Ayvalık (Ancient Greek: Κυδωνίαι, Greek: Αϊβαλί aivali or Κυδωνίες) is a seaside town in the northwestern Aegean coast of Turkey. It is a district of the Balıkesir Province. It was alternatively called (Κυδωνίες - Kidonies) by the town's formerly important Greek population, although the use of the name Ayvalık was widespread for centuries among both the Turks and the Greeks (pronounced as Ayvali by the latter).
Various archeological finds and excavations 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 in Strabo as a place in ruins at a harbor beyond Cape Pyrrha The islets in the Ayvalık Bay (Ayvalık Körfezi) were also used for settlement purposes, together with Ayvalık, during the late Roman and early Byzantine periods. 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 Turkish Beylik of Karesi 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.
Until 1922, Ayvalık(aivali) had a large Greek population. 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 in the 19th century.
The town was occupied by the Greek Army on 29 May 1919, and taken back three years later by Turkish forces under the command of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk on 15 September 1922. Following the Turkish War of Independence, the Greek population in the town was replaced by a Muslim population from Greece under the 1923 agreement for the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations. Most of the new population that replaced the former Greek community were Muslim Turks from Mytilene, Crete and Greek Macedonia. One could still hear Greek spoken in the streets till recently. Many of the town's mosques are Greek Orthodox churches that have been converted.
Today, Ayvalık(aivali) and the numerous islets encircling the bay area are popular holiday resorts. The most important and the biggest of these islets is Cunda Island (Alibey Island) which was connected to Lale Adasi, and thence to the mainland, by a bridge in the late 1960s.
Since September 1998, Ayvalık has had an international music academy (AIMA) which gives master classes for violin, viola and cello. It brings together students from all over the world and gives them a precious opportunity to work with distinguished masters of their branch.
Distinguished USA based Harvard University and Turkey's Koç University have establihed a joined project in Cunda Island of Ayvalık and run a Harvard-Koç University Intensive Ottoman & Turkish Summer School every summer.
Ayvalık and its environs are famous for the highly appreciated quality of olive oil production.
Today, the population of Ayvalık is close to 30,000, which significantly increases during the summer due to tourism. Ayvalık is also close to Bergama (former Pergamon) which is another important attraction for tourists with its ruins, dating back to antiquity.
With its rich architectural heritage, Ayvalık is a member of the Norwich-based European Association of Historic Towns and Regions (EAHTR)