Today being the final full day of my trip to Turkey, it was time to see another part of Istanbul away from the main city and tourist areas. The Princes’ Islands are located about 20km south east of Istanbul and are best known for their relaxing nature and lack of motorised transportation; the only way to get around on these islands is by horse and cart. Today I will be travelling with three other people I met on the Topdeck Turkey Explored Tour checking out the main island Büyükada, the biggest of the nine Princes’ Islands.
19 September, 2013 – Princes’ Islands, Istanbul
This morning I was up reasonably early to get ready for a day trip of a different kind today. I will be meeting with my roommate from the Topdeck tour outside the And Hotel and we will then head down to the main ferry terminal to try and figure out how to catch the ferry to the Islands.
It was a little confusing as I thought the ferry would depart where all the other ferries leave, near the Galata Bridge opposite the Eminönü tram stop, so we were desperately looking around trying to find any signs or indication of where exactly it left from. Luckily we were down there with plenty of time to spare before I decided to turn my data roaming on for my phone and search Google realising that the ferry didn’t actually leave from here but another terminal further down requiring us to catch the tram.
We caught the tram from Eminönü tram stop, it is a really simple system to use, just pay the 3 or so Lira in the machine and you will get a token to put through the gate. Just don’t do the stupid thing I did, which was put the token in and push the gate in front of me rather than walking through; I couldn’t get through and had to jump it, luckily no one really cared or just through I was a silly tourist.
We then caught the tram in the direction that takes us across the Galata Bridge right to the end of the line at Kabataş, which is also the name of the ferry terminal down this end. Once we arrived we headed straight to the ferry terminal to figure out how to catch the ferry, we found the token machine and simply paid the 5 Lira for a token to catch the ferry.
At this pint we met up with two others from our Topdeck tour who were also going to the Princes’ Islands today so we all travelled together for the day. The ferry is just a regular passenger ferry so you are catching transportation with the locals rather than a chartered tourist ferry. You can check out the full timetable at the ferry company’s website Sehir Hatlari here. The ferry will make four other stops before reaching the final destination of Büyükada, the biggest island out of the nine Princes’ Islands.
Catching this ferry was a pretty interesting experience in that it is not set up for tourist passengers but local passengers. Sure, you can catch the direct tourist targeted ferry but where is the fun in that? On board it seems that at every stop the ferry made, a different person selling something different would come on board to give a demonstration, not only that but a couple looked to have just got married and were celebrating on the ferry.
Plenty of sellers of fresh bread called Simit (twisted, circular Turkish bread often topped with sesame seeds) came on board but they didn’t stand out nearly as much as one man selling a multi purpose vegetable peeler or another man selling some sort of plastic device that you screw into a lemon and then pop the lid to drink the juice.
Once we arrived on the island we decided to bypass the main town of Adalar to try and avoid the tourists, shop owners and restauranteurs. Today was all about just chilling out and relaxing by a beach, little did we know that our hunt for a beach would turn into a long and exhausting adventure.
The first thing you will notice about this island and this goes for all the Princes’ Islands is that there are no cars, no motorbikes in fact no motorised transportation at all. Here all you will find are bikes and horse drawn carriages that can be hired by tourists to be taken around the island.
As we continued our search for a beach we continued to walk around the outskirts of the island walking past some of the impressive homes that scatter the island, some not so spectacular and could use a little TLC. We eventually came across a sign saying beach with an arrow pointing down the road, straight away we could tell it was a tiny bit misleading given it had a picture of a beach, except that beach looked like one you might find on a tropical island in the South Pacific.
When we got to the “beach” you are greeted at the entrance and need to pay to gain entry, we were told the usual price but as it was quiet we could get in for cheaper. We decided to take a look first before committing; it was pretty much a slab of concrete with fake grass attached to it right up against the water. We decided to keep going…
Being mid September the weather was starting to cool down as spring was approaching. The whole time in Turkey it was very warm and today was no exception as we continued to walk around the island to find this elusive beach while sweat was pouring off us all and so it was decided whatever we find next will be it.
Finally finding another beach this one actually had sand and costed us 10 lira to enter which was the discounted price. I think they were just willing to take anything they could get this late in the day. Coming from Australia, beach standards are pretty high for us Aussies and this one would never make any top 500 beaches of the world lists.
Some of the many features of this beach included muddy sand; cigarette buts in the sand and general bits of rubbish and miscellaneous objects scattered throughout. At this point we didn’t really care and lazed on some of the deck chairs provided for a while and went for a dip in the water.
Eventually it was time for the long walk back towards the ferry before it departed back to Istanbul for the night. The Princes’ Islands are quite beautiful and whilst descriptions of mucky beaches don’t exactly talk the place up it is still very much worth a visit. I would recommend seeing more of the island and experiencing the unique features, especially catching a horse drawn cart and seeing more of the island.
For us on this particular day it was more about getting out of the city and not having any plans or rushing around.
Our journey back on the ferry was quite spectacular, on one side we were able to watch the sunset whilst on the other side rising over the mountain and the many buildings of the outskirts of Istanbul was a full moon, a fitting way to end an amazing trip to Turkey and Istanbul.
Tomorrow I will be heading back home to Melbourne, picked up by private shuttle from the hotel in the morning and will fly from Istanbul to Melbourne via Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airways.
One year before this trip I was in Turkey for only a few days and back then this country rocketed to the top of my list of countries I wanted to come back and explore. A year later I came on this trip to experience Istanbul once again and to see the rest of the country with the Topdeck Turkey Explored Tour.
Every aspect of this trip has been unforgettable and I cannot emphasise enough the need for everyone to have Turkey on their list as a must visit destination.