Take a short ferry ride from Istanbul and find yourself among small streets lined with bougainvilleas, seagulls flying over the bright blue sky, ferries on the blue waters of Marmara, horse carriages as the only transportation option, kids playing fearlessly on the streets and people riding bikes from the beach to their house. This is not a scene from a movie, it is in fact the life of many adalı, residents of the Princes’ Islands.

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Princes’ Islands, a group of islands on the Sea of Marmara, are the best-kept secrets of Istanbul. Although there are nine islands in total, the main ones are Kınalıada -the smallest and closest to the city, Burgazada, Heybeliada and Büyükada -the biggest and furthest. The islands have a large population in the summers, with the season starting in May and lasting till early October. They are often preferred by young families with small children as summers spent here are filled with sun, sea and fresh air. Even though there are year round residents, the winters are deserted since transportation options decrease.

Life on the island is mellow, slow and simple. Days are filled with leisurely breakfasts on the balcony, a swim in the Marmara, tennis, soccer or basketball games, enjoying 5 o’clock tea and freshly baked pastries while watching the ferries cruise by, delicious fish dinners and strolling on the waterfront under the star filled sky. Visiting one of the islands would be a perfect break to your Istanbul trip and getting there is easy. Regular ferries and motorboats run from Bostancı, Kadıköy and Kabataş year-round, however a trip from Kabataş to Büyükada takes 1.5 hours. Sea bus is a more preferred option for being the fastest one, but remember that they only operate in the summers.

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As I have spent several summers in Burgazada as a child, I am biased and think of it as the most charming one. It is not as small and mellow as Kınalı, but also lacks the city-like feel of Büyükada. In Burgaz, you can bike up to Kalpazankaya where you can see panoramic views of the city and grab lunch at its restaurant. Sait Faik Abasıyanık, a great Turkish writer, was a resident and many of his stories were inspired by this island. Today, his residence is a museum, open to visit Wednesdays through Sundays. At Burgaz, make sure you stop by Sinem Dondurma, one of the best ice creams you will ever taste. Büyükada is the most popular one, being the largest island with many options for dining, sports, entertainment and different social clubs with pools, kid entertainment areas and events. In all islands, bikes are available to rent and offer the best way to explore the grounds.

The Princes Islands offer pure relaxation and allow you to forget that you are in fact still in Istanbul. For a chaos-free day in Istanbul, jump on a ferry, pack a picnic and put on your swim suit. You will not regret one second of it.