A short ferry ride from the major Istanbul ports are the lovely Princes’ Islands. From where I was staying in Kadıköy it was easy enough to find the ferry which takes you across the Sea of Marmara, stopping first at Kinaliada (“Henna Island”), then Heybeliada (“Saddlebag Island”) and then to my destination, Büyükada (“Big Island”). The Tur Yol ferry, one of several services, took about 90 minutes to reach Büyükada and cost 7.5TL to travel each way (September 2017). I suspect that it’s possible to jump off at different islands and island-hop, but wasn’t brave enough to experiment this time, given my lack of Turkish language, and the risk of getting stuck.
Thanks to Wikipedia I eventually realised that Adalar was actually the Turkish name for these islands rather than the name of the ferry boat! There are a couple of ferry boats, of varying sizes, which regularly make this crossing from Kadıköy, as well as other Istanbul ports such as Bostancı, Kartal and Maltepe (Asian side) and Kabataş (European side).
The Princes’ Islands derive their name from their history as places of exile for royalty during the Byzantine and Ottoman periods. The grandeur remains today. Certainly on Büyükada, the one island I visited, the detached houses and their magnificent leafy gardens are the most imposing dwellings I’ve seen in Turkey. Must check the Real Estate (emlak) prices out of curiosity!
There are no motorised vehicles (except emergency services) allowed in the Princes’ Islands, so travel is by foot, rented bikes, or the horse-drawn carriages which swing by regularly. As a result, the ambience is such a serene and peaceful break from the mayhem of nearby mainland Istanbul. Büyükada, the largest of the nine islands, has a population of about 7,000 and an area of 5 km square. Spent a couple of hours walking up and down the steep, hilly streets, catching panoramic glimpses of the Marmara Sea, ogling the exclusive sprawling mansions behind secure gating and stopping occasionally for cay or dondurma.
It’s a great day trip out from Istanbul. Easy to manage independently and a refreshing break from the hustle and bustle of the mainland. I must admit, with some amazement, that I’d never even heard of these islands previously. So, thanks to the Turkish friend who recently tipped me off. Strongly recommended, perhaps even for an overnight stay.