The Marmara Island (“Marmara Adasi” in Turkish, and “Elafonesos, Proikonnisos Neuris in ancient languages) is the largest island among the Archipelago of Marmara located in the southwest of the Marmara Sea in Turkey. Administratively, along with the nearby Avşa, Pasalimani and Ekinlik Islands, Marmara Island belongs to Balikesir Province. It’s the the second largest island of Turkey having 117 km2 surface area, a central settlement (Marmara), five villages and 6.500 permenant population approximately. Additionally, as a warning, for the tourists it is not unusual to get confused Marmara Island with the Princes Islands which are much closer to Istanbul.
How To Go To Marmara Island
There are 3 options for transportation;
1- Sea Buses From Istanbul; taking a sea bus (a kind of fast ferry) is the most practic and comfortable option to go to Marmara Island. There are two ferry ports of call; one in Bostanci district on the Asian Side and the other one in Yenikapi district on the European Side. The journey takes around 3 hours from Bostanci and 2,5 hours from Yenikapi. Generally the sea buses run regularly from the end of April till the end of October. In April, May and October departures are only for the weekends while up to 8-10 departures daily during the peak season. You can check up-to-date information and buy your tickets online here; IDO “the official website of the sea bus company”. The sea buses do not carry any motor vehicle.
2- Ferries From Tekirdağ or Barbaros; this option is more complicated and tiring but still is one of the alternative ways if the ferries from Istanbul do not run. The journey in total takes takes between 5-7 hours depending on which vehicle (private car or inter-city buses) you use until Tekirdağ port and and the traffic in Istanbul. The ferries from Tekirdağ run 365 days a year and carry all kind of motor vehicles. Tekirdağ is another province 150 km’s west of Istanbul and Barbaros is a small town 12 kms ahead of Tekirdağ. Departure hours may change so it is recommended to ask on the phone with the help of a Turkish speaking person. “Istanbul Seyahat ” is the only bus company carrying passangers for the ferries to Marmara and Avşa Islands. Departures are from Istanbul Esenler Otogari / Esenler Bus Terminal (on the European side). And do not forget to ask to the assistant driver to leave you near the correct pier.
As for the tickets, you can buy it only inside of the ferry. For this reason, it is recommended to arrive to Tekirdağ at least half an hour earlier if you go by car, especially during pick periods like national holidays.
The journey takes around 2,5 hours from Tekirdağs and 2 hours from Barbaros Port.
- Seyhan 4: office 0266 895 80 29, captain 0532 526 4073, captain 0533 354 05 08
- Yavuz Naz Gemisi: 0532 556 51 07
- Omer Kaptan; office 0266 896 13 82, captain 0535 764 95 34, captain 0544 327 76 74
- Ferry Shedules
3- GESTAŞ Ferries From Erdek Town; if you intend to arrive to the island from the south of Marmara Sea, this is the only and best option. The ferry is big, secure and carries any kind of vehicles. The journey takes 1,5-2 hours depending the route. Sometimes, during the summer weekends and holidays it would be difficult to have a space for your car so it is recommended to arrive earlier. Click HERE for ticket prices, schedules etc. Ticket reservation is not available.
In some cases, GESTAŞ would also be preffered by people living in Istanbul but the whole journey will take around 6-8 hours in total and will be more tiring comparing to sea-bus option. To follow this way, you should take the ferry from Yenikapi to Bandirma, and then continue to Erdek by taking a minibus, then walk 10 minutes to the pier.
Where To Stay In Marmara Island
Marmara Island is not a popular tourist destination. It is preferred by some local people seeking for tranquility. So you will not find luxurious hotels and resorts here. But still there are enough hotels offering modest, clean and economic accomodation alternatives. Most of the hotels are in and around the central town (Marmara) and a few around Cinarli and Gundoğdu villages. Some of the hotels recommended to stay are; Mola Hotel, Çınar Hotel, Sunlight 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 center. There are quite often departures between the center and Cinarli village while less departures for the other villages (generally one or twice a day). There are some taxis available in the center and villages as well while there is no any rent a car facility.
What To Expect When In Marmara Island
- Marmara is a large (117 Km2), mountanious, green and quiet island which generally preferred by local tourists seeking tranquility and piece. You will see very few foreign tourist but the local people are friendly for all visitors.
- Marmara Island offers a budget holiday option with modest facilities, clean waters, various landscapes from rocky mountains to ever green slopes, olive orchards, beaches and secluded bays.
- The sea water is considered to be one of the cleanest around Marmara Sea.
- In the island there are a few bars; three beach bars at the Aba Beach near to the center, a beach bar at Manastır Beach and a small but a cosy one in the Maşatlik Beach in Gundogdu Village. There is also a popular place to dance (Prokonnesos Disco) in the center of the Island.
- There are a enough restaurants serving Turkish food and 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” is the central town of the island. The permanent population is around 2.200 while this number rise up to 5.000 during the summer season. It’s also the administrative center for two more nearby islands (Avşa and Ekinlik) therefore the town attracts other islanders for some facilities like health care, public offices etc.
Most of the local people in Marmara center are the Turkish people migrated from Crete, as a result of “population exchange” between Turkey and Greece during 1920’s. People make their living from fishing, tourism and olive cultivation. Life is very easy in Marmara, nothing is complicated and not much to do. Swimming, sunbathing, sipping tea or sage tea on a sea side cafe, sipping your raki with dinner and to chat with friends…But if you look for somethings different you may go for hiking, biking (you can rent a bike), and listening live music some nights in some bars. 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.
What to eat in “Marmara” center; ice cream (especially the mulberry / karadut), un helvasi (helvah made of flour), sage tea, koruk suyu (a refreshing drink made of unripe grapes), midye dolma (stuffed mussle), peynirli patlican (fried eggplant with cheese), tuzlu balık (salted sardines) and so on.
Gundoğdu Village is a pituresque mid size village and 4 km’s away from the center. If you like hiking you can get there within 45 minutes (many slopes but also beautiful landscapes). This is the greenest village, surrounded with olive trees and secluded bays (unfortunately some of them are polluted with plastics coming from the sea). But the beaches in the village are clean. Most of the people visiting this village are the local people who had been moved to Istanbul. The village is beautiful, people are open minded and friendly. They like to socialize at the sea-side cafes, play backgammon while sipping sage tea. The village has also some facilities like a playground for children, soccer, basketball and beach volley fields, two groceries, a bakery, a small beach bar playing nice musics and a few places to eat. The village has some local specialities like “kasik helvasi” (a traditional sweet halvah and difficult to find elsewhere) and “bazlamaç, a kind of yummy pita bread coocked on fire. If you need a refreshing drink you may also taste “koruk”.
Çınarlı Village is 7 kms away from the center and is the most touristic village after “Marmara”. Originally the people of the village are from the east part of Black Sea region. Çinarli has a few hotels and some guest-houses (some guesthouses / pensions might be under standards). “Dostlar Pansiyon” is a good option to stay on the seaside. Çinarli is famous with the very old and huge plane trees and the sandy beach stretching along the village. Most of the cafes, restaurants and hotels are at the sea side and almost at the beach. The village has a small but interesting private museum dedicated to the heritage and history of the island.
Topağaç Village is 12 kms away from the center and surroundings are the agricultural and stock-raising region of the island. The village has the largest flat area in the island, enabling to grow many kinds of fruits and vegetables. Since the soil is very fertile here all the products are really delicious and favorite of the islanders. The nature around the village is evergreen, beautiful and untouched. The name of the village is after the ball shaped pine trees around the village (Topağaç is meaning “rounded tree”). You may also see cattles around while in the other villages, not. Topağac is a bit conservative village and you don’t see the local men and women socializing together. But of course people are always friendly to everybody. Topagaç has a long and wide sandy beach but well cared and generally quite windy. In Topagac there is no any touristic accomodation and restaurant (apart from a small “pide restaurant”) as far as we know.
Saraylar Village is located on the northeast of the island and the second biggest and uttermost (25 kms, 30-40 minutes drive) settlement from the center. It has a cosmopolitan population (around 2000 people), most pf them relocated from different parts of Turkey (including many Syrian refugees as well) to work in the marble mines. “Marmara” means “marble” in Greek and the name is after one of the oldest marble mines of the world. These mines have been extracted since ancient times and still is the largest marble mine area of Turkey. Despite of having two beautiful beaches (one is called Marble Beach and you step on the marbles inside of the water) an unsatisfying open-air archeology museum Saraylar is not a good place to spend holiday. The most interesting and inviting reason is to visit this village is to see the modern marble sculptures dotted along the seaside (carved by international artists during the annual International Sculpturing Festival in Saraylar). There are a few cafes, small hotels for the businessman and an infirmary in the village.
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 east 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 (710 meters). Actually, the road is not firm and 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 left from 50’s. Here you will also see stunning views of the Marmara Sea and the other islands around. At the hill or on the way sides you may also see wild thyemes and you may pick some this unique scented thyemes for your personal use. At the same time you may see some wild horses (jades) around. They are some of the rare families left in Turkey.
Manastır Beach; 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.