Behramkale or Behram is an attractive little village in the Northern Aegean Region of Turkey, with a population of 652 in 2021. The main village sits at the foot of the ancient city of Assos, the big draw, so this is the name used in tourist literature. 2 km down the hill is the port, also attractive with traditional Ottoman architecture. 3 km east is the modern beach strip of Kadırga; beach hotels for 20 km on either side often misappropriate the name "Assos".
Assos has the only decent harbour along the north coast of the Gulf of Edremit. The city was founded around 1000 BC, acquiring its Temple to Athena in 530 BC, and stout city walls in the following years. In 348 BC Aristotle moved here from Athens, founded an academy of philosophy, and married Pythias the niece or adopted daughter of Hermias the local ruler. Hermias like Aristotle had studied under Plato: he was tortured and killed when the Persians seized his territory, while Aristotle moved to Macedonia where he tutored Alexander the Great, Ptolemy and Cassander. Most of his later years and best work were on his return to Athens.
Alexander ousted the Persians from Assos in 334 BC. The city was later ruled by Pergamon, then became part of the Roman Empire. Its pagan temple was disliked once the Romans became Christian, and the place dwindled into obscurity as a provincial market town. Assos was first systematically excavated in the 1880s and this continues. Many of its adornments such as friezes and sarcophagi have been moved to museums or stolen.
- 13: And we went before to ship, and sailed unto Assos, there intending to take in Paul: for so had he appointed, minding himself to go afoot.
- 14: And when he met with us at Assos, we took him in, and came to Mitylene.
- - In the New Testament Acts 20, St Luke describes St Paul the Apostle arranging a ride to Jerusalem in 57 AD.
The main highway D-550 / E87 runs some 20 km inland, from Çanakkale via Ayvacık and Küçükkuyu then onward to Edremit and Izmir. So from the north you branch off at Ayvacik, and from the east / south at Küçükkuyu. The coast road from Küçükkuyu continues west from Assos / Behramkale to Babakale.
Inter-city buses fly along the main highway and don't turn off for Assos, so you change at either Ayvacık or Küçükkuyu for the local dolmuş. Ayvacık has the best service, hourly and taking 15 min to cover the 17 km to the main village, but the crucial thing when organising your inter-city bus is not to confuse it with Ayvalık about 100 km further along towards Izmir. Küçükkuyu 20 km east of Assos has a less frequent service and might take an hour.
The dolmuş will probably drop you at Behramkale main village. It's a tedious walk to the harbour, or an overpriced taxi to Kadırga the beach strip.
The main village and port are 2 km apart, along a narrow, steep lane - it might take 20 min on foot. An occasional dolmuş trundles between.
- 1 Beyram old town is reached by turning off at the shiny modern statue of Aristotle, and driving up to the village parking lot. Walk on through the grey stone houses and cobbled alleys to reach the main entrance to the Assos site. A secondary gate downhill towards the port enables tour groups to rejoin their bus without lumping back over the crag.
- Hudâvendigâr Mosque by the entrance gate is from 1365, a square building with no minaret. The name means "God's gift" indicating a battle victory - Murad I was rapidly extending Ottoman control over the Balkans in that era. It's open daily 08:00-19:30.
- 2 Temple to Athena (Athena Tapınağı). Daily 08:30-17:30. This is the highlight, a classic Doric temple built atop a crag around 530 BC. Several temple columns have been re-erected, and it commands the sort of vista you put in travel magazines, with sunset views over the Aegean islands. Around it are the ramparts of the ancient city of Assos – the complex is extensive but has limited other remains. Adult 250 TL (about €8.20).
- City gates stand 200 m southwest of the temple, with the necropolis just north.
- The amphitheatre is downhill, 500 m south of the temple cut into the hillside above the coast.
- 3 Old bridge (Behram Köprüsü) on the road north to Ayvacik is a fine single arch, probably from the 1360s. You can still walk across, while vehicles use the modern bridge adjacent. It was restored in 2015.
- 4 Assos port (Antik Liman) is a charming old harbour - park at its edge and don't bring a car into these narrow alleys. The stone warehouses were used to store acorns, shipped out to make a light-brown dye known as bonito - adding an iron mordant turns it grey. In 2021 / 22 access to the port was blocked as the cliffs above became unstable, sending down boulders into the cafes and souvenir shops.
- 5 Kadırga is the beach strip 3 km east of the old port. There's a broad shingle beach, a dozen small hotels, and wall-to-wall cafes.
- Lesvos is the large island you see to the south. It's Greek, therefore part of the EU, and refugees, smugglers and others often try to cross the 20 km strait from Behramkale. The way to reach it legally is by ferry from Ayvalık on the far side of the gulf, the place you mustn't confuse with Ayvacık.
- Philosophy classes are held in the village over several days in July. The 2021 topic was the liberal and Enlightment thinker John Locke. Nothing is announced for 2022 so lesser minds may suppose it's cancelled . . . but what do we mean by "nothing", and how can we ever experience it?
- Swimming: the sea is unpolluted. There's a little beach by the old harbour but the main strip is Kadırga village.
- Yavaş is the tourist-trappy store at the crossroads - the name means "slow" and it is. Villagers do their shopping in Ayvacık or Küçükkuyu.
- ATMs: two free-standing ATMs are also at the crossroads.
Restaurants and cafes cluster near the Temple entrance, around the old harbour and east along Kadırga beach.
Try the hotel restaurants.
- Wild camping is possible at secluded spots inland, but don't try it on the coast - the coastguard will assume you're planning an illegal crossing to Greece.
- Pansiyon - guesthouses - mostly remained closed in 2022.
- Assosyal Otel, Köy Sk 7, Behramkale, ☏ . Pleasant hotel in a knock-through of three old houses near the entrance to the temple compound. B&B double 1000 TL.
- İdasos Taş Odalar, Behramkale, ☏ . Clean welcoming place near the temple compound. B&B double 900 TL.
- Assos Nazlihan Hotel, Old port, ☏ . Charming hotel in a 19th century building on the harbour front.
As of June 2022, the town has a basic mobile signal from Turkcell, and 4G from Türk Telekom and Vodafone. 5G has not rolled out in Turkey.
- Babakale 20 km west is the westernmost tip of mainland Asia. It has a citadel acropolis, and a temple to Apollo 8 km north.
- Troy is the famous site to the north. The ancient city ruins are modest but there's an excellent museum.
- Küçükkuyu 25 km east is where the coast road rejoins the main highway towards Edremit. You might take the side lane into the hills to see the altar to Zeus with a great view over the gulf and Lesvos across, the renovated village of Adatepe, and Başdeğirmen ancient bridge.
- Istanbul to Izmir is a long-distance itinerary, with one branch swinging through Assos.
|Routes through Assos
|Becomes (N) ← Babakale (Gülpınar) ←
|→ Ends at (N / S)