Bozcaada is a magical island in the northern Aegean Sea known for its natural beauty and its wine. The island, still commonly known by its Greek name, Tenedos (Τένεδος), was off limits to foreign tourists until the 1990s. Thankfully things have changed and tourism has flourished since then – it was named the 2nd most beautiful island in the world by Condé Nast in 2010. The island has a lot to offer, from beaches to diving to vineyards to cycling.
The island isn’t really a sightseeing destination. It’s a beautiful place to unwind and relax. The second you set foot on the island, you’re immediately relieved of all stress. While the rest of the island is somewhat unspoiled and virtually deserted, Bozcaada Town, the only settlement, is full of great restaurants and boutique hotels.
Tenedos was an important trading post with a strategic position as the first major island between the Aegean and the Black Sea. It was the first place (along with Lesbos) to have coins minted in the Greek language. The island continued to be influential during Byzantine times and later under the Republic of Venice until its residents were uprooted in 1383. In that year, every structure on the island was demolished as part of the terms of a treaty between Genoa and Venice. It remained uninhabited until it was conquered by the Ottomans in 1455.
Under Ottoman rule, the island was renamed Bozcaada and repopulated by mostly Greeks and some Turks. Greece controlled the island from 1912 to 1922, but it was given to Turkey in the Lausanne Treaty in 1923. Most of the Greeks left in the late 1960s due to discrimination by the Turkish government, but their influence on the culture of the island is still strongly felt.
I visited Bozcaada during the low season in September. It was just after the high season had ended, so all of the restaurants and hotels were still open, the weather was fantastic, and the sea was warm. The best part is there was nobody visiting. I felt like I had the whole island to myself. To get there, I took a ferry from Geyikli.
Getting around the town is done on foot. To get around the rest of the island, there’s a minibus that leaves from out front of the castle and goes to a couple of beaches. Another minibus leaves around 6pm for the western tip of the island to view the sunset. It only leaves if there are enough passengers. Each ride costs just a few liras. If you’d like to explore on your own, you can rent a bike or scooter and get around easily that way.
I stayed in the Greek Quarter at Nar Adaevi, a small pension run out of a restored Greek home on one of the most scenic streets on the island. It’s one of the most comfortable and welcoming places I’ve stayed at in Turkey. I had some great chats with the owner and she made me feel at home. I paid a very reasonable 75TL per night.
I really enjoyed the breakfast served every morning. It was a typical Turkish breakfast but with a nice twist – homemade jams from Bozcaada. I occasionally had to fight off the local cats who were trying to jump up and swipe some of the food off my table, but that just seemed like part of the island atmosphere.
For much more thorough information on hotels, restaurants, activities, and festivals on Bozcaada, please visit this excellent website, Bozcaada Rehberi. It was built by the sister of a former student of mine.