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June, 2024

The Adalar Islands

The nine small islands about 20 km southeast of central Istanbul (Turkey) in the Sea of Marmara were called the Princes Islands by foreign chroniclers.

This was because of the custom of Byzantine emperors to send troublesome princes there to be blinded, exiled or executed, but Istanbul residents This was because of the custom of Byzantine emperors to send troublesome princes there to be blinded, exiled or executed, but Istanbul residents today simply Adalar ("The Islands").

Adalar Islands - Istanbul (Turkey)

In the Middle Ages they were the sites of monasteries, away from the bustle and temptations of the city, but with the advent of steamboats and convenient ferry services in the 19th century, the four larger islands - Büyükada, Heybeliada, Burgazada and Kınalıada - became summer resorts. Istanbul's wealthy Ottoman families, mostly Greeks, Jews and Armenians, built elaborate Victorian summer cottages along the narrow streets of the island villages.

The peaceful atmosphere of a century ago is preserved today because no private vehicles are allowed on any of the islands. Everyone walks, bikes or takes a horse-drawn carriage (fayton).

In summer, six to 10 Şehir Hatları ferries a day make the 90-minute trip from the Kabataş ferry dock to Kınalıada, Burgazada, Heybeliada and Büyükada.

The trip is half the fun when you take the ferry down the Bosphorus and into the Sea of Marmara, where you can see Topkapı Palace, Ayasofya, the Blue Mosque, Seraglio Point and basically all of Istanbul from a different angle.

On your first visit, go to Büyükada, the most interesting island, where you can take an island tour by horse-drawn carriage, or rent a bicycle and tour the island by yourself, and have lunch or dinner, and drinks, and maybe even swim on one of the small beaches.


Adalar Islands - rent a bicycle
Because the islands are car-free, locals get around on electric scooters and golf carts (Credit: Richard Collett)

Keep in mind that the islands get crowded during the summer months. If possible, plan your visit in July and August on a weekday (Monday through Friday).

Büyükada and Heybeliada even have a few hotels, should you wish to stay there, but make reservations well in advance during the summer, especially on weekends.

Prices for food and lodging are high because all provisions must be brought to the islands by boat and because the islands are a popular tourist destination.


Adalar Islands

By the way, the five smaller islands - Avşan, Yassı (Plati), Sivri (Oxia), Sedef and Kaşık (Pita) - are not served by ferries and are essentially uninhabited.

Reference.. Turkey Travel Planner

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