The Ruins of Assos, overlooking the Aegean

Canakkale and the Gallipoli peninsula would be the furthest would would go in our summer trip; from there we made our way back towards Kusadasi to take a ferry back to the Greek islands. We booked a night in Ayvalik (more on that later) so we decided to take in one more set of ruins on the way there.

The Fiat Egea was able to handle the fast and largely empty E87 highway (maximum 140 km/h) and we spent much of the day winding around towards Ayvalik. After a couple hours of driving we exited the main highway and made our way up towards the town of Behram, located directly below and around the ruins of Assos.

Assos was located next to the town of Behram. The Greek island of Lesvos (Lesbos) could easily be seen from the ruins

We had to park along the side of the road under a rocky cliff, and walked a short distance into the town. From there we found a street that went up towards the ruins. Behram is more of a village than a town, and was easy to navigate on foot. Apparently there was another more modern entrance to the ruins located on another road into town with more parking available. For us it didn’t matter and we were able to see more of the town from the route we took.

After passing a number of souvenir and food stalls we approached the ticket booth
Entry fee was 50 lira each

Named to the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2017, Assos was founded by colonists from nearby Lesbos around 1000 BC.

German map of Assos from the late 1800s with the town of Behram shaded in the centre
The path up to the acropolis from the town entrance

The path through town wound up to the acropolis, and there was a bit further to go to get to the top. But at the top there were excellent views in all directions, including a full view of the Greek island of Lesbos.

Facing northward
To the west was the Greek island of Lesvos

Known as Appolonia during the lifetime of Pliny the Elder, the most famous resident of Assos was Aristotle. The Greek philosopher founded an academy at Assos.Much later it was taken by the Persians before they were driven out by Alexander the Great. As another historical footnote, the Bible mentions both Luke the Evangelist and St. Paul as visitors to the city.

The Temple of Athena

On the acropolis located 238 m above sea level stand the remains of the only Doric order temple in Asia Minor, which was dedicated to Athena and dates to 530 BC. Six of the original 38 columns remain..

The ancient city was later abandoned and the town shrunk in size. The ruins continue to be excavated today, such as the discovery of a large family grave in 2018.

Looking southward along the Turkish coast

After taking in the views from the top, we took a paved walkway that wound its way back down the other side of the ruins on the seaward side.

In front of the agora (public space) at Assos

At the base of the hill with a clear view of the Aegean was the public space (agora) where people used to meet. One wall of the original building was 140 metres (460 feet) long with multi-story shops throughout. These ruins stretched around the immediate area.

There were ruins of houses, commercial buildings, churches and halls scattered around. We didn’t continue towards the harbour further down, so we didn’t get to visit the theatre. However, we’ve seen many ancient theaters in Turkey so we were fine with it.

Eventually we followed the ancient road and made our way towards the massive main gate

The main gate and city walls are among the best preserved parts of the site. Using cut stones without mortar, the majority of the city walls were built in the 4th century BC. Originally there were ten gates in total running along the length of the wall, with two main gates located at the eastern and western ends. The width of the wall varies between 3 and 4 metres in thickness.

The well preserved 4th century BC city wall stretching from the main gate up the hill. Part of the necropolis is in the front
Looking back at the 14-meter-high (46 ft) towers next to the main gate
Tombs from the necropolis. We walked back up the hill following the outer wall behind the tombs
Heading back up

Just a bit further past the necropolis was the newer entrance to the ruins as well as a parking area. Since we didn’t want to walk all the way back through the town to get to our car, we climbed up a path that ran parallel to the city wall. It was steep at times as it went up towards the top of the hill where we began our trip but we eventually made it.

After clambering back up a pathway next to the wall we were back on top of the hill. We walked back down into the down and eventually reached the car. We found the sights and great view of Assos to be worth the detour off the main highway.

Although the drive onward to Ayvalik was uneventful, the drive to find the hotel within Ayvalik was a nightmare. I had thought driving and parking in downtown Canakkale and Izmir was bad, but we got out of those places unscathed. This time would be different.

Our hotel was located in the old town, and we soon discovered that Google maps had a hard time discerning between the narrow streets of the town. It sent us confusing directions on a number of occasions. We drove down one way streets, had to back up when cars came in the opposite direction, got stuck going down a narrowing street leading to a T-junction what wouldn’t work so we had to reverse our way back out a few hundred metres. Finally, we accidentally turned into the pedestrian section and had to avoid butcher shops and food stands as we try to ease our way out. Fortunately some of the locals were kind enough to help us eventually navigate our way out of it. We’re going to try Waze next time.

The Fiat was the largest car of the five rentals we had on the trip, but it wasn’t what we originally booked. It was fine on the highways and the open spaces but ended up being a headache driving in towns

The car was scraped up before we finally got to the parking area, and we decided never book a place in the middle of an old town if we’re travelling by car. Looking back now it wasn’t so bad, but at the time it felt like we were rats in a maze.

Some of the vegetable and dip tapas we had with fresh bread

After recovering from the experience we ate a delicious dinner consisting of various vegetarian tapas in the old town. The husband and wife team that ran it were very helpful in explaining the foods, and we could see the wife preparing things right from our table inside the tiny place. We could clearly see how fresh everything was and we enjoyed the simple meal.

Ayvalik waterfront

We also took in the waterfront to enjoy the sunset. We found the town to be charming and less touristy than other places, and it was a nice place in spite of the problems we had getting there. It would have been worth spending an extra day as we had little time to enjoy things before moving on.

The next day we left Ayvalik and heading down to Kusadasi, where we would stay one night before heading back to Greece via a ferry to Samos.

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