The itinerary below will see you exploring the former imperial capital of Edirne, following the recently established Thrace Wine Route, paying your respects on the battlefields of Gallipoli and visiting the World Heritage–listed ruins of Troy.
It’s best undertaken by car, but those without their own transport can also follow the route by bus. Four days is the minimum amount of time you’ll need to do the region justice – five or six would be even better.
Day 1: İstanbul to Edirne
İstanbul awakes early, with the dawn call to prayer urging the faithful to the mosque and commuters leaving home early to beat the rush-hour crowds. Follow the local lead and set off at the very start of the day, following the D100 towards Edirne, near the border with Greece. On the way, stop off at a few of the wineries on the Thrace Wine Route (www.thracewineroute.com). The most impressive of these, Arcadia Vineyards (www.arcadiavineyards.com), offers gourmet tours and tastings of its impressive white wines (Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and the local varietal Narice). Try to make it to Edirne before the late afternoon call to prayer issues from the tapering minarets of the city’s magnificent imperial mosques and for dinner, consider sampling Edirne’s signature dish, ciğer tava (thinly sliced calf’s liver deep fried and eaten with crispy fried red chillies) followed by another local speciality, badem ezmesi (marzipan).
Day 2: Edirne to Gallipoli
Another early start is in order, because there’s a lot to see on this part of the journey. Before leaving Edirne be sure to wander through the historic Ali Paşa Covered Bazaar, built in 1569, and visit the extraordinarily beautiful Selimiye Mosque, designed by the famous Ottoman court architect, Mimar Sinan, and built between 1569 and 1575. Leaving town, backtrack along the D100 and consider making a quick stop at the town of Lüleburgaz to see the Sokollu Mehmet Paşa Camii, another imperial mosque designed by Sinan (this one was built between 1569–71). The mosque is on İstanbul Caddesi, in the town centre. From Lüleburgaz, continue along the D100 and then veer south onto the D565 towards the town of Tekirdağ, a major centre of production for rakı, an aniseed-flavoured spirit beloved of locals, and the home of the Tekirdağ köfte (bullet-shaped meatball served with a spicy red sauce). Consider sampling both at one of the restaurants opposite the town’s harbour before making your way to the Gallipoli Peninsula. On the way, stop off at Barbare Winery and Vineyards (www.barbarewines.com), where you can take a tour of the vineyards, attend a wine tasting in the wine cellar and purchase wines. Its Châteauneuf-du-Pape-style Elegance blend is particularly impressive. You’ll find Barbare approximately 11km south of Tekirdağ.
Day 3: The Gallipoli Peninsula
Spend your third day following in the footsteps of the Allied troops who spent nine prolonged and bloody months in 1915 fighting one of the best-known and futile battles of WWI at Gallipoli. For a full day's itinerary, read our accompanying article. Spend the morning on the Northern Peninsula, enjoying a lunch of Modern Turkish Cuisine and excellent house wine at Kilye Suvla Lokanta in Eceabat and then tour the Southern Peninsula in the afternoon. You can take the car ferry across the Dardanelles to the lively university city of Çanakkale, where you should wander along the kordon (waterfront promenade) before dining on freshly caught seafood at Yalova restaurant.
Day 4: Troy
Immortalized by Homer in his Iliad, the famed city of Troy first fell into disrepair and then was lost to memory before being rediscovered by German businessman and amateur architect Heinrich Schliemann in the late 19th-century. Added to Unesco’s World Heritage List in 1998, the archaeological ruins at Troy won’t seem too impressive on first view, but will come alive in the imagination when you hire an audioguide at the site. A new state-of-the-art museum is due to open here in mid-2015 and will include a cafe and exhibition spaces where artefacts including the ‘Troy Gold’, a collection of 24 gold jewellery pieces dating to around 2400 BCE that were found at or near the site, will be displayed. You’ll only need a few hours to explore the site in the morning, and can then set off on your return journey to İstanbul or an onward journey south along the Aegean Coast to İzmir and Ephesus, bringing your Thracian journey to a close.
Virginia Maxwell researched Thrace for the upcoming edition of Lonely Planet’s Turkey guidebook, to be published in 2015. Follow her at instagram.com/maxwellvirginia