5 Most Beautiful Islands in Turkey
Looking for an alternative to the Greek Islands?
Head to Turkey!
Across from Greece in the Aegean Sea, Turkey is home to some absolutely stunning isles. Many, in fact, share similarities in culture, cuisine and scenery to the neighboring Greek islands. Fortunately, though, the cat isn’t out of the bag. Turkey’s islands, from Gokceada, to the Princes’ Islands, are mostly undiscovered and offer a beautiful playground for Mediterranean travelers.
Which islands can’t be missed in Turkey? These are five of the country’s most stunning islands.
- Bozcaada Island
The island of Bozcaada epitomizes the split Mediterranean-Middle Eastern heritage of Turkey. That means you’ll find Greek tavernas and white-washed villas on one side, and mosques and Ottoman-style houses on the other.
As the country’s third-largest island, Bozcaada offers something for everyone – from hillside wineries offering tastings, to sandy beaches with crystal-clear waters. Many come to enjoy the cuisine. The island is home to many bustling food markets, for example, where you can try tomato jam, a Greek delicacy. And you’ll find history around every corner, including ancient ruins, historic windmills and iconic monuments.
- Where to Go: Visit Ayazma Beach. This sprawling, crescent-shaped beach is the island’s most popular. Not only is the crystal-clear water always inviting, but with resorts, world-class spas, and top-notch seafood restaurants nearby, you’ll have plenty to experience.
- Why It’s Great: As one of two Turkish islands in the Aegean Sea, Bozcaada has all that you’ll love about neighboring Greek islands, without the crowds.
- Gokceada Island
Like Bozcaada, Gokceada is also located in the Aegean Sea and shares similarities with its Greek neighbors. Gokceada is mountainous, with hilltop villages with cobblestoned streets dotting the landscape. Plus, many of the islands natural areas are protected, offering tourists plenty of opportunities to hike to stunning vistas and through olive groves. Gokceada is a favorite destination for yachters, thanks to its proximity to nearby Greek islands like Limnos and Samothraki. This closeness has made a clear mark on the cuisine. Many favorite dishes in Gokceada are Greek favorites like the almond cookies and cicirya, a gooey, goat cheese-filled pastry.
- Where to Go: The historic Greek villages of Tepekoy and Derekoy are revered for their beauty. Tour the cobble-stoned streets and enjoy the amazing views from these hilltop communities.
- Why It’s Great: Gokceada’s incredible terrain draws nature-enthusiasts and foodies from around the world. From the hillside wineries and olive oil production facilities, to the stunning views from the top, this is one of the Mediterranean’s best undiscovered islands.
- Cunda Island
Near the Greek Island of Lesbos, you’ll find Cunda. Known for its Greek ruins, cobbled streets and its uniquely-flavored olive oil, Cunda is a natural paradise just off the coast of Ayvalik. (So close in fact, the island is connected to the mainland via a causeway.) Head to Cunda for the hiking. The island is home to beautiful pine forests, where you’ll find amazing vistas of the deep blue waters. Plus, Cunda’s beaches are amazing as well. Beautiful sandy beaches fringe the entire island, with resorts and spas nearby. Mola Beach, Ayazma Plaji, and Kesebir Beach all showcase the island’s beautiful Aegean coast.
- Where to Go: The Ayvalik Islands Nature Park has some of the best hiking and views in the area. The park includes 22 islands (Cunda is the largest). Hike to hidden coves on Cunda, or take a tender tour of the nearby islets.
- Why It’s Great: Cunda Island lies right off the mainland, and that makes it one of the easiest to reach. And the island’s culture and history make it a favorite destination. The food, ruins and cobbled plazas allow you to enjoy all that Turkey has to offer.
- Buyukada Island
For centuries, people have escaped the bustle of Istanbul to the quiet and tranquil Princes’ Islands, a chain of nine isles an hour ferry ride from the capital city. Buyukada is the largest in the chain, and it offers much for visitors to enjoy. This is an island rich in history. Visiting the historic Ottoman ferry terminal and Dock Square, you’ll find lively markets and world-famous seafood restaurants.
One interesting fact about the island (and all the Princes’ Islands, in fact): No motor vehicles are allowed. That makes it perfect for bike rides or a tour by horse-drawn carriage. Be sure to make it to Cankaya Street, famous for its stunning Turkish villas.
- Where to Go: Dock Square is the heart of the island and center of commerce. Numerous eateries and seafood restaurants line the square streets, and you can also pick up a carriage ride in the square. Another must-see: St. George Monastery, which is perched in the hills above the islands, offers incredible views of the scenery.
- Why It’s Great: A trip to Buyukada Island will feel like you’ve stepped back in time. No traffic noise, just the clopping of horse hooves on the cobbled streets. Plus, there’s plenty of history to explore.
- Chios Island
Technically, Chios is a Greek island. But it’s so close to Turkey – just four miles from the resort town of Cesme – you can practically swim to it. Chios has many stunning sights to see. Start by visiting Mavra Volia, a stunning black-pebble beach. The water is a beautiful shade of aquamarine, but be warned, it’s a bit chilly. Up in the hills, you’ll find the Nea Moni Monastery, another must-see. The 11th century Byzantine monastery is rich in history, and it’s beautifully adorned in mosaics.
- Where to Go: The most scenic beach on the island is Vroulidia Beach. Nestled against impressive limestone cliffs, the beach is known for its turquoise warm waters that are perfect for swimming.
- Why It’s Great: The closest Greek island to Turkey, Chios offers the perfect excuse for another stamp in your passport. The island is absolutely beautiful, as well, and offers something for everyone.
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