Istanbul city guide. Princes Islands: Buyukada, Heybeliada, Burgazada & Kinaliada.
Prince’s Islands, Adalar in Turkish, one of the best places to visit in Istanbul are the islands facing Kücükyali and Maltepe on the Asian Side in the south east part of Istanbul. The islands also known as Prens Adaları are Büyükada, 5.400 km², Heybeliada 2.350 km², Burgazada 1.500 km², Kınalıada 1.356 km², Tavşanadası 1.010 km², Sedefadası 0.157 km², Yassıada 0.052 km², Sivriada 0.045 km², Kaşıkadası 0.008 km²
The Islands are a place where Istanbulians go to escape from the noise and stress of the city. On the Islands you can go to the seaside, have picnic and spend a nice time relaxing in a peaceful atmosphere out of the city. There are quite a few churches and monasteries because the Islands had a greater proportion of non-Muslim inhabitants during the Roman and Ottoman period.
Büyükada is considered as the metropol of all the islands due to population, architecture and lifestyle. Because automobiles are forbidden on all the islands, people and goods are moved by horse-drawn wagons and bicycles. As well as ferries from Istanbul, there are also motorboats from Bostancı going to the Islands.
Island Ferry, Ada Vapuru
Island ferry leaving from Bostanci and Kadıköy on the Asian side, from Kabatas on the European side is everything for Adali, people from the island. The first island stop is Kınalıada, next Burgazada, Heybeliada and finally Büyükada.
What to do on the Princes Islands
Going for a picnic on the Islands would be a very nice pastime out of Istanbul. The most popular picnic areas are on Büyükada and Heybeliada. To reach the picnic areas on both of these islands, you need to turn right and follow the shoreline when you get off the ferry. You can either bring your food and drinks with you, or you can shop at the çarşı near the ferry station. At the picnic areas you can buy a small mangal and charcoal for a very reasonable price. After your picnic, you can stroll around, rent a bike, or take a tour on a phaeton.
Did you know?
- The islands of Istanbul had many different names throughout history: Saint’s Islands, Monk’s Islands, Spirits’ Islands, Genie’s Islands, Red Islands, and finally Prince’s Islands.
- The name Prince’s Islands originated with the Byzantine custom of exiling nobles and even queens to these islands. There on these beautiful islands where today people come to relax and escape from the bustle of Istanbul, the exiled nobles lived lonely, isolated lives, and some were even tortured.
Buyukada, as the name refers, the biggest of all the Princes Islands in Istanbul is one of the top places to see in Istanbul and famous for the beaches and architecture of the houses. Buyukada used to be called Prinkipo, “big” in Greek. The population of the island is over 7,000 but it is more crowded during the spring and summer time as most of the houses on the island are summer houses. 207 golden coins found in 1930 proves that the history of the island dates back to Macedonian King Filip II, father of Alexandre the Great. This treasure, called Büyükada Treasure, is exhibited in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum.
Places to see & things to do on Buyukada
- Go on a Büyükada tour by fayton
- Rent a bike and go for a ride around the island to see the architecture of the island
- Have a picnic in Dilburnu
- Swim at Yörükali Plajı, Prenses Plajı, Nakibey Plajı
- Walk up to Aya Yorgi and have lunch at Aya Yorgi Restaurant with a very nice view of the islands, sea and Istanbul.
Aya Yorgi, Aghios Gheorghios, the Rum (Greek) Orthodox church on Yücetepe (or The Hill of Aya Yorgi) on Büyükada. On the 23rd of July and the 24th of September, thousands of people – Christians and Muslims, natives and foreigners – climb up the hill to Aya Yorgi, tie rags to the trees and bushes along the way to the church, leave offerings of olive oil, light a candle and pray.
Aya Yorgi Kır Lokantası
An open air restaurant on top of the Yücetepe Hill (also known as The Hill of Aya Yorgi) on Büyükada. Aya Yorgi Kır Lokantası, in addition to its excellent view of İstanbul, serves very tasty food including appetizers, grilled meats and a variety of salads. From July to October the restaurant is open from 11:00 to 23:00. In the winter it is only open on weekends.
Aya Yorgi Church, Yücetepe Mevkii No:5 Büyükada Tel: 0216 382 13 33
Did you know?
- Lev Trocki who was expelled by Stalin lived on Büyükada in 1920-1933.
- Every 23rd of May and 24th of September, people from different religions walk up the Aya Yorgi Church and leave offerings of olive oil and pray.
- People walking up the hill with bare feet are believed to become half pilgrim.
Heybeliada or Halki as it was called before, is the greenest of all the islands. It is the third island after Burgazada and before Büyükada. On getting off at the iskele there is the Navy School on the left side and çarşı, restaurants and cafes on the right side. If you keep walking or take a fayton to the right you will get to the beach and the picnic area in Değirmen Burnu where there is an old windmill. There are two fayton routes on Heybeliada: Büyük tur (big tour) and küçük tur (small tour) or aşıklar turu (tour for lovers).
You can go on a fayton tour and a picnic on Heybeliada.
Did you know?
Edward Barton, the ambassador of the Queen Elizabeth I, lived on Heybeliada. Barton lived in a house in Tophane for a while, but he had noisy parties and the people around his house complained about the noise and eventually he was sent to Halki.
The second island of Adalar, the Prince’s Islands in Istanbul. The earliest name of the Burgazada was Antigone, one of the generals of Alexandre the Great. When the Ottomans conquered the island, it was called Burgaz (Pyrgoz), fortress, bastion in Greek.
Burgazada is known as the home of Sait Faik, a famous short story writer of Turkish literature. He lived his last years on this island until he died in 1954. His house then was made Sait Faik Museum. It is possible to see the traces of Sait Faik all over the island. One of the nicest places on the island is Kalpazankaya (rocks on the other side of the island). Kalpazankaya means “counterfeiters’ rock” in Turkish as it was thought that counterfeiters printed money there. Around Kalpazankaya is the Kalpazankaya open air restaurant, which is one of the symbols of Burgazada. You can have a nice meal at the restaurant underneath the acacia, olive, plum and chestnut trees with a nice view of the Marmara Sea and Istanbul. You can walk to Kalpazankaya or take a fayton to get there. Burgazada is the only island that the fayton goes along the sea with a spectacular sea view.
Things to do on Burgazada
- Have a sakızlı ice-cream after getting off the ferry
- Walk to Kalpazankaya (follow the fayton)
- Have a delicious lunch at Burgazada Kır Lokantası with a nice sea view
Kinaliada is the closest island to Istanbul. It was called Kinaliada (kina=hanna) because of the colour of the land from the iron and copper mines. As it is the closest island to the city, most expellees were brought to Kınalıada in the Roman period.
Did you know
The Roman Emperor Romanos Diogenes (1068-1071) was expelled to Kınalıada in 1072?
Lost in Istanbul: Vordonisi
There are 9 islands (Prince’s Islands) on the southern coast of Istanbul: Büyükada, Heybeliada, Burgazada, Kınaliada, Sedef Adasi, Kasikadasi, Yassiada, Sivriada, Tavsanadasi. In fact, there is another one that we can’t see on the surface today: Vordonas, Vordonisi or Horeke Rocks as the fishermen call it.
Vordonisi, located near Dragos, Maltepe coast on the Asian side, is one of the Istanbul islands sank about 1000 years ago during an Istanbul earthquake with the monastry and the monks in it as it is believed. Today there is a light on the rocks, the highest part close to the surface.
Plan your trip to the Princes’ Islands
- Princes’ Islands Hotels
- Full day Istanbul Princes’ Island tour
- Buyukda walking and carriage tour
- Princes’ Islands tour
- Full day Istanbul and Princes’ Islands tour
- Istanbul swimming tour
- Princes’ Islands full day tour
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