With a full decade-plus of living and traveling across Turkey’s diverse landscapes, I’ve uncovered the country’s quieter beach retreats that escape the usual tourist radar. These spots offer a more genuine slice of Turkish coastal life away from the bustling hotspots.
Ayvalik is one such hidden coastal gem situated in the Balikesir province. Through this guide, I’m excited to unfold Ayvalik’s charm for you. It’s a town where local traditions harmonize with a laid-back beach vibe, where every cobblestone and corner has a story, and where the sea’s rhythmic lull invites relaxation.
Conveniently located about halfway between the dynamic cities of Izmir and Istanbul on Turkey’s western seaboard, Ayvalik basks in the warmth of the North Aegean Sea. It presents a picturesque backdrop with views stretching across to the Greek island of Lesbos.
Join me as we delve into the heart of Ayvalik, exploring its hidden alleys, savoring its gastronomic offerings, and lounging on its amber beaches, revealing why this town is a must-visit for those seeking an unspoiled coastal experience.
The town itself is shaped like a horseshoe, almost sitting in an amphitheater design. There is also a vast amount of history and lots of stories that sit firmly in Greek mythology.
When you visit Ayvalik, the first thing you will see is the architecture that dates back far in history. You’ll find many old buildings, mosques, and churches, including Ayos Yorgi Church, that has now been converted into Cinarli Mosque.
Of course, there is a beautiful beach in Ayvalik, too, so it’s ideal for summer chills, along with plenty of history to explore on the side.
So, if you’re keen to learn more about Ayvalik, let’s delve in!
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Is AyvalıK Worth Visiting? Yes, Here Is Why!
Absolutely! Ayvalık is definitely worth visiting, especially if you’re seeking a charming and authentic Turkish coastal experience. Nestled on the Aegean coast, Ayvalık is renowned for its rich history, stunning architecture, and beautiful beaches.
The town’s streets are lined with picturesque old Greek houses, now repurposed into quaint cafes and shops, offering a delightful blend of Turkish and Greek cultures. Food enthusiasts will relish the local cuisine, especially the famous Ayvalık toast and olive oil-based dishes.
Nearby, you can explore the pristine beaches and the unspoiled natural beauty of Cunda Island, easily accessible by a short boat ride.
Ayvalık also serves as a gateway to the ancient ruins of Pergamon and the famed city of Troy, making it an ideal base for history buffs. With its laid-back atmosphere, scenic beauty, and cultural richness, Ayvalık is a gem on the Turkish Aegean coast that offers something for every type of traveler.
Overall, Ayvalık is a destination that offers a fascinating blend of history, culture, natural beauty, and gastronomy, making it an appealing choice for travelers looking for an enriching and memorable experience.
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The Best Time To Visit Ayvalik
Ayvalik enjoys long, warm to, hot summers and cold, wet winters. The months in between, i.e., the shoulder months of April, May, and October, are good times to visit if you don’t like high temperatures. The hottest month is July, which can reach 40 degrees. However, the shoulder months give you lower, easier-to-handle temperatures, although there is a very slight chance of rain in October.
You can visit Ayvalik in the wintertime and enjoy it immensely, but it certainly won’t be beach weather. January is the coldest month and brings a large amount of rain. There is a minimal chance of snow during the winter, but rain is far more likely.
|Season||Avg Low (°C/°F)||Avg High (°C/°F)|
|Spring||12°C / 53.6°F||20°C / 68.0°F|
|Summer||20°C / 68.0°F||32°C / 89.6°F|
|Autumn||15°C / 59.0°F||25°C / 77.0°F|
|Winter||8°C / 46.4°F||15°C / 59.0°F|
Things To Do In Ayvalik
Ayvalik may not be the biggest resort in Turkey, but it does have plenty of things to see and do. The town has many small islands directly off the shore, with Cunda/Alibey Island being the main one to visit. The other islands are smaller, and all make up a national park.
The pace of life in Ayvalik is relatively slow and chilled out, but that’s perfect for those who want to enjoy their time without excessive noise. Do be aware, however, that during the summer, there can be crowds, especially at the weekends and Turkish school holidays.
1. Sample The Amazing Food
Ayvalik is known for its food. It’s one of the best places to try a mix of Turkish and Greek cuisine, and it’s also the home of the famous Ayvalik Toast!
Ayvalik toast is famous across Turkey and is a grilled sandwich packed with meat, onions, tomatoes, and sauce, and it’s undoubtedly going to leave you full! Of course, you can also try plentiful seafood food in Ayvalik, thanks to its position. Be sure to check out Cretan rice, too, as this is a particular favorite from this part of the country, along with octopus salad.
When you visit any new destination, you should always try the food. Turkish food is delicious and very filling. It’s full of salad, meze, and grilled meats, along with the legendary kahvalti, or Turkish breakfast. Give it a try!
2. Visit Timarhane Island
Local ferries run around the main islands during the summer months, and Timarhane Island is a favorite. The small island is very natural and rugged, but it’s famous for the sound the rocks make when the weather is windy. Their natural position means that the wind sounds as though it’s literally howling like a wolf!
3. Explore The Old Town
Ayvalik’s Old Town is a great place to explore, and it’s packed with narrow, winding streets. You’ll find traditional cafes and plenty of souvenir stores, as well as fantastic bakeries to check out. The architecture is also pretty interesting to explore, and you’ll also be able to see many old Greek Orthodox churches dating back far into history.
4. Visit Cunda/Alibey Island
This island is the easiest to visit, and there are regular ferries that head back and forth during the summer months. There are many walking and cycling trails to follow here, and Cunda National Park is one of the most beautiful natural parks you’ll ever see. There are some chilled out beaches, too, along with old Greek houses to check out.
Mola Beach is the most beautiful beach on the island, and this is where you’ll find locals heading on their days off. It’s calm, chilled out, and a stunning sight. You can swim, kayak, and sail from there.
5. Scuba Diving
The crystal clear waters of the North Aegean are ideal for scuba divers, and you can also check out the endangered red corals that live in this area. This type of coral is endangered because it’s considered in fashion in jewelry. However, there are also many other things to see under the surface of the sea!
There are 40 diving spots around Ayvalik, so you’re not going to struggle for choice.
6. Admire The Stunning View From Seytan Sofrasi (Devil’s Feast)
If you’re someone who adores a good photo and you love to check out amazing views in general, Seytan Sofrasi is for you. This translates as ‘Devil’s feast’ because it is shaped like a huge footprint and was said to belong to the Devil.
On a less terrifying note, this is a vast lookout point that gives you the ideal vantage point over the islands just off Ayvalik’s cost, including Lesbos.
7. Immerse Yourself In Nature In Ayvalik Island Natural Park
For scenery, nature, and outdoor pursuits, everyone heads to Ayvalik Island Natural Park. The park is on Cunda/Alibey Island, and it’s the perfect spot for camping, bird spotting, sunbathing, and hiking.
There are several small coves to explore, and the water is so clear you’ll easily see fish swimming around. It’s the ideal spot for a total chill out.
8. Visit Saatli Mosque
In the center of Ayvalik, you’ll find the beautiful Saatli Mosque. This used to be a Greek Orthodox Church but was transformed into a mosque around 1928. The huge clock tower is a sight to see, as well as the beautiful interior. Do remember this is a working mosque, however, so you should always adhere to mosque etiquette.
9. Moshos Taverna
Moshos Taverna is a renowned restaurant on Cunda Island, offering delicious seafood and Turkish, Greek, and Mediterranean cuisines.
10. Sevim Necdet
Enjoy stunning sunsets and visit the Sevim Necdet Library for a unique experience and panoramic views of the island.
11. Vino Sarap Evi
Vino Sarap Evi is a highly popular wine house located on the charming island of Cunda. With its soothing ambiance and friendly vibe, it offers the perfect setting to relax and enjoy a glass of wine.
The establishment boasts an extensive selection of wines and liquors, all available at affordable prices. Additionally, the menu features a wide variety of delicious exotic foods.
At night, the atmosphere comes alive with music and the laughter of people having a great time. If you’re looking for a memorable wine experience in a vibrant setting, Vino Sarap Evi is the place to be.
12. Çınarlı Cami Mosque
Check out the once-Greek Orthodox Church of Ayios Yorgis in Ayvalık. It was built in 1790 and later converted into a mosque in 1923. The building, known for its architectural beauty, features three naves and three apses. It is now the Çınarlı Cami mosque.
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How To Get To Ayvalik
If you’re traveling to Ayvalik from outside of the country, you have two options. You can either fly to Istanbul or Izmir. Istanbul has two airports – Istanbul Airport and Sabiha Gokcen Airport. From there, you can either take a bus, train, or domestic flight to Ayvalik.
Ayvalik has a local airport that handles flights from Izmir, Ankara, and Istanbul. The airport is just 45 minutes outside of the town itself.
If you choose to fly to Izmir, you’ll need to drive or take the bus to Ayvalik, which takes around 2 hours and 40 minutes. If you fly to Istanbul, the bus/car journey will take you around 4.5 hours, depending on traffic. For that reason, most people choose to fly to Izmir.
There is also a train option. Balikesir is the nearest train station, which serves both Izmir and Istanbul.
Once you’re in Ayvalik, you can get around very quickly. There are dolmus (minibusses) and trains in abundance, and you can also walk around much of the town.
If you’re visiting Cunda on Alibey Island, there are regular ferries during the summer months to the main town center.
Best Area To Stay
Ayvalik isn’t huge, so you won’t have a problem finding somewhere central to stay. The center of town is full of boutique hotels that range from cost-effective to higher price tags.
You can also choose to stay on Alibey Island, with Cunda being the central point of the island. Ali Cetinkaya and Camlik are two other notable districts where you could choose to stay.
If you are headed to Turkey’s Aegean Coast, then the stone houses, historic cafes, and old streets of Ayvalik await.