For other places with the same name, see Ayvalık (disambiguation).

A view of the Çamlık area of Ayvalık and the Ayvalık Islands archipelago in the Aegean Sea, with the Greek island of Lesbos on the horizon, at left.

Location of Ayvalık within Turkey.

Coordinates: 39°19′10″N 26°41′40″E / 39.31944°N 26.69444°E / 39.31944; 26.69444Coordinates: 39°19′10″N 26°41′40″E / 39.31944°N 26.69444°E / 39.31944; 26.69444
Country  Turkey
Region Aegean
Province Balıkesir
  Mayor Rahmi Gençer (CHP)
  District 265.37 km2 (102.46 sq mi)
Population (2012)[2]
  Urban 37,197
  District 64,153
  District density 240/km2 (630/sq mi)
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
  Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Postal code 10400
Area code(s) +90 (266)
Licence plate 10
Website http://www.ayvalik.bel.tr/

Ayvalık (Turkish: [ˈajvaɫɯk]; Greek: Αϊβαλί, Κυδωνίες) is a seaside town on the northwestern Aegean coast of Turkey. It is a district of Balıkesir Province. The town center of Ayvalık is surrounded by the archipelago of Ayvalık Islands, which face the nearby Greek island of Lesbos.

It was alternatively called Kydonies (Κυδωνίες) by the town's former Greek population; although the use of the name Ayvalık was widespread for centuries among both the Turks and the Greeks, pronounced as Ayvali (Αϊβαλί) by the latter.


Ayvalık is a district in Turkey's Balıkesir Province on the Aegean Sea coast. It is situated on a narrow coastal plain surrounded by low hills to the east which are covered with pine and olive trees. Ayvalık is also surrounded by the archipelago of the Ayvalık Islands (the largest of which is Cunda Island) on the sea and by a narrow peninsula in the south named the Hakkıbey Peninsula. Ayvalık is the southernmost district of Balıkesir. Gömeç, Burhaniye and Edremit are other districts of the Balıkesir Province which are situated on the Aegean shores and they are lined up respectively to the north. The region is under the influence of a typical Mediterranean climate with mild and rainy winters and hot, dry summers.

In antiquity

Ayvalık was located in the ancient region named Aeolis in antiquity. The ruins of three important ancient cities are within a short driving distance away from Ayvalık: Assos and Troy are to the north, while Pergamon is to the east. Mount Ida (Turkish: Kaz Dağı) which plays an important role in ancient Greek mythology and folk tales (such as the cult of Cybele; the Sibylline books; the Trojan War and the epic poem Iliad of Homer; the nymph Idaea (wife of the river god Scamander); Ganymede (the son of Tros); Paris (the son of Priam); Aeneas (the son of Anchises and the goddess Aphrodite) who is the protagonist of the ancient Roman epic poem Aeneid of Virgil) is also near Ayvalık (to the north) and can be seen from numerous areas in and around the town center.


Various archeological studies in the region prove that Ayvalık and its environs were inhabited as early as the prehistoric ages. Joseph Thacher Clarke believed that he had identified it as the site of Kisthene, mentioned by Strabo as a place in ruins at a harbour beyond Cape Pyrrha.[3] Kisthene was further identified by Engin Beksaç of Trakya University, as Kız Çiftlik, near the centre of Gömeç.

A panoramic view of Ayvalık's town center.

The Ayvalık Region was studied by Beksaç in his survey of the Prehistoric and Protohistoric settlements on the Southern Side of the Gulf of Adramytteion (Edremit). The survey showed different settlements near the centre of Ayvalık which appear generally to relate to the Early Classical Periods. However, some settlements near the centre of Altınova were related to the Prehistoric Period, especially the Bronze and Iron Ages. Kortukaya, identified by Beksaç in his survey project in the 1990s and early 2000s, aids understanding of the interaction between the peoples of the interior and of the coast. Kortukaya is one of the most important settlements, along with another settlement, Yeni Yeldeğirmeni, near the centre of Altınova.

Traces of a hillfort were identified by Beksaç on Çıplak Island or Chalkys. Some Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age Pottery fragments related to the Aeolians were found on the same island. Two tiny settlements, near the centre of Ayvalık, were settlements in the Peraia of Mytilene.

Historic map of Ayvalık by Piri Reis.
Seafront with old Greek houses at the port of Ayvalık.
Houses in Cunda Island, the largest of the Ayvalık Islands.
View from a fish restaurant at the port of Cunda Island.

Pordoselene, near the centre of Ayvalık, was also an important settlement in Antiquity. The remnants were on the eastern part of Cunda Island, near the sea. All the archaeological data was related to the Classical and Medieval Ages.

The constant threat posed by piracy in the region during the previous ages did not allow the islet settlements to grow larger and only Cunda Island (alternatively known as Alibey Island, known among the Greeks as Moschonisia, literally "The Perfumed Island") could maintain a higher level of habitation as it is the largest and the closest islet to the mainland.

After the Byzantine period, the region came under the rule of the Anatolian beylik of Karasi in the 13th century and was later annexed to the territory of the Ottoman beylik (principality), which was to become the Ottoman Empire in the following centuries. The locals contributed with their economies to the Greek struggle for independence, including the famous Psorokostaina.

As of 1920, the population was estimated at 60,000.[4] It had a small port, exporting soap, olive oil, animal hides and flour.[4] The British described Aivali (Ayvalık) and nearby Edremid (Edremit) as having the finest olive oil in Asia Minor.[4] They reported large exportations of olive oil to France and Italy.[4] However, the oil industry in Ayvalık suffered during the First World War due to the deportation of Christian populations in the area (some of whom fled to the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea), who were the primary makers of olive oil.[4] Alarmed at the decline of the industry, the Turkish government brought back 4,500 Greek families to the area in order to resume olive oil production.[4] Despite receiving wages, olive oil producing Greeks were kept under government surveillance.[4]

Ottoman era houses in Ayvalık.

Until 1922, Ayvalık was almost entirely populated by Greeks. Anecdotal evidence indicates that, immediately after the defeat in the naval Battle of Chesma (Çeşme), the Ottoman admiral (later Grand Vizier) Cezayirli Gazi Hasan Pasha and his men from the ships who survived the disaster were lodged on their way back to the capital by a local priest in Ayvalık, who did not know who they were. Hasan Pasha did not forget the kindness shown to his sailors in the hour of need, and when he became Grand Vizier, he accorded virtual autonomy to the Greeks of Ayvalık, paving the way for it to become an important cultural center for that community in the Ottoman Empire during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The town was controlled by the Greek Army on 29 May 1919 and consequently taken again three years later by Turkish forces under the command of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk on 15 September 1922. A part of the population managed to depart to Greece. However, a significant part of the local males were seized by the Turkish Army and died during death marches in the interior of Anatolia. Among the victims was the Christian clergy and the local metropolitan bishop, Gregory Orologas.[5][6] Following the Turkish War of Independence, the Greek population and their properties in the town were exchanged by a Muslim population from Greece, and other formerly held Ottoman Turkish lands, under the 1923 agreement for the Exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey. Most of the new population that replaced the former Greek community were Muslim Turks from Mytilene, Crete and Macedonia. One could still hear Greek spoken in the streets until recently. Many of the town's mosques are Greek Orthodox churches that have been converted into Muslim mosques.

Modern Ayvalık

Ayvalık Islands in the Aegean Sea, viewed from Şeytan Sofrası hill.

Today, the population of Ayvalık is close to 30,000, which significantly increases during the summer due to tourism. Ayvalık and its environs are famous for the highly appreciated quality of olive oil production, which provides an important source of income for the local population.[7] Ayvalık and the numerous islets encircling the bay area are popular holiday resorts. The largest and most important of these islets is Cunda Island (Alibey Island) which is connected to Lale Island, and thence to the mainland, by a bridge and causeway built in the late 1960s. This is the oldest bridge in Turkey that connects lands separated by a strait. Both Ayvalık and Cunda Island are famous for their seafood restaurants which are located immediately at the seashore.

Two mosques (former churches) in the historic town center of Ayvalık.

Ayvalık also has two of the longest sandy beaches of Turkey which extend as far as the Dikili district of İzmir nearly 30 km (19 mi) to the south. These are the Sarımsaklı and Altınova beaches. In recent years, Ayvalık has also become an important point of attraction for scuba divers with its underwater fauna.

Ayvalık is in close proximity to Bergama (ancient Pergamon), which is another important attraction for tourists, with its ruins dating back to antiquity. The Gulf of Edremit, Mount Ida and the ancient cities of Assos and Troy to the north; and the coastal resort towns of Dikili (near ancient Atarneus) and Foça (ancient Phocaea) to the south; are also within driving distance for daily excursions. Ferries operate daily between Ayvalık and Mytilene in nearby Lesbos Island, Greece.

Ayvalık International Music Academy (AIMA) was established in September 1998.[8] Students receive master-instructed classes for violin, viola and cello.[8] The academy brings together students from all over the world and gives them a precious opportunity to work with distinguished masters of their branch.[8]

USA-based Harvard University and Turkey's Koç University have established a joint project in Cunda Island of Ayvalık and run a Harvard-Koç University Intensive Ottoman & Turkish Summer School every summer.[9][10]

With its rich architectural heritage, Ayvalık is a member of the Norwich-based European Association of Historic Towns and Regions (EAHTR).[11]

Panoramic view of Ayvalık's bay area and the Ayvalık Islands archipelago, as seen from Şeytan Sofrası hill.

Notable people

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ayvalık.


  1. "Area of regions (including lakes), km²". Regional Statistics Database. Turkish Statistical Institute. 2002. Retrieved 2013-03-05.
  2. "Population of province/district centers and towns/villages by districts - 2012". Address Based Population Registration System (ABPRS) Database. Turkish Statistical Institute. Retrieved 2013-02-27.
  3. Joseph Thacher Clarke, "Gargara, Lamponia and Pionia: Towns of the Troad" The American Journal of Archaeology and of the History of the Fine Arts 4.3 (September 1888, pp. 291-319) p. 295 note 13.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Prothero, G.W. (1920). Anatolia. London: H.M. Stationery Office.
  5. Clark, Bruce (2006). Twice a stranger : the mass expulsion that forged modern Greece and Turkey. Cambridge (Massachusetts): Harvard University Press. p. 25. ISBN 9780674023680.
  6. Kiminas, Demetrius (2009). The Ecumenical Patriarchate. Wildside Press LLC. p. 76. ISBN 9781434458766.
  7. Prothero, G.W. (1920). Anatolia. London: H.M. Stationery Office.
  8. 1 2 3 Ayvalık International Music Academy (AIMA)
  9. "Intensive Ottoman Summer School in Turkey". Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. Harvard Summer School 2008. Archived from the original on 5 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-26.
  10. "Department of History". Koç University. 16 July 2007. Archived from the original on 7 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-26.
  11. European Association of Historic Towns and Regions (EAHTR)

External links

Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Ayvalik.
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