Istanbul, one of the most fascinating and historical cities in the world, is a melting pot of cultures and traditions. Known for its stunning architecture, bustling markets, and mouth-watering cuisine, Istanbul is also home to a hidden gem that is often overlooked by tourists: the Prince Islands. Located just off the coast of Istanbul, the Prince Islands offer a peaceful escape from the chaos of the city, where visitors can enjoy scenic views, untouched nature, and historical landmarks. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the enchanting Prince Islands and discover the hidden gems that make them a must-visit destination.
The Prince Islands
The Islands are a group of nine islands located in the Marmara Sea, just a short ferry ride from Istanbul. The islands have a rich history dating back to the Byzantine era, and were a popular summer retreat for the Ottoman Sultans. Today, the islands are a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, thanks to their stunning beaches, tranquil atmosphere, and scenic beauty. The islands are car-free, making them the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of Istanbul and enjoy a relaxing getaway.
How to Get to the Prince Islands
To reach the Prince Islands, visitors can take a ferry from various points in Istanbul, including Kabatas, Besiktas, and Kadikoy. The ferry ride takes around 1-2 hours, depending on the island you are visiting. Once on the islands, visitors can explore on foot, by bike, or by horse-drawn carriage.
The Hidden Gems of the Prince Islands:
- Buyukada Island The largest and most popular of the Prince Islands, Buyukada Island offers a range of activities for visitors. One of the top attractions is the Buyukada Aya Yorgi Monastery, a Byzantine-era monastery that sits atop a hill overlooking the island. Visitors can take a steep hike up to the monastery or hire a horse-drawn carriage to take them to the top. Another popular attraction is the historic Prinkipo Greek Orphanage, which has been abandoned since the 1960s but still stands as a testament to the island’s past.
- Heybeliada Island Heybeliada Island is known for its stunning beaches and natural beauty. One of the top attractions on the island is the Halki Theological School, a Greek Orthodox seminary that was forced to close in 1971 but is now being restored. Visitors can also hike to the top of the island’s hill for panoramic views of the Marmara Sea.
- Burgazada Island Burgazada Island is the smallest of the Prince Islands and is known for its peaceful atmosphere and untouched nature. Visitors can hike through the island’s forests and enjoy stunning views of the sea. The island also has a charming marina, where visitors can watch local fishermen at work and enjoy fresh seafood at one of the many restaurants.
Where to Stay on the Islands
Visitors to the Prince Islands can choose to stay in a range of accommodations, from budget-friendly hostels to luxurious hotels. One of the most popular options is to stay in a traditional Ottoman-style mansion, many of which have been converted into boutique hotels. These historic mansions offer a glimpse into the island’s past and provide a unique and memorable experience for visitors.
What to Eat on the Prince Islands
The Prince Islands are known for their fresh seafood and traditional Turkish cuisine. Visitors can enjoy a range of dishes, from grilled fish to meze platters and Turkish pastries. One of the most popular dishes on the islands