Explore The North Aegean
FOÇA – 65km southwest of Çandarlı – is the modern successor of ancient Phokaea, founded around 1000 BC by Ionian colonists. Great seafarers, the Phokaeans plied the Mediterranean as far as the Straits of Gibraltar, founding numerous colonies, including (around 600 BC) Massalia, now Marseilles. The Byzantines ceded the town to the Genoese, who restored its castle and managed to stay until the Ottomans seized it in the 1400s.
The name Phokaea is derived from the ancient Greek for “seal”, a reference either to the suggestively shaped islets offshore, or to the real animals that live in the local waters – the municipal seal depicts one of the creatures half-emerged from the water. There’s still a handful of Mediterranean monk seals about, monitored and protected by the Turkish Underwater Research Foundation, though you’re most unlikely to see any on one of the day boat trips offered. Frankly you’d need to be a seal to really enjoy the sea here which, thanks to strong currents and a sharp drop-off, is notoriously chilly much of the year. The other restraint on local development has been the pervasive military presence: Foça has an important naval base, and much of the nearby coastline is out of bounds. None of this has stopped Foça becoming a favourite second-home venue for İzmir and Manisa folk; the town accommodates both them and short-term tourists graciously, making a worthwhile stopover.
Today little remains visible of ancient Phocaea; the most striking remnant, 8km before modern Foça just north of the main road, is the Taş Ev, an unusual eighth-century BC tomb cut from the rock, squatting beside an Ottoman bridge and a modern cemetery. A small, much later ancient theatre marks the east entry to Foça, while some mosaic pavements from a Roman villa, including a well-preserved portrayal of four Bacchus heads and birds, have been unearthed about 150m southwest of the theatre.
The oldest intact structure in Foça itself is the waterfront Beşkapılar fortress (open for art exhibitions), originally Byzantine but much modified by successive occupiers. More authentic are various pre-1923 Greek fishermen’s cottages and a few more opulent Ottoman mansions lining the cobbled backstreets. Two interesting, fifteenth-century mosques bracket Beşkapılar: the unheralded but beautiful Fatih Camii, and the Kayalar Camii, at the summit of the castle enclosure, sporting a distinctly lighthouse-like minaret.Read More