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Istanbul’s hidden secret – Büyükada Island in the Princes Islands

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If at all possible, we recommend allowing extra time in Istanbul to visit Buyukada Island. If you don’t have the time to stay overnight then it is still worth going for a day trip! The island is unique as no personal vehicles are allowed. Therefore, everyone including tourists all navigate the island via bikes and horse drawn carts!!

Horse drawn carts Büyükada Island

How to get to Büyükada Island (Princes Islands)

Depending on where you are staying in Istanbul, you will need to get onto the Blue Line tram to Kabatas Station (it is the last stop on the line). Upon arrival to Kabatas Station prepare to be hounded by locals on the hunt to make a buck as you are basically a walking dollar sign. They are selling food, flower headbands, and day trip packages to the Princes Islands (which we believe are unnecessary!). There are signs directing you to the ferries for Princes Islands, but the locals are happy to point you in the right direction if you feel lost. There are lots of people, boats, and desks so ask around until you find the ferry to Buyukada Island and it should cost you 5 lira per person.

The boats can get quite full and all the other passengers aren’t the politest. Therefore, to save dramas try and get on the boat up to 30 minutes before you depart. If you are like us, it will give you time to lug your bags to the roof of the boat, pick the best seat and then take a few scenic photos before other tourists start blocking your view! Then it is just a matter of sitting back and soaking in the sea view as you motor past the Palace, the Blue Mosque, the Asian side of Turkey and islands along the way (the boat ride lasts about 1 hour).

As you arrive at Buyukada Island be prepared for more hounding by the restaurant owners and ice cream stalls (Turkish ice cream is delicious by the way). If you are anything like Moss you will chat to them all, promise them that you will probably come back later and befriend them all over the next few days!

Tips for using the trams in Istanbul:

  • The tram costs a flat fee of 3 lira per person, no matter how far you are riding it.
  • Each station is located in the middle of the road.
  • There are ticket machines at each station. Note that you may need to look around for them as the pay stations are sometimes only located on one side of the road.
  • Once you have inserted your 3 lira you will be issued an orange plastic coin which will give you entry to the stations platform.

When to visit Büyükada Island

Apparently more people visit the Island on weekends, but the way we see it you will either be swarmed by school trips on weekdays or families on weekends.

Where to stay on Büyükada Island

There is a lot of accommodation on the Island. We stayed at the Marine House Boutique which was called Marine House Hotel on the sign (it appears that no online booking names were the same as their sign on the door in Istanbul! So confusing!) The hotel was right in the centre of town, and was possibly the most modern building but was also a little pricey.

Do I have to wear covered clothing on Büyükada Island

The dress code on the island is a lot more laid back. Upon arrival I was sweating up a storm, still dressed in my Istanbul appropriate clothing of canvas shoes, jeans and a non-strappy top (I really don’t know how they wear jeans every day!)

Restaurants and cafes on Büyükada Island

Be aware that some café/restaurants are pricy but the experience is sometimes worth it! We stopped at a little café on the waterfront looking at a harbour to grab a cold drink and to our horror purchased the most expensive Fanta we had drunk all holiday.. 5 lira each! However, while sitting at the table getting over the fact that each sip was costing about .50 lira, we noticed a local fisherman sitting close in the harbour. He was ripping the heads off live sprats with his bare hands and throwing them to a cat which was not fazed by the seagulls and ducks, let alone the water! We then managed to snap an action shot of it reaching for a fish scrap…

Fisherman on Büyükada Island

While staying on Buyukada Island, we recommend getting into the true Turkish spirit! We started off our Friday night with a local bottle of red wine and some fresh Cherries. They were both delicious! We also discovered a dip containing Yoghurt with eggplant (highly recommend!) and Moss managed to stomach a fish.. with the eye and all. If you are still feeling energetic later in the evening, we recommend going to a bar called ‘The Harbour’. Its combination of comfy bean bags, shisha pipes and Turkish delight all go down a treat, plus the staff are super friendly and the language barrier is a good laugh.

Hiring bikes on Büyükada Island

The island is hilly and you need to stay out of the way of all the horse drawn carts but it all just adds to the adventure!  The horse drawn carts barrel along ringing bells so you need to react quickly in order to not be trampled. They are very touristy, but we didn’t use them as the bikes gave us more freedom and were more appealing, plus we felt that the horses were malnourished and didn’t like the concept of the horses being whipped to pull our lazy bums up the hill.

Tips for hiring bikes on Büyükada Island

  • The bikes cost different prices depending on how long you want them for. Ours cost 30 lira per person, needing to be returned by 10pm
  • Take an ID card with you. The bike company held on to Moss’s ID card until the bikes were returned
  • Get your hands on a map (the bike company should be able to give you one)
  • Ride around the island in an anti-clockwise direction (as this way is much easier)

Hiring bikes on Büyükada Island

Things to do on Büyükada Island

If you get the chance, pay a visit to the old orphanage and Lovers Road. Unfortunately, we chose to walk to Lovers Road and could not find it! So hopefully you are better at navigating than us.

We also recommend cycling to a beach and spending a few hours enjoying the water. One of the beaches closest to the main town is called Yorukali and costs 30 lira to enter and lie on the beach chairs. It is set up as a beach club with loud music and looked as though it could be fun. However, we were the first to arrive for the day and as it was only 11am it did not appeal. There are a few beaches around the island, but the only one we did visit required us to pay at the café at the top of the hill and leave our bikes behind. There was a bit of a walk down the hill to the water, but it was worth it! It cost 15 lira per person and was beautiful and peaceful!

Beach on Büyükada Island

 

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14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Zoe @ Tales from over the Horizon

    June 25, 2014 at 4:31 PM

    Awesome looking island. Thank you for the tips. I didn’t even know it existed. 🙂

    • Rebecca Barlow

      June 29, 2014 at 2:51 AM

      Hi Zoe, I’m glad you enjoyed the tips. Yes, it is definitely Istanbul’s hidden secret!

  2. John @ Imperative Travel

    June 28, 2014 at 2:24 PM

    Great tips about Büyükada Island. specially the beach. its very nice to look.

  3. Desiree Ricks

    July 2, 2014 at 1:55 PM

    Look great in the Island.

  4. Michelle

    July 2, 2014 at 3:01 PM

    I haven’t made it to Turkey yet, but my fiance, who has traveled all over the world, has and puts it as one of this top 3 countries. He also was on Buyukada Island and says it was lovely.

    Nice photos, btw. Love the one with the cat 🙂

    • Rebecca Barlow

      July 5, 2014 at 4:29 AM

      Hi Michelle, thanks for your comment! Hopefully one day your fiancé will take you there, could be a great place for a honeymoon! 🙂

  5. Wendy

    July 6, 2014 at 9:38 PM

    Hi Rebecca, thanks for the tips! I’m going to Istanbul in a couple of months…and planning to stay in one of the islands. Just wondering whether you remember the name of the last beach you mentioned above? (To pay at a cafe on top of the hill) Thanks!

    • Rebecca Barlow

      July 8, 2014 at 10:24 PM

      Hi Wendy, you will have a great time! Unfortunately we do not know what the name of the beach was, but if you ride along the west coast of the Island until you are in line with Saint George Church (also known as Aya Yorgi Kilisesi) you will be sure to find the road side café 🙂

  6. Selma

    July 13, 2014 at 11:40 AM

    I get the feeling that the cat in the second to last picture was about to make a decision it would immediately regret 😛

  7. Tina

    July 15, 2014 at 5:14 PM

    Büyükada Island is one of the nine islands in the Sea of Marmara in Istanbul. And it is known as the Princesses’ Island, since the princesses used to visit this island for relaxation.

  8. Ani @ All About Travelling

    July 29, 2014 at 11:56 PM

    Hi Rebecca,

    I went to Istanbul a few years ago but that was a quick trip so did not venture out much. This time, I am headed there for 5 days, so will make sure I visit this island – it sure looks like a great place for a day out.

    • Rebecca Barlow

      July 30, 2014 at 5:15 AM

      Hi Ani,

      You will have a great time! Make sure you take your togs because it is very hot in Turkey at the moment 🙂

  9. Living Valencia

    August 2, 2014 at 1:09 AM

    Istanbul is so huge, interesting & beautiful, that makes impossible to discover all the hidden secrets (even for locals).Interesting post.

  10. Charley

    July 29, 2016 at 11:01 PM

    Hi Zoe. Do remember the name of the cafe or whereabouts roughly it was going clockwise or anticlockwise around the island? I am staying on the island for a bit and trying to find reasonable beaches. There are a number of more expensive ones and the locals say go to the top half of the island,lock the bike and you’ll find beaches but it’s through quite dense brush, so I have had not much luck with that yet. Thanks for the post 🙂

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Europe

Making the Most of a Trip to Monaco

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Monaco is one of the hottest destinations in travel right now, and there has never been a better time to explore the principality that attracts over 320,000 visitors a year from all around the world. While Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco helped plant Monaco firmly on the movie-goers map, and the winding roads and glorious hill-scapes send our minds back to James Bond-esque car rides, there is another side to Monaco that gives itself as the perfect stopover for the adventure holiday-maker.

Monaco in Brief

Nestled on the French coast on the Mediterranean Riviera, Monaco is the richest nation in the world – not just for the celebrity yachts and sports cars that glint in the Monegasque sun – as according to The World Bank, the people of Monaco earn more per capita than any other nation, which is evidenced in how luxurious a place it is. But, it doesn’t just have to be a destination for those with laden pockets. With a population of around 30,000, Monaco was founded as a colony of Genoa in 1215. The House of Grimaldi presided over Monaco ever since (with a brief period of French rule from 1789 to 1814) – with the Prince of Monaco acting as supreme ruler. That is until 1911, when Monaco became a constitutional government, with the monarchy acting as a figurehead, much like Great Britain’s. But what can be done in Monaco?

SOURCE: Pixabay

Formula One

Monaco, of course, is well known for the Monaco Grand Prix, a Formula 1 race held annually on the Circuit de Monaco. Begun in 1929, and forming 1/3 of the Triple Crown of Motorsport, the race is considered one of the most prestigious in the world. The streets of Monaco are transformed into the circuit, which makes it naturally one of the most dangerous and difficult to manoeuvre through in the world. The track changes, corners, and elevations combine with the luxurious atmosphere to make the winner of the tournament extremely lauded over. While participants clearly can’t rock up to join the race, finding your wheels on the same streets is a sure adrenaline burst, especially for sports fans.

SOURCE: Pixabay

Nightlife

Thanks in part to Casino Royale, Monaco is on the map for the extensive connection it has to casinos, and more specifically the iconic Casino Monte Carlo, that the nightlife of the city-state revolves around. In the beginning of roulette, the wheel had been modified in order to ensure the player’s odds were high enough to have a chance of winning with the single zero machine, Monaco accepted the game developed by Louis Blanc of Germany. Until 1933, roulette was played exclusively in Monaco, and the game helped place Monaco on the map for being a high stakes, exuberant place. As such, the roulette wheel was at the centre of the night out, that spilled into nearby bars and clubs. Monaco continues this tradition of bustling bars and celebrity-spotting clubs, replete with live music, cabaret events, and special guests, with the Living Room and La Racasse providing as glamorous an evening as James Bond would indulge in.

SOURCE: Pixabay

Water-sports

Located on the Avenue de Princess Grace, Lavrotto Beach is home to not only beautifully clear water and scorching sand, but a variety of water-sports for the nautical adventurer. From canoeing and kayaking under The Rock, to snorkelling and scuba diving to discover the shoals that live beneath the deluxe city-state and rival those of the Great Barrier Reef. For those who are into faster experiences, jet skis are available to cruise the blue lagoon, and flyboarding can be done in the bay. Motorised water-sports are extremely popular and an easy way to get that heart rate going.

Seeing Monaco from the Sky

France is extremely popular for its hot air balloon rides, and Monaco has adopted this pastime as well. The perfect way to take all 202 hectares in is to soar above it propelling by a canister of liquid propane gas. The hot air balloon ride can be as exciting or as leisurely as you make it, and can form the basis of a picnic high in the sky. Alternatively, you can don your swimsuit and hop onto a parachute behind a speedboat, to see Monaco from above while parasailing. Both methods allow you to feel the wind in your hair and witness the beauty of Monaco.

Monaco is a magnificent place; and a definite spot for anyone wanting an exciting break – just a short trip down from France, and a perfect stop for any time from a day to a week. While the excitement may differ from bouldering and white water rafting, the thrill in the air of being amongst the yachts, the beautiful scenery, and the scent of celebrity is enough to get hearts racing.

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5 Unmissable Northern Ireland Attractions

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Northern Ireland is a beautiful part of the world, yet one which often lies off the usual tourist track. However, there are many great places to visit and things to see and do in this region – offering the perfect getaway from packed tourist destinations and a chance to see a largely unspoiled natural landscape.

Despite this, there are still many different attractions within the area that are well worth a visit. From city scenes to geological wonders, the sheer versatility means that there is guaranteed to be something for everyone in the region.

If you are thinking of paying Northern Ireland a visit, here are five of the best attractions that the area has to offer – just waiting for you to arrive!

Giant’s Causeway

Instantly recognisable and famed across the world, the Giant’s Causeway is a definite must-see. Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO world heritage site, the Causeway is a unique example of natural beauty and wonder. Take time out of your schedule to explore, clambering over the rocks and discovering the science, myths and legends behind this ancient monument. A Giant’s Causeway tour also makes the ideal way to learn about the Causeway and get to know the area, as you are shown around by a knowledgeable tour guide.

Belfast

Northern Ireland’s capital, Belfast is a city steeped in years of history. Boasting plenty of varied attractions, there is guaranteed to be something to suit every taste in Belfast. Spend some time wandering the streets and exploring the city’s shops and eateries, or instead, head out and visit one of the dedicated tourist attractions. As the birthplace of the ill-fated Titanic, history buffs are sure to enjoy a visit to Titanic Belfast, the museum which commemorates the ship and the tragedy that followed her maiden launch. Alternatively, a visit to Crumlin Road Gaol is another favourite on Belfast’s tourist trail. Explore the gaol and learn all about its rich history, right through to its eventual closure as a working prison in 1996.

Murlough National Nature Reserve

For those who prefer a taste of the great outdoors, head out to the stunning landscape of Murlough National Nature Reserve and spend some time getting back to grips with nature. Ideal for a fun-filled family day out or a relaxing day spent exploring, the reserve offers the perfect example of an unspoiled wilderness situated in the picturesque Irish countryside. There are plenty of walking routes and trails dotted across the reserve, so pick your favourite and head off to explore more of the beautiful scenery!

Dunluce Castle

Brooding and full of a unique atmosphere, Dunluce Castle is a perfect example of cultural history and architecture. Located on the coast, this impressive ruin offers stunning views across the water and is also an understandable favourite among budding photographers. A must-see landmark along the Antrim coast, the castle offers a real mix of Irish history and different time periods.

Derry

Perfectly combining tradition and history with a quirky, contemporary twist, Derry is Northern Ireland’s second-largest city – a city with something to suit everyone. From its vast array of quaint cafes and eateries to the traditional architecture, history buffs are sure to want to pay Derry a visit. If you do decide to head down to Derry, make sure not to miss the historic city walls. Striking and memorable yet also enlightening, a walk around the walls is sure to help you step back in time and discover Derry’s past and rich history.

Are you feeling inspired? These are just a few of the many exciting places to visit on offer within the region. Northern Ireland truly is a hidden gem – why not discover the beauty of this area for yourself on your next trip?

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Europe

Worlds’ Best Surfing Breaks: Lanzarote’s El Quemao

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Lanzarote plays host to some serious, world-class level surfing. The volcanic island rises straight up through the water, and because it lacks a continental shelf the waves it gets from the Atlantic are completely unobstructed. With low precipitation, balmy winds and endless sunshine, this laid-back island is every surfer dude’s dream.

In the northwest, El Quemao is a commanding left and right-hand reef break. You can experience colossal swells of up to five metres high, rivalling those in Hawaii. This area is meant for the expert. The waves continuously form quick tubes with vertical descents, perfect to enter, descend and ride the tube.

Restaurants in Fethiye

Seven of the Best Restaurants on Lanzarote

Table Arrcife Known for their burgers, tapas and their large selection of beer.

Casa de la Playa, Arrieta Go for authentic Canarian seafood cuisine overlooking the beach.

El Mirador, Playa Blanca Enjoy seafood by the ocean!

Cofradia de Pescadores, Playa Blanca Specialising in seafood; ask for the fresh fish of the day.

Restaurante del Diablo, Timanfaya This lunch-only restaurant utilises volcanic heat to cook their various meat dishes.

El Tenique, Tiagua They offer delicious meat fare. Their popular Cabra is served on Sundays.

El Chupadero, La Geria Situated in wine country, enjoy a glass of vino, tapas and live music.

Hippy Holidays – Low Impact Lanzarote

Pack a lunch and explore former Hippy Heaven, Papagayo, by bike. There is a family-friendly beach with calmer waters to paddle in and swim. There are also out-of-the-way places for older children to explore.

Visit Timanfaya National Park. It is 50 km² of expansive plains, volcanic ash, fossilised lava, geysers and boulders. Amp up the exotic by joining a Camel Train to explore this region.

Consider getting around by bicycle to get exploring areas off the beaten path, as well as beaches, finding smaller towns and farmers’ markets.

Fancy a Holiday in Malta? Now You Can Fly from Southend

As of October 29, 2017, EasyJet is scheduled to fly twice weekly from London Southend Airport to Malta year-round. London Southend has its own train station that runs up to six trains per hour to and from central London. This will carry passengers from Essex to the South End.

Malta, south of Sicily, has grown in popularity. The weather is great year-round (19 to 30 degrees). It is also the home of three World Heritage Sites.

Inland from Alicante: Seven Out-of-the-Way Places

Alcoy Here you will find Barchell Castle, the convent of St. Augusti and church of Santa Maria. The Moors and Christians festival is a must see.

Le Romana See cave houses; there are some cave properties currently in use.

Aspe Grapes grown in this region are tied to a custom of eating 12 grapes at New Years.

Cocentaina While at the village of La Villa, visit the Comtat Palace.

Ontinyent Archaeological finds around the area date back to the Bronze Age and Iberian period.

Bocairent Cobbled streets and architecture allow you to see what life was like many centuries ago.

Guadalest Go see the castle of San Jose. Access to this fortress is via a natural tunnel through the rocks.

Benidorm by Drone

Viewing Benidorm by a drone shows the magnificence of this area. The ocean is a stunning blue-green; the eye never tires of it. Numerous apartments and hotels hug the beaches of Playa Poniente and Playa Levante. In between these seafronts lies the Canfali vantage point with the majestic Mal Pas cove at its foot. You can also see the energetic lights of theme parks. Benidorm has five of them. The Las Vegas-style Benidorm Palace can also be seen. The beautiful Villaitana golf course looks smaller than its actual two 18-hole golf courses. These landmarks invite you to come and play.

Responsible Travel – Surfing in Lanzarote- https://www.responsiblevacation.com/vacations/lanzarote/travel-guide/surfing-in-lanzarote
Surfing in El Quemao http://www.hellocanaryislands.com/surfing/lanzarote/surfing-el-quemao/
Surfinglife.com (by Rich) http://www.surfinglife.com/surfing-in-lanzarote-canary-islands-3/

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...

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