Foça is a quaint town and district located in Turkey’s İzmir Province, along the Aegean coast. Situated about 69 km (43 mi) northwest of İzmir’s city center, Foça is a popular destination for tourists who are looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. The district is also home to a township with its own municipality named Yenifoça, or New Foça, situated about 20 km (12 mi) from Foça proper. Due to this, Foça is often referred to as Eskifoça, or Old Foça, among locals.
Foça has a rich history dating back to ancient Greece when it was known as Phocaea (Φώκαια). Founded by the Aeolian Greeks in the 11th century BC, the settlement of Phocaea quickly became one of the most important settlements of Ionia. The Phocaeans were known for their expert sailing skills, which allowed them to establish colonies throughout the Aegean, Mediterranean, and Black Sea. Today, visitors can still see remnants of this ancient civilization throughout the town.
During the Middle Ages, Foça was an active port due to its rich alum reserves. The alum mines of Phocaea were conceded earlier by the Byzantines in 1267 to the Genoese brothers Benedetto and Manuele Zaccaria, who founded the Lordship of Phocaea. The Genoese controlled the city even during the Ottoman era due to the lease they had gained from the Byzantines in 1275. Unfortunately, Foça’s Greek population was largely decimated during the Massacre of Phocaea, which took place during the Greek genocide. As a result, much of the town’s historic sites were destroyed and replaced with mosques.
Despite the tragic events of the past, Foça remains a charming destination for tourists. The town is located on the site of the ancient Greek city of Phocaea, and visitors can see remnants of this civilization throughout the town. One of the most popular attractions is the medieval Foça Castle, located in a smaller cove within the larger Greater Sea. Visitors can also take boat tours to explore the district’s many small bays and coves, which are under strict environmental protection.
Due to the protective measures in place, new construction is not permitted in many parts of the district, which has helped to preserve Foça’s unique character. However, a construction project for a 300-boat capacity marina is currently underway, which is expected to open the town up to more international tourism in the future. Foça is also the site of one of three marine protected areas established in Turkey for the preservation of the Mediterranean monk seal, a heavily endangered species of sea mammals.
In addition to its rich history and natural beauty, Foça is also home to two special operations units of the Turkish Navy, Su Altı Savunma (SAS) and Su Altı Taarruz (SAT). With its unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, Foça is an enchanting destination that should be on every traveler’s bucket list.