Only seven nautical miles from the Turkish mainland, and a mere forty square kilometres in size, the island of BOZCAADA (Tenedos) is less militarized and more architecturally homogeneous than neighbouring Gökçeada. Its gently undulating countryside, covered in vineyards, leads to near-deserted sandy beaches and pebbly coves. Lacking great sights as well as the pretensions of other Aegean and Mediterranean islands, it’s a place to wander and absorb, as well as eat and drink.
That idyllic picture tempts Turkish holiday-makers and second-home buyers alike, and the island can be quite overrun in summer, when you’ll need to book accommodation in advance. Bozcaada’s popularity may also prove to be its downfall, however. The little island is struggling with energy and waste issues, and there’s talk of dredging the quay to accommodate cruise ships. Meanwhile, Turkish customs opened an office in Bozcaada town in 2012, perhaps preparing for access from nearby Greek islands.
The only real settlement on the island, BOZCAADA MERKEZ, centres on a single, slightly scruffy square, just inland from the taverna-lined quay and its neighbouring castle. A surprisingly elegant town, built on a grid plan along a slight slope, it holds an atmospheric Greek quarter of cobbled streets and old houses shaded by leafy vines.
Among the largest citadels in the Aegean, the enormous castle that dominates the little fishing port and ferry jetty was successively expanded by Byzantine, Genoese, Venetian and Turkish occupiers, and most recently restored in the 1970s.
There’s not a lot to see inside its double walls, apart from remnants of two mosques and some Roman pillars, as well as various tombstones and an old army barracks. For anyone interested in geocaching, there’s a cache tucked away in a hole within the inner walls.
Bozcaada’s most developed beach, Ayazma, 6km southwest of town, offers watersports and sunbeds, plus four restaurants just inland. The next bay west, Sulubahçe, has good broad sand but no parking or facilities, other than a campsite well inland. Beyond, Habbelle is more cramped, with a single snack bar/sunbed franchise.
Inland from Ayazma and its abandoned monastery, another paved road leads southeast past secluded, sandy Beylik cove, and then above small Aqvaryum bay, tucked scenically to one side of the Mermer Burnu cape. Once past Tuzburnu with its lighthouse and sandy if exposed bay, the road swings north on its way back to the port.
Thanks to its breezy climate and volcanic soil, Bozcaada has been famed for its wine ever since the days of Homer – a two-thousand-year-old silver coin struck here bears a bunch of grapes. Around eighty percent of the island’s arable land is currently under vine, much of it the traditional grape varieties found only here and on Gökçeada, such as the whites Vasilaki and Çavuş, and the reds Karalahna, Kuntra and Karasakız. The white grapes are extremely sweet, so need to be fermented to almost thirteen percent alcohol. Local red wines tend to be rather tannic; the entire grape is left in the vats throughout the fermentation process.
Of the island’s six vintners, Talay, Corvus and Çamlıbağ have the best reputation; all have well-signed tasting boutiques in the Greek quarter. Corvus (wcorvus.com.tr) is the most prestigious, but also overpriced; at the other outlets you can buy decent wines from TL10 a bottle. The Talay tastery has its own wine bar upstairs, with cheese and charcuterie platters accompanying wine by the glass.