The Princes’ Islands in Istanbul
Step back in time, to a place where there’s no cars and no traffic. The only sounds are the birds, the holidaymakers, and perhaps the occasional horse-and-cart trotting past. Open your eyes. Where are you? Surprisingly few people would have guessed the answer: the Princes’ Islands, Istanbul.
The Princes’ Islands are a group of nine islands just off the south Anatolian coast of Istanbul. In the past, they played home to Istanbul’s exiles – Byzantine rulers, Ottoman Sultans, and Leon Trotsky – and it’s from these banished figures that they draw their name. Now, the hilly Princes’ Islands are a holiday playground for the rich and famous, and a welcome break for those looking for a breather from the city.
Travelling to the Princes’ Islands, Istanbul
Of the nine different islands, the four largest are the easiest and most commonly visited.
1. Buyukada (“Big Island”) is the biggest and most frequently visited island. Tour the Victorian mansions and traditional streets by horse-drawn carriage or renting a bicycle. Things to do include visiting Leon Trotsky’s house, Luna Park and St. George’s Monastery
2. Heybeliada (“Saddle Bag Island”) has attractive pine forests and narrow beaches. It’s excellent as a less-crowded alternative to Buyukada, and contains points of interest such as an c. 11th monastery.
3. Burgazada (“Fortress Island”) is a small island with a strong Greek presence. There’s not much to do, but you can happily while away the time visiting the excellent cafes and appreciating the picturesque views.
4. Kinaliada (“Henna Island”) is named after its copper-red lands. The island’s coves are a popular visit for local families, although apart from the privately-owned villas and the island’s natural beauty, there’s not much to see here.
Princes’ Islands ferry schedules
Make sure you take an earlier ferry, both going to the Princes’ Islands and coming back, as they can often fill to capacity and you may be left without a ride.
* SEHIR HATLARI – The most obvious of the different companies.
* IDO – A rapid catamaran journey.
* DENTUR AVRASYA – Useful if you can decode their website.
* TURYOL – A smaller, newer company.
As you travel on the ferry back in time to the Princes’ Islands in Istanbul, think of those for whom this was their last journey ever. And don’t forget to get the ferry back well ahead of time: otherwise you may be in danger of being trapped overnight with the banished ghosts that wander the Princes’ Islands.