Fed-up from hustle and bustle of City Life, Fly to Istanbul for Charismatic Prince’s Islands

The Prince’s Islands about 20 km (10.5 miles) southeast of the center of Istanbul in the Sea of Marmara provides a welcome break from bustling life and is just a short ferry ride from the city. These were called the Princes Islands by foreign chroniclers because of Byzantine emperor’s practice of sending bothersome princes there to be blinded, exiled or executed, but today’s citizens of Istanbul call them simply Adalar (“The Islands”).
In medieval times they were the sites of monasteries, away from the buzz and temptations of the city, but with the initiation of steamships and convenient ferryboat service the 19th century, the four larger islands, Büyükada, Heybeliada, Burgazada and Kınalıada became summer resorts. Istanbul‘s wealthy Ottoman families, especially Greeks, Jews and Armenians, built elaborate Victorian summer cottages along the narrow island-village streets.
You’ll realize after landing that there are no cars on the islands, something that comes as a welcome relief after the traffic mayhem of the city. Except for the necessary police, fire and sanitation vehicles, transportation is by bicycle, horse-drawn carriage and foot, as in centuries past.
Passenger ferryboats from Istanbul sail regularly to the Princes Islands (Adalar). Departures are from the Kabataş, Beşiktaş, Kadıköy and Bostanci ferry docks by four different companies: Şehir Hatları, the traditional ferries; İDO, the fast catamaran ferries; TurYol smaller ferries; and Dentur Avrasya ferries. The voyage is half the fun as your ferry enters steams down the Bosphorus and into the Sea of Marmara, showing you Topkapi Palace, Ayasofya, the Blue Mosque, Seraglio Point, and indeed all of Istanbul, from a different angle.
Büyükada, the largest of Istanbul’s Princes Islands. It’s sandy beaches, laid-back 19h century atmosphere and cozy town center attract huge crowds of locals and tourists alike from spring to fall. Walk through the historic Ottoman ferry terminal and you emerge in the bustling town center with shops, restaurants and a few hotels. There are more restaurants and shops along the market street to the left (east), as well as seafood restaurants along the shore. To the right are a few cafes, a park, and docks for private ferries and yachts. Walk straight up the slight hill to reach Dock Square(İskele Meydanı) the main square, with Büyükada’s landmark clock tower. Just off Dock Square to the left is which is where you can board a horse-drawn carriage (fayton) for either the Short Tour (Küçük Tur, 20 to 25 minutes) of the town, or the Long Tour (Büyük Tur, 1 hour) of the town, the shore and the hills. Prices are fixed by the municipality, so there should be no haggling. This is the most delightful way to get around the island. In fact, it’s the only way (except for bicycles, and walking). Private motor vehicles, including taxis, are not allowed on the island. Büyükada has a few tiny beaches from which you can take a dip in the chilly water. Space on the beaches is at a premium in summer. The least-crowded time to go is probably in the morning on weekdays. The island consists of two peaks with many steeps. The peak located on the southern section of the island is called “Yorgi Peak” and the other is called “Hristos Peak,” which is located on the northern section of the island.
Heybeliada, located in the center of the Prince’s Islands with three monasteries, was a traditionally fishing town until the beginning of the nineteenth century. The population of the island grew steadily from 800 to 2000 with the introduction of steamboat services in 1846. It has length of 2.7 km from north to south and a width of 1.2 km from east to west. Less crowded than Büyükada, Heybeliada has many of its larger neighbor’s pleasures, including narrow beaches, pine forests for strolling, fine late 19th-century villas and other buildings, a waterfront promenade, and no motor vehicles. During the summer, Heybeliada becomes lively with its summer home vacationists and touristic visitors. Tourist activities include horse-drawn carriages and donkeys on the island. Many famous individuals enjoy visiting the island. It was of particular importance to Huseyin Rahmi, who is a famous Turkish author and has spent most of his life on this island. As on Büyükada, you can take a horse-drawn carriage (fayton) tour of the island, either the Short Tour or the Long Tour (costing about 50% more). Otherwise, there are bicycles for rent.
Burgazada, located between Heybeli and Kınalı is the third largest island among the Princes’ Islands. It was called “Panormos” in the Byzantine period and was famous as the home of Rum (Greek) minority and a well-known Turkish writer of short stories, Sait Faik Abasıyanık. It has a round shape and measures 1.9 x 1.3 km. It has rocky beaches and the only hill is Bayrak Tepe (Flag Hill). Burgazada is quieter than both Büyükada and Heybeli. The lack of visitors is the island’s main attraction: unlike Büyükada, which is always crowded with visitors, on Burgaz you interact mostly with locals. Don’t look for the vivid life you’ve seen on the first two islands. As you leave the ferry, on the left side of the port are pastry shops and cafés. The fayton stops are on the right and behind them is a narrow path climbing to Sait Faik’s house. It became a museum after his death in 1954 and is open every day from 09:00-12:00 and 14:00-17:00, Saturdays until 13:00 and closed on Sundays.
The road on the right of the pier leads to Kalpazankaya (Counterfeiter Rock). If you have an adventurous soul or enjoy nature you can take a different route to reach Kalpazankaya. Climb the narrow path (Burgaz Çayırı Street), pass Sait Faik’s house and find the footpath between the squatter’s houses. This means you are on the right route. At the end of your walk of about 40 minutes you reach Hiristo Hill, the highest point on the island. After seeing the church and the remains of the monastery, looking back you’ll be stunned by the incredible view of the pier.
Kinaliada is the closest island to Istanbul’s port with a distance of 6.5 miles. Its distance to Anatolian side of Istanbul is 3.5 miles. It has reddish soil from which the island took its name as Kinaliada means Henna Island. Kinali Island is almost 1.5 km in length and the width of island is 1.1 km. It is the fourth largest of Prince’s Islands. There are three hills on the island. Ottoman Greeks called it Proti, and they and their Armenian neighbors built Ottoman-Victorian summer villas on the island, many of which survive along with several churches. The tall radio and TV antennas on the highest point are the landmarks of the island.

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