I’ve visited Istanbul a few times and have become fascinated with this exotic place. While the city provides an almost endless list of things to see and do, there are some great day trip destinations outside the city visitors should also consider. The Princes’ Islands are a group of nine islands just off Istanbul in the Sea of Marmara and I had a chance to visit on my recent trip to Turkey. Originally occupied by Byzantine fortresses and monasteries, the area became popular as a residential area with wealthy foreigners during the 19th century and continues as a luxury resort and summer vacation destination.
The four largest islands (Kinaliada, Burgazada, Heybeliada and Buyukada) are easily reached via regular ferry service from Istanbul. Ferries leave from Kabata on the European side of Istanbul and Kadikoy on the Asian side. Sehir Hatlan is the city’s official ferry service and their boats leave Istanbul about every half hour. Fares are 5 TL (about $2.50) and the trip takes under an hour. Visitors should note the islands are also known in Turkey as the Adalar Islands and timetables and schedules reference this name.
What to see and do
I find the Princes’ Islands offer a great mix of recreation, leisure, nature and history. The largest island, Buyukada, is a very popular summer resort with beaches, restaurants and nightlife. It’s also filled with beautiful Ottoman mansions, many of which are now hotels or pensions as they known there. There are no cars on the islands of Buyukada or Heybeliada, only horse-drawn carriages and donkey carts. It all adds to the “quaint-ness” of the area. The island of Heybeliada is less visited and also has beaches and pine groves. The islands are all about escaping the city and enjoying the natural beauty of the area, all within an hour of downtown Istanbul.
Where to stay
Villa Mimosa on Burgazada is a vacation villa with three large apartments housed in a former Ottoman mansion. Each apartment has its own kitchen and the entire property is very private, with a beautiful garden. The villa is a $10 carriage ride from the ferry dock. Minimum rental is seven days and rates range from $1,200 for the 100 square foot former servant’s quarters to $4,600 per week for a three-bedroom, five-room suite with balcony.
A long-time ally of the US, Turkey is considered a safe destination for Americans with a good tourist infrastructure. A tourist visa is needed and can be obtained from the Turkish government online, in advance. The country is well served by Turkish Airlines, which connects Istanbul with six US gateways. Economy class airfares from the US are typically between $900 and $1,500, roundtrip, depending on the departure city.
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