How to spend a day sailing on the Bosphorus | Turkey

by Vanessa

If you are spending time in Istanbul, you must take the time to sail on the magnificent dark blue waters of the Bosporus. You will see the city of Istanbul from a different perspective and marvel at the beautiful Princes’ Islands embedded within the Sea of Marmara.


Bosporus and PrincesIslands at a glance

The Bosphorus, or Bosporus, is a narrow, natural strait and an internationally significant waterway located in northwestern Turkey. It forms part of the continental boundary between Europe and Asia and separates Asian Turkey from European Turkey.

The Princes’ Islands are about 19km from the main Istanbul marinas but only the largest four of the islands are open to the public; Büyükada, Heybeliada, Burgazada, and Kınalıada. It is not permitted to drive on the islands so you will find buggies or fayton (horse and carriage) to help visitors get around.

Learning to sail on the Bosphorus

Our team of 16 boarded the two Azure 33 class yachts on the Kalamis Marina and after a short briefing, we headed off into the waves of the Bosphorus raising the sails to go! The winds were light in the morning so the sail was pretty effortless. As we learned the ropes, two dolphins darted past although they didn’t hang around for long.

There is a ferryboat that can take you to the Princes’ Islands, great for those residents wanting to combine island life with a city career. As a visitor though, what better way to travel than by our own yacht!

We sailed past the island of Kinaliada and latched ourselves to the floating anchor. It was time for some swimming in the midday sun before lunch, we hesitantly jumped off the back of the boat not knowing what temperature to expect. Not particularly warm but it was manageable and the seawater was noticeably not very salty.

Explore the island of Burgazada

The zodiac boat zipped us over from our yacht as there are no places for them to moor on Burgazada island. Our Turkish feast awaited us with a view of the boats and the surrounding seas. It was a very sweet Mediterranean-style harbour, as we were there on a Friday we missed the weekend rush so it was pretty chilled.

After the fine selection of appetizers came the main dishes of fresh fish and delicious meatballs, there really was no room left in the tummy for desserts. The only solution was to head up the mountain to walk off the equally big mountain of food!

The sun was hot but at least the trek wasn’t too taxing, you might need to use an app to make sure you go the right way as there are a couple of forks in the path. The views across the Marmara Sea were stunning as we ascended and you come to realise how big Istanbul is actually is.

The walk took around 45 minutes to the top and 30 minutes back down, build in some extra time to check out the Greek Orthodox church of Hagios Ioannis Prodromos at the top, unfortunately, we had no time to explore as we had to meet the boat back at the harbour.

Views over the Bosphorus Strait from Burgazada island off Istanbul

Sail with high winds on the Bosphorus

Time to bid güle güle (goodbye in Turkish) to Burgazada and head back to the mainland. Our zodiac boat took us back to the yacht for the return journey. The wind had become stronger and certainly got the yacht moving at speed. We got busy tacking and gybing to turn the boat across the wind, you could actually put your hand in the water as the boat lowered on one side.

There were a few funny moments as we slipped from one side of the boat as a quick turn was made. I think I need a few more lessons for any solo voyage, sailing on the Bosphorus isn’t as easy as I thought!

Sailing in high winds across the Bosphorus Strait around the Princes Islands

Finish your dining by Kalamis Marina

The day was rounded off with meze galore at Develi Kalamls restaurant by the marina. I’m not sure we were ready for more food after the big lunch but who am I to say no? The food just kept coming… cacik (yoghurt with cucumber and herbs), ezme (tomato and hot pepper paste), hummus, Turkish flatbread, salad, falafels, kofte, meatballs… the list goes on!

The feast was capped off with a selection of sweet Turkish desserts (baklava, revani and kaymakli kayisi)… fruit was all I could manage! If you are a massive foodie with a big appetite, Turkey is the place for you.

The golden sunset over Kalamis Marina behind the silhouette of the boats was beautiful. The perfect end to a wonderful day with my fellow sailors!

Sunset behind the yachts at Kalamis Marina in Istanbul


Find your perfect Istanbul trip

Our trip was organised by Trekkup Dubai who had scouted out the best people on the ground to use. Alternatively, there are various Bosphorus tours with different activities on Get Your Guide. or Viator including private sailing on the Bosphorus, dinner cruises and luxury yacht touts.

Useful links for Istanbul


Guide on how to spend a day sailing on the magnificent Bosporus Strait off Istanbul and explore the Princes’ IslandsSailing on the magnificent Bosporus Strait is a must-do when visiting Istanbul and explore Burgzada, one of the Princes’ IslandsEnjoy a sailing experience whilst in Istanbul. The Bosphorus Strait has many boat tours & river cruises

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Vipin chaudhary 15th November 2018 - 11:13 am

I like to visit there it sounds adventures. I loved it

Vanessa 16th November 2018 - 8:47 am

It was a fabulous experience – Istanbul has so much to offer!


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