Located on Turkeys north Aegean coast in the Balikesir Province, between the Izmir and Canakkale is the popular seaside town of Ayvalik. Famous for its spectacular natural beauty and stunning coastline, Ayvalik offers its guests pristine sandy beaches and tranquil waters, its bay is home two 22 small islands including Cunda and Timarhane and the Greek Island of Lesbos is just a short Ferry Ride away. Some of Turkeys best dishes come from this region and on Tenekeciler Street you can sample the delicious Aegean cuisine at one of the many restaurants. There are also multiple cafes and bars along the Sarimsakli coast and nightlife is vibrant in the area.

The town was once inhabited by Greeks and the traditional architecture maintains its Greek heritage, you are even likely to hear locals speaking in Greek as your wander through the quaint streets dotted with colourful doors, orthodox churches and historic cafes. Ayvalik is also the centre of Turkeys best olive oil-producing region, nowadays the factories are on the outskirts of the town but some of the original factories can still be found decaying in the town centre. Many independent stores fill their shelves with product as well as locally produces good and souvenirs.

Originally named Kydonia meaning 'the place of quince', Ayvalik has been a major olive cultivating region for hundreds of years and has been the main economic resource providing approximately 80% of Turkeys olive oil. During the Ottoman times, Ayvalik was a major trading port and the most prosperous town on the Aegean coast. Over the year the town has changed hands between Greeks, Turks and Cretans, and had been inhabited by Cretan Turks since the population exchange in 1923, this mix of cultures is partly what gives the Ayvalik such an interesting and quirky character today.

Within the Town
The old town is an ideal place to begin exploring, close to the harbour the old streets are like a maze filled with hidden cafes and bustling market squares, marvel at the Greek-Ottoman architecture and Orthodox churches or drink coffee at 'the devils coffee house' Saytan Kahvesi. Saatli Camii sits within the centre, the mosque was converted from a Greek church and original frescoes still adorn the inside walls and a clock is built into one of its towers. Cinarli Camii is another example of a converted church and its pink exterior is decorated with ornaments. South of the centre is the Camlik neighbourhood which hosts original neoclassic mansions, they are impressive structures and well worth a look.

On Thursdays there is a busy local market, ideal for purchasing fresh fruit and vegetables or fish, you could also eat lunch at one of the many pop-up cafes, locals and tourists alike fill the market and it is an important weekly event. You could even walk to the viewpoint at Ilk Kursun Hill for a fantastic view of the surrounding landscape.

Sarimsakli Beach
This is a beautiful sandy beach that stretches for 7 kilometres along the Aegean coast, Sarimsakli is popular among Turks from the city who fill the beach at weekends and party through the night. There are many options for accommodation and elegant restaurants stand alongside the white sandy beach, the water here is particularly clear and excellent for swimming and sunbathing. Sarimsakli Beach is easy to reach by public bus from Ayvalik town centre.

Cunda Island
Also known as Alibey Island, Cunda is the largest of Turkey's archipelago islands, once home to the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Bishop and the Moonlight Monastery. It hosts sublime beaches and a quiet cobbled stone town with olive groves, gift shops and fine fish restaurants, it is also an ideal spot for water sports and to watch the sunset. The island is connected to the mainland by bridge, buses run regularly or you could walk or take a taxi.

Timarhane Island
Timarhane is one of the many islands in the bay of Ayvalik, it is perfect for nature lovers as many hiking trails run across the hilly landscape leading to charming beaches and refreshing waters.

Regular Ferries connect Ayvalik to the Greek island of Lesbos, leaving daily during high season. Bus routes connect the town to Izmir and Istanbul and there are direct flight to Ankara or Istanbul from Edremit Korfez Airport, 40 kilometres away. 

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