Anzac Day is held on the 25th of April every year, and each year around this time many thousands of Australians and New Zealanders prepare for a pilgrimage to Gallipoli (Turkey) to reflect on the sacrifice of the Anzacs.
For many, attending Dawn Service ceremonies is an annual occurance, remembering the sacrifices our troops made to allow us the freedoms we enjoy today. Making the pilgrimage to Anzac Cove in Gallipoli is perhaps the greatest show of respect for our present, past, and fallen troops who served in overseas conflicts. Attending Anzac Day services in Gallipoli is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I'd urge every Australian (and New Zealander) young-or-old to take, it's incredibly humbling to stand on the shores where so many young lives were lost in WWI (April 25, 1915 'til December 20, 1915).
What you need to know
If you are thinking of making the pilgrimage to Gallipoli to take part in the commemorations, there are a few things you need to know:
All ceremonies are held outdoors, the Gallipoli Peninsula is a National Park, with no cover you will need to bring clothing and blankets (or sleeping bag) to protect you from the elements. April in Turkey is (very) cold overnight, and warm during the day, and rain is quite possible. When I was there on April 24th many young people were unprepared for a night bunkered-down under the stars (just like the Anzacs did).
Expect to walk around 8kms on uneven (often dirt) surfaces. The walk from the Dawn Service at the Cove to Lone Pine (where the Australian service is held) is around 3kms long, a good section is dirt, and it's on a steep incline.
Many travellers to Gallipoli travel by coach or minibus in tour groups, however you can enter the site independently. Entry is free. Parking areas are designated by Turkish authorities, so you may have to walk several kilometres before reaching security gates at the commerative sites.
Many thousands of visitors are expected to attend the services, large crowds mean that public amenities are limited as well as the best sleeping surfaces. Get in early to claim yourself a spot on the grass overnight, otherwise you might be left only with a seat in the stands (not so comfortable for sleeping).
The organisers play music and other multimedia on several bigscreens all throughout the night, so don't expect to get a quality sleep. Most visitors are too anxious for the sunrise anyway, and spend the night quietly remembering the reasons for being there.
All services are alcohol and drug-free, you will be screened at security checkpoints. As such, there could be a delay of several hours upon entering the commerative sites.
There are temporary chemical toilets at the Anzac Commemorative Site, Lone Pine, and Chunuk Bair.
There is no running water, power, or lighting except for what is used for the services. However bottled water and foods are available for purchase from Turkish vendors. You are encouraged to bring your own, given it passes security guidelines.
Schedule of Events
From the completion of the Dawn Service (approx. 6:30am) visitors walk the Anzac Cove Road, up Artillery Road, to Lone Pine Cemetery for the Australian Memorial Service (approx. 10am).
After the services at Lone Pine (approx. 10:45am) visitors walk to the Turkish 57th Regiment Memorial service which starts at approx. 11:15am. A distance of 1.2kms uphill on a bitumen road.
The New Zealand service at Chunuk Bair (approx. 12:30pm) is 3.3kms after the Turkish 57th Regiment Memorial and takes approximately 1 hour 15 minutes from Lone Pine.
What else is there?
See the online walking guide. If you arrive between April 24 and 25 you will have plenty of time to explore (and get photos) some of the following sites
- Ari Burnu Cemetery
- Anzac Cove
- Hell Split
- Shrapnel Valley
- Brighton Beach
- Artillery Road
- Lone Pine
- Johnston's Jolly
- The old trench lines
- The Nek
And finally, a video summary provided by the government
Remember it's a War Memorial, so please have respect for the memory of our troops.