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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

Tips for Making Any Overseas Trip a Romantic One

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Vacations are a great way to leave our everyday lives behind to spend some stress free time with the one we love. Travel in itself can be quite romantic but there are definitely ways you can spice up your holidays even more.

Follow these helpful tips to make sure your romantic holiday gets off on the right foot and continues to head down the tunnel of love and passion. You can easily turn any part of your travels into a special romantic affair.

Choosing the Right Destination

A romantic trip starts with selecting the right destination. There are definitely cities and regions which are much more prone to sparking romance than others. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but generally destinations such as popular European cities, beach getaways, Asian resorts, luxury ski resorts, or tropical islands make for a good choice.

Couples should pick a destination which they both will enjoy as this will of course make it far easier to express their love for each other.

Choosing the Right Time

It is a good idea to select a time that will be most appropriate for your holiday. Choose a time that is easy for you in regards to taking time off work or from household duties. This will make it far easier to feel relaxed while on your holiday, allowing you to focus more on fuelling the romance.

You may also want to research when the best time is to visit your chosen destination so as to avoid peak crowds or unideal weather conditions.

Choosing a romantic date to travel such as an anniversary, honeymoon, or birthday can also turn any holiday into one filled with more passion. Travelling during Valentine’s Day can make for an especially romantic holiday of which there are many perfect Valentine’s Day destinations.

Fly Business Class

Although your destination may be exhilarating, the flight or flights to get there can be stressful. Minimise the stress of flying by booking business class where you’ll enjoy the VIP treatment with far more comfortable seats which many times convert into a bed allowing for a decent rest while in the air.

As a bonus you can many times be granted access to luxurious airport lounges when flying business class which makes waiting for your flight much easier as you are treated to free food and drinks along with clean bathrooms and seating areas.

Private Transportation

Public transportation can not only take longer to get to your hotel or attractions in your chosen destination, but they can also kill the mood for you and your loved one. By booking private transfers via your hotel or on your own, you can avoid buses, trams, and trains which can be crowded and noisy.

Choose a Nice Hotel

It may be difficult to find romance if you are staying in a dodgy motel or hostel. Be sure to book quality accommodation which has private en suites and clean furnishings. Remember that your vacation is supposed to be an escape, so make that escape the best it can be with premium toiletries, fancy marble bathroom floors, plush pillows, quality linen, and a nice hotel room view. All of these luxuries will make for a far more romantic getaway.

Eating Out

Nothing can ignite romance more than delicious food although preparing it isn’t always that much fun. One of the best aspects of travelling is that it gives us an excuse to not have to cook.

Seek out popular restaurants that offer a romantic setting, quality service, and mouth watering flavours that will leave you passionate for more than just satisfying your hungry stomach.

Get Dressed Up

Although you and your loved one may look good in any light and attire, it is never a bad idea to put on your Sunday’s best. It can sometimes be difficult in our everyday lives to find occasions to get all dressed and made up, so why not make your holiday abroad an excuse to do so.

Although clothes may not necessarily make the person, a nice dress or suit and tie can go a long way to giving us a little extra special glow to spark a bit of romance.

Log Off and Put the Phone Away

Nothing can kill a romantic dinner or event than the sound of message notifications, phone calls, or emails. Any holiday should be an excuse to remove the stress of the online world or work and with romantic holidays this becomes even more paramount.

You want to be focusing your attention on the love you and your partner share or if travelling solo you want this time to focus on the beauty of the destination you have selected which may in turn bring you a bit of romance. Disconnecting is all about reconnecting; so log off and put the phone away!

Reduce the Risk of Stressful Situations

Stress can kill romance very quickly. When we are stressed we can easily find ourselves getting into silly arguments or bouts of criticism. Your holiday is supposed to be an enjoyable experience so don’t let it turn sour by making the possibility of stress to creep on in.

Don’t try to overload your itinerary with too much and avoid setting too rigid of a timeline. Prior planning is important to avoid any unwanted surprises or disappointments when it comes to securing reservations for flights, hotels, or activities.

Should anything go wrong during your travels, you want to have the peace of mind you are protected by travel insurance from InsureandGo. Travel Insurance can help when the unforseen happens while you are overseas.

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Europe

How to Plan a Trip to Iceland

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If you have ever heard the amazing stories about Iceland, they are all true!  If you’ve come this far into doing research about how to plan a trip to Iceland, I’m here to help you cross the bridge and fill in gaps so you can make your dream a reality.

As someone who has done this trip, I’m able to assist in every step of the journey.  I’ve boiled this down into cliff notes so you can do your own research after reading them and dig deeper into tours that will fit your personal preferences and budget.

First off, you are going to need to trust the Internet.  It’s a big place with a lot of information that can help you get there in one piece and not be stressed out.  Long gone are the days of visiting a travel agency and having someone plan everything for you – for a fee!  It’s your adventure, and you can know that every item is covered online, you just need to know how to look for it.

The best tip I can give you is to leverage the various Facebook Groups about Iceland.

Resource:  When In Iceland Facebook Group.

Next, you’ll want to decide when to visit Iceland.

The winter months will allow you to have more freedom as the tourism numbers are down.  However, this comes with the caveat that it will be below freezing and there will be very little sunlight!  The sun is only out for approximately six hours during the month of December!

On the positive side, this allows you a great opportunity to view the Northern Lights, which is a marquee attraction in Iceland.

Conversely, the Fall and Spring will bring you better temperatures and less snow, but there will be a much slimmer chance of viewing the Northern Lights.

Lastly, there are the Summer months.  While you will see a greener country and experience a lot of beauty on that end of the spectrum, it does come with a much higher price tag.  Be prepared to spend more money if you choose to visit Iceland in the Summer.

Also, you’ll want to have an agenda.  If you are one to take things in on your own and adventure into the wild, Iceland will be a perfect escape for you.  There are also guided tours that you can hire and they will accommodate to your every need or desire.  Simply ask anyone in the aforementioned Facebook group and they can steer you in the right direction.

You can of course, do public transportation in Iceland.  It’s entirely safe and used by many people.

Iceland is a fantastic, unique place to visit.  If you need any help planning your trip, please visit my Iceland Tour guide resource and leave a comment.  Happy Travels.

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Europe

Overlooked and Underrated Euro Vacations

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Here’s a quick list of places to possibly include in your next European itinerary. 2018 is the year of the underrated vacation spot in our humble opinions, and we want to honor it.

Basque Country:

This place is in this author’s humble opinion easily and hands-down the most underrated little corner of Europe.

And honestly, between the two, the Spanish side of Basque country is going to cost you probably around 50% what the French side will, and most people in the know will agree that the Spanish side is at least 100% more fun!

 

Canary Islands:

There are two ways to do the Canaries: simply fly in and enjoy them, or treat yourself and a loved one to a romantic Canary Island cruise.

Best time to visit is definitely either spring or fall, as it does get quite cold in the winter and quite hot in the summer. If you are a beach bum, on the other hand, summer is best (but there will be a lot more tourists in the summer).

 

Siena, Italy:

This city is often overshadowed by Rome, Florence, and Venice, but it actually is arguably the best-preserved city in Italy and has the best historic city center. The cuisine here is absolutely to die for, and you won’t have to pay inflated tourist prices like you will in the aforementioned places either!

If you can, try to make it for the famous Palio, a horse race that has been going on literally for centuries.

 

Brussels:

Just as Siena is overshadowed by other bigger Italian cities, Brussels tends to stand forgotten next to London and Paris. But Brussels has key elements of the two metropolises, as well as its own unique and delicious cuisine, its own beer (considered by more than a few experts to be the worlds best), and easily the worlds best chocolate, both in solid and drinkable form. Belgian chocolate will seriously change your life forever.

 

Istria, Croatia:

This is one of the world’s best summer beach destinations. It’s incredibly beautiful, and by Western European standards, almost outrageously cheap.

Hipster tourists are starting to come in and drive prices up, but it still remains a great bargain by any standards, and most importantly, it’s a bargain without really having to give up any of our beloved amenities.

 

Budapest:

Budapest could be called the poor man’s Prague, but in reality that name isn’t very fair. For one thing, Hungarian culture and Czech culture are actually extremely different (for one thing, the Hungarian language isn’t in the same family as the rest of Europe, it’s its own thing completely, like the Basque language).

Prague is gorgeous, but it’s getting almost as expensive as the rest of Europe too, and honestly Budapest’s history and culture is much more interesting, especially for the seasoned traveller.

 

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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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