Explore Ayvalık’s islands and natural richness
There are 22 islands belonging to Ayvalık, dotting the Aegean Sea like tiny gems. The most prominent is Cunda Island, but the 21 other islands also offer incredible beauty both on land and in the water. The marine life in the area is a significant draw for divers but visitors can also explore these islands via boat.
Ayvalık Islands Natural Park, the largest in Turkey, extends over an area of approximately 18,000 hectares, including the sea and 20 of the 22 islands known as Ayvalık Islands. Among the attractions are red corals, found in only two places in the Mediterranean.
Pine nuts and other nature on the Kozak Plateau
The Kozak Plateau extends from Bergama and to Ayvalık. With a total of 16 villages, Kozak Plateau is 20 km from Ayvalık, and has extensive stone pine forests, from which pine nuts are harvested. The road to Kozak passes along pastures with cows, sheep and horses; sometimes flamingos are visible around the many ponds. Visitors to the Plateau can sample pine nuts, among the world’s rarest and tastiest nuts, amid an incredible landscape. For a crowd-free day amid nature, explore the Kozak Plateau by bicycle or private car.
Taste the olives and olive oils admired worldwide
Ayvalık is famous for its olive groves and centuries-old olive oil factories. Of Turkey’s 170 million olive trees, 2.5 million are in this region. Known as the ‘land of winds’ in antiquity, Ayvalık’s climate and soil structure result in olives – and thus olive oil – with a distinctive flavor. The ‘Ayvalık Industrial Landscape’, admitted to the Tentative List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, is partially based on the area’s olive industry, which has shaped the architecture via olive oil factories, soap production plants and warehouses and thereby stands out in the world’s olive oil market. To gaze upon these olives – some from trees that are more than 500 years old – is to feel the power of nature. Sampling the oil produced from these olives is an equally unique experience.
Explore the diversity of Aegean herbs in Ayvalık
After olive oil, the most important elements of Ayvalık cuisine are Ayvalık herbs. This is where the renowned Aegean herbs are most diverse – which is why they’re referred to as Ayvalık herbs rather than Aegean herbs, particularly among local residents. While it’s difficult to count the exact number of edible herbs grown in Ayvalık specifically and in the Aegean region in general, each arrives as a gift from nature. Providing both taste and healing qualities, these herbs include wild asparagus, baby’s tear, mallow, thistle, wild radish, glasswort, puffed cabbage, chicory, wild green pea leaves, brown mustard, gand flower, dock, corchorus and many more. Some are used fresh and others are preferred dried, but the markets of Ayvalık are redolent with the scent of these wonderful plants.
And there’s camping
The ultimate nature holiday almost certainly features camping, and staying in a tent or a caravan is a popular solution to the need for social distance. Ayvalık is no laggard in this regard, offering campsites such as Sarımsaklı, Çamlık and Turhanlı, among others. The relatively secluded Mosko Island Bay, on Cunda features a few campsites, including Ada Camping, a beachfront campsite with a forest backdrop. At Ada, tree-shaded tables and chairs are available for campers with tents. As well, Ada offers bungalow and caravan rentals, along with a café that features olive oil dishes (using oil from olives extracted from their own grove) and Aegean herbs. Footpaths run through the forest. Another prominent campsite on Cunda is Cunda Mocamp, with both wood cottages and an area for tents. Other campsites on Cunda are Aquarium Bay and Ortunç Bay.