Islands of various proportions in the southeast of Istanbul adorn Istanbul like a necklace. These islands have become very popular recreational places for Istanbul residents for centuries. The islands have been used by the residents as holiday resorts in recent past thanks to the richness of its nature.
Adalar have been the one of the most well-known and utilized recreational spots with their beaches, green fabric, walkway, valleys of pine forests, their hills and coasts. Well-arranged gardens of the island mansions, flowers of acacia, Judas tree blossoms, oleander, tulip, daisy, honeysuckle and clove color the surroundings throughout the year. Residential areas are mostly located in the south and east coasts of the islands. The islands hold a significant place in Istanbul history with its past. It has become a scene to many historical events since the eastern monks founding their monasteries in Byzantine period.
The islands, which are also named as Prince Islands or Scarlet Islands, can be classified into three groups. Islands open to tourism and having residence, private-property islands and islands which have no residence. Kinaliada, Burgazada, Heybeliada, Buyukada and Sedef Adasi are islands which are open to tourism and have residence. Kasik Island and Pide Island are private properties. Therefore it is not possible to visit them. Yassiada, Sivriada and Balikci Islands have no residence on them.
Buyukada is the biggest of the islands, which is the first address of those who want to have a short break from the crowd and urban life of Istanbul. Buyukada is also the furthest island from Istanbul. (14 sea miles from the Port of Istanbul). The island which stretches in north-south direction is geographically comprised of two hills. (On the north Isa Hill – 164 m., on the south Yucetepe Hill - 202 m.)
The most important element giving the island its peculiar quality is its famous phaetons. Touring the island with these cars which are pulled by two horses are one of the most popular activities preferred by tourists.
The most enjoyable spot of the island without doubt is Aya Yorgi Hill. Even one has to go uphill for about 20 minutes to reach this highest spot of the island, it is worth it... When looked from the hill, Istanbul coasts and Marmara make up a very beautiful view. Aya Yorgi Monastery located on this hill is deemed sacred by Christians. According to the religious belief, those who visit this monastery have the honor of being "half-pilgrim". For this reason, Aya Yorgi hill is visited especially in summer months by thousands of Turkish and foreign tourists...
The smallest one of the islands in Kinaliada... Let alone motor vehicles, there is no phaetons in Kinaliada. Because 20 minutes is enough to walk from the one side to another side of the island.
Compared to other islands, Kinaliada does not have an attractive view with transmitters on it; it actually is a technology victim without much guilt. The slopes in Kinaliada are steeper, the coasts for sea-bathing are smaller. Ayazma Beach which is the most convenient spot for a beach, is the only crowded beach of the island.
Burgazada is famous for being home to famous Turkish poet Sait Faik Abasiyanik. For Istanbul residents, Burgaz is a more tranquilizing, and "enjoyable break" compared to Buyukada.
The most beautiful spot of Buyukada, as in others, is the highest point of the island. It takes you a 40 minute walk to get to the Hiristo Hill, famous for its view, and its monastery ruins, which is the highest spot of Burgaz.
In Burgazada, phaetons cheer up the roads as well. When you hear the sound of the bells while walking on the asphalt road, move aside without fear and make way for the phaeton pulled by weary horses...
Heybeliada is the second biggest island of the group of islands. The most remarkable difference of Heybeliada from other islands is most probably the military command located here and the atmosphere created by the military school.
You can have a phaeton tour in Heybeliada, as in Buyukada and Burgazada. When you are in Heybeliada, remember to stop by Degirmenburnu recreational area...