Cunda (Choonda) Island offshore from Ayvalik on the North Agean Coast of Turkey is connected to the mainland by an 8 km long Causeway, built in the late 1960’s. Cunda Island was changed to Alibey Island immediately prior to the Republic of Turkey being formed in 1923.
Although connected by road boats still regularly ply the 3km stretch of water between Ayvalik and Cunda. In the back streets behind the port, there is a collection of interesting old Greek Stone houses clustering around the (restored) Greek Taksiyarhis Church – the most well known local landmark.
What You Will Find in This Post
What to Eat on Cunda Island
Island life makes in mandatory that fish restaurants line the shore and a popular Ayvalik past time is to catch the ferry over to Cunda Deniz for the island’s famous Papalina (fried sardines) or my favourite Octopus Salad. Bey Nihat is another popular place for an island fish dinner.
Tas Kahve Coffee Shop is in a beautiful old stone building in the front row of the harbour. They serve Turkish Coffee (acquired taste). I’ll take the Çay any day! It’s in a fantastic position for my favourite Turkish scrambled egg “menemen” breakfast or for people watching and ice-cream.
Cunda was once a Greek Island
Along with Ayvalik, the enforced population exchange of 1923 saw the Greek population of Cunda Island, known by the Greeks as Moschonisi, swapping with Turkish residents of Crete and Lesbos.
Read more about this huge population swap HERE.
Read how the Greek Islanders were persecuted before finally being repatriated to Greece.
Where to Stay on Alibey Island (Cunda Island) Turkey
There is no better way of experiencing one of the delightful stone houses of Alibey Island or Cunda Island than choosing one from the Airbnb Site.
Remember if you are new to Airbnb that you can join using the portal in our side bar and receive a significant reduction on your first booking.
How to get to Cunda Island/Alibey Island
The Island is in the Balikesir Region of Turkey:
- 8km from Ayvalik and
- 150 km north of Izmir.
- 500 km west of Istanbul and
- 16km east of the Greek Island of Lesbos.
When driving from Istanbul, catching the car ferry to Bandirma then driving to Ayvalik will save time and effort. We rented a diesel sedan from Izmir and drove north to Gallipoli and Canakkale breaking the journey at Ayvalik and Cunda Island.
Boat leave regularly from Ayvalik
Dolmus (Public Mini Bus) leave regularly from Ayvalik.
Things to see and do on Alibey Island/Cunda Island
Sevim Necdet Kent Kitaplığı
The once white windmill is now restored to original stone and houses a souvenir shop and cafe and a library of political books of Necdet. Necdet saved Turkish Jews in WWII. Kent 5 TL adult.
Drive around the Island.
Herbs like nettle, blessed thistle, chicory and izvinye grow wild in the rocky soil and are widely used in local cooking. You will find bags of dried herbs like these for sale at the weekly Ayvalik Market.
There are approx. 2.5 million olive trees in the Ayvalik area. I wonder how old these Island ones were?
Our route led north from the windmill and east to Birincikoy (on the above map) or Biyicli Beach on Google Maps. Out of season it all looks very pretty and instagrammable. It was early September during our visit and with the beach season already over, we discovered a very sleepy, some might say comatose ambience.
The protected water is shallow and still.
Biyikli Pension is located 7km from the Island port on a dirt road. While in good condition during our visit, the road can be bad at times.
On the shore behind the jetty, were these over water pavilions, similar to the ones we saw 1,000 km to the east in the Ihlara Valley of Cappadocia.
A monastery is easily visible on the island in the bay between Cataltepe (20 min. walk to hill views) and Birincikoy. I am sure that arranging a boat would be easy, but the distance looks swimmable don’t you think?
Abandoned places like this can be found all over Turkey.
Cunda Island offers swimming, diving, hiking, relaxation in a beautiful Aegean setting. So different to the tropical islands I am used to – yet with the same warm invitation to lay in the sun, let a book shade your eyes and feel your tensions drift slowly out to sea.
Things to know.
It has an area of 23 sq.km.
It has been connected to the mainland via a causeway since the mid 1960’s.
The island landmark Taksiarchis Greek Orthodox Cathedral was derelict but is now restored.
Eat fresh meze and seafood dishes that use local herbs.
Ayvalic translates to Pear in English.
This post is linked to:
Corinne’s Weekend Travel Inspiration over at Reflections Enroute.
Noel’s Travel Photo Mondays over at Travel Photo Discovery.