This article has been previously published as a part of book Gallipoli Peninsula and the Troad: TAN Travel Guide by Izabela Miszczak
Karabiga is a small port city, situated on the shore of the Sea of Marmara in Çanakkale Province. The fascinating history of the town is inextricably linked with the cult of the god Priapus, from which came the ancient name of the settlement. The location of the city, near the mouth of the River Biga, in a small bay, favored the development of the settlement as a trading port. Even today Karabiga is an important harbor for container ships.
Priapus, who gave his name to this ancient city, was a minor deity of the Greco-Roman pantheon. His task was to protect farm animals, fruit trees, vineyards, gardens, and male genitalia. Priapus can be easily identified on paintings, mosaics, and sculptures from the ancient times by his enormous erect penis.
The cult of Priapus had its roots in Asia Minor, near Lampsakos (now Lapseki), that is situated near Karabiga. Gradually, it spread to the whole area of ancient Greece, and later - the Roman Empire. The exact relationship between the name of this deity and the name of the village is not known, but it can be assumed that it was connected with the famous local vineyards.
Karabiga, known in antiquity as Priapos or Priapus, was founded by Greek settlers who arrived on the coast of the Marmara Sea from Miletus in the 7th century BC. An alternative version of the history of the settlement is that the city was founded as a colony of Cyzicus. The Greek geographer Strabo mentioned that the area had produced exceptionally tasty wine, and the historian Thucydides wrote that it had housed the base of warships.
In 334 BC, the city surrendered without a fight to Alexander the Great before the Battle of the Granicus. This battle with the Persian army was the first victory of the Macedonian leader in Asia Minor. The famous Granicus River is, in fact, a rather large stream, now bearing the name of the Biga Çayı, flowing into the Sea of Marmara in the vicinity of Karabiga. In Byzantine times, the city was a fortified stronghold. The Ottomans conquered the region of Asia Minor in 1364.
The relatively small amount of information available about the history of Karabiga results from the lack of archaeological excavations conducted in this location. Preliminary studies were carried out in 1997 by Professor Cevat Başaran from Atatürk University in Erzurum. However, this scholar finally decided to undertake the excavations in nearby Parion instead.
The biggest tourist attraction of Karabiga are the remains of city walls, situated beautifully in the hills about 2 km from the town center. Once there stood a huge castle with 24 towers, guarding the dual harbor of Priapos. The ruins of these fortifications are not signposted, but fortunately they can be seen from afar. Admission to the ruins is free of charge.
During the tour, be careful because the area of the ruins is not fenced off, and lies next to a high cliff. Beautiful views may pose an additional threat, as a moment of inattention may cause an unpleasant accident. In addition, the area is overgrown with thorny bushes, so it is advisable to wear sturdy shoes and long trousers.
In addition to viewing the ruins, it is worth the climb the hill to admire the cliffs towering above the sea waters and hidden bays between them. You can use these coves to take a swim in the sea. Seagulls and cormorants often occupy the rocks protruding from the sea.
Maritime Festival (tr. Karabiga Priapos Deniz Festivali) takes place every year in late June and July. During this festival, you can enjoy performances of local artists and take part in sports competitions.
Orientation and services
Between the center of Karabiga and the ruins of Priapos in the north, there is a summer residences district, popular with Turkish families. There's a beach with sun beds, and nearby there are bars and cafes. In the city center, there are several grocery stores, a post office, and ATMs. Friday is a market day in Karabiga.
Several small restaurant are situated along the main street of Karabiga - Cumhuriyet Caddesi - that runs along the waterfront and next to the harbor. We recommend Sahil Balık Evi restaurant, specializing in fish dishes, but also serving good köfte with pilaf (i.e. meatballs with rice). Among other venues, Başak stands out as the most fashionable restaurant in town, and Kordon is seen as the most traditional one.
By car: the easiest way to get to Karabiga is by car. If you come from the direction of Çanakkale, follow E90 route to the north-east, through Lapseki. 86 km away from Çanakkale turn off this road to the north (to the left) and follow Karabiga (Priapos) signposts. After 20 km you will reach Karabiga.
An alternative route takes you through the secondary roads but allows the exploration of Parion ruins on the way. Turn off E90 route 74 km away from Çanakkale, following the signposts to Kemer (Parion). After 12 km the road reaches the village of Kemer, where the ruins of the ancient city of Parion are situated. Up to this point the road is excellent quality, but further on it becomes very poor, with potholes made by trucks servicing a nearby factory. Moreover, you have to drive just next to this factory, listening to the megaphones that may scare unsuspecting travelers by announcing suddenly Dikkat, fabrika çıkışı! (i.e. Warning, this is the exit from the factory!). Then a gravel road leads through a countryside dotted with low hills, with the coast of the Marmara Sea in the distance, to the beach holiday village Aksaz. The total distance from Parion to Karabiga is 27 km, and it is not easy and enjoyable ride, despite some fabulous views.
By coach: there are hourly coaches from Biga to Karabiga (23 km).
By ferry: there are irregular ferry connections between Karabiga and Barbaros - a harbor on the opposite shore of the Marmara Sea, 9 km to the south-west from Tekirdağ.
In the center of Karabiga, next to the harbor, there is Yakamoz Hotel (tel. 90 286 354 14 00), offering 18 rooms with private bathrooms. Moreover, in the beach district of the town operates Karabiga Martı Hotel, boasting its own outdoor swimming pool and a private beach. Expect to pay about 100 TL per night in a double room 2-bed with breakfast included in the price.