Princes' Islands of Istanbul
The Princes' Islands are called Adalar in Turkish which stands for islands. The English name is coming from Byzantium and Roman times. The islands across the Asian part of Istanbul had very little settlement established on top of them. The majority of them were monasteries and some Roman and Byzantium Royal family members were exiled in those monasteries of the Pricess' Islands. The well-deserved name is coming from the people exiled on these islands because some of them were Emperors who were taken down from the throne.
Where are the Princes' Islands?
Princes' Islands are located across the Asian Part of Istanbul. The first dwellers of Istanbul choose the right side of the entrance of the Bosporus which is known as Kadikoy today. The ancient name of Kadikoy was Chalcedon in the Greek language as these settlers came from Megara, Greece. The Princes' Islands are located in the southeast off the shores of Kadikoy's districts. The Princes' Islands consist of nine islands and only five have settlements on them. The other four islands are much smaller and two are only rocks that used to be the mountain tops of the Vordonos Islands that sank into the water after a fierce earthquake in 1010 AD.
How to get to the Princes' Islands?
Ferries are operating year-round in between the islands and the mainland of Istanbul. The public ferries come to a halt because of bad weather generally in winter. During the high season of tourism, ferries from Istanbul operate from many ports located in the European and Asian sides of the city. The first scheduled ferries operated from Galata Bridge located on top of the Golden Horn in Istanbul in 1846. Today there are a few private and one government-run ferry company carrying passengers to the Princes' Islands from various ports of Istanbul. Their schedule varies in winter and in summer. The most convenient alternative to travelers is the ones departing from Kabatas port. Ferries start departing at 06:45 am and there is a ferry available almost every hour except 11:00, 13:00, and 15:00. These ferries departing from Kabatas port stop by Kadikoy, Kinaliada, Burgazada, Heybeliada, Buyukada and Bostanci in the end. Please kindly be advised that only Kinaliada, Burgazada, Heybeliada, and Buyukada are the ones with settlements on top of them. As the islands don't have their own internal transportation system, when you hop off in one of the islands, you will have to pay attention to the ferry schedules in between the islands and the mainland so you don't end up spending the night in one of the islands. You can easily download the ferry schedules from the internet. Besides Kabatas, there are ferried departing from Besiktas port as well. These are the options available from the European Part of Istanbul which is run by Istanbul City. Alternatively, you can use Tur-Yol company departing from Eminonnu and Karakoy ports of Istanbul which are closer to the popular accommodations of Istanbul. Ferries depart at 10:40, 11:40, 12:40, and 13:40 from Eminonu and five minutes later from Karakoy port. They return at 15:10, 16:10, 17:10, and 18:10 from the islands to Eminonu. The cruise to the islands is very convenient for photography as you will see the Maidens Tower and the silhouette of the old city of Istanbul on the way. Even though the capacity of the ferries is reaching up to 1500 people, it is better to show up early in the dock and get in the line to get seats on the second floor for good views on the way.
What to do in Princes' Islands?
The majority of the dwellers of the Prince' Islands were Greeks until the beginning of the Second World War. During the fall of the Ottomans, the islands became a popular recreational spot for the rich Istanbulites. This was mainly because of the peaceful nature of the islands and the architecture. The rich community of Istanbul built impressive wooden mansions to the five of the nine islands. As there is no traffic on the islands, they offer peerless city walks and architecture photography to travelers. Having breakfast in one of the islands is highly recommended to start your tour with a full battery in the islands. If you like walking, you can hike up to Aya Yorgi Church in Buyukada which has amazing views. You can continue your journey in the islands by exploring the residential areas on foot and get away from the crowd of Istanbul. After Buyukada, Heybeliada is the second largest of the Princes' Islands. The theological school of the Eastern Orthodox Church stands on this island and operated until 1971. The beautiful wooden structure is used for seminars and meetings conducted by the church. While the Buyukada and Heybeliada were heavily populated by the Greeks, Burgazada was populated by Jewish and Kinaliada was populated heavily by the Armenian people. There are many popular figures who resided in the Princes' Islands like Leon Trotsky and prominent Turkish writer Sait Faik Abasiyanik. Don't forget to try the Turkish Raki which is an alcoholic spirit with fresh fish from the Bosporus of Istanbul companied by delicious appetizers by one of the restaurants located by the waters of the Princes' Islands.
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