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Princes' Islands, Istanbul

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Turkey's insider take:

Situated in the Sea of Marmara, just off Istanbul's Asian shore, the Princes' Islands were a former place of exile and home to a large number of the city's Armenian and Greek communities before the 19th century, when it dawned upon Istanbullus what a vacation treasure they had on their very doorstep. There are nine islands in all, four of which can be visited, and they make a great and relaxing day trip away from the bustle of Istanbul. Büyükada is the largest and most popular: Traditionally home to a sizable Jewish population, and onetime refuge of Leon Trotsky, the island is a peaceful showcase of gorgeous summer homes, a small monastery on a hill, and a somewhat busier town center. As on all the other islands, there are no cars, so the best way to get around is by horse and cart (agree on a price with your driver first) or by renting a bicycle. Large old colonial-style hotels like the Hotel Princess (90-216-382-1628; or the Splendid Palace Hotel (90-216-382-6950; are a great place to spend the night, and well-being enthusiasts might also be interested in the Naya retreat center for yoga classes, meditation, and massages (90-216-382-4598; The other, smaller islands, Heybeliada, Burgazada, and Kınalıada, are also worth a look; if you start early, it's theoretically possible to hop between them all in one day. Slow and fast ferries to the islands leave a few times a day from the dock in Kabataş, on the European side just north of Karaköy.

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