Friday, February 7, 2014

Surrounded by Turkish grape vines, restored, whitewashed houses and Mediterranean-influenced food, these are just some of the reasons we returned to Bozcaada two years in a row.

To me, Bozcaada, an island off the western coast of Turkey, is one of those rare, magical places where you can relax without hordes of tourists. There are hidden beaches and swimming holes to explore. A short walk down an uneven cobblestone path may lead to a charming café.

Oh, and don’t forget about the wine! This 15-square-mile island is planted with field after field of grapevines – a beautiful site to see in the summer and in the fall. Last year, the New York Times referred to Bozcaada as “one of Turkey’s most promising wine destinations.” 
Autumnal-colored, empty grapevines on the island of Bozcaada, Turkey.
In July 2011, four of us traveled to Bozcaada for the first time because we had fallen in love with drinking Corvus wine here in Istanbul. (Corvus is considered the most prestigious producer on the island.) Our plan was to drink wine and sunbathe on the beach. That was it.

Last October, hubby and I returned to Bozcaada because we just couldn’t resist. The island was more subdued at that time of the year, but was perfect in our quest for a relaxing weekend. With temps between 10-15 C, we didn’t swim in the icy Aegean Sea this time.

Like Turkey, this small island has captured my heart.

Here are my Top 10 Things to Do on Bozcaada:
1. Eat ahtapot! Who knew this steak-lovin’ girl would fall in love with ahtapot (octopus) once she moved to Turkey? I like this tasty Mediterranean morsel best grilled with lots of olive oil and spices. Be sure to save your bread for some dunking. Delicious ahtapot can be had at Şişman, Lodos and Mistik restaurants.
2. Go wine tasting! Bozcaada is known for its Turkish wines, so you can sample the likes of Talay, Corvus and Çamlıbağ in the city center. There’s also a new, hip restaurant called Bakkal that offers a large wine list, locally-sourced dishes and imported Italian pork salami on the menu.
3. Rent a bike. This was my husband’s brilliant idea, just like when we traveled to Bali. I like hiking, but I am no cyclist. However, renting a bike for just 15tl is a good way to see the island (if you don’t have a car), but be prepared for hills. Lots of hills! I didn’t remember Bozcaada being so hilly, and my legs were on fire the next morning.
4. Explore the beaches. The island’s beaches are a bit more fun when the weather is warm and sunny. We pedaled out to Ayazma Plajı, but it was deserted at the end of October. During the summer, the beaches, such as Çayır Plajı and Tuzburnu Plajı, are also good places to rent a chair and take a dip in the crystalline water. We even found several practically-deserted swimming holes when we drove around the island in 2011.
Grab a beach chair on the island of Bozcaada.
Or find a swimming hole like this one.
5. Make friends with the locals at the bar. Our hotel owners recommended the Oda Bar & Café as a fun place for 30+-somethings to hang out near the harbor. On our first night, we had so much that my husband got invited to a margarita competition the second night by owner Yeşim. My husband (just barely) won the competition and proceeded to make his famous nar-garitas for other customers.
Hubby made his famous nar-garitas for Turkish customers at the bar.
6. Stroll the cobblestone streets. The island’s town center is divided into Greek and Turkish sections, referring to the groups who originally built the districts. You’ll see a mosque and Ottoman architecture on one side and an old church with a tall clock tower and white-washed houses like you find in Greece on the other side.
7. Climb on top the Bozcaada Castle. In 1455, Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror rebuilt the castle on ruins that had been used by the Genovese and Venetians. In the following years, the castle, considered the best preserved castle in Turkey, was restored several times due to wars.
A nice view of the Aegean Sea from on top the castle.
A nighttime view of Bozcaada Castle.
8. Shop at the local artisan’s market. Near the harbor, you will find locals selling spices, jewelry, thyme-scented honey and unique jams made from rose petals and tomatoes. Try the tomato jam while you have your Turkish breakfast on the island.
9. Drink wine by the harbor. BYOB. Head down to the opposite side of the harbor from the castle with a bottle of wine in tow. Sit on the rocks and swirl your newly purchased bottle of Turkish wine.

 10. Watch the sunset. A popular activity to do is pack a bag full of wine and snacks and head out to the Polente Feneri (Lighthouse) on the western side of the island. You’ll notice the giant electricity windmills as you approach. Grab a spot by the rocky ledge, spread out your towel and watch one of the best sunsets you’ve ever seen in Turkey.
11. Fly via a seaplane. I couldn’t resist throwing in an extra reason to visit Bozcaada. As mentioned on recent posts, my husband and I flew the new Seabird Airlines from Istanbul for a long weekend in October. At 80 minutes, the seaplane is the fastest way to get here or you can take a bus/your own car and make the trip in 6+ hours. 

Update August 2015: The Seabird Airlines has stopped flying to Bozcaada, according to the Turkish news.
Once you get to Bozcaada, all you may want to do is eat some divine local food, swirl some Turkish wine and relax on the beach or in a white-washed chair.
The harbor area on Bozcaada, Turkey.
How to get there:
By car: take the fast ferry from Istanbul to Bandırma, and then drive 210 km to the port of Geyikli. From there, take a 35-minute car ferry to Bozcaada. Total time is about 6 hours. If you don’t mind driving longer, you can also drive west from Istanbul through Tekirdağ, and then take a ferry boat from Gelibolu or Eceabat, crossing the Dardanelles Strait. You’ll need to drive a bit more before you reach Geyikli.

By bus: Truva Turizm runs frequent buses from Istanbul to Geyikli. Then, hop on the ferry boat. 7 hours.

Where to stay:
Aika, a new boutique hotel in the city center, is ideal for couples or friends traveling together.

Çapraz Resort Hotel, located 3 km. from the city center, is more family-friendly and has its own pool and private beach area.

Previous posts:
An aerial view of Bozcaada's town center as we flew over in the Seabird plane.
Bozcaada grape vines during the summer months.

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Ozlem's Turkish Table said...

My goodness Joy, such an amazing post pf Bozcaada!!:) I would love to go back there and your post is a keeper to guide us: )

Erica (Irene) said...

What a beautiful place....never been there before. Sure will keep this island in mind, some place nice for a visit. Thanks for sharing. :-)

Joy said...

@Ozlem, thank you! Hope you enjoy my tips!

@Erica (Irene) Definitely get to Bozcaada if you can. The other Turkish island of Gokceada has also been on our list of places to see. :-)

BacktoBodrum said...

You've sold it to me - Wonder if the sea plane flies from elsewhere.

Cuisine de Provence said...

Joy, you give the best ever tips on what to do and where to go - can't wait to plan my next trip!

Joy said...

@BacktoBodrum, Yes, Seabird Airlines offers flights via a 19-passenger seaplane from Istanbul to Bozcaada, Istanbul to Alaçatı and from Bodrum to Alaçatı. Hope that helps! The new schedule should be posted in April.

@Barbara, thank you! Hope you have the chance to go to Bozcaada too. :-)

Julia said...

Just looks so lovely here, Joy. Great photos, too. It's been on our list for a long time and we actually looked at it for the 10k run last May before other plans took over. We found the accommodation prices a bit out of our league so if we do go, we're thinking of going in summer and taking the tent! :) Sea plane sounds fab!

Unknown said...

You've sold me on Bozcaada! The quaint island setting along with the seaboard plane make quite a trip. I'm going to look into this as a destination for this summer. Thanks for the great post!

Joy said...

@Julia, well, camping would certainly be fun! We had full camping gear back in the US and I'm so sad we never brought it with us. I had no idea we'd be able to camp here. Silly me! ;-)

@Turklish, GO! It's awesome!

Unknown said...

Come and stay at the Kemerbag 29 Guesthouse next time . We are just a wee bit away from the soccer field with a kidney shaped pool to identify from air 500m past the Greek cemetry.regards-rıfat (inn keeper)

Liz Cameron said...

I am just finding this post for the first time - you do our island home such justice! We also love some of the Corvus wines. Although don't overlook some of the wonderful sweet wines from Talay - the oldest vineyard on the island.

Let me know the next time you are coming - we are only there 1/2 time - the other 1/2 in the US. But not for long...picking up stakes for the final transition soon.

Joy said...

@Rıfat, Kemerbağ certainly does look lovely and inviting! Thanks for letting me know about it. I'm sure we even ran by it as we headed out past the soccer field on our morning run.

@Liz, I remember having a good red wine at Talay. We have bought before and enjoyed! Hopefully, we'll be able to return to Bozcaada at the same time you are there. :-)

Mei said...

Love this blog!

We were there in 2003 with friends. Such a relaxing island to visit. At the time it felt very "off the grid". We biked down a very big hill to the beach then accepted a ride from the beach bar owners friends back up the hill. The bar owner returned our bikes to the small farm where we were staying.

The experience of a place really changes when you take time to get to know some locals

Joy said...

@Mei, Thanks for stopping by! I can only imagine what Bozcaada was like 10 years ago. The island is still off the grid for most foreign tourists, so we like the more Turkish atmosphere here. I'm sure we'll return another time down the road!

Ilke said...

My mom loves going to Bozcaada... Now I can see why! :) Thanks for sharing, and now I want some nar-garitas! :)

Joy said...

@Ilke, if you have time the next time you are in Turkey, I can highly recommend going to Bozcaada. :-)

Mette - Italian Notes said...

Having lived in Turkey, I was ashamed to have to look Bozcaada up on a map. Too bad my Turkish island hops never got further than Büyükada

Joy said...

@Mette, If you get a chance, I highly recommend a visit to Bozcaada!

taxi delhi to ludhiana said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bozcaada Fotoğraf Atölyesi said...

Hello Joy,

I'm glad you enjoyed Bozcaada. And I should admit thatyour post is a lovely and helpful guide to all visitors :)

Next time you are in Bozcaada, you are welcome to stop by at Bozcaada Fotograf Atolyesi - aka Bozcaada Photography Workshop

If you like, you might keep in touch and get recent uppdates from our Facebook page:

Even though the page is in Turkish, the workshop is also available in English - FYI

See you in Bozcaada next time :)

Joy said...

@Bozcaada Fotoğraf Atölyesi, thanks so much for stopping by! We loved our two trips to Bozcaada, but I don't think we'll make it back there for awhile. So many new places to discover, but hopefully someday we'll be able to return again. :-)

Zosh said...

We are thinking of a few days in Istanbul then maybe,Bozcaada for the rest of the fortnight, it looks very unspoilt ! Just what we like ! Can you tell me if it is windy like Gokceada ?? Does the island have roads for cars? Do the ferries take cars ??? We might drive from Istanbul but I like the sound of the Seabird

Joy said...


Bozcaada is beautiful! Yes, you can take a car ferry. Please read the details under: How to get there section. You cannot book in advance though so you just show up and hope you get on the next one, or you wait for the next one. Yes, cars are allowed on the island as well. The island does get windy in some places, but during the summer time in good weather, we didn't have any issues. The weather changes in September and October. Cheers!

Elena and Sophie said...

Such a nice post. Makes me want to go there NOW. Might consider going there for our anniversary ;)

Anonymous said...

just fyi:

Joy said...

@Anonymous, thanks for the update! Sorry to see Seabird Airlines stop flying to Bozcaada.

Unknown said...

A friend posted a photo of Bozcaada on FB so I googled it and found your blog. We're planning a trip to Istanbul next year and because of your delightful blog, I'm adding Bozcaada to our itinerary. Thanks for the wonderful tips!

Unknown said...

thanks alot for all these informations , one question did you take the ferry boat from istanbul ( car ferry boat) to Bandirma , than you drive from bandrima to geyikli than from geyikli a car ferry boat to bozcaada , what i mean you can take the rented carr all this distance and you can drive in bozcaada ????? Please advise