Is Büyükada the Only Princes’ Island of Istanbul I Should Visit?

Horse-drawn carriage in the blossom streets of Buyukada in Istanbul, Turkey.

by Erlend Geerts

in Sightseeing

As I mentioned in a previous post, you can visit only four of the nine Princes’ Islands in Istanbul: Büyükada, Heybeliada, Kınalıada and Burgazada. Unfortunately, not all islands are equally interesting or beautiful.

So, which Istanbul island should you visit, and when? The purpose of this post is to introduce all four of the Princes’ islands and list what they have to offer.


Büyükada is Turkish for ‘big island’. Not only is it the largest of the four Istanbul islands (5,36 km²), it’s also the most popular one. It’s sandy beaches, laid-back 19h century atmosphere and cozy town center attract huge crowds of locals and tourists alike from spring to fall. Especially in the weekends, with a peak on Sunday — a day to avoid.

From a tourist point of view, Büyükada must be at the top of your island visit list. Most people start out with a typical full Turkish breakfast on one of the many terraces, followed by one or more of the following activities:

  • Take a small or big tour of the island in a horse-drawn carriage or phaeton. You can buy tickets left from the clock tower.
  • Rent a bicycle and make a small or big tour of the island. Bicycle rental shops are located in the side streets from the town square (Saat Meydanı).
  • Explore the island with its leafy lanes and exquisite wooden Victorian houses on foot. As long as you see phaetons racing by, you’re on the right track.
  • Visit the St George’s Monastery after climbing up the steep cobblestone path — on foot or by hiring a donkey to do the legwork for you.
  • Relax on one of the many private beaches and take a dip in the sea.
  • Enjoy a dinner, drink or ice-cream in one of the many cafes and restaurants in the town center before hopping on the ferry back to Istanbul. Make sure you don’t miss the last one!


The board-walk at Heybeliada in Istanbul, Turkey.

The board-walk at Heybeliada.

This island firmly occupies second spot in my Princes’ Island ranking. It’s home to the Turkish Naval Academy and the Haghia Triada Monastery – a closed-down Greek Orthodox theological school. Just like on Büyükada, you can tour the island by horse-drawn carriage and bicycle. The latter is less popular because of the island’s twin summits. Day-trippers prefer to take a nice stroll and explore the many shops, restaurants and patisseries.

Kınalıada and Burgazada

These are the two smallest islands of the group. Kınalıada mostly attracts Istanbul’s Armenian population, while Burgazada is home to Istanbulites of Greek origin.

(Photo Source)

What's Next

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Jana September 24, 2012 at 5:53 pm

very helpful website! :)

I would like to know if Büyükad island is enjoyable for me if I have a broken leg and I use crutches… I can jump a bit and climb stairs but of course it is very imperfect :))
We were thinking of taking a carriage (for 4 thin people?) and have ride around…. but I dont know how exactly it looks there…
thanks a lot!


Erlend Geerts September 27, 2012 at 5:35 pm

Hi Jana,

The ride itself will be enjoyable I’m sure when the weather is nice. Getting there by ferry shouldn’t cause too many troubles either, but once in Büyükada you’ll have to walk slightly uphill to the town center to reach the horse and carriage stop. This takes a healthy human being between 7 to 10 minutes.

After that, you can enjoy a nice lunch overlooking the sea and absorbing the fall sun :-)

Have fun.


Nastasha March 19, 2013 at 11:17 am

Hye, I’ll be traveling alone in April 2013. So is it safe for a lone girl to come here and just leisurely stroll around?


Erlend Geerts March 19, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Hi Natasha,

Sure, there is no problem whatsoever. Just use common sense as you would in any world city. Don’t walk in empty streets after dark, nor follow strangers into unknown establishments. I feel much safer in Istanbul than in many other European capitals.

Have a nice holiday,


Sandy June 19, 2013 at 2:13 pm

I’m keen to hire a bike & go round the island.
Do you also think its ok /safe by myself (female) or do I need to join some sort of group?
The coastal roads look quite isolated, or are there enough people around for it to be ok?
Appreciate advise/ feedback


Erlend Geerts June 23, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Hi Sandy,

Well, I would suggest to try to find at least some company. Not that you’re likely to experience personal discomfort alone, but you never know with a bike trip. The bike could break down, you could fall (God forbid), etc. Then at least there is someone around to help.

Kind regards,


ignacio May 26, 2013 at 10:03 pm

hello Erlend, thx for your information. I want to visit buyukada in november, but i am not sure if i can go and return from istanbul in the ship the same day. Could be sunday or saturday. ¿have you any info about it? thx a lot again.


Erlend Geerts May 28, 2013 at 7:39 am

Hi Ignacio,

Yes, you should be able to go to Büyükada and come back the same day. The winter schedules are not out yet, but be prepared to wake up early.



ignacio May 28, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Ok, I will wait. And yes, just for going there I can wake up at any hour. I will be hosted in sultanameth, near topkapi. Last time i went to Bursa. But this ships are not from the same place isnt it?


Erlend Geerts May 29, 2013 at 7:34 am

No, the ships to Bursa depart from Yenikapı if I’m not mistaken.


Vitas June 9, 2013 at 4:28 pm

We will visit Istanbul at the end of June for a long weekend and we want to spend half a day on the beach, but not more. Are Prince’s Island the right choice for it? I find a lot of info about these islands, but not about beaches. Which island has the best beach? Is the water clean? Should we pay for the beach? Are there any public beaches? Is it possible to walk to any of those beaches from the ferry stop or should we take another private boat to bring us there?


Erlend Geerts June 9, 2013 at 5:30 pm
mary June 30, 2013 at 5:59 pm

thanks its useful site, i have been to Buyukada island once, your information is so complete and can be helpful for tourists. for next trip to Istanbul surly i will get information from you site especially for Asian side.
now i have two questions:
1-I ate some thing like a starter in this island, i think it was made by tiny fish , vinegar and olive oil , do you know the name of this food or pickle?
2-there is a group of seafood restaurants in the place like a bridge in Istanbul and on the picture it seems that the prices are reasonable do you know the name of that area?


Erlend Geerts July 2, 2013 at 12:07 am

Hi Mary,

1. Well what comes to my mind first is brined anchovy or sardines. I looked up a bit just in case but couldn’t come with anything else.
2. Yes, they are the restaurants lined up on the lower deck of the Galata Bridge.



Shazia March 4, 2014 at 11:32 pm


I’m planning to visit the princes island, at the end of March can you please advise which Island would be best as my as my father is disabled he’s in a wheel chair therefore I will need to choose a island which is easy to go about avoiding hilly area and stairs if possible. Can you also advise will it be easy to travel by tram to get to the kabatas ferry port??
Bercelo eresin topkapi hotel is in the Fatih area of istanbul what the best way to travel to the kabatas ferry port …??? Or is there a nearer ferry port???



Erlend Geerts March 6, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Hi Shazia,

Given your father’s situation, I would go for Heybeliada. To get to Kabataş, the easiest way will be the tramway I guess.

Kind regards,


Hussain May 1, 2014 at 8:51 pm

Hi Erlend. Very informative and helpful articles. We plan to visit Istanbul last week of May. I am spending most of the time on your blog these days. It is a great help in planning our journey. Great job. I have few questions on Buyukada. If we take a long tour with horse carriage, do they wait at different spots for sightseeing and photography or they just keep on riding. What is the duration of long tour? Does this tour includes stopping at Adalar museum and Hesed Leavraam Synagogue? Any entrance fee to visit these museums? The carriage returns back to the station at end of the journey from where they started or we can ask the driver to drop us at Ayayorgi? How long will it take by foot to return from Ayayorgi to clock tower? Any arrangement or way to visit Ayayorgi with toddler. Enough questions i guess:). Thanks in advance !


Erlend Geerts May 1, 2014 at 9:08 pm

Hi Hussain,

Whatever tour you take, they will stop once or twice if you ask to take a picture. However, don’t forget these people have to make a living and try to make as many rides as possible in a day. So, they won’t stop and wait for you to visit a monastery or synagogue (unless you can bargain a day price with them?)

Alternatively, you could take the short tour and say you want to visit the monastery. Then, after visiting, you can get another ride back to the tower. Of course, you can get off whenever you want, and forfeit your ride.

Walking back with a toddler is tricky, given some steep hills. But if you’re in good physical shape and in no rush, it’s doable. To climb the Ayayorgi hill with a toddler is very hard though. There are mules which can help you (for a fee).

Kind regards,


Rosie August 30, 2014 at 7:19 pm

I am sad that this article advertises the horse-drawn carriages. I visited the island yesterday and was shocked at how the horses were treated-most were skeletal and had large sores where harnesses were rubbing. When not working they were tied to trees in the sun with no water and looked exhausted. Tourists encourage this cruelty by buying the chariot rides-horses used for personal (non-tourist) use are in much better condition. Be aware of what you are paying for.


Erlend Geerts August 30, 2014 at 9:51 pm

Hi Rosie,

I understand your concern, but by no means do we promote the horse-drawn carriages nor animal cruelty. I merely put it as an objective existing means to visit the island. Not mentioning that possibility would be giving biased information to visitors of our site.

Personally, I never used the horse-drawn carriage myself, and I will always take the bike ride as long as my health allows me to.

Kind regards,


Mr Rathod May 9, 2015 at 4:20 pm

Hi Erland,

can you give me an idea as to how much it costs for these horse carriage rides in Buyukada? how much is a full ride and how much is a short ride?



Erlend Geerts May 10, 2015 at 3:47 pm

Hi Mr Rathod,

The small tour is 67 liras, and the big one 79.

Kind regards,


Nihonbashi May 24, 2015 at 11:56 am

Hi Erlend,
First off.. many thanks for your highly informative page on Istanbul. I so wish you could do the same for the other cities like Cappadocia and Pamakkule (which we plan on visiting too.) :)
My friend and I are planning a tour early June and like you suggested we would like to visit Büyükada (on a thursday). The hotel we will stay in is located in Sultanahmet. I found a tram map online and it mentioned that we would have to take the T1 route to Kabatas. Unfortunately I have not found any info on what time the tram starts (would the metro be better to use, if it starts earlier than the tram?). Also do you happen to know at what time the first sea bus takes off? We thought of taking the sea bus and then on our return (the same day) use the regular ferry (using the Istanbul kart).
Also I would like to inquire on the following:
1) If and how much the fee would be to enter Büyükada?
2) Will there be a route map handed over at the entrance, so we could find our way back to the port and make note of all the areas to visit?
3) My friend cannot ride bicycles so I was planning to hire a tandem bicycle (2 seat cycle). Do they have them for renting purposes? Would you happen to know how much it would roughly cost to rent them for a full day? If not how much do you normally spend when renting a normal bike?
4) For sea bathing like Naki bay, how much do we have to pay? Sorry, I couldn’t find the english version on their webpage.
5) In your opinion how much time do we have to spend on the island, if we just want to explore the island, have lunch and probably bathe for an hour?
6) Also is it safe to leave the bikes unattended when visiting the places like the monastery or will they hand out locks when renting them?

Quite a lot of questions, hopefully it would not take too much of your time to answer.
Many many thanks in advance 😀


Erlend Geerts May 24, 2015 at 7:00 pm

Hi Nihonbashi,

The T1 to Kabataş is indeed what you should take. Service starts at 6:30 on weekdays and Saturday, 7:30 on Sundays. The quick ferry currently doesn’t go to the islands, so you’ll have to use the regular ferry from Şehir Hatları. Their first departure to the islands is 6:50 (one ferry every 20 minutes) and at 7:00 on Sundays.

There is no fee to enter the island, but for the private beach of Naki Bay expect to pay 30 TL per person. When you rent a bike, you get a lock and a map too, free of charge. If they forget, ask for it. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen a tandem yet. But I could be wrong.

Kind regards,


Clifton Jimrevees June 17, 2015 at 8:35 am

Dear Erlend Geerts,
Clifton again,
As per your suggestion, I dropped the Bosporus Tour and planning the Buyukada trip.
I have some silly Questions to ask..
1. How far is the city center from the point where the ferries drop us?
2. The horse-drawn carriage, the long one, are they continously on the move or stop here and there for snacks and pictures?
3. As I am staying in Karakoy, I guess I need to take a ferry from Kabatas right. Can you provide me with links where I can check the schedule?
4. Can I get a ferry from Eminonu?
5. What are the lunch options in Buyukada (I have 2 kids 4.1.5 years, so thought will have breakfast at hotel and go).

Thanks a lot in advance.

Will post my day by day plan soon so that you can give your suggestions.

Thanks and regards


Erlend Geerts June 17, 2015 at 7:19 pm

Hi Clifton,

1. about 300 meters
2. generally, the don’t really stop, although you get get off to climb the Monastery. It will stop once or twice if you ask to take a picture though.
3. follow the top link in the article for more details about getting to the islands. The ferry starts as early as 6:50
4. no
5. there are plenty, fast food as well as decent food.

No need to post your day by day plan, I’m sure it’s going to be fine. I’m not a travel agency, just a volunteer who does this in his spare time. I don’t have the time to go over every plan I get.

Kind regards,


Clifton Jimrevees June 18, 2015 at 8:36 am

Thanks a lot Erlend,

I understand, sorry bugging you. You are doing a great job.
Anyway my day to day plan and everything is inspired from you and your answers.

Thanks again


Aliaa Ouda August 5, 2015 at 12:42 pm

Hello Erlend:

I’m planning to visit Buyukada by the end of the month and we were wondering if there’re any bikes with kids seats or tagalongs for kids. We have a three years old little girl and we want to have fun all together on bikes :)

Aliaa Ouda


Erlend Geerts August 5, 2015 at 6:17 pm


In all honesty, I haven’t seen them, but I haven’t been there the past year.

Kind regards,


Nat August 19, 2015 at 3:49 pm

Hello Aliaa
I’m going to be in Buyukada at the end of September with my two year old son and would love to know if you find any bikes with kids seats or tagalongs.
Thank in advance


Chris R August 30, 2015 at 4:35 am

Hi Erlend,

I’ve just discovered your excellent website and am devouring it in preparation for a trip to Istanbul in Sep :)

Quick question – I will coming to Istanbul with my son who is not very mobile and still using his baby buggy, with this in mind which of the Princes Islands would you recommend be best for our visit?




Erlend Geerts August 30, 2015 at 7:09 pm

Hi Chris,

I would go for Büyükada then.

Kind regards,


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