Shaped like an amphitheater, Ayvalık is an already intriguing town by its structure. This old town has a long history of occupations as well as stories about Greek mythology.
There are more than 1800 houses registered as historical buildings and many old churches and mosques to see as well. One of them is the church of Ayios Yorgi, which has been transformed into Çınarlı Mosque, and that was built with garlic stone.
There are more than 20 islands in Ayvalık. All islands except Cunda Island are National Parks. The biggest and most famous of them, Cunda, is also known by the name of Alibey Island. The area is a peninsula since 1966 what a manmade land connection was constructed. It is also one of the most visited places when it comes to gastronomy tourism in Aegian, as it is the birthplace of recipes like Cretan rice with octopus and zucchini salad.
Another famous island is Tımarhane Island (tımarhane means madhouse in Turkish) which is a very interesting place to visit with its history and rocks with howling sounds when it’s windy. Ayvalık has two of the longest sandy beaches in Turkey. One of these is Altınova Beach, one of the few rare sand islands in the world.
A distinctive history, a stunning nature, and excellence in food are there in Ayvalık for you to discover. And there are a lot of other things you can do too, let’s explore what things to do in Ayvalik.
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Where to Stay in Ayvalik
We’re in the process of creating comprehensive guides on where to stay in various Turkish cities, but for now, we recommend checking out Booking.com as early as possible since many hotels in Ayvalk sell out early. If you’re in a rush and want to check our favorite places, take a look at this selection.
Here are our top suggestions for where to stay in Ayvalik. In most cases, budget means hotel stays for around $35 a night, mid-range is from about $40 to $80 per night, and luxury will cost over $100 per night.
Budget: Visiting Ayvalik with a reduced budget doesn’t mean that your choice will also be reduced when thinking about where to stay. There are many places you can book for a small fee that provide great services. We recommend Kidalyo Hotel, with top reviews, as well as Hotel Marine.
Magical Things to Do in Ayvalik
In no particular order, these are some of the best things you can do in Ayvalik…
Discover Ayvalik Old Town
Ayvalik is a town in Turkey located in the province of Balikesir. The Old Town of Ayvalik is a calming sight for sore eyes and a place to explore when visiting Ayvalik. Its narrow yet posh streets are filled with market squares and cafes at every corner of the town. The cobbled houses are a major contributing factor to the beauty of the old town.
Along the road, the magnificent edifices of the Greek Orthodox churches that were erected by the Greek locals during the Ottoman Empire are still present. One of the significant historical landmarks of the town is the Karmanlar Unlu Mamulleri bakery, which has been here for decades.
The Old Town Coffee is one of the most renowned coffee houses in Ayvalik, due to its splendid coffees and the picturesque building. All in all, Ayvalik’s Old Town will take your breath away with its elegant beauty and rich culture.
Moshos Taverna is one of the many outstanding restaurants that Ayvalik has to offer. Located on the Island of Cunda, this restaurant is well known for its delicious and exotic food.
Constructed in a typical Greek fashion, the restaurant offers a wide range of seafood along with delightful Turkish, Greek, and Mediterranean Cuisines.
One can dine outdoors where the air is fresh and further ravishes one’s appetite. Live music further contributes to an already electrifying atmosphere.
Moshos Taverna is known to have excellent service. In addition to that, a person can choose from a wide variety of alcoholic beverages. This restaurant is the amalgamation of various rich cultures and further adds to the already splendid Cunda Island. Don’t forget to make a reservation in advance due to high demand.
Location: Mithatpaşa, Halk Cad. No:12, 10405 Ayvalık
A True Gem, Cunda Island
The island of Cunda is reachable both by land and sea. Cunda is a must to visit if you are in Balıkesir Region. It is the largest island in the Ayvalık area and has many scenic bike routes for avid cyclists, such as the route around Cunda National park, perfect to visit secluded beaches on the island.
Not only does Cunda have a tremendous natural beauty, but also, a walk through the cobbled streets decorated with olive trees, where you can also see the Greek stone houses with shutters in many colors will take you away from the hustle and bustle of the modern-day.
Spend your day laying on the sandy beaches with the occasional dip in the clear turquoise Aegean Sea. There are many interesting places to visit on this beach-encircled paradise that is also known as Alibey Island.
Mola Beach Cunda
Mola Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches on the island of Cunda. It is a go-to place for many tourists who visit Cunda Island. The sun rays hitting the beach make the sand glisten while the calm, rhythmic crashing of waves on the seashore is the only thing disturbing the quietness of the beach.
The water is quite shallow, which encourages people from any age to experience setting foot in the warm and clear water. It can also prove to be the ideal place for boating and kayaking. When the sun sets, it gives off perfect lighting over the calm water.
This view makes you admire the beauty of nature, trust me, this beach will be a long-lasting memory.
Location: Namik Kemal Mahallesi, Uc Kuyular Cad. No: 18, Cunda Island, Ayvalik
Vino Sarap Evi
Vino Sarap Evi is one of the most popular wine houses on the island of Cunda, Its soothing ambiance makes it an ideal place for a person to sit back and enjoy a glass of wine. The perfect blend of evergreen vines and cobbled streets gives a friendly vibe.
At night, the electrifying atmosphere is filled with the sound of music and the cackle of people enjoying a great time. You can choose from a wide array of wines and liquors, all available at affordable prices. Also, they have a wide variety of exotic foods, all very delicious.
Location: Mithat Pasa Mah. Cumhuriyet Cad. No:8 (Cunda Adasi) Ayvalik
See the Endangered Red Corals
Ayvalık is also an important region for scuba divers with its colorful underwater fauna. It has more than 40 diving points.
With so many options you don’t need to worry about the weather conditions. Red coral, to be found at 25 meters of depth, is an endangered species due to its high value in jewelry.
Panoramic View from Şeytan Sofrası
Another memorable sight to see is Şeytan Sofrası (which means the devil’s table in Turkish). The place takes its name from a footprint-shaped hole that was believed to belong to the devil. You can see almost all the islands from the top.
Camp at Kozak Plateau
If these aren’t enough for you, only 20 kilometers away you’ll find Kozak Plateau. It is not like other narrow plateaus; instead, it is like an endless forest.
This Plateau contains more than 5 million pine trees and it’s a perfect place for camping. Besides, there are 16 villages in the area that you can visit. One of them is Demircidere, where it’s possible to visit the local museum created by the villagers.
Eat Cheesecake at Ayna Restaurant
If you are looking for a high-quality freshly prepared meal, then this is the place for you. Set a little back from the harbor, this unique and elegant restaurant serves delicious cuisine made using local produce.
The menu is rich with seasonal offerings suiting any palate. From freshly caught sea bass to high-quality mezes, you will not be disappointed. Don’t forget to leave some room for the sweet. Here, the desserts, especially the cheesecake, are to die for!
You can choose to dine inside or al fresco, but unfortunately with no sea view. During the summer months, especially at the weekends, making a reservation is usually a must.
Eat Ayvalık Toast at Taş Kahve
The place is perfect to relax while watching the small fishing boats that bob around on the water and enjoying a delicious cup of Turkish coffee, not forgetting some Ayvalık toast.
You cannot only smell the coffee but also the traditions, from the very large pestle and mortar used to ground the coffee, to the stonewalls and church-like windows. Coffee is not the only item on the menu; there is a wide range of teas and delicious ice cream, which is the perfect refresher on a hot summer’s day.
The atmosphere is relaxed but it’s still popular with tourists during the summer season. The service is not as efficient when the café is busy, but with views like these, you don’t mind.
Taksiyarhis Church Rahmi Koç Museum
A quaint walk through the narrow streets will take you to Taksiyarhis Church. This church was damaged in an earthquake back in 1944 and was left in ruins until it was recently restored in 2014, funded by a prominent Turkish businessman, this church impresses on both the outside and inside.
Don’t forget to look up, as the ceilings are truly a work of art. Originally conceived as a Greek Orthodox church, since 2014 it has been used as a museum that houses items from Rahmi Koç’s collections, this includes a deriving style of vehicles and industrial engines. The church/museum also has an interesting toy section. With a very low entrance fee, it is most definitely worth a visit.
Sevim Necdet Library
For breathtaking sunsets and spectacular views, walk ten minutes from the center to visit the Sevim Necdet Library, which is a renovated chapel with a library inside. As you walk up to the entrance you will see the spectacular gates that have been lovingly restored.
The library used to be known for holding books related to church law and religious texts but now stocks books from the Kent family, donated by their son after his father’s eyesight worsened. The library was named after Mr. Necedet Kent, who was a Turkish diplomat, during WWII. He granted citizenship to many Jewish French Turks, even though they didn’t have the correct papers.
Behind the chapel is a windmill, which was originally used to grind grain into flour in the monastery. Unfortunately, both buildings were in disrepair until 2007 when they were restored by the Koç family foundation.
If you are feeling thirsty after your walk there is a small café serving drinks and light lunches, and of course picturesque views of the whole island.
Ayvalik Island Natural Park
Ayvalik Island Natural Park is one of the most highly anticipated places in Ayvalik. Its breathtaking views and delightful scenery make it heaven on earth for every person who visits it.
Situated on the Island of Cunda, this place tends to create a perfect atmosphere for a person who wishes to hike, camp, or scuba dive in the warm waters surrounding the park. The chirping noise of birds and the calm, soothing waves of the sea add to the calm environment of the park.
It consists of several beaches where you won’t resist sunbathing or swimming. At night, these beaches prove to be the perfect venue for bonfires.
Ayvalik Island Natural Park also consists of small coves much to the delight of adventurers. These coves give habitat to various small fish that can be distinctly seen through the clear, transparent water. Ayvalik Island Natural Park is one of the most mesmerizing places in the whole of Turkey, a perfect destination for your next vacation.
Location: Uckuyular Cad, 10405 (Cunda Adasi), Ayvalık
Saatli Mosque is one of the historical and religious landmarks of Ayvalik, right in the heart of town. The church, which was transformed into a mosque, is the living embodiment of the diverse and rich culture of the city. It was initially constructed by the Greek Orthodox Christians in 1850 and was later converted into a mosque somewhere around 1928.
At one of the corners of the building, there’s a clock tower, while a towering minaret was erected right next to it. At the top of the mosque, there’s an enormous dome.
The interior of Saatli Mosque is posh yet plain. While there are giant pillars that support the massive construction, a nearby garden further adds to its grandeur.
Situated in the Mithatpasha neighborhood, Panaya Church is one of the sacred and historical locations of Ayvalik. The ruins of the church sit on the top of the hill, where the exhilarating views and breath-taking scenery attract many visitors.
Panaya Church, also known as Panagia Church, was put up in 1863. The walls were built with black granite stones. It was primarily known to be one of the biggest churches on the island of Cunda. The south side of the church gave rise to a bell tower, which was distinctly visible from a distance.
An earthquake destroyed the church in 1944, and its remains were used in the construction of a school. The sad yet fascinating history of this church makes it a historical landmark of the Island.
What to Pack for Ayvalik & Cunda Island
We have a guide on what to pack for Turkey, but here are five things you want to bring with you!
The Lonely Planet Turkey: a good guidebook that can help you with the kinds of safety tips you need if you’re out in the city and feel a bit lost, especially if you don’t have internet or a cell signal. These also have specific neighborhood information that will help you in different parts of the city, and it’s a great supplement to blog posts like this one!
Unlocked Cell Phone: Stephanie and I both have unlocked cell phones that we bought in Europe (Stephanie uses a Samsung and I use an iPhone). This allows up to get sim cards when we travel so that we always have the internet. This has gotten us out of so many jams! If you don’t have an unlocked cell phone that can use a Turkish sim card, you can buy a cheaper unlocked phone online and bring it with you!
Pacsafe Citysafe or Other Anti-Theft Bag: This is the bag both Stephanie and I use for all our travels. It has a pouch with RFID technology so our credit cards can’t get scanned from afar, interlocking zippers to make it harder to pickpocket, and it’s roomy enough to be a perfect sightseeing day bag, yet it’s still quite stylish for all of its security features. If you’d rather bring something smaller, you can pack a money belt instead.
Grayl Water Filter: While the water is *technically* safe to drink in much of Turkey, I would still avoid it. If you don’t want to be buying millions of plastic water bottles, you can get a reusable water bottle that comes with a water filter so that you can stick to the tap water and reduce your plastic waste. If you’ll be traveling outside of the major tourist centers, check if the water is potable locally.
Seabands: If you get seasick easily, pack some Sea bands or seasickness pills so you don’t miss out on the best parts of Turkey – being on the water! A trip to Turkey isn’t complete without a cruise or at least a quick boat trip, so make sure you’re prepared to enjoy it to the fullest!
More Turkey Travel Resources
We have a ton of resources to help you plan your trip to Turkey!
If this will be your first time traveling to Turkey, check out this guide to planning a trip to Turkey (including visa information) and this guide of beautiful places to visit in Turkey. You can also check out our Balkan currency guide, which explains how the Turkish lira works and guidelines for tipping in Istanbul.
We’re working on our massive things to do in Istanbul post, plus you can check out our guide to the best Instagram spots around Istanbul, tips for shopping in Istanbul, the best Turkish food to eat, how to plan an Istanbul honeymoon, and what to do in Istanbul at night.
If you want to be in the city for just a few days (four or less), check out our Istanbul city break guide, which breaks down the best of the city so you won’t miss anything!
Headed to Cappadocia? If you’re curious about the most Instagrammable places in Cappadocia, we’ve got you covered. We also have posts on the best things to do in Cappadocia, and how to plan a perfect 3 day Cappadocia itinerary, plus how to get to Cappadocia from Istanbul.
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
If you’re planning a trip to Turkey, make sure to travel with a valid travel insurance policy. While we feel safe in Turkey, it’s a good idea to be covered in case of an emergency. Travel insurance covers you in case of theft or an accident, which can save your trip if there’s an incident.
For travel insurance, Allison and I use World Nomads. I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.