25-06-2024 - Around

A Journey Towards the Sunset in Heybeliada

Leave behind the bustling energy of Istanbul and venture into the serene charm of Heybeliada for a day of delightful exploration. This tranquil island warrants dedicating an entire day to immerse yourself fully in its beauty and peaceful ambience. While it may seem like a substantial time commitment, the rewards of this experience are undoubtedly worth it.

Istanbul Tourist Pass® is a benefit pass designed for city visitors. It provides a wide range of exploration opportunities by offering free or discounted entrance to more than 100 of Istanbul's most popular tourist attractions. This pass, which can be used with various validity periods from 1 day to 10 days, is economical and easy to use. You can save up to 80% compared to regular entrance fees. Thanks to this pass, users can visit the city's important tourist attractions, enter museums, participate in tours and benefit from special advantages. Istanbul Tourist Pass® is usually valid for a certain period and gives its users access to many tourist attractions, making their visit more comfortable.

Exploring islands such as Heybeliada is now effortlessly accessible thanks to the Istanbul Tourist Pass®. If you're interested in visiting Buyukada and Heybeliada, two of the Princes' Islands, the Istanbul Tourist Pass® offers a guided Princes' Islands Tour with lunch. With expert guidance, you can join the Istanbul Tourist Pass® to discover the treasures of Buyukada and Heybeli Island. If you want to explore Heybeliada yourself, a great audio guide offered by Istanbul Tourist Pass® will make your journey even more enjoyable. 

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About Heybeliada

Heybeliada, the second largest of the Princes' Islands, is a tranquil retreat just a short ferry ride away from Istanbul, Turkey. Heybeliada, meaning 'with a saddlebag' in Turkish, is a picturesque island with a rich history and stunning natural beauty. It's a place where history meets natural beauty, offering visitors a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Formerly known as Halki or Halkitis due to its rich copper mines in ancient times, Heybeliada is now cherished for its picturesque landscapes and relaxed atmosphere.

During winter, Heybeliada is home to a small community of around 4,400 residents. However, during the summer, its population swells to approximately 30,000 as tourists flock to its shores to enjoy the island's sunny beaches and refreshing sea breeze.

Heybeliada is characterized by its four prominent hills: Hope Hill, Mill Hill, Village Hill, and Woodcutter's Son Hill. Each offers stunning panoramic views of the island and its surroundings.

Accessible by ferry from Istanbul, Heybeliada is easily reachable for day-trippers and those seeking a peaceful retreat.

In this guide, we'll explore Heybeliada's history, landmarks, and practical tips to enhance your visit to this enchanting island. So, let's embark on this adventure together and discover the hidden treasures of Heybeliada!

History of Heybeliada

Heybeliada has a rich history dating back to ancient times. Known initially as Halki or Halkitis, the island gained prominence due to its abundant copper mines, which gave rise to its name.

During the Byzantine rule, Heybeliada became an important religious and cultural centre. Monasteries and churches were built on the island, including the Monastery of Hagia Triada (Monastery of the Holy Trinity), which played a significant role in the island's spiritual life.

In the 16th century, Heybeliada served as a refuge for the local Greek population during the plague on the mainland. The Monastery of Hagios Georgios tou Kremnou (St. George on the Cliff) provided sanctuary for those seeking protection from the deadly disease.

In the 19th century, Heybeliada became a popular summer retreat for Istanbul's elite, including politicians, writers, and artists. The island's mild climate and picturesque landscapes attracted visitors from near and far, leading to the construction of grand mansions and summer residences.

During the early 20th century, Heybeliada witnessed significant social and political changes, including the decline of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of the Republic of Turkey. The island's population became more diverse, with Greeks, Turks, Armenians, and Jews coexisting harmoniously.

Today, Heybeliada continues to enchant visitors with its rich history, stunning architecture, and natural beauty. Whether exploring historic landmarks or simply relaxing on its sandy beaches, Heybeliada offers a glimpse into Istanbul's past and present.

What to Do and See in Heybeliada

Heybeliada is a treasure trove of historical and cultural landmarks, each offering a glimpse into the island's rich past and vibrant present.

Naval High School

Overlooking the jetty stands the impressive Naval High School, founded in 1773. Within its grounds lies Kamariotissa, the last Byzantine church built before the conquest of Constantinople. Though not open to the public, its significance is palpable, steeped in centuries of history.


Heybeliada boasts several monasteries, each with its own story to tell. The monastery of Hagios Georgios tou Kremnou (St. George on the Cliff), founded in the late 16th century, served as a sanctuary for the local Greek population during times of plague. Nearby, the ruins of another monastery dedicated to Hagios Spyridon offer a glimpse into the island's spiritual heritage.

Mavromatakis Kosku

Once the residence of Ismet Inonu, the second President of Turkey, Mavromatakis Kosku is now occasionally open as a museum, providing insight into the island's political history.

Religious Sites

The heart of Halki Town is adorned with the Greek Orthodox church of Hagios Nikoloas (St. Nicholas), a testament to the island's diverse religious heritage. Nearby, the Ben Yazkor synagogue and Heybeliada Camii are reminders of Heybeliada's cosmopolitan past.

Historic Mansions

Wander through the charming streets of Heybeliada and marvel at its elegant 19th-century mansions. These architectural gems from Lozan Zeferi to Refah Sehitler Streets offer a glimpse into the island's affluent past.

Halki Seminary

Perched atop Umit Tepesi (Hope Hill) lies the Halki Seminary, a symbol of Heybeliada's educational legacy. Originally home to the Monastery of Hagia Triada, the seminary has weathered centuries of history, facing challenges and controversies. Heybeliada boasts various picturesque beaches, each offering its unique charm and atmosphere. Whether you're seeking a secluded cove for relaxation or a lively spot for water sports, Heybeliada's beaches have something for everyone.

Merdivenli Beach

Located on the northern coast of Heybeliada, Merdivenli Beach is known for its tranquil atmosphere and clear blue waters. Accessible via a staircase (merdiven in Turkish) leading down to the shore, this beach offers a peaceful retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the island.

Degirmenburnu Beach

Near the iconic windmill (degirmen in Turkish) overlooking the sea, Degirmenburnu Beach is a popular spot for sunbathing and swimming. Its rocky shoreline and panoramic views of the Marmara Sea make it an ideal destination for nature lovers and photography enthusiasts.

Halki Beach

Nestled in a picturesque cove on the southern coast of Heybeliada, Halki Beach is known for its soft sandy shores and shallow turquoise waters. This family-friendly beach is perfect for swimming, building sandcastles, and soaking up the sun while enjoying the views of passing boats and sailboats.

Hidden Coves and Rocky Shores

Beyond the main beaches, Heybeliada is dotted with hidden coves and rocky shores waiting to be explored. Venture off the beaten path to discover secluded spots where you can enjoy a peaceful swim or sunbathe in solitude, surrounded by the island's natural beauty.

Water Sports and Activities

For those seeking adventure, Heybeliada offers opportunities for water sports and activities such as snorkelling, paddle boarding, and kayaking. Rent equipment from local vendors or join guided tours to explore the island's coastline and underwater treasures.

Beachside Cafés and Restaurants

After a day of sun and sea, unwind at one of Heybeliada's beachside cafés and restaurants. Indulge in delicious seafood dishes, refreshing drinks, and traditional Turkish snacks while taking panoramic views of the Marmara Sea and neighbouring islands.

As you explore Heybeliada's landmarks, you'll uncover the layers of history and culture that have shaped this enchanting island over the centuries. Each site holds a story waiting to be discovered, inviting you to delve deeper into Heybeliada's fascinating past and present.

Stories and Legends of Heybeliada

Heybeliada is rich in history and steeped in fascinating stories and legends that have been passed down through generations.

The Monastery of Hagios Georgios tou Kremnou

Legend has it that the monastery of Hagios Georgios tou Kremnou (St. George on the Cliff) served as a refuge for the local Greek population during the plague on the mainland. Stories of miraculous healings and divine protection abound, adding to the mystique of this ancient sanctuary.

The Naval High School and Edward Barton's Grave

The Naval High School, with its commanding presence overlooking the jetty, holds tales of yesteryears. Within its grounds lies the grave of Edward Barton, the second English Ambassador sent to Constantinople by Queen Elizabeth I. Barton's decision to spend his final days on Heybeliada to escape the plague in Constantinople adds a touch of intrigue to the island's history.

The Halki Seminary

Perched atop Umit Tepesi (Hope Hill), the Halki Seminary is shrouded in mystery and controversy. Stories of its founding by patriarch Photios I of Constantinople and its turbulent history, including closures and debates over its future, evoke a sense of intrigue and fascination.

Legends of Mansions and Religious Sites

From the grand mansions lining the streets of Heybeliada to the historic churches and synagogues scattered across the island, each landmark holds its tales of bygone eras. Whether it's tales of illustrious residents or whispered stories of hidden treasures, Heybeliada's landmarks are steeped in legend and lore.

As you explore Heybeliada, watch for these captivating stories and legends, which enchant your journey through this historic island. Whether fact or fiction, these tales offer a glimpse into the soul of Heybeliada, weaving a tapestry of wonder and imagination that continues to captivate visitors today.

Tips for Visiting Heybeliada

1. Plan Your Visit: To ensure a smooth journey to Heybeliada, check the ferry schedules in advance. Ferries depart from various locations in Istanbul, so choose the most convenient departure point for you.

2. Pack Essentials: Remember to bring essentials such as sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and comfortable walking shoes. Heybeliada's sunny weather and scenic trails make it perfect for exploring outdoors.

3. Stay Hydrated: Bring a reusable water bottle throughout your day on the island. You'll find plenty of opportunities to refill your bottle at public water fountains and cafes.

4. Explore on Foot: Heybeliada is best explored on foot, so take your time to wander through its charming streets and discover hidden gems along the way. Be sure to bring a map or use a navigation app to help you navigate the island's winding paths.

5. Respect Cultural Sites: When visiting religious sites and historic landmarks, remember to dress modestly and observe any rules or regulations in place. Keep noise to a minimum out of respect for other visitors and the sanctity of the sites.

6. Enjoy Local Cuisine: Take advantage of Heybeliada's culinary offerings by sampling traditional Turkish dishes at local cafes and restaurants. Indulge in fresh seafood, mezes, and other regional specialties.

7. Capture Memories: Bring a camera or smartphone to capture the beauty of Heybeliada's landscapes, historic buildings, and vibrant atmosphere. You'll want to preserve these memories long after you visit the island.

8. Relax and Unwind: Take time to relax and soak in Heybeliada's laid-back atmosphere. Whether lounging on the beach, enjoying a leisurely meal, or simply taking in the views, embrace the island's slower pace of life and unwind from the stresses of everyday routine.

By following these tips, you'll make the most of your Heybeliada adventure and create unforgettable memories to cherish for years. So, pack your bags, embark on your island getaway, and let the magic of Heybeliada enchant you.

How to Get to Heybeliada?

Getting to Heybeliada is quite easy; You can access the island by ferries departing from Kadikoy, Bostanci, Eminonu and Kabatas. You can also go to Heybeliada by boat departing from Bostanci Pier. Transportation schedules vary depending on the season and the number of trips is increased on weekends.