The Marmara Island (“Marmara Adası” in Turkish and “Elafonesos or Proikonnisos” in ancient languages) is the largest island in the Archipelago of Marmara located in the southwest of the Marmara Sea in Turkey. Administratively, it’s belong to Balikesir Province of Turkey, along with the nearby Avşa, Pasalimani and Ekinlik Islands. Marmara Island has 117 km2 surface area, five villages, a central settlement (Marmara) and 6.500 permenant population. Marmara Island is a mountanious, flora rich island with Mediterranean climate, olive trees and nice beaches. The island is a safe, quiet and economic option for a short escape from the city. It is also a perfect place for trekking in the nature, discovering various and intresting plants, swimming in the clean waters and visiting world’s oldest and most famous marble quarries. The island has 72 miles distance and the journey takes 2 hours 45 minutes by fast ferries, from Istanbul.
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What is interesting in Marmara Island?
- It is the second largest island in Turkey
It has the nearest Aegean climate to Istanbul
- Clean waters, both pebble and sandy beaches near to Istanbul
- It offers some ideal routes for trekking
- It has the richest flora of Turkey in this size of land
- It has two different climate regime; mediterranean on the south, black sea on the north side
- It has the highest mountain peak in Marmara Sea
- Marmara Island is one of the few places that you can see the wild horses in the nature, in Turkey.
- The island has the oldest, largest and most famous marble quarries in the world. The word of marble comes from Marmara.
- It is the birthplace of the mysterious ancient poet Aristeas
- Turkey’s most beautifully flavored sage tea grows in Marmara Island
- It is the only island in Turkey offering high mountains, lowlands for agriculture, streams, waterfalls, olive cultivation, tourism and mining.
The Settlements, Villages and Where To Stay
Marmara Island has five villages and a small central town called Marmara. All the villages are doted around the coastal line and each has a distinctive character;
Marmara; the central town
Marmara (Prokonnesos), which was established on the south-west coast of the island, remained under the rule of Phoenicians, Milesians, Byzantines and Ottomans throughout history. Today, the settlement is built on a coastline of 3 km’s. The center is founded on a grid street plan but unfortunately had failed to preserve most of the traditional houses. In addition, the drying up of centuries-old plane trees on the coastline as a result of improper fertilization negatively reflects on the tourism of the island. However, many people who are in love with the island continue to spend the summer months in Marmara.
Most of the local people living in Marmara center are the Turkish people migrated from Crete, as a result of “population exchange” between Turkey and Greece im 1923. Local people make their living from fishing, tourism and olive cultivation. Life is quiet and easy in Marmara and nothing is complicated. There is not much to do apart from swimming, sunbathing, playing backgammon, sipping your sage tea or raki and chat with friends…But if you look for somethings different, you may also go for an island tour, fishing, hiking, biking and listening live music in some bars.
Accomodation in “Marmara”, the center
Most of the good hotels are located in and around the center. There are 3 or four hotels in the center and all of them has sea view rooms. Marmara is not a noisy place, even in the center, therefore you may feel in silence even in the center. Alternatively there are many nice beach hotels as well.
Beaches in “Marmara”, the center
There are two beaches in walking distance, in Marmara, center;
Aba Beach; the long and wide Aba Beach is maybe the most popular (and never too much crowded) beach in the island. If you like to lie on the pebbles but walk on the sand in the water this is the perfect option for you. There are enough beach clubs, cafes and restaurants along the beach and you may choose your ideal place.
Aba Beach is located on the east side of the town and in a 10-15 minutes walking away from the center. During the peak season you may take on the dolmuş boats as well.
Kole Beach; this beach is much smaller than Aba Beach but it has a sandy character and is just 3-5 minutes walking distance from the center. There are a few cafes and bars in Kole Beach.
What to eat in “Marmara” the center?
Ice cream (especially the mulberry / karadut), un helvasi (helvah made of flour), sage tea (adachayi), koruk (a refreshing drink made of unripe grapes), midye dolma (stuffed mussle), peynirli patlican (fried eggplant with cheese), tuzlu balık (salted sardines) and so on.
Gündoğdu is a cute, picturesque and midsize village. It’s 4 kms away from the center and if you like hiking you can get there within 45 minutes (you will face many slopes but also enjoy beautiful landscapes).
Gündoğdu is one of the greenest villages of the island and surrounded with olive trees and secluded beautiful bays . The permenant population is around 250 while during the peak season and holidays this number reach to 1000. Most of the visitors are the local people who had been moved to big cities. The village is beautiful and generally the people are open minded and friendly. The main activities in the village are socializing at the sea-side cafes, play backgammon while sipping sage tea or koruk and fishing. In the village there is a playground for children, soccer, basketball and beach volley fields, three small groceries, some places for having breakfast and light food, a bakery and a simple but a lovely bar on the beach (the bar is open during the summer season only). There are also two small half sandy beaches on the two sides of the village. If you ask what is the local speciality to eat in Gündoğdu, it is “kasik helvasi” (a traditional sweet halvah which is difficult to find elsewhere) and “bazlamaç, a kind of yummy pita – potatoes bread coocked with olive oil on fire.
Çınarlı is on the west part of the island and 7 kms away from the center. It is the most touristic settlement of the island after “Marmara, the center”. Originally the local people of this village are from the eastearn Black Sea region of Turkey. Çınarlı is famous with its 1000 years old plane trees and the name comes from these trees.
In Çınarlı you can find a few nice and budget hotels and guest houses with sea view rooms at the beach. In Çınarlı you may have your lunch at your hotel or try a few place serving fish and some light food. If you are interested in the cultural heritage and the history of the island you may visit the small private museum of the village (there is no entrance fee).
Although the Manastır is not a village, it has started to become a new settlement due to the houses built in recent years. This is one of the most beautiful and popular beaches of the island, it is completely sandy and has turquoise waters. This bay is located between Çınarlı and Marmara and has a distance of 3-4 km from both sides. You reach to Manastır by taxi or by minibuses running between Çınarlı and Marmara. There is a nice beach-bar and a cafe-restaurant on the beach.
Topağaç is located on the south side of the island and 12 kms away from the center. Although there is nothing interesting in Topagaç, the nature surrounding the village is beautiful. Topağaç is an agricultural village and founded on the largest and most fertile flat lands of the island. Fruits, vegetables and butter coming from Topağaç are delicious and always is the first choice of the islanders.
The name of the village comes from the ball shaped pine trees that you can see around the village. There is a long sandy beach in Topağac but most of the times it’s windy and there is no any facility on the beach as well. There is no any restaurant or accomodation option in Topağaç.
Saraylar is the second biggest settlement of the island and located on the northeast. Its distance from the center is 25 kms and you will need 30-40 minutes of driving to get. Saraylar is also the oldest settlement of the island since the oldest marble quarries of the world is located here and still being mining.
If you are interested in marble mining and its history we recommend you to visit the area with the help of a guide. Saraylar marbel quarries are still the largest in the world and covers 11 percent of the island’s surface area. Here you can find one of the earliest marble factories of the world (and only two samples left in the world) but the complex needs restoration. In Saraylar there is also a small open air museums where you can see some of the marble works dating to Roman period. A marble sculpture symposium is held every year in Saraylar with artists from different countries. You can see interesting sculptures created by these artists along the beach.
The village has a cosmopolitan population and mostly consisting of the people and their families working in the quarries. Although there are two beaches and a few small hotels Saraylar is generally not preferred for sea and sun tourism.
Asmalı is the smallest and the least visited village in the island. It’s 18 km’s away from the center and 6 km’s east of Topagaç Village. Unfortunately the village has no any attraction and facilities apart from the beautiful green landscapes around.
Whats more to do on the island?
Climbing the Ilyas mountain
Marmara Island is the most mountainous and highest island in Turkey. Ilyas Mountain and the NATO peak (710 meters) is also the highest point in Marmara Sea. If you would like to climb to the peak the expedition may take at least 3-5 hours depending on your performance. At the top you will see a deserted and desolated NATO base left from 50’s. Here you will also see stunning views of the Marmara Sea and the other islands around.
Photographing the wild horses
Marmara Island is one of the few places in Turkey where the wild horses live and roam freely. The total number of the feral horses are around 400 and they have been living in three different location as a 5 or 6 different groups. If you are interested you may follow and photograph the horses
Island Tour And Fishing
In the recent years unfortunately there is no any organized boat tour in the island. But we are expecting a boat tour organisation during 2021 summer season, to discover the villages and the other islands around Marmara. But if you like you may also rent a boat privately for a tour and fishing. Marmara Island is the region with the richest fish beds in the Marmara Sea. Some of the fish types you can hunt are as follows;; bream, bonito, bluefish, mackerel, mendole, sardines, anchovies, silverfish, garfish, scorpionfish and more kinds.
Hiking and Trekking
The island of Marmara is a great place for hiking, although there are no special hiking trails. The island municipality has some projects to create a trekking route.
90 percent of the area of Marmara Island consists of mountainous and hilly areas. For mountain bike lovers, there are excellent routes between villages and olive groves. For this reason, a two-day, 53-kilometers cycling tour is organized with the participation of hundreds of cyclists every summer.
How To Move Around The Island
There are scheduled minibuses operating between the villages and the center. While there are 4 to 10 shuttles between Merkez and Çınarlı depending on the season, there are fewer departures than other villages (usually two or three times a day). Unfortunately, there is no public transport to go from one village to another. You have to use a private car or taxi for this. There is no possibility to rent a car or motorbike on the island.
Transportation; How To Go To Marmara Island
There are 4 options for transportation. The best and fast way is using the fast ferries (deniz otobüsü in Turkish) departing from Istanbul.
1- IDO fast ferry from Istanbul
Taking a fast ferry is the most practical, fast and comfortable option to go to Marmara Island. Fast ferries run between spring and autumn, usually departures start on April 23 and end on October 29. During April, May and October you will find ferry departures only for the weekends. This is also a good opportunity to leave Istanbul on Friday evening, to stay in the island for two nights. And during the high season (in July, August) you may find up to 10, 12 ferry departures daily.
You can check the timetable /prices and buy your ticket here; IDO.
There are three ports of call that you can take on the fast ferries (deniz otobüsü) for Marmara Island;
- IDO Yenikapi Port; this port is near to the old town and the journey takes 2 hours 45 minutes from Yenikapi.
- IDO Bostanci Port; this port is on the Asian Side and the journey takes around 3 hours from Bostanci.
- IDO Avcilar Port; this port is in the west side of European side and around 35 kms away from the old town or Taksim area. The journey takes around 2 hours from Avcilar.
- Not all the fast ferries stop in each port of call.
- Fast ferries do not carry any motor vehicle
2- Ferries From Tekirdağ Ceyport or Barbaros Port
This option is more complicated and tiring and takes more time. You may think about this option if you would like to come to the island during winter or if you have a or motorbike. The ferries have departures everyday all year round. But you may find ferry only for Saraylar Village which is 25 kms away to the center, during some winter days. There are five or six ferries which are privately owned and the departure hours may change without prior notice, therefore be sure with the departure hours and port exactly. It is also recommended you to arrive the port earlier if its a summer weekend or holiday, since the capacity of the ferries are limited. If you do not have any private vehicle you may take on a scheduled bus leaving for Tekirdağ or Barbaros from Istanbul Esenler Otogari; Istanbul Seyahat.
Duration of journeys;
- From Istanbul to Tekirdağ; 1,5 to 2,5 hours depending on the traffic, the location that you depart in Istanbul and the kind of vehicle.
- From Istanbul to Tekirdağ; 2 to 3 hours depending on the traffic, the location that you depart in Istanbul and the kind of vehicle.
- From Tekirdağ Ceyport to Marmara; 2,5 hours
- From Barbaros Port to Marmara; 2 hours
Contacts of the ferries (Turkish language only)
- Ferry Shedules
- Seyhan 4: office 0266 895 80 29, captain 0532 526 4073, captain 0533 354 05 08
- Yavuz Naz: 0532 556 51 07
- Omer Kaptan; office 0266 896 13 82, captain 0535 764 95 34, captain 0544 327 76 74
3- GESTAS Ferries From Erdek
If you are planning to arrive to Marmara Island through the south of Marmara Sea, GESTAŞ car ferries are the best option. In Erdek port you can find at least one departure everyday. The journey takes around 2 to 2,5 hours and the ferry stops in other islands like Pasalimani, Avşa and Ekinlik as well. It is recommended to arrive Erdek Port earlier to have a space on the boat, during weekends in the summer and in holidays.
4- With little driving
You have one more alternative way to arrive Marmara Island from Istanbul by your car; you may take a “IDO jet ferry” from Yenikapi Port for Bandirma. The journey lasts 2 hours and from here you will need to drive your car 20 minutes to Erdek. In Erdek you can take the Gestas ferry for Marmara. This option is perfect if you want to arrive to Marmara Island with a minimal driving (20 minutes only).
- Marmara Island
- Official Website Of Marmara Municipality