I have been to Istanbul a number of times but besides the city ferries I never made it beyond on the waters of the Bosporus. There are essentially two options – the (rather touristy) Bosporus cruises, which never appealed to me – and the Princes’ Island – so I decided it is time for a trip there.
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How to get to Princes’ Island Istanbul?
It is somewhat confusing which ferries go to Princes’ Island Istanbul – the Radisson Istanbul hotel concierge had trouble figuring that out for me. In fact there are several companies competing for your business. We used the ferries from Kabatas, which was the most convenient from the Taksim and Beyoglu areas
There is a faster (50 minutes) ferry and a slower (75 minutes) ferry that goes every hour. The schedule is somewhat coordinated and you will see a ferry leaving every 30 minutes from Kabatas – though you are your own figuring out the right ferry terminal.
I kept asking for ‘Büyükada’ which is the name of the islands in Turkish. We ended up at the faster ferry for TRY 10 which is just $3.77. While the ferry feels much like an airplane – there is one big advantage – it’s all closed up and it is really hard to take pictures through the dirty windows.
The big draw of the islands is the calm (no private cars are allowed) and the picturesque scenery. I found the calm to be a myth – while there are no cars the fine Turkish drivers have figured out that you can use horse carts, trucks and scooters in the same fashion and hassle everyone on the road. While the roads are less crowded they are equally dangerous and not exactly calm on Büyükada.
However I can agree on the picturesque scenery and great views of Istanbul on a clear day!
What to do on Princes’ Island Istanbul?
While the area around the ferry terminal is rather touristy there are a number of well rated dessert and ice cream shops – we stopped at Mia Amore and had excellent ice cream for just about 70 cents.
Once you leave the ferry terminal zone the area becomes much more residential with lots of pretty houses – seemingly from well-off commuting house holds. It’s much more city-like than I imagined. Also the crowds started to disperse quickly after that.
There are no natural beaches at the island – we ended up walking to Nakibey Plaj Tesisleri Beach Club. The entrance fee was rather steep at TRY 30 but the areas was squeaky clean, had great music and a lovely beach area.
On our return we opted from the island for the slow ferry (only TRY 6) which was just 20 minutes slower but has lots of open decks to take pictures on the changing scenery of Istanbul’s Asian side.
I liked that ride much more and it is well worth investing a bit more time.
In conclusion Princes’ Island Istanbul is a great daytrip and a great way to see Istanbul from the ferry. It’s cheap, fun and gives you a healthy dose of sunshine.
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About the author: Torsten is a serial entrepreneur who started almost a dozen ventures on four continents. Torsten's love for travel has brought him to 130+ countries and travel with most of the world's airlines. You can reach Torsten at [email protected]
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