Heybeliada is the second largest island (583 acres) in the Prince Islands, a small group of islands in the Sea of Marmara right off the coast of Istanbul.
Heybeli means “saddlebag” and when looking at the island from a distance, it’s easy to see it is named for the “saddle” or low place between its hills.
John and I visited the largest island in the archipelago, Büyükada, last year. We like Heybeliada better because it has many of the features of its larger neighbor — including a park to stroll in, late 19th-century villas, horse-drawn carriages, a waterfront promenade, no cars — but fewer tourists.
Heybeliada is home to theTurkish Naval Academy (to the left of the ferry dock) and (to the right) the Aya Triyada (Holy Trinity) Monastery.
We opted for a right turn which led us through a park and, eventually, up an ancient road to the monastery.
The monastery, first referenced in 9th Century church writings, has a colorful history which you can read about here. Suffice it to say that over the centuries, Aya Triyada has been a monastery, a convent, an orphanage, a girls’ school and, most recently, a theological college training priests for the Greek Orthodox ministry.
The government shut the monastery down in 1971 and the church has been trying since then to have it reopened. No luck thus far, but they are definitely maintaining the building and grounds!
I really love the Ottoman-period, wooden villas that proliferate the island. Most were built in the late 19th or early 20th Centuries in the waning decades of the Ottoman Empire.
Some are badly weathered, but remain standing as testament to a bygone era.