The Princes' Islands are home to Istanbul's elite, who own summer houses and palaces there. The eight islands are set in the Marmara Sea off the Asian shore, and are one of the last remaining places to offer an insight into Istanbul's ethnic mix. Greeks, Jews and Armenians mingle with Turks in the squares, and churches outnumber mosques.
Ferries travel regularly to the islands, especially during the summer months. The islands are all within an hour of Istanbul. Here are our picks for a day out:
This is the biggest and most popular island, hence its name which translates to 'the Great Island'. You can still see large 19th century wooden houses, built by wealthy Greek and Armenians. Buyukada was home to Istanbul's minorities, and Islam has never been predominant here. The island has a history of housing exiles, its most famous resident being Leon Trotsky. Buyukada has two hills, each topped by monasteries. There are no cars on the island so you'll have to walk or take a horse and carriage, or hire a bicycle.
Make sure you explore the two monasteries; St George's Monastery on the southern hill dates back to the 12th century, and was once used as an asylum, and Isa Tepe on the northern hill was built in the 19th century.
There are also a number of good restaurants, cafes, shops and hotels on the island.
The 'island of the saddlebag' is known for its lovely beaches and natural beauty. It is home to an esteemed water sports club and a famous Greek Orthodox School of Theology, which has a rare collection of Byzantine manuscripts. Hire a bicycle and explore the secluded beaches, restaurants and tea shops that dot the island.
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