An archipelago that consists of nine islands just a few miles from Asian Istanbul in the Marmara Sea. It is less than an hour by ferry from the center of the city. The islands which are free of cars and have many beautiful wooden houses, have a resort atmosphere and offer peace and quiet in a natural environment. Walks or tours with horse-carriages through the streets of the islands, restaurants or cafes in this peaceful atmosphere are among the simple joys to be found on these islands.
During the Byzantine period, the islands were collectively a religious center with many monasteries. The name “Princes’ Islands” derives from the princes sent there in exile. Those were the ones regarded as pretenders to the throne. During the Ottoman period, the islands were a neglected backwater of little interest. Non-Moslem groups were attracted to the islands. The settlement of a steady Turkish population on the islands came about as late as the end of the 19C.

All nine islands together form a municipality, the mayor being in Buyukada, the largest of all. Buyukada and other large ones Heybeli, Burgaz, Kinali have permanent settlements. Sedef is also recently becoming subject to new settlement. Currently the number of permanent residents on the islands is about 15,000. However this number increases more than tenfold during the summer, especially after the school year ends, when summer homes are inhabited.

Buyukada was called Megalo in the Byzantine period, both names having the same meaning; big. The majority of the population there at present are Jewish. Because Kinali is closest to Istanbul it was called Proti which meant first. Kinali in Turkish means “dyed with henna”. Today, predominantly Armenians live there. Burgaz was called Panormos in the Byzantine period and is famous as the home of a Rum minority and a well known writer of short stories, Sait Faik Abasiyanik. Heybeli was called Khalkitis because of its copper mines. Heybeli is a Turkish name meaning “saddle-bag” and the shape of the island is similar to a saddle-bag. The other four islands are of minor importance with no inhabitants. Their names are Kasik, Yassi, Sivri and Hayirsiz (Tavsan).