Kyrenia Cyprus / Famagusta Cyprus / Güzelyurt Cyprus / Smaller Towns in Cyprus
Due to diverse entertainment offered to the visitors Kyrenia has gained the reputation of the tourist capital of Turkish Cyprus. It is one of the best resorts in the Mediterranean offering travellers sea recreation, night entertainment, shopping and a large variety of restaurants. The population of the city is 38,000 people. Annually Kyrenia welcomes up to 50,000 tourists from all over the world.
Kyrenia is known for its historic harbour, in previous days lined with warehouses in which were stored the fruits of the countryside whilst they awaited export. The Kyrenia harbour is currently used largely for pleasure craft, and the buildings are now mostly restaurants, with outdoor tables along the water. A larger harbour is located a few miles east of Kyrenia Cyprus centre, used by commercial shipping and ferries from the Turkish mainland.
During its history Kyrenia has been a populous and prosperous town due to its geographic position and role.
Kyrenia dates to the end of the Trojan War when Kipheas, a military leader, arrived at the north coast of the island bringing with him many settlers from Achaea. A mild climate, fertile soil and an abundance of water offered ideal conditions for the town's settlement. The name of the city was derived from a town in the Peloponnese, which was also called Kyrenia.
From its early days of settlement, Kyrenia's commerce and maritime trade benefited enormously from its proximity to the Asia Minor coast.
In 323 BC, Kyrenia was subdued under the rule of the kingdom of Lapithos. All city kingdoms were abolished. However, Kyrenia continued to prosper because of its maritime trade.
The Romans succeeded the Ptolemies as rulers of Cyprus and during this time Lapithos became administrative centre of the district. The Romans left their mark by constructing a castle with a seawall in front of it so that boats and ships could anchor in safety.
After Cyprus came under Byzantine Empire and the Greek Orthodox Church in 395, the Byzantine emperors fortified Kyrenia's Roman castle. Kyrenia grew in importance as its castle and garrison offered inhabitants protection and security.
In 1192, after being sold to Guy de Lusignan, the villages of Kyrenia became feudal estates and the town became once again the administrative and commercial centre of the area.
Under Ottoman rule, Kyrenia was transformed into a garrison town. The Christian population was expelled from the fortified city, and no one was allowed to reside within the castle other than the artillerymen and their families. In 1856, the Hatt-I-Humayum introduced greater religious freedom for the various peoples of the Ottoman Empire, and many of the Christian inhabitants of the surrounding villages came back to the town.
Great Britain did not undertake major administrative changes leaving Kyrenia as the district's capital. A road was constructed through the mountain pass to connect Kyrenia Cyprus to the island's capital, Nicosia, and the Kyrenia harbour was repaired and expanded to accommodate increasing trade with the opposite coast.
By the first decade of the 20th century, Kyrenia was a buzzing little town with a new hospital, a school, its own newspaper, social and educational clubs. It was also a favoured vacation spot for many wealthy Nicosia families. In 1906, the first hotel, Akteon, was built by the sea. In 1932 a young repatriate from the USA built the town's first modern hotels, the Seaview and the Dome, having a foreign tourist clientele in mind. Kyrenia's mild climate, picturesque harbour, numerous archaeological sites, panoramic views, soon attracted many travellers. After the Second World War, more hotels were built and Kyrenia Cyprus remained a favoured vacation spot for Nicosia residents and foreign travellers alike.
In the early 1970's Kyrenia went through a period of lively cultural and economic activity. The town's inhabitants, Greek, Turk, Maronite, Armenian, Latin and British peacefully coexisted and Kyrenia Cyprus had grown beyond its two historic neighbourhoods of Kato (Lower) Kyrenia and Pano (Upper) Kyrenia. It expanded towards the mountain slopes to form the new neighbourhood of "California", and eastward it had just about reached the outskirts of Thermia, Karakoumi and Ayios Georgios.
Kyrenia Castle, located at the end of the famous Kyrenia harbour, is a spectacular site to visit. Its towers were built by the Venetian in 1540 A.D. Kyrenia castle played a pivotal role in the island's history, the many disputes among the Frankish kings, as well as the conflicts with the Genoese. Now the castle hosts the Shipwreck Museum, exhibiting the remains of a 4th century Greek ship, discovered in 1967 not far from Kyrenia.
Kyrenia Cyprus has an icon museum housed in a church which was dedicated to the Archangel Michael, a ruined small Christian church behind the Kyrenia harbour, the Anglican church of St Andrew's.
Outside the town, on the Kyrenia Mountain Range, you can see the Buffavento Castle, St. Hilarion Castle and Kantara Castle. Along with Kyrenia Castle, these four fortifications formed a defence system that protected Kyrenia Cyprus from land and sea attacks.
Bellapais Abbey, the former monastery, is situated in Bellapais village. It was constructed between 1198 and 1205.
Read more about the main places of interest in Kyrenia.