The weather was a nasty one the day I decided to visit Heybeliada. Shivering in the rain with the weather of 3° celsius, wet socks, and a rough plan jotted out on a paper, I was behind on my schedule. I rushed off to the ferry terminal in Besiktas around 12.30 PM and found out that the next ferry by Sehir Hatlari would leave by 4.15 PM. Utterly disheartened and discouraged, I was completely lost. I tried my luck with one of the security guards, asking him on the ferry timetable, just in case what I was reading on the timetable schedule is wrong. :-)
He directed me to another ferry terminal just next to the one I was in. Surprisingly, I went there and I found the private ferries for the princess islands - one of which was leaving in the next 30 minutes. To my delight, I booked the ticket without a second thought. The lady charged 10 TL for a single trip. She did not accept IstanbulKart or any card. Only cash.
While I waited for 30 mins, gorging on french fries and hot chocolate from a nearby shop, I looked into this article by Istanbul Insider which explained perfectly how you should reach the princess islands. This reminded me to be more cautious before planning any remote trips in future. 😃
Now, there are a number of ferry vendors available at Besiktas. Besiktas is the primary terminal for boarding all types of ferries you need. The regular ferry (Sehir Hatlari) which accepts IstanbulKart and charges only 6 TL for a single trip, have limited ferry timings; whereas the private vendors have multiple timings available. But, they are not fixed which is still manageable, considering you have the entire day planned for the island trip.
The ferry started on time and the journey took around 90 minutes, landing me on Heybeliada island around 2.30 PM. The area around the terminal looked desolate. I was able to catch sight of the military base too, which was situated on the border of the island.
You can walk the entire island if you arrive early and explore all the beautiful places this island has to offer. If you are not too fond of walking, bicycle rentals are also available. The bicycle rental shop is run by a sweet old man who charges 15 TL for one hour. If you rent it for a longer period, he will provide a discount. For 2 hours, he only charged 25 TL and collected a deposit as my passport. The rental shop is just the opposite of Yildiz Pide Salonu.
It took a while to get used to the bicycle, setting the gear (front & back) but, it was worth a few loopy and embarrassing tries I put in.
Eat mouth-watering homemade cakes and cookies at Luz Cafe
The first stop I had to make was at Luz Cafe. Having heard some great reviews about it, I had to enlist it in my good memories section. It is a very cute, tiny cafe with outside seating available too. The insides are decorated with books and handmade accessories. I ordered filter coffee and a brownie (it was freshly made as per the beautiful lady behind the counter). My mouth is going to remember the taste of the brownie for a long time to come. It was heavenly!! Nothing overly sweet and with that chocolate syrup... Oh, my...🎂
I wish I could spend an hour or so enjoying the warmth of the cafe and the hot cup of coffee in my hand.
Cycle throughout the island through this route
Since you have the cycle to explore the entire island, follow the below path to ensure you cover everything.
#1 - Aya Yorgi Cliff Church
This is supposedly closed and desolated. It requires you to take your bicycle downhill. When I went there, the gate was locked. The view feels haunted but worth admiring for a couple of minutes.
#2 - Heybeliada Sanatorium
Due to lack of time, I couldn't visit the sanatorium but from what I have read from Google reviews, it is supposedly closed. The place has been abandoned for quite some time now, with no renovation or personnel to take care of. Since, it falls in the cycling route, it would still be worthwhile to go check the abandoned hospital from the past.
#3 - Terki Dünye Kilisesi
A greek orthodox church which is also supposedly closed yet, worth visiting for the sea view you would get. You could still take pictures from the outside and enjoy the calmness that would envelop you.
#4 - Hüseyin Rahmi Gürpınar Müze Evi
The museum is dedicated to the writer Huseyin Rahmi Gurpinar who specialized in daily life humor and spent his last years in Heybeliada. The house was neglected for almost half a century until 2000, when it was finally opened to visitors as a Museum.
P.S: The museum too might be another of the attractions which are closed, possibly for renovation.
#5 - Mill Cape Nature Park
This is a beautiful and well-maintained nature park where you can sit and enjoy the fresh air and the seashore. You can go further down the road to be more close to the sea. It was simply breathtaking!
#6 - Halki Seminary