If you're looking for a perfect summer getaway, a dose of history, or breathtaking coastal vistas in Turkey, guess what? There's an island for that! Some are dreamy summer hotspots, while others are cool for a quick day trip. Even Istanbul has its island escape just a ferry ride away! Pick your favourite islands with our list of Turkey's best!
Hey there, beach bum or peace-seeker! Turkey's coast is sprinkled with fabulous islands for your dose of sun and serenity. But if you're puzzled about where to go and how to get there, don't fret! Our affordable Turkish island vacation guide spills the beans on the top Turkish islands.
For those city-dwellers in Turkey craving an upscale beach escape, Bozcaada, nestled in the Aegean Sea just south of the Dardanelles, offers the perfect serene getaway. Formerly known as Tenedos, this island is a tranquil haven with a touch of Ottoman Greek heritage visible in its preserved architecture. Bozcaada's coastline boasts sandy shores, while its interior is draped in vine-covered fields. With a modest year-round population of 3,000, the island comes alive from June to September. Turks flock here for sun-soaked days at Ayazma Beach or wind sports at Cayır Beach. Stay in eco-friendly resorts in Turkey and explore the historic Greek quarter and the Byzantine-era castle. Savour boutique accommodations!
When embracing that relaxed island life, Gökçeada takes the cake. This gem is located just off the coast of Gallipoli Peninsula in the Aegean Sea. Gökçeada truly comes alive during the peak summer season. But if you're an island lover seeking nature and serene beach getaways, the off-season is when you should visit.
Much like Bozcaada, Gökçeada had a significant Ottoman Greek population and was initially known as Imbros. One of the historical islands near Istanbul, the Greek community faced persecution in the 1960s, leading to their departure. Today, the island's charming but crumbling stone-cut architecture and cobblestone streets in quiet villages are poignant reminders of its Greek history and modern turbulence.
During the summer, visitors flock to Aydıncık and Kapıkaya beaches on the south coast for some severe lounging, while windsurfers make a beeline for Aydıncık beach. In winter and spring, the island becomes a haven for flamingo-spotting around its salt lake. For the more adventurous, exploring the island's interior and villages on a mountain bike is a popular choice.
Heading to Sedir Island, aka Cleopatra Island, one of the best-secluded islands in Turkey, is a must for your Turkish island hop. Just a 30-minute drive from vibrant Marmaris, this place has some intriguing tales. Legend has it that Cleopatra and Mark Antony swam in its crystal-clear waters. Folklore suggests Cleopatra brought Egypt's golden sands, forming the unique beach here. Ancient ruins among olive trees and lush greenery await. Escape Marmaris' party scene and book tours, or go solo with an easy drive and a boat ride from the pier. Take advantage of this legendary escape!
Cunda, or Alibey Island, is a gem off Turkey's North Aegean Coast, linked to Ayvalık by a causeway. It has a fascinating history – its Greek residents were exchanged with Greek Orthodox Cretan Muslims in the 1920s. The old town boasts Ottoman Greek architecture, and you can't miss the Greek Orthodox Church of the Archangels, now a museum. Cunda is famous for its dining scene, blending Cretan and Turkish flavours. Nature lovers will enjoy Ayvalık Adaları Nature Park. While it's a popular day-trip spot, small hotels and charming places like Orchis Otel are perfect for extended stays. Access is easy via ferries or minibuses.
Let's talk about the next island, which isn't just one but a bunch of nine separate islands known as the Princes' Islands. They're a quick and budget-friendly ferry ride away from bustling Istanbul, offering a tranquil escape from the city's hustle and bustle.
Out of these nine islands, four are accessible to the public (and trust me, they're the most stunning). These include Buyukada Island, the largest and most popular, followed by Burgazada, Heybeliada, and Kiniliada. Interestingly, these islands have banned vehicles, so your options are bicycles, traditional horse-drawn carts, or simply exploring on foot. This experience is delightful, as you can cycle along peaceful streets, admire wooden villas, and enjoy the coastal scenery.
Gemiler Island, also known as St. Nicholas Island, is one of the quiet beaches on Turkish islands. It is a hot spot for boat day trips from Ölüdeniz's beach resort and more extended yacht tours starting from Fethiye. On this rocky island, you'll discover the fascinating remains of five Byzantine-era churches, tombs, and other religious structures. While history buffs may hike up to explore the ruins, many prefer to admire them from the sea. Interestingly, Gemiler Island may have been the original resting place of St. Nicholas or Santa Claus, who hailed from Patara and later served as the Bishop of Myra (now Demre). To reach the island independently, head to Gemiler Beach, directly opposite the island, where you can find boats for return trips and rent kayaks.
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