If you’re planning a visit to Istanbul, make sure you set aside a day to tour the Prince’s Islands. Far from the bustle of the hectic city life, the Prince’s Islands offer a unique glimpse into the past, complete with carriage tours on carless roads. Once a place of exile, the islands are now a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. While only four of the nine islands are accessible to the public, they are absolutely worth a day trip, as the experience is truly unforgettable.
The first thing you’ll notice on arrival is the pervading silence. Motor vehicles are not allowed on the island, so the only sounds you’ll hear are horses’ hooves, carriage wheels and bicycle bells. A visit to the islands is like taking a step back in time, as you’ll find yourself passing stretches of ancient Victorian cottages and swathes of untouched forestland.
Obviously, getting out to the islands takes a little doing. Fortunately though, there are regular ferries operated by IDO. You can either take a regular ferry, or if you’re in a hurry, hop on a “sea bus” to get there and back quickly.
The regular ferries sail out from Kabatas at regular intervals. The trip can take nearly two hours if the ferry stops at all of the islands. The sea buses are somewhat faster, and the full trip can be completed in under an hour. These fast ferries also depart from Kabatas.
Just be aware that the ferry timetables change according to season, so make sure you get a current schedule before setting out on your day trip.
Do make sure to spend a little time on each of the four main islands: Burgazada, Heybeliada, Kinaliada, and Büyükada, the biggest and most popular. To get around on the islands, you can either go by foot, or hop on one of the many horse-drawn carriages. Carriage prices are standard across the board, so just check the posted pricing list before hopping aboard. Many folks also choose to rent bicycles if they want to venture further afield.
What to See and Do
There’s a lot to see and do on each island, but since you only have one day to complete your tour, you’ll not want to miss the highlights in each spot. Here are our favorite spots on the Prince’s Islands:
Büyükada, “Big Island” in turkish, is the largest of the nine. Its streets are lined with beautiful historic structures and graceful old trees. While on Büyükada, make sure you visit Hagios Giorgios Church, the Greek Orphanage, and the Hamidiye Mosque.
Heybeliada, or “Saddlebag Island”, is the second largest island and home to the historic Naval Cadet School. While here, don’t miss the impressive 11th century Greek-Orthodox monastery that houses the Halki seminary. Also, make sure to visit Kamariotissa, an ancient church built before the conquest of Constantinople.
Find accommodation in Istanbul apartments and enjoy some of the most beautiful islands you can find anywhere in the world. Turkey is a country with so much to offer in terms of tourism and culture.