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Ayvalik in Turkey

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Ayvalik in Turkey

Ayvalik is located on the tip of the Turkish coast just 6 hours by air-conditioned coach from Istanbul and 1.5 hours by sea from the port of Mytilini on the island of Lesvos. The area of Ayvalik is located in the Balikesir province which has some of the most beautiful sandy beaches encircled by the silvery green of olive groves. This is a large area which runs from the beach area of Sarmisak and up to the northern point of Cunda Island. The hills surrounding the city, known as Seytan Sofrasi, overlook both Ayvalik and Cunda Island and are a must for visitors, in particular because of the striking sunset that this vantage point, the highest in the Ayvalik region offers. Ayvalik is situated by "The Olive Riviera" and it is from here that the largest of Turkey's olive production originates.

The town of Ayvalik has a population of 25,000 and is located about 120 km north of Izmir, has remained mostly unspoiled and has magnificent Aegean architecture and cobblestone streets. Seldom mentioned in the same breath as more well known sites in Turkey, you will not find wild bars and discos, which have made places such as Marmaris and Bodrum famous and the area tends to attract visitors interested in a relaxing holiday with beautiful scenery and a wealth of historical and archaeological sites.

The narrow cobbled streets here have changed little from the time of their conception and the town offers a unique combination of natural beauty and history. In general Ayvalik has thankfully been spared over-development. Olive oil and fresh fruit is in abundance here and the the town is extremely well known for it's fresh sea food and fish. Many Turks travel from Izmir and Istanbul to get away from busy city life for a weekend and enjoy dinners overlooking the harbour.

Whilst visiting here, try to take time to see the back streets of the bazaar to see a little of the local life. This is the best way to discover the real Ayvalik. Windows adorned with colourful curtains, rows of olive oil bottles on kitchen ledges and many unique doorknockers fastened to brightly coloured doors. If you look, you will see the many designs and figures engraved into the stonework of houses showing evidence of the town’s mosaic of cultures. A stroll through the narrow roads of the town will charm the visitor with many fine examples of old style masonry using the local reddish Sarmisak stone.

The area of Ayvalik has been populated at least since 330BC . Ayvalik's original name was Hekatonnesoi, which came from the God Hekatos of Cunda Island. The town was almost completely destroyed during the Greek Independance War. In 1923 under the Freedom Treaty of Lausanne, an estimated half a million Greeks were to leave Asia Minor while Turks left Macedonia, Crete and Lesvos.

Ayvalik Bazaar

The main bazaar (market) is held on a Thursday, although there are smaller versions on Saturdays. If you want to take full advantage of any bargains to be had, Thursday is the day to choose for our excursion into Turkey. The central streets of Ayvalik are closed to traffic during the bazaar day and are literally full of stalls. This is mainly a clothes bazaar where you will find cotton is especially cheap and most is of extremely good quality.

In the middle of the bazaar area you will find the central food market. The food market is extremely logical in it's design and has areas of fresh fruit stalls, vegetables, spices, nuts and pulses, fresh cheese and eggs. If you are self catering in Ayvalik or traveling through the country, you should definitely stop here to stock up on fresh supplies.

You will find that the spice stalls here often have 12 different kinds of chili, let alone oregano, sage, basil, cumin and countless others. Look out for the huge bags of Saffron which adorn the tables too. The owners of the stalls will often dip ladles into the spices and offer you them to try. As a word of advice it is a good idea to keep a small bottle of water handy !

If you are looking for cotton products or clothing in general, you can't go far wrong here and you will find stall upon stall of all manner of attire. The market separates into sections, one of which appears to be for clothes and one for shoes. You have to look closely before you buy and you will be approached by stall owners, but in general, and contrary to popular belief you will not likely experience 'hassling' and won't have to barter much to achieve good prices. Most stall owners are quite friendly !

Information on Ferry Trips between Lesvos Island (Mytilini) & Turkey (Ayvalik)

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