The Perfect Escape to Serenity: Princes’ Islands
Home to lush greenery, impressive villas, gardens full of flowers, bicycle paths and secluded coves, Princes’ Islands is a perfect address for a day trip to the very heart of nature. Reached via a very pleasant ferry ride, the Princes’ Islands offers a beautiful escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. Situated on the Sea of Marmara, not far from the Asian coast of İstanbul but reachable easily from both sides of İstanbul, Princes’ Islands consist of a cluster of 9 small islands appreciated both by tourists and locals.
The islands have taken the name from the exiled princes and aristocrats during the Eastern Roman (Byzantium) era. Once a destination for exile and reclusion and reachable solely by rowboats, the islands became easily reachable by steamboats after the industrial revolution and thus, the favourite holiday destination of the Ottoman aristocracy. Since then, the islands have been a very popular summer place for İstanbulites.
Take a day trip to these no-cars-allowed islands to make a serene break from the busy city. Here, you can enjoy walking in the pedestrian cobblestone streets lined with historical historic mansions and gardens full of mimosas, bougainvillaea, and other colourful Mediterranean flowers. If you are not afraid of steep slopes, you can also rent a bike to admire the islands on two wheels. Main routes generally loop around the islands offering a typical tour for discovering the major sights.
On Büyükada – the biggest island – after a beautiful hike or ride past the island’s historic mansions and pine forests, you may hike up the steepest hill to Aya Yorgi Church to visit the small church but also to admire the jaw-dropping scenery, which not only offers impressive views of İstanbul but also showcases the beautiful greenery of nearby islands, Heybeliada and Sedef Island. Don’t miss the historic Greek Orthodox Orphanage –the biggest wooden building in Europe– and Splendid Palace Hotel –a grand twin-domed, red-shuttered building that was built as a hospital for soldiers wounded in the Crimean War.
Heybeliada, the most populated island of the archipelago in winter, is smaller but more dynamic in all seasons. The famous eleventh-century Halki Seminary is an absolute must-see. With its wooden mansions and villas from the 60s, and small businesses, the island looks like a filmset of a 20th-century period drama.
The tiny yet gorgeous Burgazada has some calm beaches and picnic spots to enjoy the sun. You would love to stop by to have a little glass of tea or even a dinner table by the sea.
A Seaside Holiday
Seafood restaurants serving delicious fresh fish and meze plates, ice-cream parlours and cafes are lined up at the waterfront of most islands just by the pier, but you can spend your entire day strolling around and snacking on street food such as mussels stuffed with rice and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and black pepper, boiled or char-grilled corn on the cob, and tasty toasted sandwiches. If you prefer calmer places, you may head to less populated areas of the islands to have a half-an-hour walk and discover small, unpretentious restaurants with vine-shaded terraces, wooden chairs, and delicious food. No matter what you choose to eat, you can crown the day with a cup of delectable Turkish coffee accompanied by a piece of Turkish delight.
Keep in mind to take your bathing suit with you. The islands are teeming with small, secluded coves and pay-to-use beaches that offer sun loungers and parasols. A visit to the Princes’ Islands obliges a good dive into the sea!
In short, Princes’ Islands offer visitors, a perfect seaside holiday just a half-an-hour ferry ride from İstanbul. Book your trip now and discover the treasures of the Princes’ Islands!