Princes’ Islands in Istanbul: Why and How to visit Adalar with one-day trip

Princes Islands

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?

Princes Islands

Princes’ Islands

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

Princes Islands in Istanbul

Büyükada

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 horse hoofs 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.

Princes Islands in Istanbul

Büyükada

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.
Princes Islands Istanbul

Burgazada

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.

How to Visit the Princes’ Islands

Princes Islands Istanbul

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 10 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.

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