Marmara Island (Marmara Adası) is the largest of the Marmara Islands in the Southern Marmara Region of Turkey. It's roughly triangular, 15 km east-west and 10 km north-south. The population in 2021 was 10,148, with about 4000 apiece in Marmara town and in Saraylar, with the rest in the coastal villages between.
Tourism got started here in the 4th century AD, as the nobles of Byzantium found the island an agreeable place for summer villas and pleasure palaces. It was variously called "Proikonnesos" (island of the royal dowry) and "Prinkipo" (island of the aristocracy); but nothing remains of these sybarite resorts except perhaps the name of the village of Saraylar, "palaces", calqued from its Greek original Παλάτια Palatia.
The island is rugged, with the lowland south farming olives and wine grapes; fishing was also a traditional livelihood but the sea has become fished out. The north is forested mountains, rising to 709 meters at Ilyas Tepe. The big industry here has always been marble - marmara in Greek, hence the present name of the island and its surrounding sea. Emperor Diocletian sent heretics to the quarries as slave labour, Hagia Sophia in Istanbul was clad in the island's marble, and today it goes to adorn bathrooms, hotel lobbies and corporate foyers the world over. Although Marmara town remains the main settlement, Saraylar near the quarries has grown into a second town and ferry port.
IDO ferries for foot passengers normally sail from Istanbul in summer, but they're not running in 2022.
Gestaş car ferry sails twice a day from Erdek. It takes 2-3 hours via Balikli on Paşalimani island and Avşa, also calling at Ekinlik two days a week. The boat is based on Avşa so there's an early morning sailing from there via Marmara to Erdek, and the evening ferry from Erdek heads on there after Marmara. In 2022 the single fare from Erdek is 25 TL, car 65 TL.
May-Aug a Gestaş waterbus for foot-passengers sails from Narlı, the beach resort 15 km northwest of Erdek. There are two sailings a day, so a day-trip is possible.
Marmara RoRo sails several times a day between Erdek and Tekirdağ Barbaros on the far mainland coast. Most bypass the islands, but one per day calls at Marmara town, and two call at Saraylar on the north coast.
1 Marmara ferry port is 500 m east of the main town.
2 Saraylar is the north coast ferry port.
Dolmuşes fan out from Marmara town to the other setttlements, and connect with the ferries. They're more frequent in summer but run all year as school buses. They run to Çınarlı hourly and three times a day to Gündoğdu. Only one or two per day run out to Topağaç, Asmalı and Saraylar.
Little yellow taxis ply in Marmara (+90 530 799 6110), Çınarlı (+90 535 599 6440), Gündoğdu (+90 535 345 3784) and Saraylar (+90 532 717 8956).
There is no through road along the norh coast, so from Çınarlı to Saraylar you have to wind along the south coast then over the hills.
- 1 Asmalı is a little harbour village that retains several traditional wooden Greek houses from before the 1923 population exchange. The residents might let you look in for a small donation. Many of their ancestors were deported from Greek Aegean islands as part of that exchange.
- 2 Agios Nikolaos in a valley called Yana (from Greek γέννα génna, "birth" or by extension "fertile") on the road to Saraylar is a chapel on a Greek cross plan, probably from the 17th century. It was abandoned during the population exchange, and there are few, faint decorations remained in the interior. Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the Ecumenical Patriarch, held a service here in 2013, the first time since its abandonment about a century prior.
- 3 Marble Factory (Mermer Taş Fabrikası) along the eastern rim of the Minikada cove east of Saraylar is the ruins of a marble processing plant started operations in 1912 — the oldest in Turkey — and abandoned in the 1970s. All of its machinery, now rusting away on site, continued running on steam power until its closure.
- Marble Museum (Saraylar Açık Hava Müzesi) 500 m west of Saraylar ferry port was a marble quarry in Roman times, and is dotted with unfinished sculptures and funerary monuments that never got to grace a cemetery or forum. Indeed they usually weren't finished here, but shipped out as rough blocks then finely carved on site, a prize example being the Ludovisi Battle sarcophagus now in Rome. The quarry is free, 24 hours. Large quarries remain active in the hills south of town.
- 4 Onur Madencilik and nearby Tuna Madencilik look like sinister campsites on satellite maps. No, all those white oblongs aren't tents, but marble slabs awaiting shipment. You may find the approach road closed to non-company traffic, in any case beware of huge oncoming trucks around the next blind corner.
- 5 Hayırsız ada is the islet seen to the west. The name means "No Good Island" and it's wiser to accept this than to investigate.
- Beaches are a series of small coves, mostly pebble. Beware currents.
- Water sports: you should have gone to Avşa. Shacks and franchises on Marmara have withered since covid, and aren't around in 2022. Check the big beach hotels to see if anything's possible.
- Marmara town has Migros by the ferry pier, open daily 08:30-22:00.
- All the other settlements have small stores.
- Marmara town waterfront has Marmara Pide Salonu, Marina Cafe, Pasazula Restoran, Ada Dürüm Kebap Salonu, Birol, Boğaziçi Yakamoz, Üçler, Acente, Taşfırın and Birsen.
- South beach has Pehlivan Motel and Hasan Baba.
- Çınarlı has Çınaraltı Cafe Bar, Cadde Lokantasi, Lacivert Fast Food and Doğa Cafe.
- Gündoğdu has Ocakbaşı Dürüm and Kıvanç Fast Food.
- Topağaç has Tadım Lahmacun Pide Salonu and Topağaç Merkez Pilajı.
- Saraylar port has Özmen Ekmek Fırını and Yıldırım Öz Karadeniz Odunlu Ekmek Fırını, the pansiyon strip has Abroz Baraka, Masal and Üç Öz Pide Lahmacun Kebab Salonu.
- Most bars are within hotels or restaurants, there aren't free-standing pubs.
- Wine is made on the island. There are no vineyards you can tour, but ask around for the local product.
- Ada Palas Hotel, Atatürk Cd 27/D, Marmara town, ☏ . Boxy modern place, clean, near the ferry port. B&B double 700 TL.
- Sunlight Hotel[dead link] is budget, west on Cumhuriyet Cd.
- 1 Hotel Mola, Şifalısu Yolu Sk, Marmara town, ☏ . Pleasant family-oriented hotel on Kole beach. B&B double 1000 TL.
- Şato Motel next to Mola gets good reviews.
- 2 Mermer Beach Hotel, Aba Plajı 22/A, Marmara town, ☏ . Relaxing resort hotel on the south beach strip.
- Bellis is a peaceful hotel a block inland from Mermer Beach Hotel.
- Çınarlı on the coast north of Marmara town has pansiyons but no hotel. You might try Dostlar[dead link], İştur, Kalemi, Kadıoğlu or Pamukanne.
- 3 Ali Baba Butik Otel, Köy İçi Yolu 197A, Gündoğdu, ☏ . Small place with a pool in Gündoğdu.
- Topağaç accommodation remained closed in 2022.
- Saraylar accommodation clusters 500 m east of the ferry port. They include Abroz Apart Otel, Gün Palas and Ozman Apart. By the port is Saray Otel.
As of May 2022, you might manage a call in the main town or Çınarlı with Turkcell or Vodafone, but the island has virtually no mobile signal. 5G has not rolled out in Turkey.
- Touristy Avşa and sleepy Paşalimanı are the other inhabited Marmara Islands, with daily ferries from Marmara.
- Erdek is the nearest mainland port. Not much to amuse you here, head east for historic Bursa.
- Tekirdağ on the mainland north has buses to Istanbul and Edirne.
|Routes through Marmara|
|END ← Tekirdağ ←||N S||→ Avşa → Erdek|