There are a total of seven islands and only four are actually inhabited and although they are not free of motor vehicles there is little traffic and are pleasantly quiet. Up until the First World War all the islands had a substantial Greek population that are since long gone and there is not much to show that they were ever there.
Marmara IslandThis is the largest of the islands and was originally known as Procennesus by Greek descendants of Miletian who settled here. Marmara takes its name from the marble quarries on the north side of the island that supplied
Avsa Adasi or IslandThis is the second largest of the islands and has unfortunately been completely over-developed with a hotchpotch of summer houses, beach restaurants and cheap souvenir shops. The beaches are sandy and fairly narrow and during the summer school break become packed like sardines. The only reminder of the days it was populated by Greeks, who called the island Ophioussa, are the ruins of the Church of Hagia Triada.
Paşalimanı Adasi or IslandOnce known as “the Pasha’s Harbour” this is the third largest of the islands and is a 10 kilometre stretch of rock dotted with plane trees. In its tiny main town of Balıklı you can rent one of the few private rooms that are available.
Ekinlik Adasi or IslandThe smallest of the islands is also known as Kaşık ( Spoon ) Island because of its shape, it is inhabited, has a pretty village and a ruined church, and also a charming Tea garden but there are no beaches.
Imralı Adasi or IslandThis island is far out to the east and houses a high-security prison which currently detains Abdullah Öcalan the leader of the PKK terrorist group, and is also infamous as the place where Prime Minister Adnan Menderes and his associates were hanged. There were once three Greek villages on the island who residents relied on income from fishing, viticulture and silk production and who left after the 1923 Greco-Turkish population exchange. The prison opened in 1935 and for obvious reasons the island is closed to the public.
Hotels, Restaurants and Shops in Marmara IslandsWhilst on Marmara Island buy some delicious sardines that are preserved in olive oil and stock up on the wonderful local dried herbs. The best fish restaurants are on Marmara and you will find many stalls selling meatballs (köfte), white beans (piyaz), stuffed mussels (midye dolması) and a type of dessert made from helva (höşmerim). The local hotels remain fairly basic and the cheapest are on Avsa that has several budget priced bed and breakfast establishments.
To get to the Marmara IslandsFrom June to September there are high speed sea-buses (www.ido.com.tr) from Yenikapı to Marmara and Avşa and in summer less frequent ferries to Paşalimanı and Ekinlik from Erdek but not Istanbul . Ferries also run in summer from Avsa to Paşalimanı and Ekinlik. There are other ferry services to the islands that operate from Tekirdag in Thrace.
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