Our next stop in Turkey on our Neyzen tour was the ancient site of Assos which is less than an hour south of Troy! Ancient Assos is located at the top of a hill surrounded by olive groves, charming stone buildings and crumbling city walls and boasts spectacular views of the Aegean Sea and the Greek island of Lesvos! Assos is an amazing site that in addition to its spectacular views and interesting history also is an archaeologists dream with fascinating ruins and fragments of ancient pottery scattered throughout the entire site waiting to be discovered!
After an incredible day exploring Troy and an amazing night at Assos Alarga we strolled up the hill after breakfast to visit the ancient site of Assos! Our guide Muge had found an incredible piece of Byzantine pottery here during her last visit and so we were keen to have a go at being archaeologists for the day! Ancient Assos was first settled around 900 BCE by Aeolian colonists from nearby Lesvos. Today it is possible to walk around and discover the city’s lofty ruins, the bronze age Acropolis, the 530 BCE Doric temple of Athena and a breathtaking panoramic view over the Aegean Sea. We also walked around the 2,500 year old city walls and gate along with the ancient theatre which would have seated around 5,000 people and overlooks the sea!
The ancient city has an incredible history and was also the home of Aristotle and Xenocrates for some time when they were invited by the ruling King Hermias to help establish academia and the arts in Assos. During the Persian invasion of Assos, King Hermias was captured and killed. Aristotle fled to Macedonia where he became the tutor of the young Alexander the Great and it was Alexander who later drove the Persians out of Assos in 334 BCE, and in 241 King Pergamon took over, before the city was absorbed by the Roman Empire! Assos was one of our favourite sites in Turkey and one we’d certainly recommend visiting during your time in the region. We also did manage to find some ancient pottery fragments during our visit and left them on display on a rock close to where we found them.
After a scenic drive from Assos we arrived at beautiful Cunda Island which was once a predominantly Greek settlement. Today much of the culture, music, lifestyle and cuisine here remain from its Greek roots, and both Greek and Cretan are spoken here alongside Turkish. Named after a hero of the Turkish War of Independence, Cunda is linked to the mainland by a causeway and is known as the sleepy extension of the mainland town of Ayvalik. Cunda’s small harbor is lined with waterfront fish restaurants set against the rustic but distinguished backdrop of charming, old Greek stone houses. We’d had a very big breakfast and so weren’t hungry enough for lunch but did stop for one of Cunda Island’s famous ice creams, and boy was it good! As we strolled along the waterfront Muge pointed out Bay Nihat Restaurant which is often listed as one of the Aegean’s best fish restaurants and serves up delectable seafood which we’ve decided we’ll have to visit on a future trip!
Our destination for the evening was Bergama where the ancient site of Pergamon is located. Pergamon is one of the oldest settlements in the ancient world and its spectacular ruins surround the modern town of Bergama! The impressive amphitheatre which had the capacity to hold fifteen thousand people is one of the steepest known theatres in antiquity and the library was the second largest in the ancient world. Pergamon was a major world power and its influence generated great wealth for centuries. We would be visiting the ruins of Pergamon in the morning and so had the evening to explore Bergama and enjoy our hotel.
We were staying at Les Pergamon Hotel, a unique boutique hotel situated between the town of Bergama and the ancient site of Pergamon. The magnificent stone buildings that make up the hotel were built in 1867 as a Greek school for boys and later during the Turkish Republic it was used as a primary school for many years. The hotel was restored between 2008 and 2010 and turned into a boutique hotel and restaurant. The hotel is very charming with its large gardens, beautiful stone buildings and fantastic panoramic views of Bergama and views up to the Acropolis of Pergamon.
Les Pergamon has six luxurious rooms comprising 3 superior doubles, 1 superior single, 1 deluxe triple and 1 deluxe double room. We were staying in one of the superior doubles which was a elegant room with high ceilings, traditional hardwood floors and elegant furnishings. Our bed was lovely and comfortable ensuring we had a fantastic night sleep. Our ensuite bathroom was clean and modern with towels and toiletries provided. In addition our lovely room had air conditioning, heating, free wireless internet, a TV and minibar.
That night we dined at Les Pergamon’s Kybele restaurant and the weather was kind enough that we could dine al fresco in their beautiful garden! We had a fantastic evening of incredible food whilst we enjoyed the sunset over the town of Bergama and the unique Red Basilica below us. All of the food was freshly cooked and of the highest quality and the service was excellent. We began with a selection of flavoursome mezze’s and fresh bread and for our main we all chose the award winning lamb sirloin which was potentially the best lamb we’ve ever eaten! Despite being really full we couldn’t say no to dessert which was tiramisu and like every other part of our meal was incredible! Whether you are staying at Les Pergamon or somewhere else in Bergama we highly recommend visiting their restaurant for dinner, it was without a doubt one of the most enjoyable and highest quality meals that we’ve had in a long time.
Breakfast was served in the garden of the hotel and was a delicious spread of cheeses, fresh bread, eggs, salads, fruit, olives, jams and other freshly baked items.
Assos was a fantastic site to visit and we had a fantastic day travelling to Cunda Island and onward to Bergama. We’ve heard fantastic things about Pergamon, so stay posted because our trip with Neyzen is taking us there tomorrow!
What have been some of your favourite ancient sites that you’ve visited during your travels? x