Ayvalık: The Peace Nest of the Aegean

Ayvalık is a charming district which is located on the very west of Balıkesir province. Even though the Balıkesir is a city of the Marmara Region, Ayvalık is on the borders of the Aegean Region. It is one of the most important resorts in Turkey, and also one of the most peaceful places for living. In the summer, the population of the district gets higher since lots of summer houses are found there. Also, many people choose Ayvalık for vacations.

The islands, beautiful beaches, bazaars, and the weather of Ayvalık attract tourists. Besides the tourists, Ayvalık is a favorite place for the retired Turkey citizens. They can find the tranquility and quietness they are looking for in there. At the same time, Ayvalık is important in history because it was the hometown of many civilizations. Since 2017 Ayvalık takes place on UNESCO’s World Heritage Tentative List.

Where is Ayvalık Located on the Map of Turkey?

Ayvalık is located in Balıkesir province on the northwestern Aegean coast on the map of Turkey.

About the City

Ayvalık is in the Aegean part of the Balıkesir and right across to the Lesbos (Midilli) island. It is located on the Aegean coast and has an archipelago named “Ayvalık Islands”.  It is very rich in olive and pine trees. In the archipelago, there are 22 islands including the bigger and smaller ones. The biggest and the most popular island is Cunda Island which is also known as Alibey Island. It is connected to the center of Ayvalık by a bridge which is the first Bosphorus bridge of Turkey.

The population of the Ayvalık is 71.725 according to the recent data. However, with the local and foreign tourists, this number increased every summer. Ayvalık is the 207th most crowded settlement of Turkey. The climate of Ayvalık is a regular Mediterranean climate that the winter passes warm and rainy and the summer passes hot and dry. Light winds are always in the case but the possibility of snow is very low. Also, the humidity is over 60% both on summer and winter days. 

MonthsExpected Weather ForecastAverage Temperature
JanuaryRainy and Cloudy8.8 oC / 47.8 oF
FebruaryRainy and Cloudy9.3 oC / 48.7 oF
MarchRainy11.4 oC / 52.5 oF
AprilRainy and Clear14.5 oC / 58.1 oF
MayWarm and Clear18.9 oC / 66 oF
JuneSunny and Clear23.4 oC / 74.1 oF
July Sunny and Clear25.9 oC / 78.6 oF
August Sunny and Clear26 oC / 78.8 oF
SeptemberWarm and Clear22.3 oC / 72.1 oF
OctoberRainy and Clear17.9 oC / 64.2 oF
November Rainy and Cloudy14.1 oC / 57.4 oF
DecemberRainy and Cloudy10.3 oC / 50.5 oF

History of Ayvalık

Ayvalık used to be named Cisthna, Taliani, and Kydonia in the back in time and it is a very old settlement. Mysians were the first community that moved to Ayvalık. The colonies were made by the ones that came from the Greek Islands to the Edremit Gulf. Ayvalık and around it belonged to Macedonians in B.C. 330-30; between B.C. 30 to A.D. to Romans; in A.D. 395-1453 to Byzantines. The known history of Ayvalık takes to the year 1623.

The islands around Ayvalık were always under attack by the pirates and the people who lived there moved to Kabakum which is a village in İzmir. However, the attacks of the pirates continued and because of that, the people moved to Ayvalık. At that time Fatih Sultan Mehmet takes the Lesbos (Midilli) island, so the pirate actions were completely ended. The security of the seas was provided and the people who lived there moved to Ayvalık and Cunda island.

Ayvalık has gained importance after that time since the sea trade and industries began to be developed. The Greeks and Turks have been lived together for a long time. However, the Greeks have joined the Greek uprising, and the area was emptied in 1821. During the time, some of them returned but nothing was the same as before. Ayvalık was occupied on the 29th of May 1919 by the Greek army with the support of the United Kingdom army.

After the Turkish Independence War which is one of the greatest victories of Turkey on 15th September 1922, the Turkish army has taken back Ayvalık from the Greek invasion. From that time to the present, Ayvalık is known as a nostalgic and peaceful district and resort of Turkey.

Getting to Ayvalık

There are several ways to get to Ayvalık; you can reach there by plane, by bus, by train or by boat. It is not complicated at all by plane and bus. However, if you want to take a train or boat from anywhere in Turkey there is no direct trip by them. You have to do a transfer at some points. Also, if you don’t want any of these you can rent a car or get on a trip with your vehicle. 

By Plane

If you prefer to get to Ayvalık by plane it will be a very easy and fast trip. Edremit Körfez Airport is the closest airport to the Ayvalık. From İstanbul and Ankara there are direct flights to the Edremit Körfez Airport. Both of the airports in İstanbul there are direct flights to there seven days of the week. From Ankara, there are direct flights on five days of the week but on the other two days, there are flights with transfers.

Since İzmir and Edremit are quite close there is no direct flight from İzmir to Edremit Körfez Airport, but you can find flights with transfers from there. Direct flights from abroad are not available there. However, there are some direct flights from some cities of Germany at certain times of the year. The flights are very limited; you should keep checking.

When you get to the airport, the rest is very easy. You can either get on the Havaş bus or minibus if you want to reach the center of Ayvalık more affordably. It will take 40-45 minutes. Also, you can rent a car or take a taxi; that trip will take only 25-30 minutes. 

By Bus

Getting to Ayvalık by bus one of the most preferred and quite comfortable trips. Almost from every big city, there is a direct bus to Ayvalık. The frequency of the buses is increased in summer. If you are coming from the road that passes by Susurluk which is another district of Balıkesir. Don’t forget to eat Susurluk toast and drink Susurluk ayran.

CityKm/MilTravel duration time
Balıkesir127.4 km / 79.2 mil2 hours 10 minutes
Çanakkale166 km / 103.1 mil3 hours 15 minutes
İzmir151 km / 93.8 mil2 hours 45 minutes
İstanbul512 km / 318.1 mil9 hours 45 minutes
Ankara685.5 km / 426 mil10 hours 30 minutes
Denizli (Pamukkale)392 km / 243.6 mil5 hours 15 minutes
Nevşehir (Cappadocia)922.1 km / 573 mil12 hours 30 minutes
Antalya605.7 km / 376.4 mil9 hours 30 minutes

Urban Transportation

The urban transportation in Ayvalık is very common and easy to use. Also, in the summer you can find minibusses and taxis in the late hours of the night. For the beaches and Cunda island, minibusses are very common. You can also use minibusses or buses to get to the other districts of Balıkesir. Taxis are preferred mostly by tourists.

Top Things to Do in Ayvalık

It is almost impossible to get bored in Ayvalık because you can find new things to do every day. The stunning Aegean Sea on your one side and every tone of green on your other side. Also, the nostalgic vibe and the historical touches of the town are very worth seeing. The uncorrupted neighborhoods of Ayvalık will make you feel like you are in another place. If you come to Ayvalık, you won’t regret it even for one second. 

Cunda Island

Cunda Island is the most important and worth seeing part of Ayvalık. The population of Cunda Island has consisted of mostly Crete and Lesbos immigrants. You can reach Cunda from Ayvalık either by boat or car. However, if you get there in a car, wander around by walking to explore it more. The coast side of Cunda is a very crowded and popular part of it. You can find a very wide of choices to eat by the sea.

If you want to enjoy the beautiful Aegean view you should go to the Hills of Lovers in there. You can watch the beauty of the sea and the islands from there. Despot’s house is built by the Greeks where Despot lived and found dead in there. Even though this place seems abandoned, it will fascinate you without a doubt. There are many structures and buildings especially the religious ones made by the Greeks. You should see them.

Şeytan Sofrası

Şeytan Sofrası is a very great place that is 8 km away from the center of Ayvalık. The meaning of Şeytan Sofrası is the Table of Devil. It is a hill formed after a volcanic structuring. The name of the place is coming from the footprint which is believed that belong to the devil. It is a myth that footprint is exhibited in a cage on that hill. From back in time to the present people who visit Şeytan Sofrası make wishes and bind red ribbon to the cage and throw a penny into it. It is kind of ironic.

Besides all the story, the view from Şeytan Sofrası is incredible and it is impossible to not enchant a single person. From the hill, you can enjoy the view of the beautiful Aegean Sea and the island around. You can even see the Lesbos Island. If you want to have something to drink or eat with this stunning view, there are two cafés/restaurants on the hill. Also, if you will visit don’t miss the chance of watching the sunset over there.

Sarımsaklı Beach

Sarımsaklı Beach is the most popular beach of the Ayvalık and it is only 6 km away from the center. The length of the beach is 7 km and the width is 100 m. Sarımsaklı Beach is shared by many of the restaurants, hotels, and motels. You can choose the one based on your budget. Even some of the hotels provide free sunbeds and umbrellas. Also, the food and beverage service to the beach is available.

Badavut Beach

Badavut Beach is mostly preferred by the locals of Ayvalık and it is 13 km away from the center. It is generally less crowded than Sarımsaklı Beach. You can rent sunbeds or umbrellas from there but you are also free to bring yours always. The sea is a little colder in there but still beautiful and clean. The facilities around the beach are here to serve you drinks and food if you want to have it by the sea. 

Lesbos (Midilli) Island

If you have your passports with you and the visa if it is required, you have to go and see Lesbos Island. Lesbos Island one of the Greek Islands that has the bluest sea. The trip only takes 1 hour 20 minutes from Ayvalık. You should visit there and have yourselves a Greek night with the Uzos and fresh seafood on your table.

Ayazma Church

Ayazma Church which is also known as Faneromeni Church is one of the most important historical landmarks of Ayvalık. The church was used as a factory of olive oil back in time, but now it is open to the public as a museum.

The name of the church is inspired by the “Holy Water” phrase. The legend of the church says that a little girl had a dream about mother Mary. In her dreams mother, Mary shows her a spot that is a source of water. Then, after she wakes up she tells the location where she found the water and when they dig there, lots of water splashed all of a sudden. Then, they built a church there. 

What to Eat

The food that is eaten on the Aegean side has an unforgettable taste. Maybe, you don’t eat differently than normal but you can’t find that taste anywhere. You can’t get enough of the quality of olive oil and the freshness of the seafood. If you hear the saying “Rakı-Balık-Ayvalık”, the meaning is you should have fish while you are drinking rakı in Ayvalık. They are not wrong.

Papalina

Papalina is a kind of fish that the name of it comes from the Greeks. It lives around the Ayvalık region. It looks like a sardine as physical appearance but they are irrelevant. The best time to eat Papalina is the August and the beginning of September. You have to eat it when it is deep-fried. Also, don’t forget your rakı when you have it.

Mastic Gum Ice Cream

Mastic gum ice cream belongs to the Lesbos Island since it is the neighbor of Ayvalık. It is not different if you eat it on Cunda Island. The taste of the ice cream is very different; you can ask to try it a little before you pay for it. However, indeed, it goes very well in the hot summer that fresh up yourself. Also trying new tastes is not a bad idea. 

Crete Mezzes 

Since there are lots of Crete immigrants in Ayvalık and around it; you have to try the Crete mezzes. They are fresh, healthy, and incredibly delicious. The mezzes contain lots of seaweeds and herbs. The delicious olive oil of Ayvalık multiplies their tastes even more. Besides the cold mezzes, you should also try the warm ones with seafood. You won’t regret it. 

Lor Dessert 

Lor Dessert is the signature dessert of Ayvalık. Lor is a kind of cheese without salt and very suitable for desserts. In the recipe of desserts, there is lor cheese, flour, baking soda, olive oil, and vanilla. It is baked in the oven and served with ice cream. It is very delicious and different. You can choose your ice cream with mastic gum flavor if you wish. 

Verjuice

Verjuice is the juice of unripe grapes. If you like sour tastes it is the best for you. These grapes are collected in June and July, then the juice of them is squeezed. It is very healthy since it strengthens the immune system, good for digestion, and also skin diseases. If sugar is not added to it, you can use it in salads or food as some kind of vinegar. 

Nightlife

Nightlife in Ayvalık is very alive and active. The center of Ayvalık, Sarıımsaklı, and Cunda Island is the best if you really want to live that nightlife. If you want to listen to DJs and dance all night you should go to the nightclubs in Sarımsaklı. However, if you are looking for some nights calmer you should go to the pubs in the center of Ayvalık. They are very great and calm. You can have your drinks while you listen to good music.

Also, if you want to live that “Rakı-Balık-Ayvalık” spirit the Turkish or Greek taverns in Cunda are the best options for you. After you have enjoyed the best and fresh seafood, you can have your drinks and enjoy the best melodies together. 

Shopping

If you want to spend some money in Ayvalık, the bazaars are the best for that. Ayvalık is the hometown of olive and the products of them. You should buy olives and olive oil before you return. Also, the cheese and butter that you find in the bazaars are delicious. Also, the Ayvalık and especially Cunda is a heaven of handmade accessories. You can find the ones for yourself as you walk side streets. Also, you can buy some souvenirs from these stores for yourselves, your families and friends.

Events

The cultural activities in Ayvalık are very popular, especially in summer. In the summer, there are open-air concerts of various singers in the Grand Amphitheatre. Also, you can watch very great theater plays and stand-up shows there. From time to time symposiums on different subjects are taken place in te-here. By the end of the summer or the beginning of the fall, Ayvalık Film Festival rocks with the film lovers in Ayvalık. The premiers of the festival films are shown at that festival.

Where to Stay

There are plenty of options to stay in Ayvalık. You can choose the best option according to your budget. There are various hotels to choose but keep that in mind; the hotels on Cunda Island are more expensive. The hotel prices are decreased when you are away from popular places. Also, renting a summer house can be a great option. Especially, if you are on a vacation with a crowded group of people, it can be very fun and affordable.

Frequently Asked Questions 

If you still wonder more about Ayvalık, here are frequently asked questions and their answers about Ayvalık.

What is the best time to go to Ayvalık?

The best time of Ayvalık starts at the end of May and finished at the end of September.

How many kilometers does it take to get Cunda Island from Ayvalık?

They are very close and it takes only 14 km and nearly 20 minutes to get Cunda Island from Ayvalık.

Can I bring my pet to a hotel in Ayvalık?
Some of the hotels accept pets in Ayvalık. Besides, you can go almost anywhere in Ayvalık with your pet.

Is the sea warm in Ayvalık?

The temperature of the sea differs from the beach to beach. However, if you like the warmer sea you can go and try Sarımsaklı Beach.

Why should I go to Ayvalık?

You should go to Ayvalık to eat the best fresh seafood, swim in a stunning sea, and be fascinated by the nostalgic houses and structures in it.

İsmail Çamönü

Hi! I am Ismail. I am a digital nomad from Turkey. I lived in many cities around Turkey during my life and I am passionate about traveling. At Nomad's Guide to Turkey, I share travel tips for nomads, expats, and tourists who would like to visit Turkey.

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