Explore The North Aegean
Turkey’s North Aegean sees far fewer visitors than the coastline further south. While there are some excellent sandy beaches, the lower sea temperature and lack of a major airport have protected the region from widespread development. Most summer visitors are Turks and, while tourism is inevitably important to the local economy, even in August visitor numbers don’t match those at the country’s more renowned destinations. Away from the few resorts, farming, fishing and (close to İzmir) heavy industry provide the main livelihoods.
In this area, the territory of ancient Aeolia, civilization bloomed under the Phrygians, who arrived in Anatolia during the thirteenth century BC. Later, Greek colonists established coastal settlements, leaving the region rich in Classical and Hellenistic remains. Although the sparse ruins of Troy don’t quite live up to their literary and legendary reputation, ancient Assos and Pergamon (modern Bergama) display more tangible reminders of the power and wealth of the greater Greek cultural sphere. Less visited are the recently excavated ruins of Alexandria Troas, and the isolated Lydian city of Sardis, ancient capital of King Croesus, huddled at the foot of impressive mountains.
Coming from İstanbul or anywhere else in northwestern Turkey, the most obvious entry point is Çanakkale – useful as a base for both the ruins at Troy and the World War I battlefields on the Gelibolu (Gallipoli) peninsula. Offshore, the fine Turkish Aegean islands of Gökçeada and Bozcaada provide an easy escape from Çanakkale. The road south from Çanakkale is justifiably marked as scenic on most maps, with much of the route wooded and gently hilly, giving way to a coastal strip backed by the mountains of the Kazdağı range that conceal idyllic villages like Yeşilyurt and Adatepe. Further south, the best stretches of beach lie near Ayvalık – the area’s longest-established resort – though there are also pleasant sands below Assos, at Çandarlı and north of Foça.
In general there’s less to see inland, with a mountainous landscape and a few predominantly industrial cities. However, the İzmir–Bandırma railway provides an alternative approach to the region, passing through unremarkable Balıkesir (from where there are frequent buses to Ayvalık), Soma (a short bus ride away from Bergama) and Manisa – the only town worthy of any prolonged attention.Read More