Places to see
The following is simply an attempt to briefly identify some of the places that we would recommend that you visit during your stay.
Lefkoşa / Nicosia
It’s claimed in Assyrian sources that date back to the 7th century BC that Nicosia was originally called Ledra. During the ancient Egyptian period (on the island), in the years around 300 BC, the son of Ptolemy 1, Lefkos, rebuilt the city and gave it his name. The name Lefkoşa derived from this. Some also say that it derives from the white poplar trees, called Lefki that grew in abundance in its river beds. The name Nicosia was first used in the 12th century when the native people rebelled against the Knights Templar’s. From this date onwards the island was ruled from Nicosia and it was accepted as the capital city of Cyprus.
The city was further developed during the Lusignan period a process that continued until the Venetians conquered the island in 1489. During the Venetian administration, many churches and palaces were demolished and the materials used to strengthen the walls.
Nicosia was conquered by the Ottomans in 1570. After this time numerous ornamented mosques, Turkish baths, moslem theological schools and inns were built. These buildings were covered with spectacular Ottoman art, much of which can be seen today.
Selimiye Mosque (Cathedral of St. Sophia):
Built by the Lusignans between 1208 and 1326, Selimiye is accepted as being one of the most important examples of gothic art in the world. After the Ottoman conquest of Nicosia in 1570, a minaret was added to the cathedral and thus it was transformed into the Hagia Sophia Mosque, which was renamed in 1954 the ‘Selimiye Mosque’.
The Armenian Church (Notre Dame de Tyre):
It is believed that the church on Sehit Salahi Sevket Street was built in the 8th century by refugees from Jerusalem.
The Great Inn:
Its’ construction was ordered by the first Ottoman governor of Cyprus Muzaffer Pasha, in 1572. The Inn’s architecture resembles the of many other inns of this period that can be found on main land Turkey in the Anatolia area. Around the inner court yard of the stone inn are 68 rooms. The souvenir shops, restaurants and Cypriot wine bars attract locals and tourists alike. On certain afternoons and evenings live music can be heard in the inner courtyard.
The Kyrenia Gate is the arched northern entry into Nicosia, which is located in the city. It was built by the Venetians in 1567. The gate used to be called “Porta Del Proveditre” after the Venetian engineer Proveditore Francesco. If you look carefully at the walls of the gate, inscriptions (ancient graffiti) from the Venetian and Ottoman times, can be seen.
Girne / Kyrenia:
Human settlement in the Kyrenia area goes back to Neolithic times. During the Bronze Age and as a direct result of the Anatolian coastal civilizations, the population of the region grew significantly. In 312 BC, Kyrenia an independent city kingdom was taken over by Salamis. The name is thought to date back to the time when Ptolemy1, King of Salamis, referred to the town as Keravnia, which means ‘Aphrodite with the Thunderbolt’. During Roman times, Kyrenia was a Christian city even before it had become the official religion of the Roman Empire. In 1571 AD the Ottomans conquered Kyrenia without a single shot being fired.
Old Kyrenia Harbour :
The horseshoe shaped harbour is the focal point of the town. The historical Kyrenia harbour, with its colorful fishing boats and yachts, and its lively bars and cafes is for locals and tourists a like, the heart of Kyrenia.
The remains of an exquisite Gothic building in the beautiful mountain village of Bellapais is what is left of the building built by Augustinian monks in 1025 AD. The Abbey was originally known as the “Abbey of Our Lady of the Mountains”. It was renamed Bellapais by the Franks. Today it is the scene of many wonderful concerts and a great place to watch a beautiful Cyprus sunset.
Buffavento, which means ‘wind defying’ is located on the top of a mountain/hill (At an altitude of 954 m’s), was originally built by the Byzantines as a watchtower to help guard against Arab pirate raids. It was later converted into castle by the Lusignans, who used it as a prison rather than a military stronghold. Although, little of the original building remains, a visit is very worth while, as it provides and opportunity to see some magnificent panoramic views.
The fresco covered walls of the Antiphonitis Monastery, located in the middle of the forest, are very interesting. The church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was built in the 12th century. However, the narthex to its west and and the gallery to its south, were added later by the Lusignans. A sturdy vehicle is needed to visit this outlying Monastery.
St. Hilarion Castle:
Rumored to be the inspiration for the Disney film “fantasia”, this castle sits atop the mountains overlooking Kyrenia. The site was originally the home of the hermit “Hilarion”. A monastery was later built in his honour. The castle, the third in a protective line, was built on the mountain top to protect against Arab pirate attack.
The Shipwreck Museum:
A shipwreck, 14.75 metres long and 4.4 metres wide and displayed in one of the rooms of the Kyrenia Castle , is the oldest shipwreck ever discovered. The findings suggest that the ship was a Syrian commercial ship which sank off the coast of Kyrenia in the 3rd century BC with a cargo of nearly 400 amphorae containing supplies and foodstuffs.
Gazimagusa / Famagusta:
Famagusta is thought to have been established by King Ptolemy Philadelphus 2 (285-247 BC) around a lagoon located near to the site of the Salamis ruins. The modern town is built on the remains of the ancient city of Arsenoe, named after the wife of the king, which was built to replace Salamis after its sacking by Arab raiders in 648 AD. The name of the new city, Ammkhostos, means ‘hidden in the sand’, and reflects the residents hope that they would not attract the raiders. The city was developed significantly after its conquest by the Crusaders in 1291 AD. From this date onwards, Famagusta soon became a stopping off point for pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. As a consequence it grew in political strength and material wealth.
In 1571 AD the Ottoman’s took the city and it soon reverted to the insignificant port city it had been in early times. During British rule much of the architectural heritage of the city was lost when stone was taken from many of the historical sites to aid in the building of the Suez Canal.
The Kertikli Baths:
The baths to the North of the city were constructed by the Ottomans. The Kertikli Bath’s are famous for there domed roofs. The building is comprised of six domed rooms, a reservoir with a vaulted ceiling and a section believed to be the dressing room, the ceiling of which has sadly now collapsed.
Ravelin is one of the two arched entries into the walled city of Famagusta. When the Venetians were surrounded by the Ottomans in 1571, the white flag was hoisted here. For this reason, the Ravelin Gate was called ‘Akkule’(white tower) by the Ottomans.
St. George of Latins Church:
This church is a beautiful example of Gothic architecture and is said to be based on St. Chapelle in Paris. It was built towards the end of the 13th century.
St. Barnabas Monastery:
St. Barnabas of Cyprus, was killed by his compatriots and his corpse hidden in a underground cave to the west of Salamis. The corpse remained hidden for many years, its whereabouts unknown. 432 years later, Bishop Anthemios saw the grave in a dream and had the place excavated. Informed of this, the Emperor of Byzantium made a donation for a monastery to be built on the location of the grave, and bestowed autonomy on the Church of Cyprus. The monastery, which was built in 477 AD, today houses an icon museum.
The Twin Churches:
The larger of the two churches built in the 14th century AD belonged to the Knights Templar’s. When the last grandmaster and the other leaders’ were burned as heretics in 1313, the order came to an end and the church was left to the Knights Hospitalers who owned the adjoining building. The building has been restored and is now being used by the Cyprus Art Society.
Guzelyut / Morphou:
Situated in the North-West of Cyprus, Morphou is a town probably founded by the Spartans. In the Middle Ages, the city was referred to as Morphou but also Theomorhou. The morphou area is where more than half of Cyprus citrus fruits are grown. Most are now exported. Surrounded by citrus gardens, Morphou also supplies water melon, melon and vegetable varieties do well in its extremely fertile soil. Morphou, which has a rich cultural heritage, has one of the many churches in the country dedicated to St. Mamas, popularly believed to have lived as a hermit in a cave near Morphou. Dating back to Byzantine times , the church earns the town a reputation and importance among orthodox Christians.
Güzelyurt Museum of Archeology & Natural History:
The ground floor of the museum is devoted to natural history and holds cabinets of geological samples, stuffed fish, mammals and birds native to Cyprus. Upstairs there is a small archeological collection with the island's’s best display of late Bronze Age artifacts and the recently discovered Ephesian Artemis (Statue of a Greek Goddess).
St. Mamas Church:
A famous saint in Cyprus, St.Mamas lived as a hermit in a cave near Morphou. Nothing now survives of the original church which was built in the Byzantine times. The church we see today is a complete reconstruction dating from 1725.
Soli Antik Kenti:
One of the nine Cyprus Kingdoms, Soli rebelled against the Persians, who were in power in 498 BC and were severely defeated. Soli, which reached its peak as a city in the Roman Times, was completely destroyed by the Arabs in the 7th century AD. What remains today is the Soli Basilica, one of the oldest churches in Cyprus and a 4000 spectator capacity Roman theatre.
Tumba Tou Skouru:
Situated to the west of Güzelyurt on the Kyrenia road and several kilometres North of Güzelyurt, is the little town of Tumba Tou Skouru, which originates from the late Bronze era. The many ancient artifacts discovered in this area are now exhibited in the Güzelyurt Museum of Archaeological and Natural History.
It was built in the 5th century BC by King Doxandros of Marion, a strong supporter of the Persians. The aim was to supervise the city of Soli whose residents were supporters of the Greeks. The palace was destroyed by the Soli inhabitants in 380 B.C. and never rebuilt. Archilogical excavations over the years have resulted in gold and silver jewelry, silver cups and various silver coins being found. In the Southern part of the palace there are the traces of a 5th century BC Athena Temple.
Iskele / Boğaz:
On the way to the Karpaz from Famagusta, the largest town you will pass though is İskele.The town that was called Trikoma until 1974, is mainly inhabited by the Turkish-Cypriot refugees from Larnaca (now in south Cyprus) who relocated there after 1974. Also situated on the way to the Karpaz from Famagusta is a small town called Boğaz, It is key tourist centre and famous for its’ fish restaurants. The beach at Boğaz called Haravadi serves as an excellent public beach in the high season. Untouched landscapes, beautiful beaches, rich vegetation and the cultural heritage that abound in İskele and the Karpaz Peninsula mean that it is an ideal vacation location. The region is also home to the world renowned wild Cypriot donkeys.
Apostle Andreas Monastery:
Situated at the Eastern most tip of the island of Cyprus, the monastery has been an important pilgrimage destination for the orthodox christians for hundreds of years . Interestingly the oldest surviving part of the monastery is a chapel only built in the 15th century.
Built on a group of steep hills, Kantara was built to overlook the Mediterranean. It was intended as a watch tower and fortification. The castle took its final shape, which basically survives today, under the rule of King James 1st of Cyprus, who made several changes to the original architecture. With the Venetian conquest in 1525, Kantara Castle ceased to be a key defensive position.
This is very long beach famous for its peculiar golden colored fine sand. Every year hundreds of Cretta sea- turtles come to this beautiful spot to lay their eggs. Golden Beach is the favorite spot for those who seek peace and tranquility.
Aphrendika is considered one of the six important cites that existed in Cyprus at the beginning of the 2nd century B.C. Near to Aphrendika are three interesting churches; Haghios Georgios, Panaghia Chryisiotisa and Panaghia Asomatos.
The early 5th century AD complex was built on the foundations of earlier Hellenistic and Roman structures. The edifice was destroyed by Arab raiders in the 9 th century and was replaced in the 12th century AD by a domed Byzantine structure.
The Panaghia Kanakaria Church:
There is no trace left of the first church thought to have belonged to the early Byzantine period. The present church was rebuilt as a multi-domed building in the 14th century AD. The mosaics in the apse, representing ‘Madonna col Bambino et Ognissanti’, are one of the most note worthy examples of early Byzantine art in Cyprus