When looking for a tropical vacation not far from Eastern Europe, you might be thinking about the charming islands of Turkey.
There are many beautiful islands in Turkey that have pristine sand covered beaches, Ottoman Greek Heritage, and gorgeous protected natural reserves.
Whether you’re looking to soak up some sun or you’re looking for a peaceful getaway, there are many islands off Turkey’s coast that offer all this and more.
But if you’re not sure which islands to visit or how to get to them, then this guide will tell you everything you need to know about the best Turkish islands.
The Best Turkish Islands to Visit in 2023
Whether you seek a peaceful, tranquil Turkish island to retreat to with some of the Mediterranean Coast’s best beaches, or somewhere with historical attractions, or even just a hidden gem to discover, you’ll find all this and more down below.
1. Bozcaada Island
Our first island on the list finds us landing on the country’s third largest island, Bozcaada Island. Located in the incredible blue of the Aegean Sea on the country’s west side, this island is certainly one of Turkey’s most picturesque.
With gorgeous cobblestoned streets, old Greek buildings, historic ruins, and a relaxed ‘island life’ atmosphere, those that make the short 30-minute ferry from Geyikli Port to Bozcaada Island are almost guaranteed not to want to leave.
Bozcaada Castle, built by the Ottomans in the 15th century, is the island’s most popular attraction but another top activity is roaming through the vineyards on a wine-tasting tour, and who can forget the stunning beaches on the island?
Ayazma Beach and Habbele Beach are both perfect for catching a tan and then cooling off in crystal-clear waters.
How to get there: To get to Bozcaada Island, one must first travel to Geyikli, a coastal town in the Çanakkale province of Turkey. From there, you can take a ferry to the island, which departs regularly throughout the day.
The ferry ride takes approximately 35 minutes and offers stunning views of the surrounding sea and coastline. There are more frequent ferry crossings in the summer.
2. Princes’ Islands
Moving on to the next island, it’s not just one singular island but a collection of 9, all separate from each other. The Princes’ Islands are just a quick (and cheap!) ferry over from Istanbul and offer a calming escape from the city’s vibrant energy.
Although there are nine island in total, only four of the Princes Islands are open to the public (though arguably they are the most beautiful islands), with those being Buyukada Island, the biggest and the most popular, followed by Burgazada, Heybeliada, and Kiniliada.
Intriguingly, all four of the public-open Princes Islands have banned vehicles meaning the only mode of transport is either a bicycle or a traditional horse and cart or by exploring on foot.
This makes it easy for something to do, though, because you can be pedaling down the quiet streets, take in the scenes of the wooden villas, and gallop along the coastline.
For something very unique to do, why not visit the Prinkipo Greek Orthodox Orphanage, which is the second-largest wooden building in the world?
How to get there: Take a ferry from Istanbul’s Kabatas or Kadikoy docks. Ferry services run regularly throughout the day and the journey takes approximately one hour to the largest island, Buyukada. You can use your contactless payment card directly, or buy tickets from the pier.
3. Cunda Island (Alibey)
Connected to the Turkish mainland by a causeway, Cunda Island (or, Alibey Island as it’s also known) is a beautiful little island steeped in Greek Orthodox history that’s vibe just screams the best of the Mediterranean Coast.
Previously a Greek Island, narrow cobbled streets with stunning stone houses and colorful shutters make for a very charming island indeed. Couple this with a range of boutique shops and quaint little restaurants to eat al-fresco and sip on cold drinks gazing out to sea, and you’ve got yourself one of the region’s ultimate hidden gems.
Built in 1873 by the island’s Greek Orthodox occupants, Taxiarches Church is a gorgeous building to visit on a magnificent island that had been left in ruin for many years. Following an extensive restoration project by the Rahmi M. Koc Museum of Istanbul, Taxiarches is now Cunda Island’s most popular attraction.
How to get there: To get to Cunda Island, visitors first need to travel to the town of Ayvalik on the mainland. From there, you can take a ferry or a motorboat to the island.
Ferries depart frequently from the Ayvalik harbor and the journey takes approximately 15-20 minutes. Alternatively, visitors can also take a motorboat, which offers a faster and more direct route to the island but may be slightly more expensive.
4. Gemiler Island
Gemiler Island, or St. Nicholas (aka Santa Claus) Island as it is also known, is a small uninhabited island just off the coast of mainland Turkey nearby to the popular coastal beach town of Fethiye, which is famous for its beaches.
Whilst there’s not a great deal to do on this little island, it’s steeped in history with plenty of historical ruins for you to see from the Roman and Byzantine periods. You’ll be able to see several churches in various states of decay, as well as a graveyard and cistern for storing water.
Gemiler, or St. Nicholas Island gets its rather unusual name because archaeologists believe this is where the Christian Bishop and inspiration for Santa Clause, Saint Nicholas of Myra were originally entombed.
Gemiler can be accessed pretty much all year round, with several options via boat to get there.
If you head to Gemiler Beach you’ll be able to get a local fisherman or boat owner to shuttle you across the short distance for a handful of Lira, or you can join a more organized boat trip that visits different stunning islands in the area that can be booked in Fethiye or Oludeniz.
How to get there: To get to Gemiler Island, you must first travel to either the towns of Oludeniz or Fethiye on the mainland.
From there, you can take a boat tour or a water taxi to the island. Boat tours typically depart from Oludeniz and Fethiye harbors and offer a scenic journey along the Turquoise Coast, with stops at various coves and beaches along the way. Water taxis are also available, which offer a faster and more direct route to the island but may be slightly more expensive.
5. Sedir Island (Cleopatra Island)
Another one of the most beautiful Turkish islands to visit is Sedir Island, also known as Cleopatra Island, which is located within the Gulf of Gokova and just a short 30-minute drive from the buzzing seaside resort town of Marmaris.
The island’s coast is said to be shrouded in mystery and urban legend, with Queen Cleopatra and her consort Mark Antony said to have swum in the crystal-clear waters of the island. Another legend, the little island’s golden-sand covered beach, is one of the highlights and particularly unusual in this area of the Mediterranean Sea.
Turkish folklore believes that Cleopatra brought the golden sands of Egypt with her, creating the soft golden stretch of beach you see today. Because of these supposed famous visitors, Sedir Island is also known as Cleopatra Island and is a major tourist attraction in the region.
Today you can see ancient ruins surrounded by olive trees and lush vegetation. It’s a stunning escape from the party crowds of Marmaris.
Tours can be booked from plenty of agents in Marmaris and even online. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, why not venture over to Sedir Island on your own? It’s an easy enough drive, and once you reach the pier, you’ll be able to get a boat over to the island.
How to get there: To get to Sedir Island, you must first travel to the town of Marmaris on the mainland. From there, you can take a boat tour or a water taxi to the island.
Boat tours typically depart from Marmaris Harbor and have various stops at coves and beaches along the way. Water taxis are also available, which offer a faster and more direct route to the island but may be slightly more expensive.
6. Gökçeada (Imbros) Island
Six islands into our list, and we’ve finally reached the largest of them all – Gökçeada. Peaking out of the blue Aegean Sea right at the entrance of Saros Bay, Gokceada Island is the westernmost point of the entire country, extending right out underneath Greece.
Unsurprisingly, Gökçeada was inhabited by the Greeks first, since the Iron Age, but many were forced to flee back to mainland Greece due to political unrest and supposed ethnic cleansing by the Turkish Democrat Party in the 1960s.
One of the best things to do on the calming island is to visit the multitude of tiny Greek hamlets and villages that are still standing. The stone houses, together with the natural beauty of the rugged island itself, make for a photographer’s paradise.
The island is also famous for several idyllic camping spots, perfect for pitching up a tent and relaxing with arguably one of the best camping views anywhere in the world.
Due to its remote location, you can only access the island by taking a short ferry ride from the port of Canakkale Kabatepe. Even though it’s a popular tourist destination and a very busy island, the ferries can be quite random as to when they leave.
If you are making the trip over, you should double-check what times the ferry runs to avoid disappointment.
How to get there: To get to Gökçeada Island, you must first get to the town of Kabatepe on the mainland.
From there, take a ferry or a motorboat to the island. Ferries depart from Kabatepe multiple times a day, and the journey takes approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. Alternatively, there is a motorboat, which offers a faster and more direct route to the island but may be slightly more expensive.
7. Kekova Island
Kekova Island is a small island, uninhabited island just off the coast of the southern mainland. It is only accessible by boat and is one of the more popular islands to visit in the area.
It is so popular because of the incredible sunken city that can be found in the clear blue seas just off the shoreline of the beautiful island itself.
Once a busy village of the Lycians, the buildings were sunken into the water as a result of tectonic movements, which eventually formed the Taurus Mountains that you’ll see on the mainland.
The city was actually partially rebuilt; however, as a result of Arab invasions, it was left to crumble into the ancient ruins you see today. It’s quite remarkable as you can see the historic ruins of buildings, stairways, and even remnants of what were once stone houses.
How to get there: To get to Kekova Island, visitors must first travel to either the town of Kas or the nearby town of Demre on the mainland, or the nearby harbor village of Ucagiz village.
From there, take a boat tour or a water taxi to the island. Boat tours depart from the harbors of Kas and Demre and visit other beautiful destinations and beaches on the way. Water taxis are faster and more direct but may be slightly more expensive.
8. Marmara Island
Last but certainly not least is Turkey’s second-largest island – Marmara Island.
Previously a Greek Island, if you’re visiting Istanbul and find yourself with a few days to spare and fancying a holiday within a holiday, why not get a ferry over from Istanbul?
It’s only a 3-hour ride, depending on whether you get the fast boat or not, and you’ll have 72 miles of gorgeously rugged and mountainous Mediterranean terrain to explore, with plenty of hiking routes, olive groves, waterfalls, and picture-perfect beaches to use up your time on.
Marble is a famous export from the island, so much so that one of the better sandy beaches on the island is actually called Marble Beach.
Like the majority of intriguing destinations around this part of the world, Marmara Island is steeped in history, with ancient Greek mythology claiming that Jason and the Argonauts visited the island before the atrocities of the Trojan War.
Today, the narrow sun-bleached streets are lined with traditional wooden houses, local shops, and small and large restaurants that befit an island like Marmara.
How to get there: You can take a ferry from Istanbul to Marmara Island. Ferries depart from Istanbul’s Yenikapi and Pendik harbors multiple times a day, and the journey takes approximately 1.5-2 hours.
9. Güvercinada Island (Pigeon Island)
Güvercinada Island, also known as Pigeon Island or Bird Island, is a small but incredibly beautiful island connected to Kusadası in Western Turkey and is connected to the mainland by a narrow, man-made causeway.
The island is famous for being home to a stunning array of bird species, which makes it a popular destination for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.
It’s also home to a historic castle named Kusadasi Castle, which was built between 1478-1546 century by the Ottoman Empire. There is a castle was built to prevent an attack from the islands during the Greek Orlov Revolt, and its defensive architecture is best noted from the 3-meter wall that surrounds the entire island.
Because it’s only 1 hour 20 minutes drive from Izmir, taking a day trip here is one of the most popular things to do in Izmir.
How to get there: To get to Güvercinada Island, visitors must first travel to either the town of Cesme or the nearby city of Izmir on the mainland. From there, you can take a bus to Kusadasi, and then you can either walk along the causeway or take a taxi.
10. Akdamar Island
Akdamar Island, situated in the turquoise waters of Lake Van in eastern Turkey, is a hidden gem that is well worth a visit.
It’s known for once being home to an Armenian population and has a gorgeous 10th-century cathedral of the Holy Cross, which is decorated with intricate carvings and frescoes that have been painstakingly restored.
The cathedral is one of the most important examples of Armenian architecture in Turkey and has been recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Surrounding the island are blooming almond trees, craggy mountains which often see snow in the winter, and 0.7 km² of unspoiled natural beauty.
In addition to the cathedral, you can also explore the ruins of a medieval Armenian palace, which offer a glimpse into the island’s rich history.
Akdamar Islands is a unique and fascinating destination that offers a perfect blend of history, culture, and natural beauty.
How to get there: To get to Akdamar Island, first travel to the town of Tatvan in Bitlis province. From there, you can take a ferry to the island. Ferries depart from Tatvan harbor multiple times a day during the summer season, and the journey takes approximately 3 hours.
The Best Islands in Turkey Map
Related Reading: Boat Tours from Antalya
FAQs About These Islands in Turkey
How many islands does Turkey have?
Turkey is estimated to have around 500 islands within its borders. They can be found in the Aegean Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea, Sea of Marmara, and in the center of the Turkish lakes.
How many islands are in the Aegean Sea?
There are two Aegean Sea islands in Turkey’s borders, but there are a few Greek islands in the Aegean Ocean – in fact, it’s estimated there are between 2,000-6,000 Greek Islands in the Aegean Sea.
Which Turkish island is close to Greece?
The closest Turkish island close to Greece is probably Kargı Adası, a tiny island off the coast of Bodrum which is less than 20km from the Greek island of Kos.
With warm, clear waters, beautiful beaches, and stunning landscapes, these islands in Turkey are the perfect destination for those seeking relaxation and adventure alike.
Before you go, if you are looking for party islands with a vibe like Ibiza, then you may want to visit Bodrum and take part in one of their party cruises. The islands on this list are famed for their relaxing energy, historical importance and stunning scenery, so you’ll find a slower pace of life at these destinations.
Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or a quick day trip idea, or just somewhere to escape from the busy city life for a few days, there is an island in Turkey for every type of traveler.