7 things to do in Istanbul – Head to the Islands

Posted on February 28, 2011


7) Head to the Islands

While for travellers, the term Istanbul loosely applies to Sultanahmet and some areas around it, in truth the real Istanbul city will take you hours to drive through and out of on either side. It is for this reason that ‘day trips’ from the city are limited. When I wanted to escape from Istanbul though, I took the most obvious choice; I got my highly sea-sick self on a boat to the Princes’ Islands, known locally as Adalar. I soon discovered that this was where the wealthy locals built their summer houses to escape from the stifling heat, and where tourists and locals alike flocked to when they wanted car-free streets and a bit of greenery.

Buyukada was the island of my choice, though you can stop on some other islands depending on what ferry or boat you take.


So if cars are not allowed on the island, then how do you get around? Well, the first obvious way is on foot, though walking the whole circumference of the island would take quite a few hours and may not be for everyone. This however, is the best way to discover the islands pleasant residential streets, filled with large villas surrounded by gardens and often boasting enviable sea views. Some of these buildings were icing-sugar-white wooden delights, while others rather sadly had been left to crumble in the salty air. 

You can also opt to rent a bicycle, and in this way pretty much get yourself anywhere on the island. Finally, you can also choose one of the many horse and carriages around, and simply sit back and bounce along the streets. While these may at first seem picturesque, it does feel like the island has far too many of them, and as an added negative effect, the roads quite literally smell of poo.

But frankly, who cares! Take a day trip to the Princes’ Islands on a sunny day and you will not feel like complaining about anything at all. You won’t mind the smelly streets because you’ll be too busy wishing you could spend a couple of days there, doing nothing but strolling and enjoying the view. You won’t mind the incredibly persistent restaurant and shop staff that despite not speaking any English, might shove their menus right in your face. You will smile and head for the waffle and ice cream stand, as everyone seems to do. Finally, you’ll want to return home when the sun is setting to witness something similar to this….

This sunset totally took my mind off my sea-sickness.

-Text and Photography by Denise Pulis @ www.travelwithdenden.wordpress.com

Posted in: Istanbul