Last Updated July, 2021
If on your trip to Istanbul you are planning to go to the Adalar archipelago and wondering which Princes Island to visit, I highly encourage you to take a boat to Burgaz Island first. Among all Princes’ islands, Burgaz (many people know it as Burgazada) island is a true gem that most travelers miss on their trip. It is romantic, incredibly quiet, covered in lush greenery and flowers, and has the best beaches in Istanbul.
Mark and I lived in Burgaz for almost 6 weeks before moving back to the mainland. During that time, we explored every corner of it and visited four other Princess islands. And in the end of our long stay, we were convinced – Burgazada was the best.
Don’t get me wrong, we loved all the islands (Buyukada was another favorite) but Burgazada was just too special.
Even though we were still living in the vicinity of the city, we knew we were on a small island with a slow pace of life. I was able to wake up early and in two minutes be by the beach meditating or jogging while looking at the Istanbul panorama on the horizon. We were able to walk every day to the nearby coniferous forest and breathe the freshest air, swim in bays, have romantic picnics in one of many secluded spots, enjoy the serenity and tranquility. There were no crowds or excessive noise, no cars, no rush. Just cats, seagulls, and more down-to-earth, socially present people.
Burgaz island is an incredibly beautiful Istanbul island that should be on everyone’s itinerary. I don’t know why people mainly go to Buyukada, thinking if that’s the biggest then it’s the best island among all. In my opinion, it is not. It’s just different and special in its own way but I think it gets too much attention. Buyukada is often overcrowded with tourists and too noisy at times. Burgazada is completely the opposite.
Keep reading to find out why I think Burgazada is worth visiting on a day trip from Istanbul or even a long weekend.
Burgazada or Burgaz Island – A Bit of History
Burgazada in translation means “island-fortress”. It is the third-largest island in the Adalar archipelago which is 2 km long. There are around 2000 people living in Burgaz in the offseason and more than 10,000 in the summer. This island has long been inhabited by Greeks but in 1950 wealthy Jewish families came to settle here building villas and houses that today are striking in their beauty. Interestingly, in 1928 Burgaz became a site for the construction of the first sanatorium in Turkey.
Aya Yani Church, dating back to 867, occupies an important place in the history of the island. It stands in the historic part a few minutes walk from the ferry terminal. Do not miss it on your visit.
The church was restored several times and the last renovation was carried out in 1896. In this form, it has survived to this day. 11 steps in the underground part of the church lead to a dungeon where, according to legend, the priest Methodius was imprisoned. Later he became a minister of this church.
The next important historical site is the Monastery of Christ, situated in the northern part of the island on the highest hill. These days it looks more like one ruin with a monument in the garden and a “holy” spring nearby.
There is also a mosque on the island that dates back to 1953. In 2003, the island was badly damaged by fire, which burned down some houses from the 19th century.
Burgazada Things to Do
When most people find out how small Burgaz Island is, they automatically assume that there is not much to do. This is why they spend only a few hours and leave to the next island.
Don’t do that. Don’t be fooled by its tiny size. While Burgazada is small indeed, it can offer a lot of activities.
Most importantly, take it slower on this island and appreciate the moment. And here are a few ideas for what to do and see to get the most of the day on this island.
Start Your Visit to Burgaz Island With Some Food, Drinks & Views
Since Burgazada is small, it doesn’t have a big variety of nice restaurants to choose from. Also, keep in mind that food on any of the Princess Islands is more expensive than anywhere in Istanbul. This is why eating out in the restaurant is going to cost you more. Also, the food choice is more basic and simple than in Istanbul, so do not expect too much.
Still, there are nice places to sit down and enjoy Turkish food along with good coffee, tea, and of course fantastic views. Views are everywhere! And here is a short list of our favorite cafes on the island:
Four Letter Word Coffee – the best coffee shop on the island (and one of the best between four islands, in my opinion)! We lived next to this cafe and were tempted to come here for a morning smoothie bowl and coffee drink. Mark loved his iced latte and caramel cappuccino and I enjoyed pastries and smoothie bowls. Before the pandemic, they even served eggs for breakfast. Maybe they’ll start offering it soon again.
The concept of this cafe is built on modernism. A modern-style design, European-style beverages and sweets. A beautiful terrace overlooking pretty old houses and a relaxed ambiance. It’s the only cafe of this type on the island. Other establishments are more of a traditional Turkish-style.
NOTE: This place is super mega-popular among tourists and locals alike. Weekends in summer are always crowded here and on weekdays it is better to come early in the morning or in the afternoon after 3 pm. My favorite smoothie bowl and homemade cake from this cafe:
Burgazada Terrace Cafe – this a small nice restaurant by the water where to have Turkish breakfast, if you didn’t eat yet. Go to that part on the left where you can go to the second floor and sit down there. The view from that side is much better. Again, do not expect the same quality of Turkish breakfast as you can have in Istanbul. Here, you mainly pay for the view and location. The food is simple but fresh.
Ergun Patisseria & Cafeteria – a Turkish-style pastry shop where visitors can also get Turkish tea, manti (mini dumplings), and burek. It’s located in front of the ferry terminal next to other restaurants and is difficult to miss.
Cennet Bahcesi Paradisos Cafe – this is our favorite cafe on the island where to hide from people and have a light meal with views. It also serves Turkish breakfast (available all day long) and has relaxing music in the background. If you ask me what place to choose among all for a morning meal, I’ll probably pick this one.
Go For a Walk & Get Lost Among Narrow Streets
Due to the small size, Burgaz consists of a few streets only. But each of them is full of old often historic houses, color, and character. Once you arrive, you’ll be right on the small Burgazada square facing Ergun Patisseria. There, it is better to start a tour of the island going to the right or straight through smaller streets to the Aya Yani Greek church that you can see its magnificent dome from afar.
Near the church, there is a small museum of one of the greatest Turkish writers Sait Faik who has lived on the island. Even if you don’t know who this person was, it is still entertaining to visit this museum to get acquainted with how people lived in this area. Then go back to the seaside and follow a coastal road Gezinti Yolu all the way to Madam Marta Koyu point or even Kalpazankaya beach.
On the way back, take another road such as Gonullu Caddesi or parallel Mehtap street to see the most beautiful mansions of the island. Gonullu Caddesi (meaning street) also has many points with views of the Marmara Sea and Istanbul. From the late spring to fall, it is covered with fragrant flowers.
And then walk in all other possible directions, enjoy the atmosphere and architecture. I am sure you will be also tempted to take photos at every turn because of so many photogenic streets. And cats. They are here everywhere as in Instanbul.
Go On One of the Most Beautiful Hikes in Istanbul
To get the most mesmerizing view of Istanbul and nearby islands, you have to go on a mini hike (or walk, whatever you want to call it) to the highest point of the island Hristos Hill (where the Monastery of Christ stands). Before you start your walk, I suggest you stop at the local grocery store near the ferry terminal and get a few foods (wine?) for the picnic.
Then stop at the Anjelik Unlu Mamulleri Firini bakery to buy delicious olive oil bread and/or pastries. They are all so good! When we lived on the island, we were constantly buying goodies from this shop. And I can highly recommend it.
Once you climb the hill, you can have a mini picnic and relax in the shade between pine trees left after the 2003 fire. Like we did. And actually that was a great spot for watching a sunset!
So, there are two ways how to get to the hilltop. One if you take the Barbaros Hayrettin road and another one through the center of the island on the Turgut Egemen Bahcesi road. It’s up to you which one to take but in my opinion, Barbaros Hayrettin road is more scenic. It is better to take it on the way back since you’ll be having a magnificent view towards Heybeliada in front of you all the time while descending.
Or Rent a Bike and Ride Around
Another option for how to see the island is to rent a bike. Although in my opinion, to be honest, I’d better go biking in Buyukada or at least Heybeliada where it is so enjoyable to bike around. Also, Buyukada is big and to be able to see the entire island, you’d need to use public transportation or bike.
Burgaz, on the contrary, is small and you can easily walk everywhere and see everything in one day. There are also some dirt roads where biking on those regular bikes available for rent is not very pleasant. Walking on them is great but biking is not so much (again, it’s my personal opinion and you may think otherwise).
Yet, if you are looking to rent a bike in Burgazada, you can do it at Ertan Bisiklet on the main coastal road.
Come to Burgaz Island to Spend a Day On the Beach
Burgazada has amazing beaches. For the most part, they are rocky and pebble beaches but the water is clear and green-blue. In some parts of the island, pebbles are too big and you may want to have swim shoes with you since the bottom is rocky.
Some beaches have beach clubs in the summer like Halk Beach (Plaji), Mimi Koy, Madam Marta Koyu, or Çamakya Aile Plajı. Halk beach is to the left of the pier and it has more sand. The other two beaches are within a 30-40 minutes walk or 10 minutes bike ride. Beach clubs are not free and you have to pay around 4 euros to get in on weekdays and around 8 euro on weekends. This price includes the use of sun loungers, umbrellas, bathrooms, showers, and a boat ride from the pier.
We personally loved swimming in a small bay here (it’s actually supposed to be on a map as Dusler Sahili but google doesn’t show it), on Kalpazankaya beach (which takes some time to get to), and from the pier between Pyrgos Otel restaurant and Çamakya Aile beach.
Kalpazankaya beach is a small rocky beach at the foot of the cliff next to the restaurant with the same name. There you can enjoy a delicious dinner with the view. That’s also the most romantic area to watch a sunset. You can reach it by water taxi or electric shared taxi (that looks like a big golf cart). But, if you are in a good shape (and not tired), better walk or go by bike. The walking path goes by sea and opens up gorgeous vistas at each turn.
On the way back, I recommend you to take Gonullu Cadesi (street) where an electric bus runs to be able to see old houses and how people live on the island.
Finish Your Day in a Romantic Restaurant
Now, let’s come to the most enjoyable part. Burgaz island has more than enough restaurants where you can have a good dinner which often comes with a view too. Again, do not expect it to be cheap or too extraordinary. Among all restaurants, places to consider are:
Barba Yani – one of the restaurants on the beach to the left of the pier that is famous for appetizers and seafood.
Yasemin Restaurant – unlike other restaurants on the island, this one gives you a completely different feeling with its seafront location. The food here is very average but the real thing is the view and a table right by the sea. It’s next to the mosque on the right when you get off the pier.
Indos Pub – a pub with live music, friendly environment, and decent food.
Anjelik cafe – a more budget option for those who don’t want anything fancy but a quick meal. We loved this cafe for its sandwiches and kofte.
Where to Stay in Burgazada
In regards to accommodation, Burgaz island doesn’t have a lot to offer. There are only a few nice hotels with more or less good reviews. They are Mehtap 45 Boutique Hotel, Pyrgos Hotel, and Villa Andrea. However, none of them is present on any booking site. You’d need to book them directly through a message or call.
The best option, in this case, may be to book airbnb. There are many airbnbs available from more budget private rooms to luxurious houses.
Burgazada is the least popular of the islands. Surprisingly, many people think that there is nothing to do there. When in reality, it can keep you busy for a couple of days. This island is the island of dreams and flowers and knows how to attract travelers with its romance and tranquility.
If you don’t have much time to devote to Burgaz, at least come to see the amazing sunset at the Kalpazankaya Rock.