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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

 

Since May 2014, Rebecca has been wearing out her jandals. She loves anything that involves the ocean whether it be scuba diving, wakeboarding, jet skiing or more recently - sailing! Consider following her via RSS Feed, Twitter and Facebook.

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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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Adventure Travel

Walking the Camino de Santiago Photos

These are my favourite Camino de Santiago Photos from my pilgrimage along the French Way in March. A truly beautiful way to spend a few weeks.

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Puenta La Reina Bridge Camino Arrow

El Camino de Santiago kicked my ass. Well technically it kicked my feet. Turns out my minimal preparation for the Camino de Santiago was terrible. After a miserable effort of only 4 days, the doctor in Legrono told me that I wasn’t allowed to go on until me feet healed. I had walked just over 100 km’s and my feet were bloodied and blistered.

To be honest, I was relieved.

The thought of putting back on my shoes made my shudder. For the last 9 km’s I had stumbled along in jandals and socks. One of the travelling fashion sins I vowed I would never break.

Jandals on the Camino de Santiago

Jandals on the Camino de Santiago

So while I have unfinished business with the Way of St James (an upcoming post), I did want to share with you some of my favourite photos from the Camino de Santiago. Because I had yet to reach some of the more “unsavoury” parts of the Camino that Sherry Ott had discovered, every step of my pilgrimage had been beautiful.

Puenta La Reina Bridge Camino Arrow

Puenta La Reina Bridge – Camino de Santiago Arrows

There is no way you can get lost on the Camino de Santiago. Arrows, scallop shells and signs point you in the right direction at every bridge, road crossing and intersection.

Camino de Santiago Scallop Shell

Camino de Santiago Scallop Shell

Reaching the top of Alto Pedron gave views back the way I had come from Pamplona, as well as views to where I was going. The rocky path on the way down proved to be my ultimate downfall, as my too small shoes caused my toes to smash into the front.

Alto del Pedron Camino de Santiago

Alto del Pedron Camino de Santiago

Metal Pilgrims on Alto del Pedron

Metal Pilgrims on Alto del Pedron

There were so many beautiful old churches along the Camino de Santiago. But since I was walking in early March, it seemed that most were yet to open for the busier summer season.

Church of Obanos

The Church of Obanos

And between every small village the well-maintained pathways of the French Way wound across the spectacular Spanish countryside.

The French Way - Camino de Santiago

The French Way – Camino de Santiago Photos

Puenta La Reina

Puenta La Reina in the evening

Puenta La Reina has one of the most amazing bridges I have ever seen. It was also the 1st village I had the pleasure of sleeping in after busy Pamplona.

Puenta la Reina Bridge and Sunrise

Puenta la Reina Bridge at sunrise

Most mornings I was up and walking before the sun began to sprinkle across the horizon.

Spring flowers on the Camino de Santiago

Spring flowers on the Camino de Santiago

Pilgrims approaching Cirauqui, Spain

Pilgrims approaching Cirauqui, Spain

Every village and town was built on a small hill. Sure it looks beautiful until you realise you have to go back up again to go through them all!

Church of Santa Maria - Los Arcos

Church of Santa Maria in Los Arcos

While there were only about 20 pilgrims walking each section every day, it wasn’t uncommon for you to encounter them all. The people I met along the Camino de Santiago were some of the most inspiring and remarkable people I have ever spoken to. They are the ones that make the pilrgimage so special.

The endless French Way

The endless French Way

Irache Wine Fountain - Fuente del Vino

The free flowing Irache Wine Fountain or “Fuente del Vino”

Hay bales along the French Way

Hay bales along the French Way

Every village had at least one ancient church and it wasn’t uncommon to find them dotting the landscape in remote locations either.

Ermita de San Miguel

Ermita de San Miguel

Iglesia de San Andrés de Zariquiegui Church

Iglesia de San Andrés de Zariquiegui Church

I have travelled through Spain in the past, including cycling in Costa Brava and surfing in San Sebastian with both independent planning and a vacation planner. But having the opportunity to walk at my own pace through some of the most beautiful scenery in Spain on the Camino de Santiago has so far topped them all.

Natural arches - Camino de Santiago

Natural arches on the Camino de Santiago

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Adventure Travel

Top of Cappadocia day trek – with Middle Earth Travel

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Trekking through the valleys of Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys with Middle Earth Travel feels more like the set of a Star Wars movie than a historical region once carved out and lived in by humans. Churches, homes and pigeon houses are scattered throughout the valleys, all waiting to be explored. The best part is, Middle Earth Travel know all the hidden secrets.

Standing at the top of Cappadocia

Top of Cappadocia day trek – with Middle Earth Travel

On the 26th of July (which just so happens to be my birthday!) Middle Earth Travel took us on their private and guided Top of Cappadocia day trek. From Pasabag, along the top of Cappadocia and down through the Gulludere Rose Valley to Goreme, we trekked 15kms in one day! (We recommend getting your bearings with this map)

Upon arrival to the Middle Earth Offices, we were warmly greeted by our new friend Atil whom we had met a few days earlier while mountain biking through the Kizilcukur Red Valley. We were then introduced to our guide and given a briefing regarding the day. Normally, the Top of Cappadocia tour would start from Çavuşin, however, since we had already explored Çavuşin Castle, they adapted our tour to compensate ensuring we would explore new terrain!

With charged cameras, plenty of water and our running shoes on, we were driven to our starting point of Pasabag. We wandered through the fairy chimneys, coming across camels and markets – then the true hike began.

Pasabag in Cappadocia

The police station in Pasabag, Cappadocia

Camel in Pasabag, Cappadocia

Camel in Pasabag, Cappadocia

It was a slow and gentle incline. With no trees to provide shade, I quickly realised why our tour guide had chosen to wear fully covered clothing! As the sweat quickly set in (a waterfall in Moss’s case) we snapped away with our cameras and enjoyed the entertaining shapes of Imagine Valley and the amazing view. We also passed a lot of rock piles, which according to our guide mean ‘father’ and are built to help lead the way.

Animal shaped formations in Imagine Valley

Animal shaped formations in Imagine Valley

Middle Earth Travel, Cappadocia

Making our way to the top of Cappadocia

Father leading the way (rock pile)

Father leading the way (rock pile)

The higher we trekked, the more breath taking the views became! As we walked along the summit of Bozdag mountain (the Top of Cappadocia) we could see EVERTHING – Pasabag, Çavuşin Castle, Kizilcukur Red Valley, Gulludere Rose Valley and Goreme. We were on the Father of Valleys! After a quick nod of agreement to the guide, we pushed ourselves the extra distance and made our way to the flag, as this HAD to be the highest point and was definitely worth a photo and a selfie or two!

View from the top of Cappadocia

View from the top of Cappadocia

Flag at top of Cappadocia

From the flag we looked down upon Aktepe Hill which is known as a popular destination for watching the sun set and could spot Kizilvadi Restaurant, our destination for lunch! Kizilvadi Restaurant is an attraction of its own. With its own historic winery and Grape church, plus some Middle Earth Travel treks even stay there for the night! After having a massive feed of soup, salad and pasta plus a surprise birthday cake, we made our way down into Gulludere Rose Valley.

Kizilvadi Restaurant

Kizilvadi Restaurant

The scenery is amazing, with strong colours visible in perfect layers on the chimneys, you would wonder what an artist was thinking, had it been a painting. Also, hidden to the side of the track we walked across a little bridge and not expecting anything to be there we were wowed by the massive church carved. It was absolutely huge and hard to believe that its most recent use has been as a pigeon house!

Coloured chimneys in Cappadocia

Coloured chimneys in Cappadocia

Pigeon houses in Cappadocia

Pigeon houses in Cappadocia

Church in Gulludere Rose Valley

Hard to believe this Church is carved inside a fairy chimney!

Middle Earth Travel Review

  • The team at Middle Earth Travel were extremely knowledgeable and certainly know Cappadocia’s hidden secrets. They have friendships with local tea garden owners which is also of benefit as it gained us entry to locked churches and hidden rooms that we would not have otherwise seen.
  • We covered a lot of ground, however we did not feel rushed. The whole day focused on showing us the region, therefore we had as much time as we needed to explore each church and to take ‘just one more photo’.
  • It wasn’t all about trekking. With a whole day and 15kms to cover, there were a few silly poses (especially in Imagine Valley), and we learnt a lot about the myths, legends and way of life in Cappadocia.
  • In conclusion I highly recommend Middle Earth Travel if you wish to go trekking or mountain biking in Cappadocia.
  • Cost: Day treks with Middle Earth Travel range from 50-90 euro, depending on the number of people taking part. This includes lunch, guide, vehicle transfers and entrance fees to historical sites, but excludes alcoholic and soft drinks.
  • Middle Earth Travel are outdoor enthusiasts and offer multi-day over night treks, mountain biking, abseiling, or custom made itineraries, in multiple regions throughout Turkey.
  • www.middleearthtravel.com

Disclaimer: We were provided with a discount for the trek with Middle Earth Travel, however, as always our thoughts on our adventure travel blog our own.

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Europe

Amsterdam Food Guide

If you think of Amsterdam you don’t think of food. However if you try the food here in our Amsterdam food guide you might get lucky.

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Amsterdam Food Waffles

We are total foodies and our travelling has allowed our passion for food to grow considerably (not to mention our waist lines)!  We love trying new food when we visit foreign countries and always make a huge effort to eat the local cuisine. Check out some of the food we ate below in our cheap and delicious Amsterdam Food Guide.

Amsterdam Food Waffles

We had heard from a number of people that the Amsterdam food was nothing to rave about. To be honest food was not really our main interest in visiting but then again neither was an Amsterdam Peep show and we ended up enjoying that!

However we were pleasantly surprised. I think the people whom we had talked to had it wrong. Sure Holland doesn’t really have a local cuisine but once we got over this fact we realised there is still some damn good food to be had from the various Amsterdam Restaurants.

Amsterdam Food

The best meal we had was actually next door to the Red Light district in Chinatown. Crossing the canal to the east away from the neon lights your nostrils are attacked and your mouth begins salivating from the delicious smells wafting along the narrow cobbled streets.

As we walked into Bird Thai restaurant the enticing aroma hit us instantly leaving us drooling in anticipation. It was definitely up there with some of the best Thai food we have had. We went for the classic Green curry, fried rice and duck combo.

The Green curry was so flavoursome with the richness of the coconut milk blending perfectly with the traditional spices.  The duck was cooked to perfection and for the first few minutes of the meal all you could hear was the crunching of the crispy outside layer as we devoured the duck in minutes. Needless to say the fried rice was a taste explosion too!

Cheap and delicious Amsterdam food is easy to come by. With hangovers and munchies affecting your hunger it is no surprise that there are an abundance of Fast Food chains and takeaways in Amsterdam. In fact it was actually more the way that the fast food was served that surprised us as you could buy it out of massive vending machines at Febo!

Amsterdam Food Febo

Hidden workers stand behind the vending machines churning out burgers, fries and sausage rolls so all you has to do is insert a Euro and “hey presto” you have a hot meal in your hungry hands.

Then there were the frites stores which seemed to be on every corner. The first thing you noticed about these was the tantalising smell. There is nothing like the smell of chips straight out of the fryer and covered in salt to get you tummy rumbling. Served in a triangle cardboard carton and covered in mayo which meant that that you couldn’t reach the chips at the bottom without covering your greedy fingers in sauce. Just a tad annoying!

But there is nothing like hot chips to warm you up on a cold day.

Finally, while hot chocolates are not typically food I feel they still deserve a mention especially because the usually come paired with waffles! Ahhhh the perfect breakfast.

Amsterdam Hot Chocolate

We loved nipping into a cafe or bar like Cafe Bar Eddy in Amsterdam to warm ourselves up with a hot chocolate. It literally tasted like they had melted chocolate down and added cream. Heaven in a cup. And the choice of waffles was daunting as you could have whatever you wanted. Fruit, chocolate, syrups, cream or all of the above!

If you are heading here then don’t expect to find an array of traditional Amsterdam food. Instead treat yourself to a hot chocolate and waffle for breakfast, grab a quick bite from a vending machine and sample some of the different cuisines found near the Red Light District.

If you stick to this Amsterdam food guide then your taste buds will have a great holiday too!

If you have visited before then what did you think of Amsterdam food?

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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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