Guide to Princes’ Islands (Adalar) in Istanbul: Day Trip, Tours, Access, Things to Do…
All you need to know about the Pinces' Islands in Istanbul.
This is our complete guide to the picturesque Princes' Islands.
A day trip to the Princes' Islands is one of the most popular experiences and top things to do when visiting Istanbul. The stunning natural scenery of the islands offers the ideal setting to escape Istanbul’s hustle and bustle while enjoying the nature, beaches and fresh air of the islands to the fullest.
In this guide, you will find the most important information about the Princes' Islands, including ferry schedules, how to get there and where to stay. Read also about things to do, top attractions and the history of the Princes' Islands.
Let’s start with an overview of all Princes’ Islands!
What are the Princes' Islands?
The Princes’ Islands (in Turkish called “Adalar”) are a group of islands that lie 20 km southeast of the Bosphorus in the Sea of Marmara. The archipelago off the coast of Istanbul belongs to the Istanbul Province and consists of nine islands, four of which are inhabited. The total population is around 15,000.
See below a brief overview of all 9 Princes’ Islands:
Büyükada (“Big Island” in Turkish) is the largest of the Princes’ Island with an area of 5.4 km² and the administrative center of the Adalar district. It is also the most popular one. Its highest hill is Yücetepe with 203 meters. The population of the island is approx. 7499.
See more details and top attractions below as well as in our dedicated article on Büyükada.
Heybeliada is with 2.34 km ² and 4158 inhabitants the second largest Princes’ Island. It is also the greenest of the inhabited Princes' Islands. Heybeliada has become a popular alternative to the popular Büyükada.
For more details and things to do, please see below or check our article on Heybeliada.
Covering an area of 1.5 square kilometers, Burgazada or "Fortress Island" is the third largest Princes’ Island. Its highest point is at Bayraktepe at 170 meters. Around 1455 people live here.
Find more information and the main attractions of the island in our dedicated page on Burgazada.
Kınalıada is the closest Princes’ Island to Istanbul. It is the fourth largest and the most densely populated Princes’ Island. The highest point of the forest-poor island is Çınartepe at 115 meters.
Here is our article on Kinaliada.
5. Sedef Ada
Sedef Ada means Mother-of-Pearl Island. Covering an area of 0.157 km², it is one of the smallest Princes’ Island. There is no settlement on Sedef Ada. The island has strict building regulations to protect the nature and environment of the Sedef Ada.
Yassiada is known as a great spot for amateur divers as well as scuba diving. The island was renamed Democracy and Freedom Island because it was the place where the late Prime Minister Adnan Menderes and his companions had put on trial in the 27 May 1960 military coup. There is the 27 May Museum, a hotel, a convention center and a mosque on the island.
Sivriada (“Sharp Island”) is another one of the not inhabited Princes’ Islands. There is still some evidence of the rich past, such as a Byzantine monastery from the 9th century and remains of a Roman settlement.
8. Tavşan Ada
With an area of 40 hectares, this one is the smallest of the Princes’ Islands. Tavşan Ada, meaning Rabbit Island, is not inhabited. Ruins of a 9th century monastery can be found on the island.
This small island is situated between Heybeliada and Burgazada. There is no settlement on the second-smallest of the Princes' Islands
What to do in Princes' Islands?
The Princes’ Islands are famous for their idyllic nature and the fact that motorized cars are banned here. The only vehicles allowed on the islands are official vehicles such as police, fire brigade and ambulance as well as some electric vehicles.
That is why the Princes’ Islands offer the ideal setting for a getaway to nature and a peaceful break. Take a long walk or go hiking through the beautiful landscape and simply enjoy the silence and tranquility. You will be mesmerized by the breathtaking views that await you at almost every corner of the island.
One of the most popular things to do in the Princes’ Islands is swimming. There are many great beaches for swimming and sunbathing. Water temperatures reach 20 to 24 degrees Celsius during the months of June to September.
Since the Princes’ Islands have many sights and attractions to offer, you can do some sightseeing. Once, many wealthy Greeks, Jews and Armenians as well as Turkish intellectuals lived on the four inhabited Princes’ Islands, and their traces can still be found everywhere. Discover them along with old villas and charming churches.
Another popular activity is renting a bike. Explore the beautiful treasures of the islands while cycling along the quiet streets and trails lined with pine forests or wooden mansions. This is a great way to take in the nature and sights of the Princes’ Islands.
Day Trips to Princes' Islands
The most popular Princes' Islands for a day trip are Büyükada and Heyebliada.
Let’s take a closer look to these islands:
Tip: Since the Princes' Islands are popular weekend destinations for the locals, it is best to come here on weekdays, especially in the summer. Don’t forget to bring sun scream, swimwear, hat and sunglasses.
What to do in Büyükada?
As the largest of the Princes' Islands, Büyükada boasts the most attractions and activities. The best way to get around the island is on foot, by bicycle or, since recently, by electric car, which has replaced horse-drawn carriages on the initiative of animal rights activists.
See below some of Büyükada’s highlights not to be missed.
Tip: We recommend the self guided Büyükada Sightseeing Tour from YourMobileGuide with fascinating stories and background information on Büyükada’s history and attractions.
Büyükada is quite popular all year around but during the summer months it can get quite crowded. If you are looking for a quieter time, the next island could be the one for you...
What to do in Heybeliada?
This Princes’ Island, known as the island of the Greek and Turkish upper class of Constantinople, captivates with its quiet, green and lush nature. Like its neighboring island, there are no cars here.
Below you will find the top sights of Heybeliada:
Tickets &Tours for Princes' Islands Istanbul
How to get to the Princes' Islands and back to Istanbul?
The 4 inhabited Princes’ Islands are relatively easy to reach as there are boats to Princes’ Islands that approach them daily from the European and Asian side.
Departure Point: Ferries depart from Kabataş, Eminönü, Beşiktaş as well as Kadıköy and Bostancı. One of the best departure points for tourists is the conveniently located Kabataş pier. From here, it takes between 75 and 90 minutes to get to Büyükada.
You can choose between following ferries and boats:
Benefit from 5 % discount through our link.
Hotels in the Princes' Islands
See here our recommendations of the top hotels on Büyükada. If you want to stay in the idyllic surroundings of Princes’ Island, we recommend you to make a reservation well in advance, especially in summer.
With our 25 years of experience and special connections, we can help you make a reservation at the best price. Do not hesitate to contact us through our form.
1. Ada Palas Boutique Hotel
If you are looking for a hotel with historical flair and romantic ambiance, then this one is for you. The 4 star Ada Palas Boutique Hotel is housed in a restored 19th century wooden mansion, offering visitors an intimate and luxurious escape. Gourmet creations await visitors in the picturesque Secret Garden Restaurant. The hotel lies in a quiet side street in the center of the island, just a 5-minute walk from Büyükada ferry dock.
Address: Maden Mahallesi, Çiçekli Yalı Sk. No:24, 10360 Adalar/İstanbul
2. Çenar Konak Hotel
Nestled in a tranquil setting, Çenar Konak Hotel has tastefully decorated rooms with free WiFi. Guests can unwind in the lovely garden or head up to the terrace with breathtaking Sea of Marmara and island views. The 4 star hotel is close to the ferry port and Adalar Museum.
Address: Büyükada-nizam, Çınar Cd. No:9, 34970 Adalar/İstanbul
3. Sergüzeşt Otel Büyükada
Sergüzeşt Hotel Büyükada is a 3 star hotel next to Hamidiye Mosque. Set in a historic mansion, it accommodates 10 bright rooms with free Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs. When the weather is nice, guests can enjoy the rich Turkish breakfast outdoors. On-site amenities include a restaurant, a garden, and a bar.
Address: Maden, Hamidiye Camii Sk No:19, 34970 Adalar/İstanbul
4. Splendid Palace Hotel in Buyukada
This 3-star, 60-room hotel is housed in a magnificent building with charming red shutters, a nostalgic décor and silvery domes. Overlooking the Sea of Marmara, Splendid Palace Hotel offers room with sea or island views. It features an outdoor pool, a garden, complimentary breakfast and a variety of eateries. The hotel is minutes from the ferry dock.
Address: Büyükada-nizam, Yirmiüç Nisan Cd. No: 39, 34970 Adalar/İstanbul
FAQ about Princes' Islands in Istanbul
The current name “Princes’ Islands" dates back to the 6th century, when Emperor Justinian I had his nephew Justin II build a palace on the largest island. Thus, the island was popularly called the Island of the Prince or Prince Island. Later, the whole island group was called Prince Islands or Princes' Islands, as many princes and their children were exiled here.
During the time of the Ottoman Empire until the reign of Sultan Mehmet III it was common that that the sons of the Sultan murdered each other to take the throne. Later, they were imprisoned for life or banned to the offshore Princes’ Islands.
The Princes’ Islands are a group of islands that lie 20 km southeast of the Bosphorus in the Sea of Marmara off the coast of Istanbul.
The 4 inhabited Princes’ Islands are relatively easy to reach as there are boats to Princes’ Islands that approach them daily from the European and Asian side. You can choose between public ferries, sea buses and private boats to get to the Princes’ Islands. Ferries depart from Kabataş, Eminönü, Beşiktaş as well as Kadıköy and Bostancı.
Depending on the place of departure and destination, as well as the type of ship, the cruise to the Princes' Islands will take between 45 - 100 minutes.
On the Prince Islands there are numerous beaches that invite you to swim and sunbathe. You can choose between public beaches (halk plaji), which are free of charge, and beach clubs, which charge an entrance fee but offer a more comfortable atmosphere. Especially popular are the beaches of Heybeliada, Büyükada and Burgazada.
History of the Princes' Islands
In antiquity, the Princes' Islands were called Demonsia (People’s Islands). Even at that time, the Princes’ Islands were considered a summer resort and were visited by Greek, Jewish and Armenian traders from Pera, today’s Beyoğlu.
The current name “Princes’ Islands" dates back to the 6th century, when Emperor Justinian I had his nephew Justin II build a palace on the largest island. Thus, the island was popularly called the Island of the Prince or Prince Island. Later, the whole island group was called Prince Islands or Princes' Islands, as many princes and their children were banned here.
However, not only during the Byzantine Empire, but also during the Ottoman period, princes were exiled to the islands off the coast of Istanbul. Until the reign of Sultan Mehmet III, it was common for the sultan's sons to kill each other in order to ascend the throne. Later, the princes were sentenced to life imprisonment or exiled to the "Princes' Islands".
The Princes Islands were also used as a monastery region.
Today, four of the nine Prince Islands are inhabited. The two largest Prince Islands, Büyükada and Heybeliada, have become very popular excursion and weekend destinations for locals and tourists alike.
Map of Princes' Islands
Now you are ready for a scenic journey to Prince's Island to explore the many treasures or just enjoy the peaceful tranquility. If you like nature, check out our articles about the 10 best parks, gardens and forests in Istanbul and Bosporus Cruise.
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