Troy is one of the greatest legends in Greek history. For a long time, it was believed to be a fable with no grains of truth in the epic Homer poem the Iliad. While it is obvious the more fantastic aspects of the story are fable(like gods battling with Greeks and Trojans), the broad outlines of the story are now generally accepted to have been based on historical events. The ancient city of Troy really did exist and that the siege really did happen. What's more, it's also believed that they have found the actual site of Troy - unfortunately, it's impossible to know if the Trojan Horse was real or not. The site is located in what is today Turkey and about a day's drive from Istanbul. It is just one of the reasons why Turkey is underrated.
Troy And The Surrounding Area
The actual site of Troy is relatively small and will only take a couple of hours to see and explore. But there are a few other sites of interest in this area. Here you will find the actual Trojan ruins, a large museum dedicated to Troy, the gateway to Troy is Canakkale - this is a small city worth exploring in its own right, the Straits of the Dardanelles and memorials of Gallipoli.
The Site Of Troy
Perhaps somewhat confusingly, the modern site of Troy is known in Turkey as Hisarlik, but the local Turks will understand what you mean by Troy - although they spell it as Troja. Troy is around 19 miles from Canakkale and around 4 miles from the Aegean Sea as well as the Dardanelles. If you are used to seeing impressive ruins like in the Acropolis in Athens or the old city of Jerusalem, then the actual site here may appear a little underwhelming. There are plenty of ruins and layers but they are not so impressive. The purpose of visiting is more the significance of the site. From this elevated point at Troy, you can have a great view of the coastal plain stretching out in front of you to the sea.
- Hisarlik: Modern Name Of The Site Of Troy
Troy is not the site of a single city but of many cities successively built one on top of another up to Roman times. Troy is partial tell - a tell is a mound or hill formed from successive cities built on the older ones.
One of the early archaeologists to excavate the site was the German amateur archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in the 1870s. While he more or less was right that this is the site of Troy, he was careless in his excavations and used dynamite to dig down, destroying some of the site. He also falsely assumed that Troy would be the oldest layer, so he dug all the way down. He proclaimed he found the ancient layer of Troy, however, modern archeologists think he was right with the site, but he blasted his way straight through the actual Iliad Troy layer.
There are now believed to be around 7 "Troys" at this site (depending on how you count them). These are named (from the oldest); Troy I, Troy II, Troy VI, Troy VIIa, Troy VIIb, Troy VII, and Troy IX. Troy VII is the layer that coincides chronologically with the Bronze Age Collapse and is believed to be the layer of the Troy of the Iliad (it spanned from 1300 BC to 950 BC). Troy VII is itself subdivided into multiple layers covering different periods of history.
- Driving Time From Istanbul: 5.5 Hours Drive
- Troy Opening Hours: 9.00 am to 5.00 pm
- Entry Fee: 50 Turkish Lira (approx. $6.00)
You can easily book a tour from Istanbul to Troy or it's very easy just to drive yourself there. If you have a self-guided tour, the information placks at the site and the museum are all very informative.
The Troy Museum
Located just a few hundred meters from the ruins of Troy is a large and imposing museum. This multileveled all-new museum offers many interesting artifacts and a detailed explanation of our present understanding of this site. It covers pre-Trojan, Trojan, Greek, and Roman history at the site.
- Admission Fee: Included In The Trojan Ruins Ticket
Canakkale is the gateway to Troy. It is a stunning Turkish city sitting on the Dardanelle Straight (there are numerous ferries crossing and certainly jump on one!). The center of this city is beautiful and so it is worth exploring. The waterfront is very well developed. It has the heritage of being both the gateway to Troy and the guardian of the strategically important Dardanelle Straights.
- See: The Movies' 2003 Troy Trojan Horse
Walk along the waterfront of Canakkale and you will find models of the successful cities of Troy. But perhaps most impressively you will see the Trojan horse built for the 2003 movie Troy starring Brad Pit on the waterfront area. It was dedicated to the city after the movie.
If you are interested in modern history, Canakkale is also a stone's throw from Galillopi where the British with the Anzacs (New Zealanders and Australians) landed. This was one of the major battles of WWI and the Allies ultimately failed in their attempt to force the Dardanelles and force Turkey out of the war. This is a very important site to the Turks, New Zealanders, and Australians today and there are numerous memorials in the area.
If you are planning to visit Istanbul and Turkey, be sure to explore this ancient site that spawned so many myths and legends!