If you ever visit Istanbul, make sure you have Büyükada in your must visit list. Büyükada literally means The Big Island. But, Büyükada is also widely known as the Princes’ Island among the tourists. However, please note that Büyükada is just one island among 9 islands in the cluster. This group of island is actually called as Princes’ Islands. It consists of 4 large islands along with 5 small ones:
Princes’ Islands (Descending according to their mass area):
The Larger Islands:
- Büyükada (Big Island; this is it, this is the one you must visit!)
- Heybeliada (Saddlebag Island)
- Burgazada (Fortress Island)
- Kınalıada(Henna Island)
The Smaller Islands:
- Sedef Adası (Mother of Pearl Island)
- Yassıada (Flat Island)
- Sivriada (Sharp Island)
- Kaşık Adası (Spoon Island; LOL!)
- Tavşan Adası (Rabbit Island)
The best season to visit Büyükada is during April – August. Of course in spring, Büyükada is a home to many colorful flowers which can be found at many classic, Victorian wooden houses on the island.However if you wish to enjoy autumn view in Büyükada, you can also visit the island during August – November.
How to get to Büyükada? There is only one way, which is by boat (well unless you own a private helicopter or you wish to swim all over!) But the easiest and most common way is to catch the boat at the Kabataş pier. From there, depart for Büyükada and you will enjoy a cruise for about 1 hour 30 minutes or even 2 hours to the island (those with mild sea sick, beware, bring a vomit bag or something, just in case!)
Me personally are in a love hate relationship with Büyükada. I love going there, but I hate the fact that I have to wake up really early for it. Because in order to be there at the best time, we will have to catch an early boat to the island. Now, when I say early, the boat will leave as early as 08:40am in the morning. And in order to catch that boat, I have to leave from my home as early as 07:20am in the morning!
And another downside of it, the boat trip to the island are not as frequent as few minutes apart, they are within around 1hour++ interval between each departures. So, if you missed the trip, you will need to wait for quite a while before you can get on the next one.
There are few piers that you can go for to catch the boat to the island. However, the most common one will be from Kabataş pier. And there are few companies that offer a trip to the island, but of course the cheapest one will be the big yellow and white Titanic look alike ship. Please do not buy the jeton (token), they cost 5.50TL which is about 1.83$ USD. Instead, get a hold of the Istanbul Kart (which you can get easily at newspaper kiosk at many tramvay stop for 6TL = 2$ USD). With Istanbul Kart, you will be able to refill this card and use it repeatedly for not just 1 person but for few persons at the same time! And the charge imposed per person with this card is only 4.40TL = 1.47$ USD. Yep, save that 1TL and buy yourself a simit (sesame bagel) instead. And, you can also use this card with the tramvay, metro, metrobus, otobus & furnicular. For more details about public transportations in Istanbul, please check my previous post.So what about other companies? Well, they are charging around 5-6TL per trip, no discount and you can’t use Istanbul Kart, cash only. But the advantage of these boat is their departure time is different compared to the Titanic ship! So for those who missed the trip with the Titanic ship and don’t want to wait, you can always hop on this boat instead and make your way to the island without wasting your precious time.
The boat will make a stop at few other islands before it will make it final stop at the Büyükada. So use this time and have your own photo shoot session in the meantime. And I mean on the boat, do not disembark from the boat at all cost. But please, refrain yourself from losing all control. You see, you still need those memory space for photos once you reach Büyükada later, right?
The bigger question. Why do I have to suffer this 2 hours journey with a cramp on my sweet gluteus maximus on a boat just to get to this island? What is it with this island? Let me tell you something. Büyükada is famous for its lush of nature, antique Victorian like wooden house and fresh air since there is no car allowed on this island (well, except for the manure part). The only car you could find there, either belong to the police, or for small construction purposes. Do I hear you asking how do people get from one place to another on this island? They use phaeton. A horse carriage just like in Cinderella story, except not as luxury and it’s real! (with smell and all)One thing that I always see at Büyükada, from the happy face of the young children, until the happy face of an old couple… They all tend to wear the same thing. The flowery head wreath. Sold for about 5TL, I must say that get one of these beauties for yourself, wear it on your head proudly and ride on that Phaeton feeling like a princess! (beware of the opportunist, they can try to sell it at more expensive price!)
Ok, so the Phaeton will cost you around 77TL per cart, which can hold up to 4 people. There are 2 common tours that tourist normally take, the long or the short one. 77TL is for the short tour, which will last for around 45 minutes (6-7 km in total). They will take you around the island and give you a small break of 10 minutes halfway during the trip where you can make some shopping have some tea before the journey continues. Honestly, short tour is enough for you, no need to waste your money on the long tour.
Well apart from the phaeton, you can also rent a bike to explore the island on yourself. Or, you could do something more extreme, like what I did with my friend last time, we walked all the way following the phaeton trails until we came back down to the square. Until today if my friend talk to me about taking that walk again, I, without hesitation will give him a backhand as a reminder of the pain he made me went through… LOLOne fair warning though, please check on the weather forecast before you plan to go to the island. Büyükada is extremely beautiful during sunny days, so you don’t want to be going there when it is rainy. It just ruins all the mood, trust me.
What else is there? At Büyükada there’s a lot of old Victorian like wooden mansions, beautiful but yet scary especially when you realized that that house had been abandoned for quite some times. There are 2 hills in Büyükada, the famous one nearby the pier is called Isa Tepesi (Jesus Hill) or previously known as Hristos (Greek for Jesus). There was a big wooden orphanage on top of this hill before, but it is no longer there since the building was too old so it remains a history. Among these 2 hills that I mentioned, there is a church and a monastery of Agios Nikolaos and also a former fairground called Luna Park.
Last but not least, there is one place that always caught my eyes. The Büyükada Gözlü Ev or it’s real name, Sabuncakiş Köşkü. The mansion with the ‘Eye’. This mansion was constructed in 1904, with 3 levels and its top level, is the entrance level. I guess with the picture I don’t need to explain more what is it about right? According to the coachman, the house belongs to one of the richest guy in Büyükada, one of the electronic tycoon in Istanbul.That’s all you need to know about Büyükada. And if you guys manage to catch the boat at 08:40am, you will reach there at approximately around 10:40am, take the phaeton ride for 45 minutes and you will be done by 11:30am. After that you will have your own free time to take a lot of pictures, or simply sit at one of the waterfront restaurants at the pier before you leave.
Hope you enjoy the post. Sorry for the long post, here’s a potato for you!