The smallest of the Princes’ Islands in Istanbul is Kınalıada. It also happens to be the first stop on the ferries, and one of the quieter and less visited islands. If you want to avoid crowds and are happy just to sit near the sea or take a leisurely walk, this is a good island to visit. Don’t pay attention to the ugly antennae on the island – you hardly notice them when you are there.
Upon arrival, you’ll notice right away that there’s a beach next to the ferry terminal. This makes the island a nice, quick getaway from the summer heat on the mainland. While there are beaches on the other islands, just from a quick observation, the beach on Kınalıada looks much cleaner.
You’ll even be able to find a nice place to sit and drink çay or have a meal right next to the sea.
Exploring town is much like exploring the other islands, but without the crowds. You’ll be able to see some impressive Ottoman homes and new construction.
There aren’t many more points of interest in town other than a few religious buildings. The mosque, for example, is a newer construction, built in 1964.
The island is home to some of Istanbul’s minority Armenian and Greek populations. The Armenian church, Surp Krikor Lusavorich, is a short walk uphill from the ferry.
The Nativity of the Virgin Greek Orthodox Church (Τον Γενέθλιον της Θεοτόκου) is near the Armenian church. It is usually closed, but I was able to meet the caretaker who let me inside to take a few pictures. I sat with him a few minutes to chat. He was a funny old Greek man who joked about how our connection was not that we were both Greek, but that neither of us had any hair.
Getting around the rest of the island is pretty easy. You don’t really need a bike and especially not a fayton here. If you’re up for walking, it’s very relaxing to walk along the seaside road that circles nearly the whole island. It’s also not very difficult or hilly, except for a section on the northwest side of the island.
There’s a beach on the southwest side of the island. I guess on the day I visited, they were still preparing for summer. Overall, it looked like a clean place to swim.
Climbing up to the top of the island is worth it. It’s not too steep or too difficult, but the views of the city from the top are really nice.
At the very top of the hill is the Transfiguration of Christ Greek Orthodox Monastery (Μονή Μεταμορφώσεως του Χριστού). It’s a very historic place dating back to Byzantine times, when the island was known as Proti (Πρώτη). Proti means “first” in Greek, in reference to it being the closest island to the mainland. It was originally built between 1070 and 1080 and was used as a place of exile for Byzantine emperors, the first being Romanos IV Diogenes. He was sent into exile after the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, when the Selçuk Turks defeated the Byzantine Empire. The monastery was rebuilt in 1722 by a group of wealthy merchants from Chios.