Experiencing Anzac Day, is something I think all New Zealanders and Australians should do at some point in their lives. It’s a truly moving and emotional experience.
ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and in 1915 the soldiers joined together to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey on orders from England. A fierce battle ensued over eight long months where 8709 Australian & 2721 New Zealand soldiers lost their lives with so many more injured. Each year on 25th April, thousands of people honour those soldiers who fought in Turkey during World War 1, Lest we Forget.
Commemorative ceremonies take place all over the world but the main event takes place where the soldiers landed, Anzac Cove in Gallipoli, Turkey.
The Dawn service which takes place on Anzac Cove is a very moving experience. Your arrival at the cove will depend on your tour company. Some arrive the evening before, whilst others will arrive only a couple of hours before sunrise. Dependant on the time you arrive, you may have a VERY long walk passed the hundreds of coaches that are parked. Once you arrive in the ceremony area it will be filled with people. Don’t expect to get much sleep, you won’t have much space and it’ll be very cold and noisy. At Dawn everyone stands for a 2 minute silence before the service takes place. After the service you make your way to the memorial services, Lone Pine for Australians (starts normally around 10am) or Chunuk Bair for New Zealanders (starts around 12pm). You trek the rugged hills much like the soldiers would have had to do before reaching each memorial.
Think very carefully about what you wear and what you bring with you. It will get VERY cold overnight but with the sun the next day coupled with the long hike up the hill you will get quite hot. Layers are key, wear things that you can strip off as the day gets warmer. A sleeping bag is recommended but remember, whatever you take with you, you will need to carry around for the whole day. Your tour company should give you a packed lunch to get you through the day but you may wish to take further snacks with you, otherwise you can buy some things from the stalls at Anzac cove (kebabs, hamburgers etc). Blankets are available to buy if you get really cold and you’ll see hundreds left the next day as no one wants to carry them.
All tour companies must have a registered Turkish Guide under Turkish Law. Your tour company may choose to send one of their tour leaders with the local guide or it may just be the Turkish Guide.
Searching for tours can be quite daunting as you have so much choice. My recommendation would be Travelshopturkey, they are based in Turkey and have years of experience arranging these tours, http://www.travelshopturkey.com.
The tour we chose was the 6 day silver option, this was perfect for us as it included airport transfers, hotel accommodation with breakfast and tour activities. We had enough time to experience the Anzac service and explore Istanbul during our stay, thanks to Travelshopturkey.
I’d also recommend our hotel Feronya, rooms were tidy and to normal standard. Breakfasts were good and hotel staff were friendly.
Flights: We flew with Lufthansa from London to Istanbul as we were all star alliance members (airpoints) and return flights were under £200 each. These aren’t direct flights so you may have to wait in Frankfurt. It’s best to book your flight early and you may be able to get cheap direct flights. After a long and emotional experience, the last thing you need is airport dramas and a long journey home.
Points to highlight: Most tours include optional activities and I’d recommend doing these, some are included within the price you pay others you may have to pay over and above the tour price. Book the tour in advance as they sell well in advance. Anzac day will be something you’ll never forget.
Would you recommend your tour: Yes
Overall rating: 5 out of 5
Review supplied by OE Travel Blogs: http://www.oetravelblogs.com
Anzac day tours: Travelshopturkey http://www.travelshopturkey.com
Photo Attribution: Jackie Hogarth / OE Travel Blogs http://www.oetravelblogs.com/photos.html