The Marmara Island (Marmara Adasi in Turkish) is the largest island in the Archipelago of Marmara in the southwest of the Sea of Marmara in Turkey. Administratively the island is belong to Balikesir Province, along with the near by Avşa and Ekinlik Islands. Besides, Marmara Island is the second largest island of Turkey. In the meantime its important to not to get confused with Princes Islands which are much closer to Istanbul.
How To Go To Marmara Island
There are 3 options of transportation;
1- Sea Buses From Istanbul; this is the most practic, favorite and comfortable way to go to Marmara Island. There are two ports of departure in Istanbul; one in Bostanci district in Asia Side and the other in Yenikapi in the European Side. The journey takes 3 hours from Bostanci Port and 2,5 hours from Yenikapi Port. The sea buses run regularly between May and October. In May and October departures are only for the weekends while 2 to 6 departures each day during the summer. You can see the up-to-date information and buy your tickets here; IDO
2- Ferries From Tekirdağ; this way is a a little complicated if you do not speak Turkish but the advantage is it works all year round and also one of the ways to arrive to the island with your car. Tekirdağ is a province in Thrace Region and 150 km’s west of Istanbul. If you travel with your car, follow the E80 + E84 motorway. If you travel without car first you need to buy a bus ticket from Istanbul Seyahat Bus Company to get to Tekirdağ and tell to the assistant in the bus to leave you near to the boats leaving for Marmara Island. But at this point this can be sometimes tricky because the port of departure may change from Tekirdağ to Barbaros. Barbaros is another port around 10 km’s ehaed of Tekirdağ. You can not reserve or buy your ferry ticket ahead but its recommended to go a bit earlier if you travel with your car to have a space especially in pick periods. And now you are thinking how to learn departure days and hours. What you need to do is to call one of the ferry numbers below and ask them the departures. But you will need a Turkish assistance since they don’t speak any foreign language. The journey takes 2,5 hours from Barbaros and 2 hours from Tekirdağ Port.
- Yavuz Naz Gemisi: 0532 556 51 07
- Seyhan 4: 0266 895 80 29- 0532 526 4073- 0533 354 05 08
3- GESTAŞ Ferries From Erdek; this way is also not so practice but avaliable all year round and since the boats are big and modern its secure even in a bad weather. The journey takes between 1,5 and 2,5 hours depending the route. GESTAŞ ferries do carry cars as well. If you travel with your car you need to go to Erdek (Balikesir Province) and then take the ferry to Marmara. You can learn departures and ferry tickets here; GESTAŞ.
4- BUDO Sea Buses; this option is the last option since the regular services are only during the pick summer season and uncertain. BUDO sea buses leave from Mudanya Town belong to Bursa Province and its also far from Istanbul like Erdek. You can check BUDO departures here.
Where To Stay In Marmara Island
Marmara Island is not a popular tourist destination. So you wil not find luxurious hotels and resorts here. But still there are many nice alternatives to satisfy you if you are ok with a family style modest and clean hotels and pensions. Most of the accomodation facilities are in and around the Marmara Town and some around Cinarli and Gundoğdu Villages. Some of the hotels recommended to stay are; Mola Hotel, Çınar Hotel, Ada Palas, Ada Apart, Mermer Otel, Zeytin Hotel and Şato Motel.
How To Move Around The Island
There are minibuses scheduled running between the villages and central Marmara town. There are many departures between Marmara and Cinarli village while a less for the other villages (just one or two services during the of season). If you want to feel free to move around the island you’d be better if you arrive by your car. Otherwise you may use taxis as well. There are enough taxis in the island. In the meantime you will npt find any rent a car option in the island.
What To Expect When In Marmara Island
- Marmara is a large (117 Km2) and quiet island which is preferred mostly by local people seeking tranquility and piece. You will see very few foreign tourist in the island but the islanders are very friendly and welcoming for all visitors.
- Marmara Island offers a budget holiday option with modest facilities, clean waters, various landscape from rocky mountains to ever green slopes, olive orchards, beaches and bays.
- The waters around the island considered to be the cleanest in Marmara Sea.
- In the island there are a few bars; a few in the center, a few in Manastır Bay and a small but a nice beach cafe-bar in Gundogdu Village and one discoteque in the center. There is one more night club in Gundogdu Village as well but this place is a very local place frequented by village people and generally open only on weekends.
- There are a few nice fish restaurants serving wine and raki in the center and also some local eatieries in Gundoğdu and Çinarli Villages.
Villages Of Marmara Island
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 center is the biggest and most lively settlement. The permanent population is around 2.200 and at least two times more crowded during the summer season. Since Marmara is the administrative center of the other two nearby islands “Avşa and Ekinlik” it attracts the other islanders for the hospital, public offices, high school, one branch of bank and post office.
The local people in Marmara center are the Turks immigrated from Crete during 1920’s. They make their living from fishing, tourism and olive cultivation. Life is very easy in Marmara, nothing is complicated and not much to do. Swimming and sunbathing on the day, and sitting on the sea side cafes and restaurants and having chat is the main activity for the locals in the evenings. If you look for somethings different you may go for hiking, biking (you can rent a bike), participate island boat tour and some nights listen live music in a bar in Aba Beach or even try the Prokonessos Discoteque where is interestingly frequented by families and children as well. In Marmara there are two nice beaches, one is Aba Beach (the one with pebbles but the seaground is sand) and the other one is totally sandy Kole Beach. Finally do not forget to taste the famous natural ice cream (especially the one with black mulberry/karadut).
Gundoğdu Village is a beautiful pituresque settlement 4 km’s away from the center. Gundogdu is a very green village surrounded with olive trees, green hills and secluded bays. The friendly village people like to socialize at the sea-side tea gardens, play backgammon and cards while they crack seeds and sip natural sage tea which has a unique taste. The village has also a small playground for children, a soccer and basketball field, three groceries, two simple restaurants with some delicious local tastes and a small beach with a cafe-bar playing nice music. In Gundoğdu there are few accomodation alternatives; some family flats to rent, Ali Baba Resort (made of container rooms), Murat Kaptan Pension, Zeytin Otel (1,5 Kms from the village) apart from a few flats to rent. In Gundogdu you can rent a simple flat with kitchen for the price of a hotel room (around 30-35 € per day). You may ask more information here if you like to stay in Gundogdu.
Çınarlı Village is 7 km’s away from the center and is the most touristic settlement following the center “Marmara”. Cinarli has a few hotels and some guest-houses (some of them might be under standarsd). “Dostlar Pansiyon” is a good option to stay on the seaside. Çınarlı is a village which is famous with the very old and huge plane trees. Local people like to spend time under the cool shade of these trees during the hot summer days. The village has also a small but interesting museum dedicated mostly to the heritage and history of the island. The most attractive part of Cinarli is the sandy beach which stretcs aong the village.
Topagac Village is 12 km’s away from the center and more like a rural village. Topagac has the only flat area in the island, enabling to grow many kinds of fruits and vegetables. Since the soil is very fertile here the vegetable is really delicious. You may also see cattles around while in the other villages, not. Topagaç has a long and wide sandy beach but may not well cared and generally quite windy. Topağac is a bit conservative village where you will not see the local men and women sitting and chatting together in the cafes. The people are always friendly. The nature around the village is really green, beautiful and untouched. In Topagac there is no any touristic accomodation as far as we know. You can stop here to taste the delicious “pide” if you get hungry.
Saraylar Village is the second biggest settlement after the center of Marmara. It’s the most far settlement from the center where is 25 km’s away. Its a 30-40 minutes driving away from Marmara. Saraylar is located on the noth east of the island while Marmara center is on the south west. Saraylar has a cosmopolitan population around 2000 people. Most of these people come from different parts of Turkey (plus some Syrian refugees as well) to work in the famous and huge marble mines. The word of “Marmara” means “marble” in Greek and the name of the island and also the name of the Marmara Sea comes from this old ancient marble mines. Saraylar is a little bigger than a village and unfortunately not a perfect place to have holiday. There are some sandy beaches, small hotels for business people, a few sea side cafes etc but this is not a holiday village. If you are a fond of archeology and arts interestingly there is an attraction for you in Saraylar; an open-air archeology museum which is free of charge to enter and at the seaside there are intereting marble sculptures created during the annual international sculpture festival in Saraylar. There is also a small clinic in Saraylar.
Asmalı Village is the smallest and the least visited village in the island. It’s 18 km’s away from the center and 6 km’s ahead of Topagaç Village. Unfortunately the village has no any attraction apart from the beautiful green landscapes around.
Other Attractions In The Island
NATO Summit; If you have a car you may drive to the pick of NATO where is the highest point of the island (699 meters). The road is actually not good but if you drive carefully you may arrive at least near to the summit. At the top you will see a deserted and desolated NATO base from 50’s. Here you will also see a stunning view of the Marmara Sea, Marmara Island on all sides and the other islands across. At the hill between the herns and on the way sides you will see wild thyemes. You may pick some this unique scented thyemes for your personal use. At the same you may see some wild horses (jades) around. They are some of the rare families left in Turkey.
Manastır Bay; This sandy bay with clear water is one of the most beautiful and popular beaches in the island. Its around 3 km’s away from the center on the way to Cinarli Village. You can also take the public minibus running between Cinarli and the center. But you must ask to driver to drop you off in Manastir otherwise you may pass it. You will need to walk down a few minutes by the uneven dirt road. There are some bars and cafes serving food in Manastır Beach.
Hiking: Marmara Island is a great place for hiking although there are no special routes made for hiking. Just as a precaution it is recommended to not to wear short pants and watch out of snakes if you will walk through the jungles.