It is good to have somewhere you feel safe, happy and peaceful near to the place you live. My perfect combination. And this place happens to be Büyükada for me. It is the largest of Princes’ Islands which is off the coast of Istanbul.
You can reach the island via ferries which depart from both Asian and European side. These services generally stop by three other Princes’ Islands, namely Kınalıada, Burgazada and Heybeliada, before they reach to Büyükada which is the farthest from Istanbul. These small islands also offer quality time for their visitors with their nature and people.
Büyükada, which basically means “Big Island” in Turkish, is a popular local and foreign tourist destination during summer when its sea is at its finest. However, sometimes it is so crowded that you can not even find a place to sit in the ferries!
Therefore, I recommend you to visit the islands during spring and autumn (preferably weekdays) if you do not plan to swim since the sea can be rough and cold at that times. But there will almost no tourist and you will be all alone with the hospitable and cheerful locals.
As to accommodation, there are hotels and hostels for every budget. I think Büyükada deserves at least two day exploration; therefore, you would want to consider staying overnight.
And surprise: no cars nor any other motor vehicle are allowed on the Islands! There are only horses, carts and bicycles, which makes the atmosphere much more lovely, clean and calm.
You can rent a cart in Büyükada but since horses are forced to carry a lot of weight on those steep hills, I recommend you to pass that choice. Islanders also protest against the usage of horses in this way; however, due to touristic demand, coachmen seem to not bothered with this protest. If people quit using carts, horses will not be dying from exhaustion.
And bicycles… My favorite kind of transportation in every city I travel! And Büyükada is a perfect place to rent a bike and enjoy the green surroundings mixed with sea-scope. You can rent a bike for around 12 Turkish Liras (which makes 3.50 Euro) for a day, which is so much cheaper than many European cities.
There are two bike routes; one is longer than the other. You can choose whichever you want and discover this little island with its awesome antique mansions.
But beware of carts while riding a bike! They can appear out of nowhere.
After all that cycling and walking, you will definitely get hungry. The Islands offer you a vast choice of fish suitable for every budget. You can get a fried fish sandwich for 6 TL or throw a banquet for yourself with different kinds of delicious Turkish food.
I visit Büyükada all around the year because every season is beautiful on its own way but I generally choose weekdays because it is more quite and calm than weekends. And I do not return without eating their delicious ice creams. Those ice creams in all flavors…
I love riding my bike, which I choose carefully because one time its brake was broken and I fell several times, on its clean and flowery roads coasting down the hills. I love examining its beautiful mansions while I check the road in case of cart alert. I love eating fresh fish and then ice cream making my tummy happy as well as my mind.
And of course at the end of the day here come calm sunsets… I love reclining on those banks against the silhouette of Istanbul listening seagulls and crushing waves.
Perfect place to find your numinous moment.