Although quite small by world standards, this island is second largest island of island-poor Turkey. Its name comes from marmara in Greek (mermer in Turkish), which means “marble”, referring to the fact that island’s quarries have been used for marble extraction since ancient times. The island also gave its name to the Sea of Marmara by which it is surrounded. Island’s ancient name, on the other hand, was Prokonessos.
Marmara Island has peculiarities unique to it in the archipelago. Firstly, it is large enough to sustain more than a couple of villages (it has four villages and two towns, all situated on its oval-shaped shoreline). It is also mountainous, with highest point reaching 709 meters at Ilyas Tepe. This mountainous geography does not allow for long beaches along the coastline. Unlike other islands in the archipelago, its large portions are covered with forests.
Island’s capital town is also called Marmara (pop. 3-4,000), situated in SW coast of the island. Islanders make their living by fishing and agriculture, especially olive cultivation.
Year-round boats which can accommodate cars from Tekirdağ (on the northern/European coast of the Sea of Marmara) and Erdek (on the southern/Asian coast of the Sea of Marmara). There are also pessenger-only fast ferries from Istanbul during summer months. Ferries from Tekirdağ cost 15 TL/person, while ferries from Istanbul cost 40 TL/person (or 30 TL/person on the slower ferry departing on Saturday mornings).
On Marmara there are several minibus (dolmuş) operators fanning out from the capital town that serve the villages of the island. Minibus services are most frequent in the summertime and departures to the other towns/villages correspond to arriving ferryboats. In the fall/winter/spring months, these minibuses receive a compensation from the local municipality to operate as school buses. Minibuses can be found at the parking lot near the jetty. In addition, there are several taxi operators which can also be used.
During summer, minibuses from Marmara town to Çınarlı run every hour, while to Gündoğdu, there are three departures daily, which costs 2.50 TL pp. To Topağaç and Asmalı, there are one or two departures every day, which costs 5 TL pp one-way. Around noon/1PM, there are also buses heading for these villages. Marmara town–Saraylar line is the least frequent, with one bus departing daily.
- Open air Marble Museum in Saraylar village (situated on the northern coast), which is located in one of the quarries unused since Roman times and displaying unfinished sculptures left at where they were being chipped by Roman sculptors.
- The village of Asmalı has several old wooden Greek houses, remnants from the pre-1920s innhabitants of the island. The current residents are very friendly and would be willing to show you the interior paintings. Hand them out 5 TL in return as a courtesy.
- Rent a kayak for an hour in Marmara and have fun. The kayak rental can be found at the very western end of the town.
Marmara has several grocery stores, including those of national chains BİM, and Dia, and a local one named Mercan Market.
Near the ferry pier is a large kiosk of local handicrafts and foodstuffs.
Marmara has several eateries at fairly affordable prices. Tea gardens are abundant and a nice way to spend an few hours watching the sea or engaging in a conversation with a friend.
In Gündoğdu, there are two locations where one can find something to eat.
- Ocakbaşı Dürüm — This local kebab shop is operated by Yılmaz Şenol and his wife Yeliz. They have offerings such as lahmacun, pide, wraps (dürüm), and soup.
- Zila's Internet Cafe — Cheese and sausage paninis are available.
In Topağaç, there is an eatery similar to Ocakbaşı Dürüm in Gündoğdu.
Saraylar, same as Topagaç.
Due to its touristy nature, one will find a few places to eat in Çınarlı.
Alcohol is easily available in Marmara, primarily in the form of beer.
Most guesthouses (pansiyon) are located in Çınarlı village, situated on the western coast. There are also a few more in other villages, mainly in Marmara town, the capital of the island.
You may try these guesthouses in Gündoğdu:
- Özlem Tulunay Pansiyon, 20 TL a night.
- Zila Kasapoğlu Pansiyon, 20 TL a night.
Island’s telephone code is 266 (+90 266 when calling from out of Turkey).