BÜYÜKADA BEACHES – IS IT SAFE TO SWIM IN ISTANBUL & WHERE

Buyukada island, which is a 30 min to 1 hour ferry ride depending on where you are departing from in the city, is one of Istanbulites’ favorite escapes, especially in the summer.

Before we get onto the immediate business on giving you the lowdown Büyükada beaches, let’s stop for a moment to address the hot topic of whether it is safe and hygienic to swim in the waters around Istanbul. This is actually quite a contested subject for residents here, and many people worry that as one of the world’s busiest sea lanes, the water might not be so good for you. Politicians assure citizens that it is safe to swim in Istanbul beaches however we take politicians with a grain of salt in Turkey.


Pollution in the Marmara Sea is no secret and the current can be quite strong in the Bosphorus. In other words, you’d have to be a strong swimmer to swim in the Bosphorus, the strait that divides Istanbul’s European and Asian sides. But the islands are located further out in the Marmara Sea, and people who live on the islands regularly swim there during the summer.

If you ask my personal opinion, I think if islanders swim here all summer without trouble, I should be fine swimming here every once in a while too. But please decide for yourselves.

It is similar to the debate on organic food vs mass production. No need to argue that organic food/ unpolluted seas are the best but how strictly we should be about avoiding mass production or swimming in Istanbul remains up for debate. I should probably let you know that I buy root vegetables & dairy from the organic shops and the rest of my groceries from the supermarket.

While that discussion remains unsettled, it is widely agreed upon that there is nowhere better to swim in Istanbul than the Büyükada beaches. After all, this is still a favorite activity of islanders themselves of all ages, with many a sun-dried resident sat soaking up the sun and the waves during the summer months.

Of course, how clear, how calm or rough the sea is – and how many jellyfish are poking around – is entirely down to your luck on the day. But this is all you have to worry about when swimming in Büyükada.

You can find the best places to enjoy the sea below, but don’t forget that, if you are in a group or have a special discount deal, it’s also fun to hire a boat to explore all the small bays and alcoves.

Note: You may find the summer months to be a little hectic on Büyükada due to the excess amounts of visitors and tourists, you might like to find out about the lesser-known treasures of the island in our article, Things to do in Büyükada.

You can view the map by zooming in.

  1. Eskibağ Beach
  2. Halik Koyu Beach
  3. Aya Nikola Beach
  4. Prenses Koyu Beach
  5. Yada Beach
  6. Naki Bey Beach
  7. Yörük Ali Beach
  8. Sedef Island

There are beaches all around the island and the island is closed to car traffic. So your best bet is to rent a bike. There are also horse carriages which we strongly discourage using them. The animals are worked till death. Literally. 400 horses die on the job every year. 🙁 Don’t be a part of this disgrace.

1. Eskibağ Beach

Source: Tuğçe Elgün / Foursquare

One of the most pristine beaches on this island is no doubt Eskibağ Beach located on the south side. It’s a little far out from the harbor, all the way along the coastal road to the further reach of the island. But the trip is worth it. You can always rent a boat from the harbor and arrive in twenty-five minutes. The beach is kitted out with umbrellas, sun loungers, and showers, as well as a restaurant. You can also arrange for wedding and engagement ceremonies on the island if that’s something to consider. Click for location. Number 1 on the map.

2. Halik Koyu Beach (Büyükada’s Cleanest)

Source: Seda Karataş / Foursquare

Halik Bay is the longest and cleanest of Büyükada beaches. Run by the Eskibağ Hotel, visitors can sit at the Eskibağ Terrace Restaurant  and climb down the steps from here right into the sea, but check out the camp and picnic area in front. Shuttle motors go back and forth to transit people from the main center. The beach is also equipped with umbrellas, sun loungers, cushions, and showers. Click for details. Number 2 on the map.

3. Aya Nikola Beach (The Calmest Büyükada Beach)

Source: YoungJi Kwon / Foursquare

The calmest of Büyükada beaches is undoubtedly Aya Nikola. Shuttle motors run from here to the center, but you can get here in an hour walking or half an hour cycling. As a free public beach, the place can get a little crowded. Umbrellas, sun loungers, cushions, and showers are all at-hand, while the Aya Nikola Boutique Hotel is ideally placed for accommodation and dining options. The hotel even has its own private area of beach. Click for location. Number 3 on the map.

4. Prenses Koyu Beach

Source: Pınar Şenses / Foursquare

Just in front of the Prenses Boutique Hotel, this Büyükada beach is equipped with a restaurant, loungers, umbrellas, showers, and more. Like other beaches, motor shuttles are available to take you to and from the center, and the trip lasts about ten minutes and the beach can be arrived at by going up Aşıklar Yolu, OR “Lovers’ Lane”. Click here for website and location. Number 4 on the map.

5. Yada Beach Club

Source: yadagastronomi.com

Unlike the other Bğyğkada beaches on our list, this coastal strip has more of a beach club vibe with live concerts playing throughout the weekend and is run by Istanbul-based sushi restaurant Yada. So if you feel like sun, sea, sounds, and sushi, you can get here from the harbor on a motor service. Click for its location. Number 5 on the map.

6. Naki Bey Beach

Source: www.facebook.com/NakibeyPlaji

Nakibey Beach is rather close to the center at a relaxing10-15 stroll. The sea here is shallow and sandy. Unlike most Büyükada beaches, however, Naklibey is strictly family-only, meaning they have certain rules, such as no all-male groups can enter. The beach has a buffet restaurant and all the usual services on display. Click here for the websiteClick for location. Number 6 on the map.

7. Yörük Ali Beach

Source: yorukali.com

Yörükali is the sandiest Büyükada beach, and is thus a favorite among families with kids. As a strictly family-only beach, similar rules to Naki Beach apply. Plus, free boats regularly shuttle beach-goers to-and-fro the harbor to the beach. Click here for the websiteClick for location. Number 7 on the map.

BONUS: Sedef Island

Although it’s not strictly Büyükada, Sedef Island best reached from its larger neighbor. The island has three of its own beaches: One is run by the beachside Elio Sedef Restaurant, another by the Club Ada Sedef, and the last is the public (albeit not free) Sedef Island Beach. If you’ve come all this way, however, it’s worth paying that little extra to use the Elio or Club Ada beaches.

The Elio and Club Ada management both offer customers boat transport from Büyükada Harbor. If you are in a big group, however, then you may as well consider sharing the cost for renting a boat or catching a “sea taxi” from nearby harbors in Istanbul or Büyükada. Click for location. Number 8 on the map.

Note: Büyükada is the largest and busiest of the islands. If you don’t find what you’re looking for on in terms of Büyükada beaches, then we definitely recommend heading out a little further to Sedef Island. Also, make sure to get your day off to a good start with a yummy, Büyükada Breakfast.