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- North Cyprus Places of Interest - Things to see in North Cyprus - Archaeological Sites - Castles - Museums - Areas of Natural Beauty and Coastline - more -
North Cyprus offers a wealth of historical and archaeological sites to explore as well as its own natural beauty to enjoy. There are many places of interest to visit, including:
Kyrenia Castle is situated at the end of the Harbour in Kyrenia and was built by the Venetians in the 16th century on the site of a previous Crusader castle. It is possible to walk around the wall and enjoy the fine view. Inside you will also find the Shipwreck Museum with the carefully preserved remains and contents of a trading vessel dating back to the 3rd century.
St Hilarion Castle is in the Kyrenia mountain range about 2km outside of Kyrenia. It was originally a monastery and is named after the monk who lived there. In later years, after fortification by the Byzantines, it formed part of the defences of the island - together with the castles at Buffavento and Kantara - against Arab pirates raiding the coast. The castle is said to have been one of the inspirations for the 'Queen's Castle' in Walt Disney's film 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'. It is possible to walk around the Castle which gives excellent views over Kyrenia below.
Bellapais is approximately 4 miles from Kyrenia. Here you will find Bellapais Abbey or Monastery (‘the Abbey of Peace’) which was built by monks in the 13th Century. It is well preserved and very picturesque. It is possible to walk around the Abbey and enjoy the fine view. The Abbey plays host to the Internationally renowned Bellapais Music Festival held every May/June - see more information under North Cyprus Activities. Bellapais was also the home of author Lawrence Durrell who wrote about life in Cyprus in his book ‘Bitter Lemons’.
Buffavento is the highest castle in the TRNC at 950 metres above sea level. Standing in the middle of the mountain range, with Kantara Castle to the East and St Hilarion to the West, Buffavento was able to pass signals between them. It was built as a defence against Arab raids and also controlled an important pass through the mountains. It was used as a prison in the 14th century. It is possible, with care, to climb to the very top of the castle from where the views are excellent.
Alagadi Beach - The beautiful soft, sandy beach of Alagadi plays host to some very important visitors in the summer months - see more on North Cyprus Turtles.
Guzelyurt - Is a large town famous for citrus and other fruits and vegetable production. It hosts an Orange Festival every year in June/July. In the centre you will also find the Church of St Mamas which is now an icon museum.
Soli was the site of an ancient Greek city dating back to c.6th century BC. What remains today dates from Roman times. There are mosaic floors showing birds, animals and geometric designs, and also a restored amphitheatre.
Vouni Palace ruins are 9 km west of Gemikonagi. Although not too much remains on the site, the location at 250 m. above sea level on a cliff top, gives a superb view.
Lefke was once a centre for Copper mining in Cyprus. It is now home to the European University of Lefke.
Nicosia - the old city wall was built by the Venetians between 1567 and 1570. The thick wall originally had 3 gates - Paphos, Famagusta and Kyrenia - the first two of which are now situated on the south side of Nicosia, across the UN border, as Nicosia remains the only divided capital city in the world. The 'Kyrenia Gate' (or 'Girne Kapısı') on the north side is now home to a Tourist Information office.
The Mevlevi Tekke Museum ('Whirling Dervish Museum') is near Kyrenia Gate in Lefkosa. The Mevlevi was a Sufi order, where initiates were known as ‘Dervishes’. It was founded by followers of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi in the 13th Century. Rumi grew up in Konya in Turkey and studied extensively. His philosophy, teachings and poetry spread widely, including his belief that music and dance were part of religious expression and, over time, the Mevlevi became known for their ‘whirling’ dance in their formal ceremonies. The Lefkosa Mevlevihane was the centre of the Sufi tradition in Cyprus and became a museum for artefacts in the 1960’s. After renovation work, the museum re-opened in 2002 and includes the semahane where the dervishes’ dance is performed annually in December to mark the anniversary of Rumi’s death. .
Selimiye Mosque in Nicosia was originally the Roman Catholic cathedral of Ayia Sofia. Construction began in 1209 and it was consecrated in 1326 while still incomplete. The Kings of Cyprus were crowned here until the Venetians took control of the island in 1489. The Ottomans later converted it to a mosque and it was known as the Hagia Sophia Mosque until 1954 when it was renamed the Selimiye Mosque.
Büyük Han (‘the Great Inn’) was built in Nicosia by the Ottomans in 1572 and was the largest inn or ‘caravansara’ on the island. A network of Caravansaras provided travellers with a place to rest and relax after their journeys across the various trade and commerce routes of the time. Later, under the British administration, the Büyük Han was used for a while as the city prison but in the 1890’s it was turned into a hostel for the poor. It was much restored in the 1990’s and is now an arts and crafts centre with galleries and workshops, as well as a cafe and souvenir shop.
The Haydarpasha Mosque was originally built as St Catherine’s Cathedral in the 14th century in the Gothic style. It was converted to a mosque during the Ottoman period and was renamed the Agalar Mosque in 1570. During the 1960’s it was used as the marriage registration centre. After renovations, it was re-opened in 1994 as the Haydarpasha Gallery and is used for exhibitions etc.
It is possible to walk round parts of the wall in the old city and to visit the Othello Tower, which was originally built as a moated citadel to protect Famagusta's harbour and was then the main entrance to the town. When the town's defences were later improved by the Venetians, the citadel was incorporated into the main city walls. The citadel consists of a series of towers with corridors leading to artillery chambers. There is also a large dining hall with vaulted ceiling, dating to around the year 1300, and a large courtyard where musical concerts are occasionally held. The citadel is known as ‘Othello’s Tower’ as Shakespeare’s play refers to “.. a port in Cyprus .. and Cyprus, the Citadel ..” and it is believed that the ‘Moor in the service of Venice’ character was based on the Governor of Cyprus at that time.
Inside the wall boundaries you will find the Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque which was originally known as St Nicolas Cathedral. It is the largest medieval building in Famagusta. It was built between 1298-1400 and was consecrated as a Christian cathedral in 1328. The cathedral was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman Empire captured Famagusta in 1571.
Sinan Pasha Mosque (‘Church of Sts Peter and Paul’) was built c. 1360. Its distinctive design features numerous flying buttresses. After the Ottoman conquest, the church was converted into a mosque and renamed the Sinan Pasha Mosque. It is currently closed for renovation.
There are remains of many churches and other buildings in the Old Town, some of which it is possible to enter. Cafes and small shops centre around the large 'Namik Kemal' Square.
Famagusta is also home to the Eastern Mediterranean University and its campus is located just outside the town.
Salamis was an ancient Greek city located approx 6km from Famagusta. There are very extensive ruins, mainly dating from Roman times, at this vast site including an amphitheatre (which is sometimes used for musical concerts in the summer), classical gymnasium, numerous columns, statues and mosaics.
St Barnabas monastery is situated a short distance from Salamis. It is possible to visit the church and the monastery, which is now an icon and archaeological museum. The Royal Tombs are located close to St Barnabas Monastery. The large site dates back to the 7th and 8th centuries BC. There is also a museum on the site.
Kantara Castle is thought to have been built in the 10th Century by the Byzantines. Its purpose was to provide a look-out post against Arab raiders and to control the entrances to the Karpas Peninsula and Mesaoria plain.
Buyukkonuk Eco-village is situated at the start of the Karpaz region and is a jointly funded initiative to promote traditional crafts and local culture in an environmentally responsible way. For more information, please see details on North Cyprus Activities page.
Apostolos Andreas Monastery is a situated just south of Cape Apostolos Andreas, which is the north-eastern point of the island in the Karpas. The monastery is dedicated to St Andrew. Both the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities consider the monastery as a holy place and it is visited by many people.