Getting to know Princes Islands in Istanbul
If you are staying in Istanbul, I recommend at least a week to fully enjoy the city. You can, of course, see the basic sites in about four days, but you will feel rushed and not truly appreciate Turkish life and culture.
If you have a week to spend, one of those days should definitely involve a boat trip out to the Princes Islands. The Princes Islands are a chain of 9 Islands in the Sea of Marmara that are used by locals to escape city life. Four of them are open to the public: Büyükada, Burgazada, Heybeliada, and Kınalıada.
I went to Heybeliada with my new Columbian friend, Tatiana, to check it out.
How to get to the Harbour – Ferries go from Kabatas to Princes Islands
You will need to take the tram to Kabatas port, which is on the other side of the main bridge, The tram costs just 4TL each way. You buy a token at the machine and then slot it in the turn-style to board the tram. If you are not sure what to do, there will probably be someone there to help you.
Buying your ticket to Heybeliada
When you get to Kabatas, go under the sign that looks like this!
Then you will see the ticket offices and buy a ticket to Heybeliada for 6TL. The ferries run almost every hour. Check the times on the board and make sure you know when the last one is! It is probably best to aim to get back on the ferry around 5.30 pm because it gets very busy in Istanbul after this time.
Also, you don’t want to be left stranded on the island overnight! 😉
The Journey from Kabatas to Heybeliada Princes Island
The ferry journey itself takes just over an hour and is a beautiful journey, so make sure you take a good camera. Also, take a look at the back of the boat, where you will find seagulls following it!
Remember to respect the ecosystem and avoid feeding the seagulls bread. You make think it is a good idea to feed them, but it is not their natural diet, and so maybe bad for their health. The seagull’s usual diet is small fish and aquatic insects.
On the journey, you can get fresh orange juice for just 5L. You don’t even need to get it from the bar, they bring it around to you on the boat.
Things to do on Heybeliada (Princes Island)
When you arrive on the Island, you will probably be approached by guys in orange T-shirts who want to sell you a tour for 30EURO. However, the Island is all walkable and some beaches are free.
Go left when you get off the ferry, sit down for a drink at Deniz Cafe and he will give you a map and explain where everything is for free! What a guy!
Things to do on Heybeliada Island…
- Walk to visit the Mosque and Monastery.
- Cycling – you can hire bikes at many places on the island for just 10L.
- Swimming – Look for where the locals are swimming and be aware that there are often no lifeguards on free beaches. Also, look out for jellyfish!
- Horse and Carriage ride around the Island.
- Eat a fish sandwich (6TL at Deniz Cafe!)