Princes’ Islands: Why and How to visit Adalar with one-day trip
Istanbul has many great tourist attractions to visit, but two of the city’s must-see destinations will take almost a full day of your holiday to explore. The two must-experience tourist attractions are Princes’ Islands and a boat trip on the Bosphorus. People often ask me whether it is worth sacrificing up to two days of their holiday in Istanbul to visit one or both of the destinations.
Your personal preferences and desires ultimately dictate what you will do on holiday in Istanbul. If you aren’t sure whether or not to visit Princes’ Island, let me explain what you can expect from a day trip to the cluster of islands in the Sea of Marmara.
Princes Islands are also a good chance to swim and have a sunbath in summer time, not far from Istanbul. The are some beaches where you can rent a sunbed and take a swim in a fresh water of Marmara sea.
What are the Princes’ Islands of Istanbul?
The Princes’ Islands (Adalar on turkish or Pringiponisia on greek) is made up of nine small islands in the Sea of Marmara. Before nowadays, the Islands also called Evliya adaları — which means Saint Islands, Kesiş adaları — Devided Islands and Ruh adaları — Spirit or Soul Islands. The reason to all these names was that the islands were a place of exile during the Byzantine era, where a lot of aristocrats and princes had died.
But today, Adalar is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.
The Princes’ Islands allows everyone the chance to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a day. Only four of the nine islands in the chain are open to visitors. The islands open for visitors include:
- Büyükada, the largest and most visited,
- Burgazada — from turkish word «burgaz» — fortress, «Fortress Island»
- Heybeliada — «Saddlebag Island», which took it’s name because of the island’s from similar to saddlebag
- Kınalıada — «Henna Island», it took this name because of the red ground colour
Another two — Kaşıkadası and Yassıada are private property, Sivriada and Tavşanadası — are uninhabited.
A thousand years earlier there were 10 islands, but one of them, named Vordonisi, went under the water after a big earthquake.
Since 1846 there is a ferry communication between Istanbul and Islands and since then people started to come here to settle.
Princes’ Islands Features
The main feature of the Princes’ Islands is the sound of silence. The quiet is why so many people leave Istanbul for a day trip. There is a ban on all motorized vehicles. This means you will have plenty of peace and quiet on the islands. The only sounds heard are bicycle bells and electric vehicle as these are the only types of transport available to visitors.
A ban on all motorized vehicles is not the only feature that makes the Princes’ Islands unique. The islands are filled with narrow streets you will navigate down with pine-forests or fine, wooden Victorian cottages on either side of them. A day trip to the island is transportation back in time.
In Büyükada you can visit:
- Museum of the Princes’ Islands, which presents different collections and photos from the history of islands. The museum located partially on the territory of old helicopter hangar (Aya Nikola Hangar Müze Alanı) and another part near the museum Adaevi Çınar Müzesi.
- Churches and monasteries of different religious beliefs: Ayios Dimitrios church, Ayios Nikolaos monastery, Hesed Le Avraam synagogue, Hristos Manastırı Isa Tepesi, Hamidiye mosque and etc.
- National nature park Dilburnu with great trees and nice view
- Beaches of Marmara sea, where you can swim or relax in the sun
- Seafood restaurants, wich located along the main street near pier
In Burgazada you can visit:
- Christ Tepesi and the Byzantine Monastery of the Theokoryphotos
- The Greek Orthodox Church of Hagios Ioannis Prodromos
- Museum of Sait Faik Abasıyanık
- Kalpazankaya restaurant which located on a high point of the island
The Heybeliada Island is famous for it’s Değirmenburnu park with windmills and picnic area with beautiful view. Also you can take a look at Aya Yorgi Uçurum Church and Aya Triada Monastery.
Princes’ Islands: beaches and where to swim
- Yorukali beach (Yörükali Plajı) is located near the Dilburnu Cape. Here you can rent umbrella and sunbed, also entrance fee includes use of the shower, changing booths and toilets. There is a cafe and restaurant where you can have your meal. It’s easy to get to the Yorukali beach by boat from main pier of the island.
- Nakibey beach (Nakibey Plajı) located on the east side of the island. The beach provides standart services — you can find changing booths, showers and toilets here. Also, there are umbrellas and sunbeds for rent, food, snacks and drinks in cafe. To get here — use small boat from main pier of the island.
- Nizam beach is located not far from Nizam mosque and Nizam Butik hotel. There is an entrance fee, also you can rent sunbed or umbrella. You can get to the beach by electric buses from main pier.
- Halik koyu beach (Halik Koyu Aile Plajı) located not far from Aya Yorgi Church. You can rent sunbed and umbrella and have some snacks here. Use electric bus to get to this area from main pier.
- Marmara sea is not perfect if we speak about seaweed — sometimes the water and coast is clean, but somedays there is a lot of seaweed so the workers of the beach are trying to clean the coast. Someone pay attention to it and cleans well, but not everyone.
- Mostly the food in cafes inside the beach is not delicious, or even don’t worth the money. So it’s better to have some drinks or snacks at the beach and then have a full meal in some good restaurants outside the beach territory. It will save your money and your stomach
- On weekends the islands are overcrowded, especially Büyükada, so there will be a lot of people on the beach. Sunbeds are really close to each other so you will, as turks says, become a relative with your neighbour. Just try to go to the Islands on weekdays
- Don’t have high expectations and don’t compare the beaches of Islands with beaches in Antalya because it’s absolutely different level and quality. Beaches of Antalya is clean, seaweed is rare seen and Mediterranean sea is much more cleaner then Marmara
How to Visit the Princes’ Islands
You will reach the Princes’ Islands by boat, which goes without saying. But there are different ferries to choose from. Sea buses, a.k.a. fast ferries, are operated by IDO, while the regular ferries services are run by Şehir Hatları.
The sea buses are the quickest option to reach the islands, but they don’t run regularly. In addition, they are more for locals commuting to work and back home, and not tourists. If it stops at all the islands, the trip will last up to 55 minutes and will set you back 20 TL per person — one way.
Take my advice! If you plan to visit the islands, make sure you get on one of the first ferries to the islands on any given day to beat the crowds. You should also check when the last ferry departs the islands for Istanbul. Although some of the islands provide excellent hotels, you won’t want to miss the last ferry back to Istanbul. After researching the ferry times, spend as much of your day trip as you want on the Princes’ Islands, and catch the boat back at your preferred time.
The ferry timetables are altered according to the season. Make sure to check the exact dates and times of the sea buses and ferries on your day trip.