Büyükada: The Big Island of Istanbul

During the hot, humid months of summer in Istanbul, even the city’s most fervent admirers need a break from the suffocating heat and crowds. With just a simple ferry ride, paradise and cool relief can be found in nearby Büyükada, the “big island” of Istanbul.

Büyükada, Istanbul

Transportation in Büyükada.

Büyükada is the largest of a chain of islands located a mere seven miles southeast of Istanbul. Because of its proximity, the islands offer a nice the change of pace from the hustle of Istanbul. No cars are allowed on the islands, making it a quiet, accessible oasis for urban dwellers  in need of a city escape. People get around on foot, bicycles, or horse-drawn carriages. The islands are now places of elaborate summer homes for Istanbul’s wealthy families, but it was once a place of exile where scandalous members of the royal family and public figures were banished.

Buyukada, Istanbul

A gorgeous view from Büyükada.

I took the 25 minute ferry from Bostancı to Büyükada, enjoying the cool sea breeze, and met with a couple of my friends. We hopped on a phaeton (horse-drawn carriage) that would take us to the hill to Büyükada’s only main site, a 20th-century monastery built on Byzantine foundations. It was small — quite a disappointment after walking up a steep hill in the blazing sun, but the views were well worth it.

Büyükada, Istanbul

The sprawling homes in Büyükada.

We spent the afternoon strolling back down to the main square, admiring the mansions that lined the streets. We even saw an old mansion for sale and started coming up with ideas on what we would do if we bought it. The possibilities seemed endless and oddly tangible.

Büyükada was certainly a nice retreat from Istanbul, but there really wasn’t anything spectacular about it. For those that are coming to visit Istanbul and have a limited time, I wouldn’t recommend making the trip out as there are far more interesting places to go in Istanbul proper, and far better beaches further afield.

Categories: Istanbul, Turkey


  • Andi says:

    Yay, I’m glad you blogged about this little trip. Though I wanted to see more beach shots! Did you spend the night or go back to Istanbul?

  • Connie says:

    My friends stayed the night but I went home. We never made it to the beach because the water isn’t really the best for swimming (unfortunately).

  • wired1000 says:

    Sounds like Mackinac Island up in Michigan… which I haven’t been to. Wish there were some islands off the coast of Chicago… but alas… stupid glacier

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