This group of islands that handles quite a lot of the city's tourism for swimming and food, is also arguably the most populated location in terms of non-locals. It can be hard to find a spot to relax for a moment during your hike to see the Church of Aya Yorgi in Büyük Ada. The major roads that lead to the church or the swimming spots all have various coffee shops all offering their chairs to the other visitors. All non-walking transportation on the Islands is provided by electrical vehicles or biking.
If you do visit the islands during the winter season, taking that hike to Aya Yorgi will be easier under the chill wind of the winter. Snow might be a rare occasion considering the location of the Islands, but you may experience the white carpet covering the land, and falling on the mainland Istanbul through the highest points of each island.
Swimming is most definitely out of the option during winter, as public beaches will be out of season. Rather than swimming, you will replace it with an equally refreshing hiking tour. Although the major population of the natural life will be on their winter sleep, the horses that now fully retired from work will be all over the islands, running freely. Just by taking a tour around islands, you can experience once in a lifetime sight, where horses run wild in nature in the forest of an island, just near the society.
The Prince Islands used to and still are inhabited by many Armenians and Greeks living in Istanbul. There are nine islands in total, four of which are open to settlement, while the rest are usually deserted or too small for living on. The district is the most popular summer place in the city, where there is a very peaceful life.
You can easily reach them by taking the ferry from Eminönü, Beşiktaş, Kadıköy, or Bostancı districts. The name of the islands comes from the Byzantine Empire era as the princes were exiled to these islands. During the Ottoman Empire era, the function of the islands changed and they were mostly inhabited by the rich people who built their houses on the islands. Nowadays, there are no personal motorized vehicles allowed on the islands. Visitors can either pay for an electronic bus fare or rent a bike to reach their destinations or take a tour.
If you wish to live on the Prince Islands itself, in your private mansion, a 3+1 with 2 bathrooms villa at 160m2 size awaits you for 354.300 USD.
Buyukada is the favorite of the Byzantine period and the largest of the Prince Islands. It has become an ideal place to live in the four seasons in recent years with natural gas coming at the same time in terms of transportation due to frequent processing of motor flights. Kenan Yüksel, owner of the Büyükada Turyap office, said, "We are seeing an increase of nearly 50 percent in the last 3 years in the summer and winter in the region. There is a decrease in seasonal rentals. This is because of the opening of about 20 medium and small-sized hotels in the region over the last 5 years. Prices are also reasonable because people are choosing to have a few days' holiday instead of hiring them all season," he said.
The largest of the islands, Büyükada is the most popular as it offers visitors a wealth of activities, and many Istanbul residents own property in Büyükada. Restaurants and cafes are generally crowded with people over the weekend, so if you can try and visit during the week. The town center is pretty, with a main square and a landmark clock tower. From here you can rent an electronic vehicle for a short tour of 25 minutes or a long tour of an hour, which shows off the town, the shore, and the hills. Look out for the beautiful old villas seen on the outskirts of town. You can also rent a bicycle to explore freely. There are a few famous beaches you can swim from, and you can also climb the island's small hills to watch the sunset on the Marmara Sea. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes lining the main streets where you can sit back and relax. This main street, if followed, will take you from amongst the cafes and restaurants, up to the Church of Aya Yorgi (Hagios Giorgios) over the hill, located on the other side of the Island.
Heybeli means saddled in Turkish, an appropriate name for this island where the valley between two hills create a small saddle. Although the second largest Princes island is less crowded than its larger neighbor Buyukada, it has many of the same attractions, including beaches, pine forests, beautiful 19th-century villas, and no motorized vehicles, necessitating a horse-drawn carriage or a bicycle to explore. You can also find the first Turkish Naval Academy on the island, and the Church of Aya Triada. While the Naval Academy is built right next to the port, you will have to walk or rent an electrical vehicle to reach the Monastery, located deep into the forest on the other side of the Island. The monastery has been around for centuries and has also been used as a convent, orphanage, school, and a theological college.
Burgaz island has a strong Greek heritage. You can still see the impressive Greek Orthodox Church of St John dominating the town as you approach the island. There are also mosques and a synagogue here, demonstrating the rich mix of heritage found here on the third largest of the Princes Islands. Few visitors make the journey to Burgazada, preferring the large two islands. In Burgazada, you will be amongst the local population instead of crowds, and you will have lovely sunny cafes and restaurants to yourself. You can visit the Sait Faik Museum, the former residence of the famous Turkish author Sait Faik Abasıyanık, who lived on the island. The museum is worth a look for its novelty of a snapshot of antique Turkish life and history. The short stories themselves are well worth a read for their character studies and depictions of island life if you can find an English translation.
Called Hennaed Island due to its red ground, Kınalıada is the smallest of the four largest Princes Islands. Its small size makes it the perfect location for a casual hike. The Ottoman Greeks built several Ottoman-Victorian villas on the island, many of which you can still see today, along with a few churches. Hristos Monastery is located up on a hill and was built by the Byzantine emperor Romanus IV (Diogenes) while he was exiled here and where he was buried. Kınalıada is peaceful and receives few visitors, meaning the beaches are clear of crowds. There are several restaurants and cafeterias along the pier, as well as a quite modern mosque.