During our first trip to Istanbul in September 2010, we didn’t have the time for it. During our second trip in 2014 it had to be on our list: The biggest of the Prince Islands, Büyük Ada.
How? With the ferry. Where does the ferry leave? Near the Dolmabahçe Palace, in Kabataş (if you want to start from the European part)! The ride itself was already beautiful!
Off the beaten track
The Prince Islands are an archipelago in the Marmara sea, south east of Istanbul. Locals come here to take a break of city life (especially in summer and at the weekends). Most tourist avoid this place. Maybe there is no time for it or maybe they even don’t know this place.
During our stay on an Easter weekend, there were almost no tourists. But loads of people from Istanbul. This is why we feel free to call this an insider’s hint.
Islands with history
The name ‘Prens adaları’ derives from the time of the Ottoman Empire. Due to conflicts of succession, the legitimate heir to the throne used to kill his younger brothers. This was the procedure until the time of Mehmet II. From then they were just banned to the Prince Islands.
There are still a lot of houses from the Ottoman Empire, also some Orthodox churches. This island is a huge contrast to the metropolis of Istanbul!
Learning to cycle
What we really loved here: Istanbul is not a bicycle city – exactly the opposite to Amsterdam. Istanbul is a moloch with approximately 20 million people, including the people living in the ‘Gecekondus’ (shacks) and it doesn’t look like people trying to resign their polluters.
On the Prince Islands, cars are forbidden. Only vehicles of the administration, ambulance and fire fighters are allowed.
This is why it’s perfect for Istanbulers to learn to cycle. You can borrow them everywhere. It was strange for us watching adults on their first try on a bicycle. This is one of the things, we like most about travel: You frequently experience something new.
A break for your lungs
There are a lot of cafés and some very good ice cream parlours. But what can you do here? Watching people and enjoying the fresh air. This little thing called fresh air should be taken seriously here. Especially if you breathed the incredibly disgusting l’Eau d’Istanbul!
Exploring the island with a horse carriage
This one is really fun: A ride with the horse carriage. The price is extortionate: 70 TL! Horse carriage is not for everyone, but in our case it was awesome: The coachman offered me to sit next to him and hold the reins. It began as a catastrophe, continued that way and ended surprisingly well. But I did it and we survived it!
Take care of your coachman keeping his promise. We said the price was for one hour, but our coachman (or maybe I) was faster than expected. He didn’t want to continue the ride and search for the next customers. Well, we spoilt it for him as we involved him into a long discussion for the price. We didn’t win the argument, but it didn’t help him aswell. Sorry, it was just too funny!
Fresh air and Mokka
After a cup of Mocha (or Mokka) on one of the beautiful terrace cafés, we returned back to the ferry. The weather got better and Istanbul presented itself from its best side. This city is really photogenic!
Seriously: If you have the time for it, plan a a half day trip to the Prince Islands. The fresh air, the locals, all the sweets, carriages and the time travel you make here are more than enough reasons to spend some time here.