Princes´ Islands (Adalar) – part 1

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Princes´ Islands (Adalar) – part 1

The Princes´ Islands (Adalar) are like a special treasure of Istanbul. They are a scenic and peaceful retreat in the Marmara Sea, just a short ferry ride from the mainland. During the summer months, Princes´ Islands are a popular destination for a trip among tourists and Istanbulites alike. Whilst on the islands you can easily leave the chaos of Istanbul behind and enjoy the stunning seascapes in the middle of nature. So now, come with me on a ferry trip to the Marmara Sea and the Princes' Islands!
Princes´ Islands in Istanbul.

The Princes´ Islands are a group of nine islands of very different sizes in the Marmara Sea near the Asian side of Istanbul. They consist of four larger islands, Büyükada (5.46 km2), Heybeliada (2.4 km2), Burgazada (1.5 km2) and Kınalıada (1.3 km2) as well as five smaller islands, Sedef Adası (0.157 km2), Yassıada (0.05 km2), Sivriada (0.04 km2), Kaşık Adası (0.006 km2) ja Tavşan Adası (0.004 km2).

The map of Princes´ Islands in Istanbul.

Princes´ Islands are just a short ferry ride from the mainland of Istanbul, with ferries departing from Bostancı, Kartal and Maltepe on the Asian side, and from Kabataş on the European side.There are regular ferry routes to the four largest islands: Kınalıada, Burgazada, Heybeliada and Büyükada.You can pay for the ferry trip conveniently with the Istanbul Card (İstanbulkart). In addition, if you wish you can always order a private sea taxi. But please note that the weather at sea can affect the ferry schedules.

The ferry routes of Princes´Islands on the Marmara Sea in Istanbul.

In this first part of my post about the Princes´ Islands, we will travel by ferry from island to island and generally enjoy the atmosphere as well as the scenery. In the second part of my island post, we will focus more closely on the largest and most famous island, Büyükada.

Let´s now set out on the sunny waves of the Marmara Sea

Our ferry trip starts from Bostancı on the Asian side towards the largest island, Büyükada. Along our way, we can admire the other three largest islands, Heybeliada, Burgazada and Kınalıada, as well as the Asian side of Istanbul. Further afield on the horizon (between the islands and the Asian side) also looms the European side of Istanbul. This gives us a realistic idea of the extent and the scale of Istanbul:

This ferry connection from Bostancı is direct, so we don’t stop on the other islands, and we arrive at the port of Büyükada in less than half an hour:

The port of Büyükada in Princes´Islands in Istanbul.
The port of Büyükada.
The view from the mountain of Aya Yorgi Church (Aya Yorgi Kilisesi) on Büyükada in Istanbul. The second green mountain in the front is on the same island of Büyükada. In the background you see the Asian side of Istanbul.
The view from the mountain of Aya Yorgi Church (Aya Yorgi Kilisesi). The second green mountain in the front is on the same island of Büyükada. In the background you see the Asian side of Istanbul.
In this photo we should see the smallest island of the Princes´ Islands, Tavşan Adası. Is it that small black dot visible farther at the sea, on the left? Or does the size of the sea confuse us, as Tavşan Adası is only 0,004 km2 (= less than half an hectare) in size.
In this photo we should see the smallest island of the Princes´ Islands, Tavşan Adası. Is it that small black dot visible farther at the sea, on the left? Or does the size of the sea confuse us, as Tavşan Adası is only 0,004 km2 (= less than half an hectare) in size.
Sunset in the yard of Aya Yorgi Church (Aya Yorgi Kilisesi) on Büyükada in Istanbul. On the left we see the two small Princes' Islands, Yassıada and Sivriada, first, followed by the three large islands, Heybeliada, Burgazada and Kınalıada.
Sunset in the yard of Aya Yorgi Church (Aya Yorgi Kilisesi). In the video we see the two small Princes’ Islands, Yassıada and Sivriada, first, followed by the three large islands, Heybeliada, Burgazada and Kınalıada.

We continue our island trip from the middle of the picturesque beauty of Büyükada. We will choose a ferry whose route connects the largest islands.

So we say goodbye to Büyükada and head towards Heybeliada:

On our way to Heybeliada, we can see how long the island of Büyükada actually is. It has two mountains, almost like glued together. Aya Yorgi Church (Aya Yorgi Kilisesi), from where we saw the sunset video above, is located at the top of the mountain on the right.

Upon arrival in Heybeliada, we notice the large historic Naval High School (Deniz Lisesi), which is no longer in operation today:

From Heybeliada our trip continues towards Burgazada. As we pass Heybeliada, we notice how green Heybeliada is – as are all the four largest Princes´ Islands. On top of a green and lush hill stands an 11th-century Greek Orthodox monastery which used to house the Halki seminary, the main Greek Orthodox seminary in Turkey and Theological Seminary of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Halki seminary was closed down, but the monastery can still be visited:

Arriving in Burgazada, on the right we pass the second smallest of the Princes´ Islands, Kaşık Adası. Now we can truly see the size differences between these nine islands. Behind our ferry appears the silhouette of Istanbul on the Asian side, so now it is easy for us to understand why Istanbul is called “the seven hills city”. Admittedly, these official seven hills are located on the European side:

Burgazada is known for its history as a fortress island, and its name “Burgaz” means “fortress” in Turkish. Among other things, the author Sait Faik Abasıyanık lived on this island, and today his residence is preserved as a museum.

From the view of Burgazada, we can see how difficult it is to separate the islands when we look at them from different perspectives. Sometimes it even feels like their distances would change; as if they were moving out of place. Although the energy of the islands is particularly powerful, they are unlikely to have such abilities:

The view from Burgazada to the Marmara Sea in Istanbul.
Burgazada

As we continue our ferry trip towards the fourth large island, Kınalıada, we can see two of the smaller Princes’ Islands on the left further afield. The first one is Yassıada, and the second one is Sivriada, which has served as both a religious place and a prison during its history.

After that, we will arrive in Kınalıada. There is also a historic monastery at the top of Kınalıada. During the Byzantine era, this island was also used as a place of exile. In addition it was also known as an Armenian island from the 19th century to the mid-20th century:

Kınalıada in Istanbul. This small ship is loaded with flowers.
Kınalıada. This small ship is loaded with flowers.

As we leave Kınalıada on our way back to the mainland by ferry, we feel the sweet energy of the islands in our hearts. After all, the islands are protected (that is, motor traffic is forbidden on the islands) but even this peace does not explain how the islands touch our souls. Of course, the beauty of the nature is also enchanting, but in addition to all the peace and beauty, there is still something inexplicable, mystical and magical about these islands. They attract us like magnets, day and night with different energies.

The islands lie in the Marmara Sea like huge whales; during the day in the light of the sun in cotton-soft serenity, and at night in turn waving to us with their lights like small candles fluttering in the dark sea. Or like twinkling stars calling us to come back soon. And sure we will return…

The view from the mainland, Maltepe, on the Asian side of Istanbul. Büyükada on the right, Sedef Adası on the left.  Sedef Adası has been privately owned for the most part since 1956.
The view from the mainland, Maltepe, on the Asian side of Istanbul. Büyükada on the right, Sedef Adası on the left.  Sedef Adası has been privately owned for the most part since 1956.
The view to the Marmara Sea in Istanbul. Büyükada on the right, Sedef Adası on the left.  Sedef Adası has been privately owned for the most part since 1956.

In addition to their beauty, the Princes´ Islands have a tremendous amount of history, interesting places to visit and countless accommodation options. Unfortunately, all of this doesn’t fit in my short post.

But here, for example, you can find more information:
Princes´ Islands
Istanbul tourist information

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