairly spread out, so the best way to see the area is with a car or as part of a guided tour. But anyone can take a walk along the heights, look down on the beaches and understand why the Australians and New Zealanders below had no chance.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, first gained fame for his defense of Conkbayiri Hill in 1915. He later erected a touching memorial to the forces he helped defeat; don't miss it.
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