New York, NY– The vibrant, hip, yet historic city of Istanbul is the perfect location for a spring getaway, thanks to the multitude of attractions it offers visitors, from its annual Tulip Festival to the nine islands known as the Princes’ Islands.
One of the main reasons for visiting Turkey now is that in springtime, Istanbul’s gardens are full of tulips – the traditional flowers of Turkey. From tulip season to the beautiful Judas trees that ornament the city during this time, from lesser known palaces to even lesser known islands, Istanbul can be a surprising destination year-round, with plenty to see and do even before the start of the busy summer season. The month of April is also an ideal time to visit Istanbul because the city has moderate temperatures, fewer tourists and somewhat lower prices than later in the spring and summer.
Below is a listing of some of the attractions that should be on travelers’ list for an out of the ordinary vacation experience this spring:
The Princes’ Islands: Located 12 miles southeast of Istanbul, in the Sea of Marmara, this chain of nine islands is the perfect destination if you’re looking to plan a day to escape the city buzz. The first thing you’ll realize once you arrive on any of the islands is that there are no cars. Take the ferry and discover the charming island of Heybeliada (Heybeli for short), which is home to the Deniz Lisesi (Turkish Naval Academy), founded in 1773, and is now host to a number of restaurants as well as a shopping strip, bakeries and more. The island’s landmark is the hilltop Hagia Triada (Holy Trinity) Monastery, dating back to 1894, since Byzantine times. The largest island in the group, Buyukada (Great Island), impresses visitors through its gingerbread villas climbing up the slopes of the hill and the twin cupolas of the Splendid Otel provides a landmark and a lovely spot to spend an afternoon. The island preserves its natural greatness represented by pine woods, groves of mimosa and magnolia. One of the most romantic spots on the island is the area called Dil Burnu, which is a perfect location for watching idyllic sunsets. The island also has its own yearly festival which consists of a series of concerts, films, dance and theater productions, exhibitions and water sports on the Istanbul Islands, mainly Buyukada. The festival begins in the second week of July and brings the buzz to the island for an entire week.
For centuries Istanbul has been bathed in purple every spring when the Judas trees bloom. It is rumored that the city of Istanbul was founded when the Judas trees were in bloom, which is also a symbol of power and riches. Touring the city when the trees are in bloom is an experience in itself and offers a unique view ofIstanbul.
Istanbul’s lesser known palaces include Maslak Kasri, the Sultan’s hunting lodge and resting place, as well as Malta Kosku which was built in the mid-19th century by the Sultan Abdulaziz in the heavily forested park and used as a relaxing mansion for the Sultans and their ladies. For an impressive view of the Bosphorus, the Hidiv Kasri mansion and its popular tower is a top choice. The mansion has a monumental fountain at the entrance, rising all the way to the roof, which is covered with stained glass. The Yildiz Palace is known as the fourth Ottoman palace built in Istanbul after the Conquest. Ideally located in a large park of flowers, tulips, plants and trees gathered from various parts of the world, the palace offers one of the most beautiful panoramic views of the Bosphorus. Ihlamur Kasri is formed of two buildings; Merasim kiosk which is used for ceremonies, and the Maiyet kiosk which is reserved for the court of the sultan or his harem. Kucuksu Kasri was built in the mid-19th century along the Bosphorus Strait, near the Anatolian Fortress on the Asian side. First used as a hunting lodge or a resting place by several sultans, the pavilion has been restored and is know functioning as a museum, featuring European-style architecture and furniture. Aynalikavak Kasri, with a Divan room and an audience hall decorated with Sultans’ Tugras, also offers a research center for traditional old Turkish musical instruments where occasionally Turkish traditional music concerts are held.
Admire the Istanbul Tulips in Emirgan Park, a historical urban park located in the heart of Istanbul. During April and May, you will spot these spring flowers everywhere in the city. One of the largest parks in Istanbul, Emirgan has several tulip gardens and a special garden was established in the park in the 1960s to revive the city’s tradition of tulip cultivation. Although tulips are associated with Holland, commercial cultivation of the tulip began in the Ottoman Empire. The flower slowly entered the Turkish culture as it has been utilized as a motif in the traditional sewn Ottoman garments, the Sultans’ carefully crafted tulip-embroidered caftans, and even received its own name during the historical period known as Tulip era (Lale Devri). Since 2005, an annual international tulip festival is organized in Istanbul every April making the park attractive and very colorful with these flowers.