The Environs of Istanbul

The Princes' Islands, an archipelago of nine islands in the Sea of Marmara, were places of exile for Byzantine princes. Today, during the summer months, Istanbul's wealthy, escape to their cool sea breezes, and elegant l9th century houses. Büyükada is the largest of the islands. Here you can enjoy a ride in a horse-drawn phaeton (carriage) among the pine trees, or relax on a beach in one of the numerous coves that ring the island. The other popular islands are Kinali, Sedef, Burgaz and Heybeliada. Regular ferry boats connect the islands with both the European and Asian shores. A faster sea bus service operates from Kabatas in the summer.

On the European side of the Black Sea coast, 25 km from the outskirts of Istanbul, Kilyos's long, broad sandy beaches draw crowds of Istanbul residents in the summer months.

The Belgrad Forest, inland from the Black Sea on the European side, is the largest forest around Istanbul . On weekends, Istanbulites drive out to its shade for family picnics and barbecues. Seven ancient reservoirs and a number of natural springs refresh the air. The Ottoman aqueducts, of which the l6th Century Moglova Aqueduct built by Sinan is the most splendid, lend a majesty to the natural surroundings. Overshadowing the entrance to Kemer Golf and Country Club is the 800-meter-long Sultan Süleyman Aqueduct, also built by Sinan; it is one of the longest in Turkey. The 500-stable Equestrian Center offers trail riding.

On the Asian side, Polonezköy, 25 km from Istanbul, was founded in the l9th century by Polish immigrants. Istanbul residents come to its pastoral landscape for walks, horseback riding and to enjoy the traditional Polish food served by descendants of the original settlers. On the Black Sea, 70 km from Üsküdar, Sile's sandy beaches, fish restaurants and hotels make it one of the most delightful holiday places near Istanbul. Sile bezi, cool cotton clothing, popular with tourists, is fashioned here.

The Bayramoglu-Darica Bird's Paradise and Botanic Park, 38 km from Istanbul, is a unique rest area; many species of birds and plants from all over the world can be seen in this huge park, which also has restaurants and a promenade for pedestrians.

The charming fishing town of Eskihisar, southeast of Istanbul, boasts a marina where yachtsmen can moor their boats after a day out in the Sea of Marmara. In town, the house of Osman Hamdi Bey, Turkey's great l9th century painter, has been converted into a museum. Neighboring sites include the tomb of Hannibal between Eskihisar and Gebze, and a Byzantine castle.

Many Istanbulites have summer homes near Silivri, the popular vacation area about 65 km from Istanbul. A large holiday resort, it offers everything from casinos to sporting, health and fitness facilities, including the Klassis Country and Golf Club, to excellent dining. The conference center attracts business people who escape the city's fast pace for a working holiday. A regular sea bus service connects Istanbul to Silivri.

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