Also known as Prince Islands or Istanbul Islands, there are eight within one hour from the city, in the Marmara Sea. Boats ply the islands from Sirkeci, Kabatas and Bostanci, with more services during the summer. These islands, on which monasteries were established during the Byzantine period, was a popular summer retreat for palace officials. It is still a popular escape from the city, with wealthier owning summer houses.
The largest and most popular is Buyukada (the Great Island). Large wooden mansions still remain from the 19th century when wealthy Greek and Armenian bankers built them as holiday villas. The island has always been a place predominantly inhabited by minorities, hence Islam has never had a strong presence here.
The entire island is lively and colorful, with many restaurants, hotels, tea houses and shops. There are huge well-kept houses, trim gardens, and pine groves, as well as plenty of beach and picnic areas