Situated just off the coast of the vibrant city of Istanbul, The Princess Islands may not be as well known, nor as well visited as other Turkish hot spots, though that’s precisely what makes them so special. A cluster of nine traffic-free islands resting peacefully in the Sea of Marmara, the area provides the ideal location for Istanbul holiday rentals that offer so much more than your usual city break.
A brief history
Taking their name from the days of the Byzantine Empire, when Turkish royals were overthrown and banished there, the Princes’ Islands only truly became the haven they are today as recently as the 19th century. Back then, it was wealthy bankers and elite members of Turkish society who began to settle in the area, building many of the grand, timber mansions and cottages which play such an integral part in The Princes’ Islands identity.
Over the years, new generations of wealthy figures have crossed over to the islands from the mainland, bringing with them an infusion of traditional Turkish culture and design, which blends seamlessly with early European influences to create a truly special setting. Perhaps it was this hybrid of cultures and designs that appealed to celebrated storyteller Sait Faik Abasıyanık and the acclaimed poet and playwright Nâzım Hikmet, both of whom drew inspiration for some of their most respected works from their time spent living on The Princes’ Islands.
A perfect getaway
The largest of The Princes’ Islands is Buyukada – which literally translates as ‘big island’ – however, particularly in the summer months, it is so popular with day-trippers that it can become pretty crowded. As such, for those looking for affordable holiday lettings in Buyukada, Heybeliada, just a short boat ride away, actually provides a much better alternative.. It still provides a great choice of restaurants and other amenities, but here on Heybeliada, you will be much more likely to meet locals rather than tourists. Of course, it’s here on Heybeliada too where you’ll be able to stay in one of the three boutique self-catering apartments that make up The Karamanyan, a 140 year-old timber mansion offering all the calm and tranquility of a secret island get away with easy access to the excitement and adventure to be found in Istanbul.
The Princes’ Islands are one of the few places in Istanbul where you can enjoy a refreshing swim in crystal clear waters and soak up the sun. Heybeliada has several public beaches as well as two main beach club options –
Green Beach Club, with its sandy beach is just a 10 minute stroll from the Karamanyan Apartments. It charges an entrance fee, but in return, provides facilities such as sunshades and sunloungers, showers, toilets, drinks and other refreshments. Small children will feel secure in the shallow waters, and older ones will love joining the locals as they jump from the jetty into the deeper water.
Ada Beach Club, which is about a 20 minute walk from the apartments but is in a very pretty enclave and is usually less busy as it is further around the island. It is also slightly cheaper than The Green Beach Club.
The Halki Palace Pool, just a two minute walk from the apartments is the wonderfully opulent Halki Palace Hotel and a beautiful outside pool, our guests are welcome here but there is a charge which has not yet been announced for 2015.
You could also hire a small fishing boat at the marina by The Green Beach Club and visit the uninhabited islands in the archepelago which offer beautifully undisturbed and empty beaches. Or if you prefer to mix with the locals then you can use the inexpensive and regular ferry service to visit the other islands where there are plenty more beach options to choose from.
Peaceful and safe for families
Since Heybeliada is blissfully free of motorised vehicles, you and your family will be able to roam at your leisure, safe in a traffic-free environment where the only way to get around is by horse-drawn cart, bicycle or of course, by taking a leisurely stroll in some of Turkey’s most stunning surroundings.
Explore the old fashioned way
With no traffic on Heybeliada, the pace of life feels much more relaxed. A ride in a phaeton, which in the wonderful Turkish phonetic spelling is rendered as ‘fayton’, is an absolute must. Whether you are touring or simply getting from A to B , this is sure to be a highlight of your holiday. Even a trip to the supermarket becomes an adventure!
Island hopping on the ferries which ply the Princes’ Islands is another must-do. Take a seat on the outside deck and settle with a glass of strong Turkish tea and a sesame-covered bread ring, known as ‘simit’ to admire the views and soak up the atmosphere. Transport between the Princes’ Islands is good with an average journey time of around ten/fifteen minutes.
Hiring a bike is a great way to see the Islands. As there are no cars or motorised transport, cycling is understandably popular, and no traffic means it’s very safe. Take the surfaced road, which runs right around Heybeliada or go off piste on one of the dirt tracks, leading through the forests. Children’s bikes are available from the hire shops too.
The Karamanyan, which combines original early 19th century features and modern design, offers the ideal setting for affordable holiday rentals in Istanbul. It should come as little surprise that the locals from Istanbul have been keeping The Princes’ Islands as their own closely guarded secret. Make Heybeliada the base for your next Turkish holiday, and you’ll be wanting to keep the place all to yourself, too.
Contact us today to find out more about holiday lettings in Heybeliada, Buyukada’s more peaceful and serene neighbour, or to book a rental apartment for your next visit to Turkey.