What to do in Buyukada, Turkey

Buyukada, or Big Island, is one of four islands you can visit from Istanbul, Turkey. Guess what? It’s the biggest one too. The whole island is essentially a huge national park where you can get around via walking or one of the electric buses used for public transport.

I was in desperate need to get away from the four walls of my office and home. We had just finished a 3-week lockdown here in Turkey and I needed to run away and refresh myself with different scenery.

This island is almost like going back in time. There are no cars, except electric scooters and the public bus, the homes are in the old-style and hidden behind old growth foliage and trees. Everywhere you look is green, open spaces to have a picnic, people drinking tea, and you can admire the picturesque coast view of the wide open sea, and Istanbul.

It was baffling to arrive and think that only 20 minutes by ferry there sits a city of 18 million people. But there you are, far away, in an oasis.

Things to do:

Walk around. Walk some more. Then, continue walking.

Visit the Monastery on top of the island for the best views.

Beautiful views from the top.
Here’s me in my natural habit : )

After a long walk up an extremely steep hill, you will find yourself overlooking the sea. Make sure to take some water and a fully charged camera to soak in the views.

The super steep hill in full sun you must walk up. So thankful we didn’t have to push a bike up like these girls.

Visit an abandoned orphanage from the 13th century.

One of the buildings on site. It appeared to be the main building.

This place was one of the creepiest sights I have ever seen in all my travels. The whole structure was fenced off with barbed wire above to keep people out. Looking through the fence filled me with dread. I couldn’t prevent myself from thinking “what did they do with so many children on this island?”.

View of the fence so you can get the full effect. Very creepy ehh?

Even worse, there were ground keepers who lived inside the compound and they had children who lived with them. Can you imagine being a child and growing up in such an environment? I wonder how many ghosts they’ve seen.

With that said, the forest surrounding the creepy orphanage is very mature with lots of shade and grassy areas for a wonderful picnic. Be sure to take your kids with you so can remind them that you are the most wonderful parents.

Beautiful place to have a picnic and remind your children that you are a wonderful parent.

Go to the port city for some icecream and a nice dinner.

We didn’t spend so much time in the city located at the port. At this time in Turkey, people cannot sit inside restaurants and so many stores where closed. However, if you are seriously interested in coming after June 1st, everything will be open again.

After then, you can take full advantage of the seaside restaurants, icecream parlors, and tea shops.

We spent most of our time walking around, enjoying the scenery, and trying to get in 10,000 steps. We did handily. It was the most I have walked in a day in a very long time. It was much needed and welcomed.

Another dilapidated building found near the orphanage

Things to bring:

Picnic stuff and comfortable walking shoes

We wished we had been more prepared. I would highly recommend that people coming here bring a good pair of walking shoes. We did not.

A picnic set would also be very useful so you can find a spot anywhere you like, have a seat, and watch the sunset. Of course, there are plenty of parks with tables and benches, but it is always nice to stray away for some private time.

Other than that, it was a blissful couple of days. We couldn’t stay for any longer because we had no one to check on the cat. In all honesty, I think that more than 2 or 3 days would be excessive since it is a small island with limited things to do.

Definitely take the time to check out Buyukada and see a different side of Istanbul if you are in the city.

A wonderful smelling tree!

More thoughts on life at the moment:

That last months have been grueling. I feel spent and jaded by work and life. It was wonderful to get out for a couple days and reset myself, but it was not long enough. I am staring down the month of June, thinking of all the work I need to accomplish before I can let myself relax for an extended time.

However, July will be a great month for myself and I will get some real travel done! I will be visiting my mother in Kiev and it will be the first time I have seen her in almost a whole year. Of course, that plan is contingent upon Turkish Immigration returning my passport with my temporary residency permit inside.

Here is an expert travel tip: Do. Not. Apply. For. A. Turkish. Residency. Permit. EVER. They will keep your passport for 6 + months.

Then, my father is coming to visit me here in Turkey for more than a week. We will be, hopefully, galivanting around town and country. THEN, I hope to finally get myself back in China by the end of month of July.

These are my plans, hopes and aspirations. I sincerely wish they work out and are not in vain. The world seems to have no respect for plans this last year or so, but I am determined.

I hope you all are doing well, surviving, and even thriving! I hope whatever plans you have for the short-term future get you excited and giddy and that they all work out for you.

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