Princes’ Islands Istanbul Turkey

On my last day in Istanbul, I decided to revisit the Princes’ Islands – Adalar in Turkish. The Princes’ form a small archipelago of nine islands in the Sea of Marmara. I first discovered them during a visit in March 2013, when exploring Büyükada Island. This time I explored Heybeliada.

Pyrgos Hotel Büyükada Island Istanbul
Princes’ Islands Houses
Festival of Eid-al-Fitr?

Somehow, I got the date of the Muslim festival Eid-al-Fitr confused and incorrectly thought it was Sunday, not Monday. It was a hectic day with everyone “breaking their fast” and enthusiastically celebrating – especially on Istanbul’s Bosphorus ferries!

Ferry Passengers
Ferry Cat

A trip to the islands on Eid-al-Fitr was a unique experience, but not one I would repeat. The overcrowded ferries had people crammed everywhere and standing in the aisles. It took forever for the ferry to get from Eminönü’ (emmy new new) to the islands. I saw a sign for 453 life jackets – total. There were at least three times that many passengers on board! Unbelievably, the ride back was even more crowded. I got stuck on a level with lots of babies. At the end of the long day, they were hot, tired, hungry, and cross!

Princes’ Islands Map
Café Heybeliada Island

Frazzled parents tried to soothe and control their children. There were noisy sibling squabbles, and the rare mellow baby “hanging” through the entire hectic ferry ride cute, cool, and never making a sound. Because everyone was relaxed and festive, I took several “people” photographs, and they didn’t seem to mind. Got a harsh stare from an unfriendly looking Muslim woman – but I wasn’t photographing her…. On the way back, many passengers succumbed to the heat and rocking motion of the ferry and fell sound asleep.

Ferry Passengers

When we finally arrived back at Eminönü’, the Muslim family I’d been hanging out with on the ferry gave me a hug. In their best English, they said “have a wonderful day” ;o) – it was very sweet. Even the naughtiest little boy I’ve ever observed peeked out from behind his mother’s skirt and waved bye, bye…

Turkish Family
About the Princes’ Islands

“The Princes’ Islands evolved from a place of exile during the Byzantine Empire, to a popular destination for tourists and Istanbulites to escape hectic city life.”

Heybeliada Island
Heybeliada Island

Of the nine Islands, four are open to the public:

Galata Tower from Bosporus Strait
Waiting for Ferry Heybeliada Island
Peace and Quiet on Princes’ Islands

The Princes’ Islands skyline is beautiful with pine-forests and pretty wooden Victorian cottages. In addition to sheer natural beauty, the main feature on the islands is silence! Except for ambulances, “motorized vehicles are banned, making the islands a quiet oasis of peace. Among the sounds heard are bicycle bells and horse hoofs on the cobblestone pavement. That’s right, horse-drawn carriages and bicycles are the primary mode of transportation on the islands.”

Ferry Passengers
Heybeliada Island

You can travel to the islands via seabus (fast ferries) or regular ferries. They depart from Eminönü or Kabataş. Depending on the number of stops, the sea bus trip takes about an hour and the regular ferry twice as long. Neither mode of transportation is expensive. The islands are a popular summer spot, and colorful beach umbrellas line the coast. Heybeliada has a diverse population, with many Greeks, Bulgarians, and other Europeans.


The Princes’ Islands are an oasis of peace and quiet. Except for ambulances, motorized vehicles are banned. 


Heybeliada Island
Heybeliada Island

Summer sun is strong on the islands, so visitors should be prepared! If you come to Istanbul, the Prince’s Islands are a must see. For smaller crowds and a less hectic trip, visit earlier in the day during the week.


I’m sad to leave Istanbul… My next blog post will be from another favorite city, Cape Town!


    1. suemtravels

      Thanks Gwen – packing is the most stressful thing. On Air Emirates you get one checked bag and one carry on – closely monitored. The charge for 10 kg or less of excess baggage is almost $600!!!!! I’m leaving a few things hoping the maids might find a use for them! ;o(

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