Princes’ Islands (Adalar) near Istanbul – Which One to Visit?

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A trip to the Princes’ Islands is essential when visiting Istanbul. These small islands are close to the city yet a world apart. We are talking about 9 islands in the Marmara Sea that combine incredible architecture with gorgeous nature. Since we’ve been to the islands several times, we know which one you should visit and where to stay.

What we love about the islands is their atmosphere. All of the islands are scarcely populated and quiet. What’s more, there are no motorized vehicles! Thus, you can breathe fresh air and listen to nature. Besides, some of the best restaurants and hotels in Turkey are here. Take note that when locals refer to Adalar Islands, they mean the same islands near Istanbul.

Princes Islands

How to Get to the Princes’ Islands

The easiest way to get to Princes’ Islands is taking one of the ferries directly from Istanbul. Ferries depart from Kabatas in central Istanbul. To get there from Sultanahmet, take the tram to Kabatas and cross to the ferry station. You can also go from Eminonou to Kabatas by boat. From Taksim square, take the funicular to Kabatas.

From Galata and Beyoglu, take the historic funicular to Karakoy and hop on the tram to Kabatas. ISO ferry runs the fast ones that take one hour. Sehir Hatlati runs the slow one that takes 1.5 hours. Ferries stop in Kadikoy and Bostanci on the Asian side of the city. Another option is to take this great Princes’ Islands Istanbul Tour.

Princes Islands How to Get

Which Princes’ Island to Visit

Buyukada is the biggest and most populated island. However, it is still an oasis of peace. The green and unpopulated area on the island is huge. Thus, you can spend hours walking through pristine nature. Regarding architecture, Buyukada has the most historic buildings. The best hotels and restaurants are here too. Finally, the views from the island are stunning.

Which Princes Island to visit

Buyukada

We love Buyukada so much that we visit the island every time we are in Istanbul. The island’s history goes back to the 6th Century. Kings from Roman and Byzantine times eloped here for centuries. Thus the name of the archipelago: Prince’s. No wonder, since the place is gorgeous. Fortunately, Buyukada has kept its glamour and elegance to this day.

Without a doubt, Buyukada has the best architecture in the archipelago. Sophisticated wooden mansions line its leafy streets. Nature has blessed Buyukada with incredible trees and flowers. Besides, half of the island is empty. Though it is the most visited one, most tourists leave in the afternoon. You won’t believe how beautiful the island is at night.

Princes Islands - Buyukada

What to See and Do

There are loads of things to do in Buyukada. Ferries arrive at a beautiful historic Ottoman pier in the center of town. From there, it’s a short walk to the Government Office from 1900. Nearby is the Con Pasa Mansion from 1880. Don’t forget to check Sabuncakis Mansion, built during Sultan Abuldhamid II times. Walk to Trotsky’s House, where the revolutionary lived in the 1930s.

You’ve got two churches to visit. The Armenian Church of Surp Astvazazin Verapohum is from 1858, while Agios Demetrios is from 1856. Hamidiye Mosque from 1895 is the nicest in the archipelago. There’s also a synagogue: Hased Le Avraam from 1905. A walk along the sea promenade is mandatory. Let’s not forget about the beaches and two old monasteries perched on the hills.

Buyukada What to See

Where to Stay

The best hotel in Buyukada is the Splendid Palace. Immediately recognizable by its two red domes, it’s a 100-year-old beauty with loads of class and comfort. It’s got a lovely garden with a pool and an onsite restaurant bar. Treat yourself to a room with sea views and enjoy first-class service. The complimentary breakfast is delicious.

The Buyukada Anastasia Meziki Hotel is a 200-year-old house just a 10-minute walk from the pier. The Italian mansion has been delicately refurbished to include modern-day conveniences. However, the furniture is antique. The hotel has original Byzantine frescoes and an ottoman fountain. We love the manicured gardens. There are only 13 rooms, so book in advance. The service is classy and warm.

Buyukada Hotel

The Nicest Walks

You have to walk from the center of Buyukada to the Greek Orphanage on top of Isa Hill. It takes approximately half an hour to reach the 530-feet (160 m) tall hill. You will see Hristos Monastery before you reach the summit. The views are as epic as the Orphanage. From there, it’s half an hour down to Viranbag Beach.

At 656 feet (200 m), Yucetepe is the highest hill on the island. Walk there in the afternoon to enjoy unbelievable sunsets and the Ada Yorgi Greek Monastery from 963. From there, it’s half an hour to Dilburnu Park on the western coast. Spend some time walking across two nature parks: Milly and Martyrs Forrest. You can walk all along the entire island. It’s safe and car-free.

Buyukada Walk

Heybeliada

Heybeliada Island is the second largest in the archipelago. However, only 4000 people live on the island year-round. It’s also the greenest. The town itself is on the eastern coast. The rest of the island is all lush nature. The island’s history goes back to ancient times. Due to its copper mines, Greeks call it Halki, copper.

The island is packed with historic architecture. Not only royalty had homes here. During the 16th Century, the wealthy flocked to the island to escape the plague in Istanbul. Besides, people from Istanbul built magnificent mansions on the island as early as the 19th Century. Today, the island comes alive in summer. There are small summer concerts that attract a young crowd.

Princes Islands - Heybeliada

What to See and Do

Of all the things to do in Heybeliada, a visit to the Aya Nikola Orthodox Church is mandatory. The beautiful Greek temple was the last Byzantine church built before the Ottomans conquered Istanbul. Walk south to see the remains of the Kangelari Tomb. Continue up the hill to the Aya Triada Monastery. The garden around the church is beautiful.

The nicest mosque on the island is Heybeliada Mosque. Though not that old, it’s very atmospheric. There’s a cemetery with tall cypress trees nearby. The Bet Yaakov Synagogue is to the south. The former house of the country’s second president, Ismet Inonu, is now a museum. The monumental building on the coast is the Naval High Command founded in 1773.

Heybeliada What to See

Where to Stay

The best hotel on the island is L’isola Guesthouse. This incredible lilac house is in the center of town. The rooms are big and super comfortable. The best have a balcony with sea views. You’ll love its garden full of flowers and plants. You can cook in the fully equipped kitchen. There’s complimentary coffee and tea.

Manzaraada Tepe is on the slopes of the hill just off the center of town. Thus, it offers memorable views of the island and beyond. The rooms are simple, comfortable, and clean. Their triple rooms are perfect if you are traveling with family or friends. Go for the suite with a huge terrace with the best views on the island.

Heybeliada Hotel

The Nicest Walks

The best walk is from the center to the top of the Mill Cape Nature Park on the north. The incredible Aya Triada Monastery crowns the hill. It’s an old monastery with one of the nicest gardens in Istanbul. From there, cross the island to reach the southern coast of Heybeliada, where the best beaches are. Take your time and admire the views.

Another brilliant walk is all the way to the south to see the Terki Dunya Monastery. The Greek building hangs on a cliff overlooking the Sea of Marmara. Be careful if you want to go down Mazur Cliff. Go back to the center through Pine Harbor Bay. Evidently, walk about the center admiring the old wooden mansions.

Heybeliada Walk

Burgazada

Burgazada is the least visited island in the archipelago. In all honesty, the island doesn’t have the grand architecture of its sister Buyukada. However, that is precisely its biggest draw. Here you will chill to the bone and get to know the locals. Burgazada is all about nature. Take note that locals call the island Burgaz.

The island has a special place in the heart of Turkey. One of the country’s greatest writers, Sait Faik Abasıyanık, lived on and wrote about the island. However, the island historically was Greek. In addition, Jews moved to Burgazada in the 20th Century. Today, the island is an unspoiled piece of nature visited by couples from all over the country.

What to See and Do

Tiny Burgazada offers a lot of things to do and see. The outstanding Greek Orthodox Church of Saint John (Aya Yani) presides over the island. You will see its majestic dome from the ferry. It opens on Saturdays and Sunday mornings. The Sait Faik Abasiyanik Museum is next door. Even if you don’t know about him, visit the museum to learn about Turkey in the 1940s.

Cute traditional houses line the island’s streets. Walk north to see the Greek Monastery of Saint George, another byzantine marvel.  The beaches in front of the monastery are nice and offer breathtaking views of Istanbul. However, the nicest beaches are Kalpazankaya on the western coast and Halk Plaji to the south. Visit even in winter to enjoy the views.

Burgazada What to See

Where to Stay

We stayed at the Pyrgos Otel & Restaurant and had a great time. You have to book with them directly. Be sure to call in advance. Few tourists visit the island, so it’s not that easy to book online. The hotel is on the coast and offers sea views. It’s a simple hotel with clean rooms. The restaurant is pretty good.

One time we stayed in Villa Mimosa. The historic wooden mansion is close to the Saint George Monastery. The best rooms have a balcony with sea views. However, we had trouble contacting them on our last trip to the islands. Another option is to go there and ask around for accommodation. If you don’t find any, take the next boat and stay in Buyukada.

Burgazada Hotel

The Nicest Walks

As mentioned, nature has blessed Burgazada. There is only one hill on the island. Walk from the center to the top of the hill to admire the Greek Monastery of Christ (Hristos). You will cross a lovely forest of figs on your way. The Monastery is now a museum. Go in the afternoon to enjoy epic sunsets.

From the monastery, it’s a half an hour’s walk to Kalpazankaya Beach. Stop by the Muslim Cemetery to admire the views. Of course, a walk along the seaside promenade is a must. The nicest mansions on the island face the coast. You can’t walk all around the island. The southern coast is a rocky cliff. That’s why the views from above or so fantastic.

Burgazada Walk

Kinaliada

Kinaliada Island is the smallest and closest to Istanbul. The journey from Istanbul takes half an hour. Kinaliada beach is next to the pier. Therefore, it is very easy to go to the island to spend a day on the beach. Go to Kinaliada if you are short of time. You will enjoy the ride and see the beauty of these islands.

The local population is some 2000 people. However, in summer, numbers can swell, especially on weekends. That said, most people leave in the afternoon. Stay for the night, and enjoy killer sunsets and views over Istanbul. The small island has it all. We are talking about historic architecture, three hills, beaches, delicious food, and charming hosts.

Princes Islands - Kinaliada

What to See and Do

For such a small island, Kinaliada has a lot of things to do. Of course, spending time on the beach is a must. We’ve been to the islands and Istanbul in winter, and though we didn’t bathe, we did enjoy the coast. You have 5 beaches to choose from: Kinaliada Pier, Kumluk, Teos, Ayazma, and Ulker. You can take a ferry from the center to Ulker.

Visit the Armenia Church of Supr Krikor Lusarovic. The stone temple from 1857 is in the center. From there, walk to the Sikaryan Mansions, two of the grandest wooden houses on the island. Kinaliada Mosque is on the coast. It’s a contemporary temple from 1964. The splendid Hristos Monastery is on top of Hristos Hill. The views from there will take your breath away.

Kinaliada What to See

Where to Stay

As mentioned, most people visit the island for the day. Therefore, there aren’t many places to spend a night. We stayed in Prinzeninsel Apartment in the center of the island. It’s a comfortable big apartment. Since it has two bedrooms and a fully equipped kitchen, it’s perfect for families. The views from the terrace are gorgeous.

Another great option is the Kinali Butik Otel, the only hotel on the island. Located a step away from the port, it offers peace in a beautiful setting. Their beautifully appointed rooms come with sea views, and there is an outdoor swimming pool and a small garden. You can contact the hotel to book a room.

Kinaliada Hotel

The Nicest Walks

Kinaliada is a great place to walk. Walking along the seaside promenade is a must. Don’t forget to walk around the center. The mansions on Fazil Ahmet Aykac Street in the center are the nicest. You can walk along the coast all around the island in approximately one hour. If you get tired, hop on the electric bus and return to the center.

Trek from the center to the top of Hristos Hill. It should take less than half an hour. Don’t rush and enjoy the views. From there, walk to the beaches on the western side of the island.  Kinali Ada Cocuk Park is a 20-minute walk from the pier. You will see Asian Istanbul from there. Walk down to Seyir Park, the nicest on the island.

Kinaliada Walk

How to Visit the Four Islands

If you have time, we strongly recommend you visit the four islands. They are really worth your time. Go directly to Buyukada and spend at least one night. The island is so pretty that you will want to spend two full days there. The next day, hop on a ferry and go to Heybeliada. Spend a day and a night there.

Your third day should be spent visiting Kinaliada and Burgazada. Once again, hop on a ferry to go from one to the other. The rides between the islands take about fifteen minutes. There are regular ferries, so you shouldn’t have a problem. Go back to Istanbul after sunset. You will see the city illuminated in all of its glory from the ferry.

How to Visit Princes Islands

Princes Islands Cats



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