Eski Foça becomes a new destination for tourists

Eski Foça becomes a new destination for tourists

The most notorious resident of Foça is Badem, a female Monk seal that was rescued from the coast of Didim in 2006 and taken to Foça to be rehabilitated. Badem, meaning Almond, was only six weeks old

Eski Foça, or Old Foça, is a traditional Turkish holiday resort town located 40 minutes north of İzmir. The population is close to 30,000 though it is thought to double during the high season when predominantly Turkish citizens occupy their summer residences.

The name Foça evolved during the end of the Ottoman era, from the name of the original settlement known as Phocaea – one of the 12 Ionian cities. The name ‘Foça’ is said to have derived from the Turkish word “fok,” which means “seal,” with area well known for its healthy Monk seal population. A Phocaean coin dating from 600 -550 BC portrays the image of a seal and can be viewed at the British Museum in London.

Since 1989, Eski Foça is one of 13 districts across Turkey where Monk Seals are under government protection. In 1999, Foça won an award for their Monk Seal Breeding Project. The SAD – AFAG Underwater Research Society and Mediterranean Seal Research Group monitor the area and rehabilitate seals that have been orphaned or injured.

The most notorious resident of Foça is Badem, a female Monk seal that was rescued from the coast of Didim in 2006 and taken to Foça to be rehabilitated. Badem, meaning Almond, was estimated to be only six weeks old when she was discovered on the beach by local residents of Didim. The Monk Seal Rescue and Information Network, or AFBIKA, were contacted by the local coast guard who immediately sent a team to investigate the situation. Badem was diagnosed with dehydration and taken to Foça where she spent five months in care. She was successfully treated and released in March 2007, after which she became a symbolic icon of the town. Badem has recently been spotted further south, along the western coast near the resorts of Didim and Datça.

Eski Foça is a welcome retreat for people looking to escape the fast-paced modern city lifestyle. Foca retains much of its traditional character, still depending on fishing and farming as a main source of income. However, tourism seems to be slowly taking hold, though perhaps luckily the town hasn’t become a victim of over commercialization with none of the typical tourist global brands or franchise coffee shops and fast food chains. The village center is quaint: a maze of cobbled streets and old stone terrace houses, most of which have been redesigned as stores or café bars. The sea front restaurants are postcard pretty and the variety of bars and “lokantas,” small cafe-restaurants, means there is always room to sit and watch the ambling evening crowds while soaking up the relaxing holiday atmosphere.

While tourism in Foça is relatively slow paced compared to the larger resorts of Bodrum or Marmaris, the town does have a thriving collection of B and Bs and small hotels. The majority of foreign born tourists originate from the Scandinavian countries and Greece, though the newly arrived British owned Neilson Holiday Company which reopened a beachfront resort earlier this year has meant a rise in British tourists.

The long stretches of sand and shingle beaches in the area have been well utilized and many camping grounds can be found on the outskirts of Eski Foça, tents can also be rented at these seaside sites.

During the summer season Eski Foça hosts three main festivals. The liveliest, named Rock Fest, lasts for five days, between the July 28 and August 1 and is estimated to attract a staggering 90,000 visitors, most of whom camp out in tents near the venue on the beach. Rock Fest takes place at İngiliz Burnu, 2 kms outside of Eski Foça, hosting performances from usually over 50 Turkish and international rock artists across a five-day period. Foça Festival is another annual event. It is a three-day cultural celebration that occurs in mid July and includes concerts and artistic events. The festival is in its sixth year. The final festival of the season occurs at the end of September and is called Fisherman’s Fest. Fisherman’s Fest consists of three consecutive days of sailing and sea related activity. On the final day of this festival the local municipality arranges a supper of fish and bread for residents and guests.

[HH] What to do in and around Eski Foça?

Seal spotting trips can be arranged locally in Eski Foça for anyone wanting to see the Monk seals in their natural environment, however no one can guarantee their presence. Local fishermen advise that the most probable time of the year to view Monk seals is autumn, when the sea is cooler and the area quieter.

The area has some spectacular coastal scenery and volcanic rock Islands. A local tour on a “gullet,” a traditional Turkish boat, is recommended for those who enjoy seeing things from a different perspective. One of the largest Islands, Orak, is part of a chain known as the Sirens Rocks. In ancient Greek mythology, sailors were said to crash their ships upon these rocks due to the enchanting voices of the mythical sirens that inhabited them.

The weather conditions are ideal for sea tours and the crystal clear waters will entice any reluctant swimmer in.

The Devil’s Bath is a rock tomb thought to date back to approximately 4th century BC. It is situated 2 km east of Eski Foça at the foot of Candede Hill. Entrance to the tomb is gained via an archway and inside there are two chambers.

Eski Foça castle, or Beşkapılar Kalesi, was originally built by the Genoese in the 17th century. Located five minutes walk from Eski Foça town center, the castle underwent restoration in the mid 90s and the former boathouse is used nowadays as an open-air theater.

The Eski Foça Harbor is the perfect place to enjoy an evening meal. Situated in the center of Eski Foça, the seaside quarter offers stunning views out to sea. Rows of picturesque fish restaurants line the working fishing harbor. Enjoy a rakı or two and take in the scene at sunset – it’s not to be missed.