Marmara Island, Turkey

Marmara Adası

Marmara Island is an island located in the Marmara Sea, between the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea, in Turkey. With an area of 117 km², it is the second largest island in Turkey. It is a mountainous island with Mount Ilyas, reaching an elevation of 699 meters, making it the highest island in Turkey. Marmara Island is considered a district within the Balıkesir province and includes 7 villages, 2 districts, 1 central settlement, totaling a population of 11,454 including Avşa and Ekinlik Islands. Marmara Island alone consists of 5 villages, 1 central settlement, with a population of approximately 7,000. Marmara Island is renowned for its lush greenery, ancient marble quarries, olive oil, sage, thyme, and serene lifestyle. The name “Marmara” Sea originates from the ancient Greek word for marble, referring to the marble quarries on the island.

marmara island, Prokonnesos, Turkey

History of Marmara Island

Marmara Island has been inhabited for thousands of years, with Neolithic remnants discovered on its southern coast in the 20th century. Written records indicate human activities on the island dating back 3,000 years due to marble quarries. Some ancient settlement remains, although not precisely dated, suggest significant inhabitation during the Bronze Age. In documented history, Greek colonists settled in the region in the 6th century BCE, and over time, the island came under Byzantine, Eastern Roman, and Ottoman rule. Known by various names in ancient times such as Prokonnesos and Elafonnesos, the island became part of the Ottoman Empire with the capture of Istanbul. Until the population exchange between Greece and Turkey, the majority of the island’s population spoke Greek, alongside Jewish and Muslim communities. Today, most of the Greek population established the town of Neos Marmaras in Greece, while the Jewish population resettled in Istanbul, Israel, and the United States. Turkish migrants, along with Greek refugees from the Balkans, populated the vacant villages on the island.

Are there any organized tours to Marmara Island?

Marmara Island is not a destination where travel agencies organize organized tours. In fact, the island has never been a focal point for mass tourism and is not suitable for it.

Marmara Island is generally preferred by domestic tourists seeking a peaceful and modest holiday. Foreign visitors looking for a destination that is not crowded with foreign visitors may consider Marmara Island.

Transportation to / from Marmara Island

Marmara Island does not have an airport, and access is primarily by sea. Ferries and motorboats operate from Istanbul, Tekirdağ, Barbaros, Erdek, and Narlı.

  • From Istanbul: IDO (Istanbul Sea Buses) operates ferries from Bostancı, Yenikapı, and Avcılar from April to November. Services are more frequent during the summer months, with up to 4-5 trips per day. The journey takes approximately 3 hours from Bostancı. Vehicles are not transported on IDO ferries.
  • From Tekirdağ and Barbaros: Regular ferry services operate year-round from these two ports, with a journey time of 2.5 hours from Tekirdağ and 2 hours from Barbaros. Vehicles can be transported.
  • From Erdek and Narlı: Ferry services are available year-round, with a journey time of approximately 2 hours from Erdek and 1 hour from Narlı. Vehicles can be transported.

Settlements and Villages on Marmara Island

Marmara: The central settlement of the island, Marmara, has a population of approximately 2,200 residents. Despite the population increase during the summer months, it maintains its tranquility. Marmara boasts a hospital, two pharmacies, a post office, a public library, a vocational training center, two beaches (one sandy and one rocky), supermarkets (MIGROS, BİM, ŞOK, A101), a museum, Ziraat Bank, İş Bank ATMs, a discotheque, four taverns, various dining establishments, tea gardens, and tourist accommodation units. The local population consists of immigrants from Crete and indigenous Turks.

Çınarlı: This village, with a population of around 500 in the winter months, is another significant tourist attraction on the island. Çınarlı is known for its centuries-old plane trees and its sandy beach stretching along the village. The village offers various dining options and accommodation units. It is located 7 km from the central settlement and can be reached by minibusses. The majority of the local population originates from Trabzon and Rize.

Gündoğdu: Located 4 km from the central settlement, Gündoğdu is a non-touristic village known for its natural beauty. With a winter population of 150, the village features a serene environment with preserved historic houses, historic fountains, olive groves on the slopes, three tea gardens, a beach, a cafe-bar, an illuminated football field, beach volleyball courts, a market, and a tourist accommodation facility. Most of the local population is from Kastamonu’s Abana district.

villages of Marmara Island; Gundogdu

Saraylar: As the second-largest settlement on the island, Saraylar is known for its marble quarries. With a population of over 3,000, mostly consisting of refugee mine workers, Saraylar is the largest settlement on the island. Despite the industrial atmosphere, Saraylar boasts one of the rare Blue Flag beaches in the Marmara Sea; Abroz Beach. The beachfront of Saraylar is adorned with various artistic sculptures due to the International Sculpture Symposium held annually. Saraylar is one of the oldest settlements on the island, with its name derived from the construction of summer palaces by Byzantine Emperor Justinian and wealthy families in the 8th century. Saraylar also features an open-air museum and a necropolis area. The local population mostly originates from Kastamonu and Sinop.

Topağaç: With a winter population of 600, Topağaç Village is the only village located on the flat and fertile plain of the island. Agriculture, farming, and animal husbandry are practiced in this village. Topağaç produces various vegetables and fruits. Despite having a large sandy beach, Topağaç does not have tourist accommodation facilities. The local population consists of Balkan migrants, and the village is named after the pine trees shaped like cones growing on its slopes.

Asmalı: Asmalı is the smallest village on the island in terms of population and settlement area. Historically inhabited by Albanian-speaking Greeks, it is now inhabited by Turkish migrants from the Black Sea region. Located away from the central settlement, Asmalı is close to Saraylar. The village has a small beach and a market.


  • Aba Beach: Located in Marmara’s central area, it is a large pebble beach and sandy waters.
    Kole Beach: Also located in Marmara’s central area, it has sandy shores and waters.
  • Çınarlı Beach: A long sandy beach in Çınarlı.
  • Manastır Beach: Located in Manastır Cove on the road to Çınarlı, it has sandy shores and waters.
  • Şifalı Su Beach: Near Marmara’s central area, accessed by steep stairs, with sandy shores and waters.
  • Abroz and Kadınlar (Ladies) Beach: Located in Saraylar, with sandy shores and waters.

Activities, Dining, Shopping, and Sightseeing on Marmara Island

Marmara Island offers various activities due to its relatively large size.

  • Hiking: There are numerous hiking trails of varying difficulty and length on the island. The longest trail stretches from Marmara’s central area to Saraylar, taking approximately 2 days to complete. Additionally, there are pleasant hiking routes among the olive groves. Those seeking a challenge can attempt to reach the NATO Summit (Mount Ilyas).

nature of Marmara Island and routes for trekking tours

  • Mountain Biking: The island offers diverse and suitable mountain biking routes, with past mountain biking tournaments held on Marmara Island.
  • Fishing: Fishing is a popular activity on the island, with opportunities for shore fishing and boat fishing.
  • Sightseeing: Marmara’s central area houses the island museum, providing valuable information and artifacts about the island’s history and archaeology. The Open-Air Archaeology Museum in Saraylar exhibits numerous marble artifacts, including columns, capitals, friezes, steles, and sarcophagi from antiquity. The traditional old houses and fountains in Marmara’s central area and Gündoğdu village are worth exploring. The spring water in Şifalı Su Cove is said to be beneficial for eye and skin ailments.
  • Cuisine and Shopping: Marmara Island offers a variety of fresh seafood, with specialties such as stuffed mussels and mussel stew. Don’t forget to order eggplant with cheese, a local delicacy, at a rakı table. Koruk juice, the island’s traditional beverage, is served in tea gardens during the summer. If you come across Eray salted fish, be sure to buy it. Topağaç Village’s fresh beans are renowned, and the meat doner served in the central area is a must-try. Kaşık helvası (a local sweet) and bazlamaç, made and sold by some women in Gündoğdu Village, are rare treats. The island’s ice cream, especially black mulberry ice cream, is famous. Additionally, the island’s olive oil is highly aromatic and worth purchasing. Finally, thyme and sage from the island are distinctive flavors not to be missed.
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