The beautiful Princes’ Islands near Istanbul are a popular hotspot for tourists. Whether you want to delve into the past, swim in the sea or experience calm and sunshine, they are the perfect destination for a day trip.
Located just 20 kilometres south east of Istanbul, Princes’ Islands were once the exile places for unruly Byzantine princes. Now a day trip to Princes’ Islands is popular among both locals and tourists looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. After you’ve toured the islands by day our serene Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa, Istanbul Tuzla, makes the perfect place to relax at night.
Regular ferries run throughout the day from Istanbul to the four Princes’ Islands open to the public: Büyükada, Burgazada, Heybeliada and Kınalıada.
The sea buses are the quickest way to get to Princes’ Islands from Istanbul, with journeys taking around an hour. Regular ferries can take almost twice as long but are more frequent and a little cheaper.
It’s a good idea to catch an early boat out to Princes’ Islands and make sure you are at the dock 30 minutes in advance so you can get a seat.
Istanbul’s residents call Princes’ Islands Adalar (the Islands), and you’ll find that they are very popular with locals. For that reason it’s a good idea to go on a weekday if you can, to avoid the summer crowds.
Food can be expensive so you may want to pack a picnic for your day trip to Princes’ Islands, although there are places to buy food there. You should make sure you pack some water and a swimsuit, and plan which island you want to go to in advance.
The largest and most popular of Princes’ Islands is Büyükada (Great Island), and it makes a good choice for your first day trip to Adalar. Heybeliada Island, too, is a great place for a first visit, as there’s lots to do.
What to See
The first thing you’ll notice about Princes’ Islands, no matter which one you choose to visit, is the peace, as motor vehicles are banned. It’s a big contrast from busy Istanbul, but you’ll soon get used to the gentle silence. Instead of cars, people get about Adalar by horse and carriage, on bicycles and on foot.
Büyükada is home to the historic Greek Monastery of St George, which dates back over a thousand years. A stroll up through the main streets of the island will lead you there within an hour. The hill leading to the Monastery is steep but it’s worth the climb, and donkeys can be hired if needed. Make sure you also see Luna Park, amble through the streets, take a swim on a pretty beach, and stop to admire the beautiful old villas. If you’re feeling adventurous then it’s a great idea to hire a bike to get the most out of a day trip to Büyükada, but you can also book a horse-drawn carriage tour.
Charming Heybeliada has beautiful pine groves to walk through, beaches to swim from, a Greek monastery and Turkish Naval Academy to admire. It also boasts a busy shopping area which has lots of delicatessens, and you can take buggy tours of the island.