The picturesque scattering of 9 islands in the Sea of Marmara is famous as a beautiful resort area, but the name hints at a historical mystery. Prince Islands in Turkey are located near the capital and at the same time fairly isolated from the benefits of civilization. The local name of the archipelago is Adalar, which translates as “islands,” each of which has its own look and features.
History of the Prince Islands
Many states have the practice of evicting people undesirable to the monarch away from the palace. For Turkey during the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, the islands near Istanbul were such a place. They were exiled by nobles and real princes, who had no right to leave the place of exile until they died. By the 19th century, some forward-thinking middle class and wealthy businessmen began to voluntarily settle on the 3 largest parcels of land, and then the islands turned into a popular resort area, but the historical past, backed by architectural monuments, and the name remained.
What is interesting is the way of life, which has remained almost unchanged. Cars are still banned from the streets. Travelers and locals walk, use bicycles or horse-drawn carts. To get to the mainland can only be by ferry, on weekends, they are very busy and sometimes there are real traffic jams, created by those wishing to get to the beautiful beaches of the resort area.
Princes Islands on the map of Tricia
Map of the Prince Islands
Sightseeing in the Prince Islands
It’s impossible to see them all in one day. The main importance are the 3 largest: Büyükada, Heybeliada, Burgazada. Tourists are always surprised by the mix of styles, with churches, mosques, and synagogues almost side by side. Nevertheless, people of different faiths have gotten along quite peacefully in a limited space, finding a reasonable compromise for many decades.
Attractions include not only the amazing nature, rich underwater world and comfortable beaches. This eco-friendly corner is full of historic structures.
It is considered the main refuge of the undesirable. The irony is that it has now become a tourist center, where travelers and residents of the capital come to relax. Of the sights is the infamous convent where its founder, Empress Irene, became a hostage and spent the rest of her life in isolation.
It is more convenient to explore the surroundings on foot or by renting a bicycle. There is no transportation, and a horse-drawn carriage can only pass through the main streets, while the most interesting things are hidden in the depths.
Posh villas surrounded by gardens, unusual plants and 11 churches are worthy of the closest attention. Popular tourist attractions are:
- Museum of the Islands, which contains exhibits related to the history of the Prince Islands in the Sea of Marmara, famous personalities, sketches and drawings of religious buildings, archival documents;
- religious buildings such as the Ayios Nikolas Monastery, the Hamidie Mosque, and the Chesed Le Abraham Synagogue;
- Lev Trotsky’s house.
Particularly noteworthy is the active Orthodox monastery of St. George of Kudun, built in the 10th century at the highest point of the island. A cobblestone path leads from the square almost to the entrance. According to legend, he who manages to walk along it without stopping and silently, can hope that his hidden desire will come true. Admission is free, services are conducted, and many parishioners leave food and items in the form of donations.
Photography and videotaping in the temple is prohibited.
The majestic views from the cliff and the serene silence are long remembered. The restaurant offers monastic cuisine and real Greek wine.
The old, dark orphanage building is surrounded by barbed wire. Once a fire broke out in it and all that was left were the walls. There are no plans to rebuild it yet. The building is a kind of testament to the sanity of the local authorities, who reacted very sharply to the proposal to open a casino in it, refusing flatly. The decision was motivated by the fact that gambling would damage the tranquility and respectability of the island.
Writer Reshat Nuri Güntekin’s house is located in the village of Zeyniler. His best-known work was the novel “Korolyok – a singing bird,” filmed three times and brought the author worldwide fame. You can’t see the house from the inside. It is inhabited, belongs to the descendants of the writer. Only the plaque mentions his importance to the country’s culture.
You can stay on the island for a day or more by renting a room in one of the hotels. On the coast there are cozy cafes and restaurants that prepare dishes from freshly caught fish.
The name comes from the outward resemblance of shape to the saddlebag, heibe, includes 4 hills and as many bays, in which the beach complexes are located. Sosnovaya is especially popular with tourists. Each elevation is favored by an important building: the mill, the stone mine, the monastery of Makarios and the clergy school.
For a long time there was only a small village of fishermen and 3 monasteries on Heibelias. With the growing popularity of the Prince’s Islands, the population has increased, reaching 3, 5 thousand people, established ferry service, opened the Trade School and the Naval College. The greenest island is considered the second largest in the archipelago, famous for its beaches and scenic views. People of art come here for inspiration, especially since the situation here is calmer, and there are significantly fewer tourists.
Historic sites are considered:
- St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s churches. Nicholas;
- Terki Dunya and Aya Tsorgi Uchurum monasteries;
- the ruins of the old mill at Cape Deirmen Burnu;
- the holy spring of Ephemera.
Among the entertainment offered rides on donkeys and phaetons, excursions to local attractions, beach holidays, visiting restaurants with national cuisine.
Its atmosphere is characterized by tranquility and unhurried flow of time. The third largest, it has no particular historical landmarks other than the church of Ayia Yani with its underground prison, the hospital of St. John the Baptist, and the church of the Holy Trinity. The museum includes the St. George’s Church, the Ayios Loanis holy spring, the house-museum of Turkish writer Sait Faik Abasiyanık, and a sanatorium built in 1928.
In 1950, wealthy Jewish families began to build houses on the island, which provoked a rapid increase in property prices. During the tourist season, not only prices increase, but also the number of residents, increasing tenfold.
Among the 3 large Princes’ Islands in Istanbul, there is no particularly developed beach structure on Burgazad. They come here for the silence, romance, colorful sunsets. The most romantic place tourists read the restaurant on the Barka Tepesi hill. The sumptuous views of the surroundings add to the great food.
Tourists come here much less often. There is no lush vegetation in this area, the special feature of the island is the reddish color of the stones and a specific shade of soil, reminiscent of henna, which gave the second name. The guidebooks of Turkey and the archipelago call it so – “the island with henna.
Only the coastal area is densely built up, deeper into the center of the buildings are becoming rarer, disappearing at the foot of the hill at all. The tourist influx is in high season, when the population grows from 2,000 to 25,000.
The only attraction is the monastery of Christ. They come to the island not for the architectural values, but to swim and sunbathe in peace and quiet, away from the bustle of the capital. Walks are not honored either. It’s hard to find an interesting route when it takes about 30 minutes to get around the area.
Almost all of the Prince’s Islands in Istanbul have double names based on shape or some hidden feature. The second name of this piece of land is “spoon island. It is a private property, closed to visitors, has no special monuments and interesting structures.
It is sometimes called a hare’s-barrel. The smallest by area, it occupies only 0.04 square kilometers. Very green and completely uninhabited, it is also listed as private property.
It is the furthest from the mainland. Interesting objects are the old monastery, founded in the 10th century and the lighthouse. Plans for the development of the archipelago’s islands include the opening of the Museum of Freedom and Democracy on its territory. There are no hotels or other amenities on the island.
The second name “flat”, indicates the peculiarities of the relief. Indeed, it barely rises above the surface of the sea, standing out among the waves as a green speck, it is barely visible on the map. Because of its modest size and lack of attractions, there are no guided tours.
The beaches of the Prince Islands
The largest number is on the largest of all, Büyükada Island. Officially there are eight beaches:
- Kumsal Aile;
- Eskibağ and Viranbağ;
- Prenses koyu;
- Aya Nikola Halk Plaj;
- Halik koyu;
- Nizam plajı.
Among them are family, where convenient entrances to the water allow swimming with small children. Some are quite small, rocky and most of them are paid. Nevertheless, there are always many vacationers, tourists and locals clearly prefer them to the capital stripes by the water.
On the island of Heibeliada is popular:
- Aqua Green;
- Alman Koyu.
Also visited the beaches on the islands of Sedef and Kynalyada, they are also equipped with minimal facilities and provide a nice break from the busy life in the metropolis.
Hotels in the Prince Islands
Staying overnight or for a few days is possible only on the two largest islands. Hotel complexes are comfortable enough, equipped with air conditioning, refrigerators, mini-bars.
On the island of Büyükada, the top three are:
- Cenar Konak;
- Ada Palas Hotel Buyukada;
There are budget options, hotels equipped for guests with disabilities and guest houses, which are allowed to stay with pets. The average cost of living ranges from 200 to 560 liras and above. In the winter on the Prince’s Islands from Istanbul comes a lot less holidaymakers, so prices are reduced significantly.
How do I get to the Princes Archipelago from Istanbul?
It is possible to get to the islands:
- as part of a sightseeing tour, which includes transportation;
- on the river cab;
- on a public ferry.
The most budget-friendly option is the ferry, the ticket price is 5 liras, departure from the piers Kabataş, Kadıköy, Bostanji. The travel time depends on the weather.
Remember that the deck is cool, so for comfort you should bring a plaid or a thick stole.
To get a seat with a better view, you have to come and buy a ticket in advance, 20 to 30 minutes before the departure of the flight. The schedule necessarily hangs near the ticket office, the main flights are listed in the appendix to the tourist booklet and on the website. Ferries sail only to the larger islands; the rest are either uninhabited or privately owned.