Sightseeing > Acendu Fountain
The Acendu Fountain is in Lefke, in an area which it takes its name from.
At the foot of the Troodos mountains, Lefke was served by aqueducts and springs to provide its water supply and this fountain was one of them.
It was thought to have been built during the 15th or 16th centuries by the Venetians between the Lefke River and Laguna Mountain skirts.
Prior to being built, there wasn't a water supply to the town.
The Venetian ruler was named Cento, so the water became known as Aqua de Cento and over time was truncated to Cento.
Today, it still provides water for orange groves surrounding it.
Sightseeing > Arsenal Bastion
Historically part of the Famagusta Walls, this bastion has been renamed and now houses a tomb and museum open to the public.
When the Ottomans decided to conquer Cyprus, Canbulat Bey of Kilis, a provincial governor of the Empire, joined the invading forces. Successful during the capture of Nicosia, he was promoted to become commander of the right wing of the Ottoman army to the south of Famagusta, along with Iskender Pasha and Deniz Pasha.
From here, the Ottomans bombarded the town, which is why most damage to the taller buildings within the old city walls is on the southeast side. The Ottomans initially tried to dig under the overwhelming walls, but the Venetians blasted the tunnels, and collapsed them. They then placed sharp blades on a turning wheel at the entrance of the bastion to cut any enemy into pieces.
The siege lasted for months and popular folklore recounts that to obstruct the bladed turning wheel and allow the Ottomans passage through the city entrance, Canbulat decided to ride his horse into it.
His head was cut off, but undeterred he picked his head up, mounted his horse, and continued to fight for several days with his skull under his arm. This motivated the Ottoman soldiers to continue the onslaught and eventually led the Venetians to surrender and the Arsenal Bastion was renamed the Canbulat Bastion.
Canbulat's entombed remains are located at the Bastion which is also a place of pilgrimage for modern-day Turks visiting North Cyprus. Legend also maintains that a fig tree grew up over the tomb, the fruits of which promoted fertility in women who visited. The bastion also houses the ethnographic and archaeological Canbulat Museum, displaying artillery, uniforms, antiques and Venetian pottery. After the destruction of the Arsenal Bastion, the city rapidly began work to rebuild the parapets. Traces of the repairs of the Arsenal and Ravelin Bastions as well as the walls between the two can easily be seen by visitors. The Famagusta Lighthouse also stands on this historic location.
Sightseeing > Baldoken Graveyard
At the top of Kyrenia, lies Baldöken Graveyard, also known as the Islam Graveyard or Graveyard of Forlorn.
When the Ottomans conquered Cyprus in 1571, this area outside Kyrenia Castle was reserved as a cemetery for soldiers until the end of the 17th century.
When it began to accept non-soldiers, the name was changed to Islam Graveyard. In the 19th century, it was also used to bury the homeless and destitute.
It once covered a large area but today only the remains of a small part exist.
It's still an intriguing place to visit with its' cisterns, water canals and architectural tombs. Located next to the Anglican St Andrew’s Church, it was restored in 1995. A ‘Turbe’ (mausoleum) of the Garrison Commander of the Ottomans is located in the graveyard that has adopted its present name.
Sightseeing > Bandabulya
The yard of St Sophia (Selimiye) and St Nicolas church (Bedesten) in Nicosia was used as the main trading place in the city during Venetian rule (1489-1570) in Cyprus. People entered the walled city to sell their products and textiles, using the area for their weekly local market.
Due to population growth and rising popularity, the market became a permanent fixture and people from all around Cyprus came to buyand sell sell goods at the Bandabulya market.
Also known as the Municipal Bazaar, it's the first indoor vegetable market, dating back to Lusignan times as an open market area with shops and stalls for trade, and rooms to accommodate traders. The bazaar, which was completely open when it was first built, was established in 1932, and quickly became the most crowded and significant market in the city. It’s an
historical place where food, beverages, spices, vegetables and fruits unique to Cyprus are sold. It was also a public space where locals could gather and take their kids for ice cream on the weekends. In addition, there are cafes, restaurants, clubs and shops used as entertainment. Bandabulya covers an area of 4500 square meters, contains 77 shops and is one of the popular bazaars of the region.
Etymological origin and tradition
Bandabuliya is a word of Greek origin. "Banda" means continuous and "buliya" means sale. It’s the name given to the municipal markets brought to local culture by the British. It means gathering place, meeting place, shopping place, socializing place among the people. In bandabuliyas, which serve every day except Sundays, traders pay rent to the municipality they’re affiliated with. In the past, producers preferred to sell their wares in bandabuliya because sales there were in cash, whereas credit was common for sales in village squares. Bandabuliyas are found in Famagusta, Güzelyurt, Kyrenia, Lefke, Nicosia and Iskele. Some are market places, while others are used for different purposes.
Nicosia has been the capital of Cyprus for about 800 years. Austrian Archduke Ludwig Salvator, who visited Cyprus in 1872, writes in his book "Levkosia" that he found 23 bazaars performing different professions between the gates of Famagusta and Paphos, and describes the "Meat and Fish Bazaar" where all kinds of food are sold in the place of current Bandabuliya.
Esme Scot Stevenson, in her 1880 book "Our Home in Cyprus", describes the Nicosia bazaar as follows: "A little further, when we turned right, passing the coppersmiths and bell makers, which were ringing in the ears, we found ourselves in the vegetable market full of large melons, watermelons, pumpkins, strings of onions, figs and grapes. One street away, in the butchers' street, we found ourselves in the vegetable market. and other kinds of meat… Beyond a narrow street, there is the Women's Bazaar. The white-veiled women were sitting cross-legged next to the piles of local fabrics in front of them."
On the Kitchener map published in 1881, where the current Bandabuliya area is located, the name "Market Place" is mentioned and it's open. Again, on land registry maps of Nicosia Surlariçi (1912-1915), there is a record of "Municipial Market" in the same place. In a 1950 watercolor painting by British painter Arthur J. Legge (1859-1942), you can see greengrocers in the Nicosia bazaar selling in covered places, and the streets where the people walk are open.
Foundation of Bandabuliya
In 1929 the city council decided to demolish the old bazaar and build a new Bandabuliya in its place. It was planned that 12 of the 132 small shops to be built would be used as fish shops, 80 as vegetable shops, 40 as wholesale warehouses, fruit shops, butcher's and pig shops. The £20,000 required for the construction was borrowed from the Bank of Cyprus at 6% interest for 30 years and shopkeepers temporarily moved to Misirli Han. The inscription "Belediye Pazarı" ("ΔHMOTΙKH AΓOPA"), in Turkish and Greek, was hung on the entrance door to the northwest of the bazaar, which was completed in 1932.
Extension and restoration work of Bandabuliya
When Bandabuliya couldn’t keep up with demand in 1940, an adjoining garden and property were purchased and the building was expanded and completed on 14 September 1940. In 2004, restoration turned the wholesale market into an entertainment centre, while the retailers area was retained. In the early 1970s new residential areas started to be built outside the city, and gradually the market started to be neglected by locals. Over the years, the shops closed down, the building became unsafe and finally closed in 2010. With the support of the United Nations Development Program, it was renovated and re-opened in June 2012 with 77 stalls for sellers, a café, bookshops and a small theatre for performances.
Sightseeing > Bedesten
Bedesten is a historical building in the Selimiye quarter of North Nicosia, located beside the Selimiye Mosque. The structure’s history spans more than 1,000 years. Originally built as a church, expanded and rebuilt, it was converted to a Bedesten, a type of covered market, during the period of Ottoman rule and is currently used as a cultural centre.
The earliest history of the Bedesten is documented archaeologically by a Byzantine Basilica, fragments of which are preserved inside the current building. These remains possibly date to the 6th century, and marked the site of the first cathedral of Saint Sophia in Nicosia.
After the fall of Acre in the late 12th century, English monks who were
followers of Thomas Becket established a new Latin church on this site and dedicated it to Saint Nicholas. With the adjacent cathedral dedicated to the Latin rite (catholic), the Bedesten probably continued to serve an Orthodox role. The church was expanded several times and rebuilt during the 14th and 15th centuries, but the old Byzantine apse was retained.
During Venetian rule, the Bedesten was used as the metropolitan bishopric building by the Orthodox church and dedicated to Mary as Panagia Hodegetria. It was under the Venetians that the north façade was constructed. Patrons were noble Cypriot families, their identity documented in part by coats of arms carved above the main entrance. In the same period, the dome and large central apse were constructed, replacing the original of the Byzantine period.
In 1573, the building was given by the Ottomans to Haramayn (Mecca and Medina) to be used as a bedesten (a covered textile market). It was later used as a market for food, and by the 1760s it was a food trading centre for Turkish, Greek and Armenian merchants. By 1873, it had been converted into a flour depot. It was then used as a wheat depot in the 1870s and a generic storage place for the Evkaf Administration in the 1930s.
In the 1880s, Lord Kitchener and other prominent British men in Cyprus wanted to buy or rent the building to convert it back to a church, and use it as the Church of St Nicholas again. This wasn’t allowed as the property of a foundation couldn’t be sold, and a shrine of another religion couldn’t be opened within 100 yards of a mosque. The British undertook renovation of the building, but it didn’t reflect some of the original architecture. With the opening of the new municipal market, Bandabulya, in 1932, it fell into disuse. In the 1930s, it was used for storage by the Evkaf Administration and in 1935, the Department of Antiquities brought medieval tombstones to it from the Ömerge Mosque, and were displayed for some time in a room along with the room's ornate Ottoman-era ceiling.
The Bedesten of Nicosia is stylistically very different from other bedestens in the Ottoman Empire. It consists mainly of a mix of Byzantine and Gothic architecture, but also incorporates elements of Renaissance French, Venetian and probably Spanish architectural styles. It uses a cross-shaped structural style and layout that belongs to the Byzantine style, but incorporates a nave with a high ceiling that belongs to the Gothic style. The southern double nave is a remnant of the Byzantine church and its middle section is the oldest part of the building. The exterior of the nave in the north has the most ornate decorations and stonework in the building. This façade is across the front arches of the Selimiye Mosque and is the side where the entrance is located. The entrance is through a very ornate Gothic-style gate, with elements of the Italian Renaissance architecture added later and a statuette of St Nicholas. Coats of arms are located on both sides of the entrance. This façade also has numerous animal statuettes and gargoyles.
Renovation and current use
Between June 2004 and 2009, renovation was undertaken and the walls of the building were cleansed and the vaults strengthened using traditional building materials and techniques. It was then reopened as a cultural centre. In 2009, the renovation was awarded the Europa Nostra Award. Among the activities hosted are weekly sufi dance shows and the Nicosia Walled City Jazz Festival.
Sightseeing > Buffavento Castle
At 3,100 feet, this is the highest and most inaccessible of the three famous castles in the Five Finger mountains. To get there, head out of Kyrenia towards the East and continue in the direction of Famagusta. Go through Catalkoy past the turn-off for Arapkoy and at the brow of the hill, at the Besparmak pass, turn right just after the Buffavento Restauant on the left.
This leads you onto a narrow, single-track road along the southern slopes of the mountain. Drive slowly and carefully along this road and for sure don't do it if it's raining. There are a few passing places, steep drops and magnificent views over the Mesaoria Plain, Lefkosa and goats.The route twists and turns so the castle will disappear and reappear several times, but after about 4 slow miles, you’ll eventually arrive at the car park, with its’ solitary olive tree and a memorial to the crew of an aircraft that perished in a mountain top crash in 1988.
Be aware that there's no toilets or facilities of any sort up here, so take a leak before you set off and bring some water with you, especially in hot weather. Now start the 30 minutes or so zig-zag path to get to just the first level of the castle.
There are gently graded concrete steps with low walls for you to rest from the climb and wonderful views in every direction. Be aware that the steps don't have any hand rails. If you visit in Spring, your walk is covered in flowers that grow on the hillside. The trek up to the very top is pretty strenuous and in total may take up to an hour for the average person but it is worth it as the views over the sea to the North and the Masaoria Plain to the South are simply spectacular.
The castle is built on two levels or wards, and the main gate at the first level is more or less intact. The lower level has the most complete rooms, possibly royal apartments, where there’s evidence of cisterns beneath the floors with some still containing water. Winter rains were the only supply of water for drinking and cooking and it was stored in deep underground reservoirs were it stayed fresh for many years. Climb the steps built into the rock face for another 75 feet to get to the upper level and the final few steps lead you into a completely waterproof barrel-vaulted room. From this there’s a passage with ruined rooms on both sides and a splendid view at the far end. If you return to the entrance, you can climb to where the lightning conductor marks the highest point. Looking down to the south west you’ll see the huge flag of the TRNC that’s painted on the hillside. Just to stand at 3,100ft and feel the wind blowing off the sea; to watch mares-tail clouds drifting across the sky; to turn 360 degrees and gaze at the spectacular panorama; and maybe hear the call of buzzards and ravens in flight as they circle the castle top, will make the climb completely rewarding.
Originally built in the 11th century and rebuilt by the Lusignans in the 14th century, Buffavento is thought to have been built with St Hilarion castle as part of a major programme of works after the Seljuk advance, although it was also used as a prison and lookout post, and it’s easy to see why. The name may have been borrowed from a monastery in the Koutzoventi village. It was certainly visited by Richard the Lionheart in 1191, and one theory suggests it was built as a countermeasure for the spread of Crusader states. In medieval chronicles it was called the “Castle of the Lion” and a Lusignan period legend claims that the castle was built by a Cypriot noblewoman who was seeking shelter from the Knights Templar and that’s why the castle was known as Leonne (Lion's Castle) or Queen's Castle. The castle saw next to no fighting. In 1191, it was surrendered to Richard the Lionheart after Kantara and St Hilarion fell. Richard sold the island to the Knights Templar then resold it to Guy of Lusignan, of the House of Lusignan. The Lusignans continued their reign interrupted only by occasional palace coups and was used as a prison. In 1308, a knight named Anseau of Brie was imprisoned at the castle when he heard of the accusations levelled against the Knights Templar in their trial. In the 14th century, the island came under the control of the Republic of Venice, at which time it fell into disuse.
Buffavento has approximately 600 steps leading up to it and steep crags surrounding it, making it inaccessible from west, east and north. Many of the castle's buildings are irregular in shape, as the limited available space forced its builders to economize space. The main building material was dressed limestone from the island's coasts and stones taken directly from the mountain on which it stands. The architecture carries no signs of decoration. The upper level faces the sea (north) and the lower one the plain (south). The levels were connected by a long staircase, which was later destroyed by the Venetians who deemed the fortifications redundant. Outbuildings consist of a water cistern and a stable, which would have been useless in the event of a siege. The castle's gates were located inside a 2-storey rectangular tower with a Frankish style pointed arch. 3-barrel vaulted buildings and recess are again Frankish in origin. The main stairway leads to a 2-storey, unvaulted Byzantine building, which is divided into 3 large chambers, interconnected with water pipes. The eastern side was guarded by a short, Frankish, groin vaulted tower with a cistern and a building that may have served as a church. At the extreme west of the castle stands a ruined, isolated tower. The lack of a kitchen or a food storage, points to the fact that rooms were multi-functional in their nature.
Sightseeing > Büyük Hamam
From olden days, Hamam’s have played a definitive role in the structure of cultures, a meeting place for social gatherings, body and soul purification and general relaxation.
The first buildings that Ottoman Turks built in any city were the baths, a prime facility used in the everyday life of its inhabitants, also serving as a practical sanitary service for the many that didn't have the same comfort in their homes.
Buyuk Hamam is the oldest Turkish bathhouse in the city, in the Iplik Bazaar quarter, erected on the Lusignan site of the 14th century St George de Poulains Church. The only real identifiable element that remains from the former Latin church is the main entrance, which also bears similarities to the porch of the Bedesten. As the new city was built on the ruins of the former,
with the rise of the ground of surrounding areas over time, the Hamam’s door is now about 2 metres below ground level with the bathrooms further below. Buyuk Hamam is one of the most stunning remains of the Ottoman period in Nicosia. The building was rebuilt as a Turkish bath between 1571 and 1590 during the first years of Ottoman rule, and belonged to the Pious Foundation of Lala Mustafa Pasha, generating a healthy income to this institution. The venue was a popular public centre, where women especially would meet to socialise and exchange gossip. It was renovated in 2008 all while the original qualities of the bathhouse were maintained, and today consists of three sections: ‘Soyunmalik’ which is the changing room, ‘Iliklik’ where visitors warm up or warm down and the ‘Sicaklik’ being the main hot feature, exhibiting a large cupola (dome) with glass-covered holes inviting sunlight over the central massage podium. The changing room also bears the original remnants of the Latin church, especially that of the large windowsills. The Buyuk Hamam is the only original Turkish bath still active in North Cyprus and an important attraction for tourists, who use it to experience hundreds of years of traditional methods of peeling and massage with aromatic oils and foam. The baths are generally open daily, and arrangements can usually be made for sex segregated and/or family sessions.
Sightseeing > Büyükkonuk Village
Formerly called Komi Kebir, Büyükkonuk nestles on the foothills of the Five Finger Mountain Range and is the gateway to Karpaz. The geography here is a combination of hilly terrain and fertile flat lands, close to seashores north and south, as here Northern Cyprus narrows to less than 10 miles. The northern coast is rocky with pebbled beaches, while the southern shoreline boasts some of the best sandy beaches in the Mediterranean.
This part of Northern Cyprus is famous for its natural and man-made landscapes, the biodiversity of the plants and wildlife and its rich cultural heritage. Traditional crops include carob, olive, wheat, barley and some vegetable farming. Dairy cows, sheep and goats are kept. Forested hills border the village, filling the air with scented pine and wild herbs. Many species of trees, including Cypress, juniper and almond, as well as ancient olive groves, dot the landscape. Orchids and other wild flowers abound in
season. Plenty of field roads and narrow tracks are found on the hills and flats areas, and as there's a conspicuous absence of fences, the surrounding area is attractive for walking and cycling.
At the borders of the village, there are the churches of Saint George, Saint Afksentios and Saint Loukas. There are also the ancient churches of Panagia Kira, Saint George Parouzos, Saint Vasilios (in ruins), Saint Photiou (in ruins) and Saint Katherine (in ruins). Buyukkonuk was selected as a pilot village in the Karpaz for the development of eco tourism. It started with a craft shop for locally made handicrafts, then expanded to B&B, activity centre, meeting place and a start for tours, with the aim of saving traditional village life as part of the cultural heritage. Village activity tours and employing local traditions of food and crafts encourage sustainable development, letting visitors have a unique insight into village life while traditional culture is reinforced and maintained.
The European Union and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) assisted in the enlargement and refurbishment of facilities. Now there are 10 beds available in the B&B in 4 different self-contained, air-conditioned rooms, some with disabled access.
Activities that you can join in:
Walk with shepherds behind their flocks of fat tailed sheep.
Take joy in gambolling
Try milking a goat, filling a bucket with warm frothy milk.
Collecting eggs fresh from the nest for your breakfast.
Firing a large village oven to bake sesame covered breads filled with cheese and olives.
Harvest olives & pour them into a milling trough under giant stones to extract the golden oil.
Explore earthy tracts between stone walled fields.
Walk through nature’s colourful pallet during the wild flower season.
Enjoy the scent of pine and carob forested foothills, lush green valleys and chequered fields.
See grass turn into "Van Gogh" yellow sheaves that have inspired artists for generations.
Sample healthy village fare such as bread dipped in olive oil, fall-off-the-bone meats of "firin kebab" or the unique delicacy of pumpkin flowers filled with rice and herbs.
Basket or broom making
Sightseeing > Cafer Pasha Hammam Baths
The main square in Famagusta, today known as Namik Kemal Square, was the busiest part of the city in Ottoman and Latin times.
The most important mosque in the city, the Lala Mustafa Pasha, along with the historic medrese and the Cafer Pasha Fountain and Hammam (bath), comprised the buildings that surrounded this square. The fountain can be seen to the right of the entrance to the Venetian Palace.
It was built in 1597 and named after an Ottoman general. Across from the fountain is the Cafer Pasha Bath.
Although the bath dates to 1605, the dressing rooms are much older, originally part of the 14th century St Francis Church.
The rest of the baths are typically Ottoman Turkish, with domed hot and cold rooms.
Sightseeing > Cengiz Topel Monument
Towards the end of 1963, Greek Cypriots on the island initiated ethnic cleansing of Turkish Cypriots. Over the following months, 100+ villages were evacuated and the villagers moved into enclaves, including Erenkoy on the northwest coast of the island.
In August 1964, the Greek Cypriot National Guard started action against Erenkoy. It was one of the last ports under Turkish Cypriot control and the Greeks believed that militia were landing supplies and weapons from Türkiye.
A land and sea operation was carried out by thousands of professionally trained soldiers under the command of the retired Greek General and leader of EOKA, Georgios Grivas. EOKA was a Greek Cypriot organisation that fought a campaign for the end of British rule in Cyprus, for the island’s self-determination and for eventual union with Greece. The defenders of
Erenkoy, which mainly consisted of 750 university students, managed to hold their positions till the 8th August, when the Turkish Air Force intervened through its right as a Guarantor Power of Cyprus.
Against this backdrop on August 8, 1964, Cengiz Topel, a fighter pilot of the Turkish Air Force, was part of a combat mission in what is known today as the “Erenkoy Resistance”, which supported the besieged villagers. He led a four-fighter flight of the 112th Air Squadron but his Topel F-100 Super Sabre was hit by 40mm anti-aircraft fire from a Greek Cypriot gun emplacement and shot-down as he was strafing a Greek Cypriot patrol boat. Cengiz Topel managed to eject from his aircraft and made a safe parachute jump over land, but was promptly captured by Greek Cypriot villagers and taken to the British hospital. Members of the Cyprus National Guard removed Topel from his hospital bed and took him to their headquarters. An autopsy of his body showed that there he was heavily tortured and eventually murdered, his corpse shot at several times. The 29-year-old’s corpse was returned on August 12, 1964 to the Turkish authorities. On August 14, 1964, he was laid to rest at the Edirnekapı Martyr’s Cemetery in Istanbul.
Topel’s bravery together with those of the outnumbered students saved the village and following the end of hostilities, UN forces returned to the area, bringing humanitarian aid to Turkish Cypriots. But the war for Erenkoy villagers, like Turkish Cypriots in other enclaves, wasn’t over. For over a decade, they continued to endure harsh conditions as they remained encircled by Greek Cypriots who would mount occasional attacks. It was not until 1974 that the conflict would finally end.
Cengiz Topel was the first Turkish pilot to die in action. To recognise his heroic efforts, a hospital in Yesilyurt, near Lefke, was renamed the Cengiz Topel Hospital in 1975. A monument was also erected on the coastal road in the village of Gemikonagi near Lefke, where he had landed by parachute, in commemoration of his heroics, and is open to the public. In Türkiye, a former Turkish Air Force base located near İzmit, currently in use as Cengiz Topel Naval Air Station, is named after him. A bronze statue erected in his honour in Eskisehir depicts him in flight suit. Several sites, schools and hospitals in Northern Cyprus and Türkiye are named after him.
Today, Erenkoy, also known by its Greek name Kokkina, is an exclave of Northern Cyprus. Greek Cypriot sanctions mean that the exclave can only be accessed from the rest of North Cyprus by sea, as the coastal road is impeded. Visitors to the now uninhabited village of Erenkoy, will find caves in the nearby mountains, which were dug during the conflict so Turkish Cypriots could escape fierce shelling they regularly had to endure during the conflict.
Sightseeing > Chain Tower
In the Middle Ages a chain suspended between two towers defended the entrance of Kyrenia’s harbour, like the chain across the Golden Horn in Constantinople.
William de Oldenburg, who visited Cyprus in 1211 during the reign of King Hugh I, referred to Kyrenia as “a small town well-fortified, which has a castle with walls and towers”. He perceived the chain tower as part of Kyrenia’s fortification system in that time.
The Byzantines had already fortified the city, but in the 13th century, during the Longobard war, before the siege of the city, Frederick II’s party, under the direction of Captain Philippo Genardo, improved the defences of the city.
The chain tower is still visible today on the north side of the old Kyrenia harbour. It consists of an 8.15 m diameter cylindrical tower and a 1.5 m diameter pillar on top of it. Often mistaken for a lighthouse, the iron chain was stretched across the entrance of Kyrenia Harbour between two towers, the other being the old Customs House located at the urban entrance of the harbour. The chain was suspended across the harbour entrance to block hostile shipping and defend the city against threats.
Sightseeing > Dervis Pasha Mansion
Dervis Pasha Mansion (Derviş Paşa Konağı) is an historical mansion and ethnographic museum in the Arab Ahmet quarter of Nicosia, and considered to be one of the finest examples of Ottoman architecture in Cyprus.
It lies on Beliğ Paşa Street, has two floors, and was built on an earlier Gothic building on the same site. Built in 1801, it was repaired in 1869 with ornate wood carvings. It belonged at the end of the 19th century to Hacı Ahmet Derviş Efendi, who owned large swathes of land outside Nicosia and was the editor of Zaman newspaper, the first Turkish periodical in Cyprus published between 1891 – 1900. He was a leading figure in the Turkish Cypriot community and also a member of the assembly that ratified decisions of the British colonial administration.
The lower floor is made of stone, while the upper floor is adobe (mud brick). Its architecture is heavily Ottoman and reflects the lifestyle of the time. It has two entrance doors, one for men (selamlik) and one for women (harem). It has a large inner courtyard, which was used by household members for relaxation without exposure to the outside. It's considered to be one of the finest examples of Ottoman architecture with whitewashed walls, plain yellow-stoned arches, terracotta roof and blue woodwork. The main room, which is an extension expanding over the street, is ‘Baghdadi’ style, timber-framed with stone filling and a roof displaying eaves, like a bay window. In 1979, the mansion was in the danger of collapse and was purchased by the Turkish Cypriot state in 1981. Following renovation, it opened to visitors as an ethnographic museum on 21 March 1988. It was notable as the first significant renovation project in Northern Cyprus. Inside, examples of traditional Cypriot lifestyle, such as kitchen utensils, instruments for needlework, as well as old swords and historical clothes, are on display, while the furnishings of the bridal room, dining hall and living area, illustrate the household rituals of the time. The large inner courtyard was once used by the household for private recreation. The inhabitants of the mansion lived on the upper floor whilst the ground floor was allocated as servants’ quarters and used for storage.
Sightseeing > Enkomi Village
This acient city is thought to have been the first capital of Cyprus and dates back over 4,000 years. Also referred to as Alasiya, it's located near to the present-day village of Tuzla, north of Famagusta. Excavations have revealed the city was initially under Egypt and later Mycenae influence. It was a large orderly city with a prosperous trade and surrounded by fortified walls. It was originally built on a rocky plateau west of Tuzla, on the river Pedieos, the longest waterway in Cyprus.
Copper ore was transported to Enkomi, where it was smelted and shipped for export as the river was navigable and had an inland harbour. The metal trade continued into the Late Bronze Age and was recorded in correspondence between the Pharaoh and the King of Alasiya. It's unclear if "Alasiya" referred to just Enkomi, the region, or to Cyprus as a whole but the exchange confirms Alasiya as a major supplier of copper to Syria and
Anatolia. Excavations have discovered several areas where metallurgy took place and the name is found on texts written in Egyptian, Hittite, Akkadian, Mycenean and Ugaritic. . Much of what you see today is the remains of reconstruction after it was devastated by the “Sea People” who invaded eastern Anatolia, Syria, Palestine, Cyprus, and Egypt toward the end of the Bronze Age. around 1200 BCE. The earlier town was built ad hoc, but the new town was rebuilt on a grid system, with long east-west avenues and a north-south main street. In 1075 BCE, it was hit by an earthquake, then around 1000 BCE, the inland harbour silted up and decline set in.
As Enkomi declined, nearby Salamis began to thrive, and the last inhabitants of Enkomi migrated there. Most of today's ruins are from the rebuilt city, which never recovered its ancient grandeur. In 1896 as part of the Turner Bequest expedition to Cyprus, the first excavations on the island were conducted by the British Museum. Two bronze statues of gods were found on what was thought to be ceremonial buildings.
The “horned god” is a bronze statuette which reveals the influence of Hittite art, depicting a God, possibly Apollo, wearing a horned helmet. The “ingot god”, is wearing a horned conical hat and greaves, shield and spear, and stands on a miniature hide-shaped ingot. Other notable finds include the “Enkomi Cup” which used niello decoration making it one of the earliest uses of this technique – a black mix of sulphur, copper, silver, and lead, used as an inlay on engraved or etched metal, especially silver. Most of the discoveries are in a collection of 1,800 objects or fragments in the British Museum in London
Sightseeing > Gambler's Inn
The Kumarcilar Han, also called the Gambler’s Inn, is a caravansarai (an Inn with a central courtyard) located in Nicosia.
Thought to be built around the end of the 17th century, it's much smaller and modest when compared with Büyük Han, but nonetheless typical of an Ottoman inner city commercial inn. In the middle ages, merchants used to group themselves together according to their trades.
When travelling, merchants from the same town or trade would favour certain hans, which would tend to assume the name of that town or trade. The Gambler’s Inn was originally known as the Violinist’s or Fiddler’s Inn and it's not known when or why the name changed.
Similar to all caravansarai, the entrance leads to an open-air courtyard,
which is surrounded by a two-storey building, originally containing 56 rooms. Upper floors were used by travellers, ground floor for their animals and belongings. The ground floor rooms have stone floors and an external window.
A stair leads to the upper storey, where the floor is marble and some rooms contain fireplaces. A monumental carved gate at the entrance dates to before the Ottoman conquest, and experts believe the structure stands on a much earlier building, possibly the ruins of a monastery. This Han has been fully restored and is used as an attraction with cafes, restaurants, arts and craft shops.
Sightseeing > Geçitköy Dam
Geçitköy Dam is a rock-fill dam on the Mandara River about 5 miles west of Lapithos. It was originally completed as the Dağdere Dam in 1989, but between 2012 and 2014 it was raised and expanded from 1.8 million cubic metres to 35 million cubic metres. The dam receives water from the river and via an undersea pipeline from the Alaköprü Dam, in the Mersin Province of Türkiye, topped-up by by an underground aquifer and hundreds of small shallow wells. Water from Türkiye first entered the reservoir on 17 October 2015. From there it’s transferred via pumps to Girne which lies to the east.
To get there, follow the main coastal road towards Camlibel and Mavi Kosk house (The Blue House). You can view the dam from the road but probably the best place for a photo would be The Blue House.
You can’t go on top of the dam, but the view from the road above is still amazing and the panoramic view of the water reservoir is stunning. Picnic areas abound, as do car shade ports and viewing galleries.
If you fancy walking round the reservoir be aware it’s at least 3 or 4 hours and if you take your time for lots of photos, it could be more. The pathways have lots of trees and wild flowers beside them and there's a number of viewing towers along the way. You’ll even find some nice places to fish, if that takes your fancy.
Sightseeing > George VI Monumnet
This cylindrical monument is in the centre of Lefke.
It takes the form of a water storage tank, and was built to commemorate the coronation of George VI who was crowned in 1937 following the abdication of his brother King Edward VIII.
Sightseeing > Greco-Roman Rock Tombs
Kyrenia has around 70 known tombs, a few of which are especially distinctive.
Romans built cemeteries outside towns. Kyrenia town was East of the Castle, which means graves were west. Nowadays, the modern town is further west than that of the Romans, so the area that was rich with catacombs has been largely built on in recent years, although some are still found in cellars of buildings.
When one is found, it's excavated, and any finds removed for study. Some tombs were carved into rock face in the town centre and can be found within the car park on the ‘Turgut Tahsin’ road. In the old part of town, opposite the Icon Museum, are the remains of catacombs dating to 400AD but they can sometimes be concealed beneath overgrown plants. Along from the Chrysopolitissa Church, you'll find the entrance to a steep passage taking you to an underground chamber. This tomb, unlike others is entirely subterranean and is only open by arrangement with the custodian of Kyrenia Castle.
Sightseeing > Güzelyurt Archaeology & Nature Museum
This petite site opened as a museum in 1979 after restoration. The building was originally the palace of the Bishop of the region and housed town offices up to 1974.
It consists of a natural history section, where flora and fauna of North Cyprus are displayed, and an archaeological floor which exhibits the island’s rich historical past from the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. A further room offers a display of finds from the Tumba Tou Skuru settlement.
The courtyard serves as an open-air museum, exhibiting pieces from Classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods. Since their discovery in 2005, the ‘Golden Leaves of Soli’ have been on display at this museum and are of great archaeological importance and aesthetics. The most breath-taking of all artefacts are the ethereal tiara of gold leaves, artfully and delicately
Another important work is the 2nd century AD statue of the Anatolian Goddess Artemis of Ephesus, discovered at the Salamis ruins in 1980. This plain museum is around the corner from the major tourist attraction of St Mamas Church and Icon Museum. If you have some time, stroll over to this little museum and you’ll be richly rewarded.
Sightseeing > Hz. Omer Tomb
For centuries, tombs have held great significance for Turkish Muslims. They may visit tombs to pray for healing, or to seek relief for pain in their life, particularly during Ramadan.
6km east of Kyrenia, on the coast near Çatalköy, lies the tomb of Hazreti (Saint) Omer, a holy place according to Islamic belief. Completely out of sight, with spectacular views of the Five Finger Mountains and the Mediterranean, the tomb is an exquisite and peaceful location. It's the final resting place of Commander Omer, and 6 others.
It dates from the Arab raids of the 7th century, although there was almost certainly a local pagan shrine before then. The small mosque and Mausoleum were built by the Ottomans and the bodies were exhumed and buried again.
In typical Cypriot fashion, the tekke or Dervish convent which grew up around the tombs was venerated by both Orthodox and Muslim communities over the years. It was also renovated in the 1950s, and today you'll find fascinating tapestries and rugs within the tomb.
Sightseeing > Iskele Archaeology Museum
After 18 months of work, this new building was completed and opened in Iskele in 2018.
The Iskele-Karpaz region is where evidence of the first human settlements in Cyprus were discovered and this museum houses over 2,000 artefacts that were previously stored in St Barnabas museum. The exhibits are from 8 historical periods, from Neolithic through to the Roman era.
The cultural heritage of many civilisations has been carried through to this new gallery, displaying over 10,000 years of history.
The artefacts on show have been collected, preserved and brought together from various local excavations.
Modern as it is, this museum was designed to serve all ages. The relics and delicate pieces include jewellery, fine pottery, large sculptures and antiques.
Sightseeing > Kantara Castle
Of the 3 crusader castles on the Five Finger Mountains, Kantara is furthest east. At 700m, it’s the lowest of the 3 but commands the Mesaoria Plains and Karpaz Peninsula.
The first time Kantara is mentioned in written records is when Richard the Lionheart conquered Cyprus in 1191. In 1391, the castle was re-fortified by King James, when it had extensive walls built around it. When the Venetians took over the island in 1489, the castle continued as an important garrison but gradually fell into ruin.
A visit to Kantara today reveals the ruins of old defensive emplacements, soldiers accommodation, water cisterns, vaulted rooms, watch towers and breath-taking views. The documented history of Kantara coincides with that of St Hilarion and Buffavento. The castles were all built during the Byzantine
period, after the coast was overrun by the Seljuk Empire or as a countermeasure to the First Crusade. The name of the castle apparently derives from the Cypriot Maronite Arabic word “kandak” which means stone bridge.
It saw military action when the Genoese attempted to take the island in 1372 and proved adamant in defence against the forces of James I King of Cyprus, as it had a birds eye view along the Karpaz peninsula, and an unequalled vantage point over opposing forces from Famagusta. In common with the other two castles. it was deemed of no further military use by the Venetians who partially dismantled it and it’s very much as it was hundreds of years ago. Getting to the highest point is not too strenuous a climb and only takes a few minutes. A gravel path winds upwards and passes a cistern on the right. The gate house that once was protected by a portcullis, has a guard house to the right, while the path continues up into the barbican of the lower ward. The north east and south east towers are evident, and a further short climb leads into the upper ward. At this level Kantara reveals its completeness.
Although the upper floors were removed hundreds of years ago, there’s still the lower rooms of the guard house, Castellan’s apartments, barrack rooms, vast storerooms and deep cisterns. Following the line of the perimeter walls will show remains of further dwellings and breath-taking views at every turn. The north east tower contains a long room, equipped with tall arrow slits that allowed archers to fire on the enemy below but remain protected. A walk around Kantara shouldn’t be hurried. This is the castle of 101 rooms and, according to legend, anyone who finds the 101st will enter Paradise! Serving as a watchtower for pirate raids, an administrative centre and a prison, the castle saw next to no fighting. In 1191, it was taken by Richard the Lionheart, who sold the island to the Knights Templar, then resold it to Guy of Lusignan, the former king of Jerusalem, who became the first king of Cyprus in 1192. The Lusignans continued their reign interrupted only by occasional palace coups. In 1373, Cyprus was invaded by the Republic of Genoa, who imprisoned the local nobility.
According to Philip of Novara's chronicle, Prince John of Antioch managed to escape from Famagusta after disguising himself as the valet of his cook. He fled to Kantara, from where he organised a successful counter offensive that expelled the Genoese. Recognizing the importance of the three Kyrenian castles, James I of Cyprus and Peter II of Cyprus vastly expanded their fortifications. During their reign Kantara was transformed into a garrison castle, barracks and an enormous cistern was erected. Another cistern located at the basement of the castle was converted into a prison and later made into rooms for the captain of garrison. In 1489, the Republic of Venice acquired the island, and by 1519 Italian engineers branded the castle as obsolete, which led to the Kyrenian mountain castles falling into disuse. In 1905, the castle was classified as historic heritage and in 1914, underwent restoration in an effort to attract sightseers. In 1939, the foundation of the horseshoe tower was refurbished in order to prevent it from collapsing.
Kantara is around 2,000 feet above sea level, surrounded by ridges of barren granite and sandstone bedrock which were used as the main building materials. Most of the buildings are coated with thick layers of plaster to cover the poor quality of the materials, while doors, windows and quoins were transported from elsewhere. Lack of water led to the collection of rainwater via flat roofs connected to cisterns through a drainage system. Among the six cisterns used, the largest stood outside the walls. Buildings contained bread ovens and perhaps even a mill. The surrounding 120 by 70 metres (390 ft × 230 ft) wall contained ten garrison rooms, which were constructed in the late 14th century, connected with a latrine. A concealed postern, guarded by two towers, lies on the south–west corner of the castle. To the south of the main gate, a rectangular, barrel vaulted keep was used as a prison but later converted into a cistern. The centre of its northern wall has a late 14th century Frankish window built from what once was an embrasure. The shape of the embrasures indicate they were mainly used by crossbowmen. At the top of the castle stand the ruins of "The Queen's Chamber", an alleged fortified chapel destroyed in a Turkish naval bombardment in 1525 and looted in the 19th century.
Sightseeing > Karaoğlanoğlu Memorial
To understand the significance of this memorial site and museum, a brief overview of Cyprus history is required. When the Ottoman empire took control in 1461 of what we today know as Greece, the Greeks preserved their culture through the Orthodox church. When the Ottomans arrived in Cyprus in 1571, they freed the Orthodox church from Latin control, allowing Greeks to influence and control the Orthodox church to such an extent there was eventually little difference between religious activities and political activities.
In 1832, after a long and bitter war, Greece was granted independence from the Ottomans although Cyprus wasn't part of the agreement. When the British arrived in 1878, Greek Cypriots hoped they'd grant Cyprus Enosis, union with Greece. That wasn't to be the case and from the 1930’s a gradual escalation of civil unrest was seen, largely instigated by the church.
In 1955, EOKA was formed as a terrorist organisation with the sole aim of getting the British out and absorbing Cyprus into Greece. Little thought was given to what Turkish Cypriots, living peacefully on the island, would think of this.
EOKA violence escalated against not only the British, but anybody that didn't support Enosis, resulting in more frequent atacks against Turkish villages. In 1959, the London and Zurich agreements resulted in the independence of Cyprus, and Greek Cypriots saw this as a stepping stone to Enosis. In 1963, a secret plan was drawn up which discarded the 1960 constitution that had enshrined power sharing. As part of this plan, Turkish Cypriots were gradually displaced from their villages and placed in enclaves.
In December 1963, violence against Turkish Cypriots erupted, and continued for several years, gradually separating the island into Greek and Turkish community areas.
In 1974, a Greek sponsored coup overthrew Archbishop Makarios with the intention of forcing Enosis onto the island. To prevent this, Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit, invoked Turkey's rights to intervene under the Treaty of Guarantee, and on 20 July 1974 launched what is known as the 1st Peace Operation.
“We are actually going to the island for peace, not for war, and not just for the Turkish Cypriots but for the Greek Cypriots as well,” Mr Ecevit told reporters at the time. This operation came 5 days after the Greek junta-engineered coup saw EOKA terrorist Nicos Sampson installed as the island’s leader. Scores of Greek Cypriots were killed by fellow Greek Cypriots during the violence. Sampson would later say in an interview with a Greek newspaper, printed in 1981, that had Turkey not intervened “I would not only have proclaimed Enosis, I would have annihilated the Turks in Cyprus”.
A ceasefire was agreed at 4pm on 22 July 1974, leaving the Turkish Army in control of land, including the main road between Kyrenia and Nicosia. Attacks on Turkish Cypriots continued and the precarious situation of its own troops prompted Turkey to launch the second phase of its operation in August of the same year, eventually extending the safe haven for Turkish Cypriots to today’s boundaries. Turkish Cyprus declared its independence on 15 November 1983 as the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus.
The Karaoğlanoğlu Memorial was built in memory of soldiers who gave their lives during the Peace Operations of 1974, and takes it name after the regiment Commander Colonel Halil İbrahim Karaoğlanoğlu, one of the first casualties in the first hours of operations. The story of the conflict is represented at the memorial as a factual presentation, with displays in English and Turkish. English speaking servicemen from the Turkish Army are also on hand as guides. The two columns that greet visitors at the entrance symbolise the door to Türkiye. Further in, a small military graveyard holds remains of casualties, including Colonel Karaoglanoglu, whose name was also given to the nearby village in his memory. The group of statues symbolise the Republic of Turkey and Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, built on four columns, representing the four-day duration of the first Peace Operation. The Peace & Freedom Museum next to the memorial has an indoor and outdoor area. The open air part is a display of vehicles and arms left by fleeing Greek soldiers, while indoors there's a display of photographs of the military action, artillery, as well as possessions and uniforms of some of the combatants. A short distance from the museum is the Peace & Freedom Icon at the actual point of the landings of the Turkish Army. The memorial is on the main road a 15-minute drive from Kyrenia Town Centre and is a a sombre yet interesting experience.
Sightseeing > Karmi Village
Inhabited mostly by British and German expatriates, lies a village on the mountain slope west of Kyrenia. Karmi, also known as Karaman, was abandoned by its Greek-Cypriot inhabitants in 1974 and in time, the old houses became derelict and the area turned into almost a ghost town.
In 1979, the Council of Ministers decided to rejuvenate this small scenic village, while developing resident tourism. Great importance was placed on keeping the character of the village, while catering for the needs of modern accommodations.
Traditional constructions were kept alive by using wooden rafters and rush mats for ceilings, restrictions were placed on roof placements so as not to spoil the village atmosphere, and each house had its own name written at its entrance.
Archaeological excavations carried out in the area produced chamber tombs from the Middle Bronze Age, including blue ceramic beads and pots from the Cretan Minoan civilisation. It’s believed these may be tombs of mariners who sailed ships from Lapithos, and the evidence and confirm the island's commercial relations with surrounding lands during that time. The village holds the church of Virgin Mary in the central square and hosts visitors throughout the year, who can stroll along picturesque winding lanes and relax in one of the pubs and bistros, admiring the seasonal floras and fresh aura surroundings.
Sightseeing > Kyrenia Castle & Harbour
Kyrenia Castle & Harbour
Kyrenia Castle lies at the entrance to the town's famous harbour, and stands majestic guard over the port. The Castle and Harbour are the most visited place in Northern Cyprus due to a remarkable state of preservation and being fully accessible to the public. The horse-shoe shaped harbour is one of the prettiest to be seen in the whole of the Mediterranean. The Castle offers a fascinating glimpse into Cyprus history, provides stunning views to visitors and is home to a shipwreck museum, which is one of the world's most important and well-preserved pieces of marine history.
Kyrenia has existed since the 10th century BC, but the first evidence of the castle is from Roman times and was subsequently fortified by the Byzantines with four towers linked by walls. It provided refuge for the Isaac Comnenos
family, then despotic ruler of Cyprus, against Richard the Lionheart. It was strengthened and enlarged by the French Lusignans, but the current appearance of the Castle mostly dates back to Venetian rule from around 1489. The Venetians were concerned about invasion by the Ottomans, so set about fortifying Cyprus.
The walls of Kyrenia Castle were enlarged, thickened and reinforced to defeat artillery attacks and to resist any siege. The Venetians replaced the original drawbridge at the castle's entrance, with the protected gatehouse that still exists today. They also kept the 12th-century Byzantine church of St George the Castle, safely within the walls. When the Ottoman invasion finally occurred in 1571, the Venetians seem to have given up without a fight! Very Italian. The exterior fortifications are in remarkable condition and look like they were constructed fairly recently. The entrance leads you to a central parade ground area, on the way passing a tomb of an Ottoman admiral. The central area is lined with guardrooms, living quarters and stables and ramps leading to defences on the upper sections of the walls. You can climb steps that take you to the Lusignan royal apartments and the small Byzantine chapel. In the depths of the castle, you’ll discover dungeons, storage rooms and the all-important ' magazines', where gunpowder was stored clean and dry, ready for use. The battlements of Kyrenia Castle are worth the climb for the view alone, and you can walk around the whole extent of the castle's walls. The Castle is also home to one of the world's most important pieces of marine archaeology. In 1965, divers off the coast of Northern Cyprus discovered what has been found to be the oldest recorded shipwreck. Dating back to 300 BC it was a trade ship, carrying cargo that included jars of almonds and wine and sank in about 100 feet of water just offshore. It was brought to the surface and is kept in a specially-controlled atmosphere to ensure its continued preservation and is shown with part of its final cargo. The shipwreck features on 3 Cypriot euro coins.
Kyrenia is now a major tourist attraction with a relaxed, inviting and calming atmosphere. Pleasure boats and luxury yachts crowd around the quayside and diners fill waterfront tables from which it takes only a moment to recognise that many of the older buildings surrounding the harbour were once warehouses. These now bustle with new life as shops, bars or restaurants, but they once stored carob beans and powder for export, a trade for which the island was famous until recent times. Due to its strategic location, Kyrenia has always been involved in commerce and maritime. Ships would ply their trade down the Aegean coast of Turkey, taking in islands like Samos and Rhodes, before calling in to Kyrenia on the way to Egypt. With commercial shipping confined to the new harbour further east, Kyrenia harbour is now left for pleasure and for the romantics.
Sightseeing > Kyrenia Gate
One of the 3 gates in the Venetian wall that encircle old Nicosia, it provides access to the city from the north.
For over 1,000 years, Nicosia was a walled city, from the Lusignans through to the Ottomans. During the Renaissance era, the Venetians reconstructed great walls around the capital, threatened by the Ottomans. The 3 original gates were the Famagusta Gate in the east, Paphos Gate in the west and the arched Kyrenia Gate which is one of the old city’s primary entrance points.
Built by the Venetians in 1562, it used to be known as “Porta del Provveditore”, after Italian governor Francesco Barbaro. It had a portcullis and a lion of St Mark which is still visible. The Ottomans added inscriptions to the north wall with verses of the Holy Quran, praising Allah as the “Opener of Gates”. The gate would open with the dawn call to prayer and close with the night prayer.
In 1821, the Ottomans added a guard chamber with a domed roof and renamed it the “Edirne Gate”. The south facing wall has a marble plaque bearing the tughra, a calligraphic monogram of Sultan Mahmut II also dated 1821.
Still in perfect condition it's one of the most attractive historic monuments in Nicosia. The roads on either side of the gate, built by the British in 1931, are still main entry points into the old walled city, maintaining its significance to this day.
Sightseeing > Lapidary Museum
To the east of the Selimiye Mosque, this gallery is housed in a Venetian style, stone-built two-story building dating back to the mid-15th century. Lapidary is the engraving, cutting, or polishing of stones and gems.
Researchers believe it was originally built within the courtyard of St Sophia Cathedral and used as a guesthouse for pilgrims and travellers. During British colonial rule, many stone works and pieces from the medieval period were housed here which included insignias, tombs and columns, all under the supervision of George Everett Jeffery, the curator of ancient monuments in Cyprus.
The collection was consequently catalogued and turned into a Lapidary museum which was refurbished and opened to visitors in 2003. Other notable features in this museum are a sarcophagus belonging to the Dampierre family, remote descendants of the celebrated Crusader John of
Ibelin, the Old Lord of Beirut; the tombstone of Adam de Gaures of Antioch, Marshal of Cyprus dating to the 13th century; and a marble lion of St Mark, the symbol of the Venetians. A unique Gothic carved stone window with elegant tracery of a style common to cathedrals in the 15th century, now stands opposite the main entrance to the museum. This was moved from the Lusignan Palace in Sarayonu Square, when the British demolished it in 1901. Sadly, this is the only trace remaining of this Lusignan palace.
Sightseeing > Lefke Aqueduct
With long and hot summer periods, in the past Cyprus has always had a significant shortage of water. Clean water supply to urban residential areas was always one of the most important concerns of Cyprus governors.
Throughout the centuries, water generally depended on rain fall, snow fall on the mountains and natural springs, the main one located in Lefke. Since the Roman era, water supply to cities was handled from the fresh springs via aqueducts, the water carrying systems consisting of chains of wells, underground water channels and bridges. During sieges however, most of the conduits were demolished which created more shortages.
At the beginning of the Ottoman administration, the existing water systems were inspected and repaired, and new ones added. The Lefke aqueduct was built around 1609. With its bridge of 10 arches, it's considered one of the
best Ottoman monuments of Lefke and is still used today for irrigating orchards and fields.
Lefke, which has fertile fields leading up to the sea, also produced grain during the Ottoman periods so mills and water stretches were built for grinding. English explorer Sir Samuel White Baker, commenting on Cyprus in 1879, wrote that the stonework in the waterways that pour water into the mills that returned with water in Lefke was "elegant and braided". 10 of these arches have survived to this day.
Sightseeing > Martinengo Bastion
Part of Famagusta City Walls, Martinengo is a superb example of renaissance military architecture. Also known as Tophane, it's in the north west corner of the walled city, in a peaceful and secluded setting.
Cyprus was a Crusader state from 1192 to 1489 and ruled by the French Lusignans. Then it was ruled by Venice until 1571 when the Ottomans conquered. When the Venetians arrived they realised the walls of cities weren't capable of modern defence, so started modifications and renovations. In Famagusta, the weak spot was the north west corner so in 1550, Venetian architect Giovanni San Michelle arrived to redesign and strengthen this area. While works were still ongoing, he died in 1559 and was buried in St Nicholas Cathedral in the town centre.
Reconstruction was continued by Luigi Brugnoli and finished in 1562. The only arrowhead shaped bastion, pointing inland, it's one of the Middle Age’s great examples of military architecture. The arrowhead shape gave it a large field of fire away from the walls, as well as allowing it to cover any breach of the moat area. The design was inspired by fortifications in Florence designed by Michelangelo, and dominated battlefields for 300 years even taking into account cannons and artillery fire to improve both defence and offence. Walls were 6m thick in places and used Earth to absorb any impact.
Surrounded by ditches, it covered a huge area allowing it to house the largest Venetian cannons, so that fire could be pointed pretty much anywhere. Some lower sections were built into the bedrock to prevent tunneling and Dual ramps provided quick access for horses and heavy munitions to supply the cannons. Covering one square mile, an internal curved passageway allowed movement from one side to the other, chimneys ventilated gunpowder smoke, and gunpowder barrels and cannon balls were stored. During the Ottoman siege, Venetians under the command of Hiernino Martinengo were despatched to help the city but he died on route, and his body was taken to Famagusta. A popular commander, the bastion was named after him.
By any standard, the bastion is a formidable piece of construction with every stone corner, angle and tunnel crafted with smooth precision. It's easy to imagine the fire power it contained and see why it took Ottoman forces 10 months to conquer. The nearby churches of the Armenians and the Carmelites are also worth a visit.
Sightseeing > Mevlevi Tekki Museum
Sitting immediately inside the Girne Gate within the Ibrahimpasa quarter of Nicosia, the Mevlevi Tekke is one of the most important historical and religious buildings on the island. A building designed specifically for gatherings of a Sufi brotherhood or Islamic mysticism, the Tekke was a place for spiritual retreat and character reformation. It has historically been used by the Mevlevi Order and now serves as a museum, distinguished by six grand domes surmounting a rectangular building.
Early History and Background
A Sufi order that originated in Konya in modern day Türkiye, the Mevlevi Order was founded by the followers of the 13th-century Persian poet, Sufi mystic, and Islamic theologian known as Celaleddin Rumi, or more commonly Mevlana. The mystical philosophy that he expressed in his poetry and bequeathed to the Mevlevi order spread east from Konya, as far as India,
and then throughout the entire Islamic world. His teachings emphasised the individual soul’s separation from God during earthly existence, and the power of divine love to draw it back to the infinite on death.
Rumi stressed music and dance as an expression of this mutual love and yearning, and so the Mevlevi followers became commonly known as the ‘whirling dervishes’ due to their famous practice of continuously revolving as a form of remembrance of God. It's traditionally held that the present building or ‘mevlevihane’ is an enlarged continuation of previously established tekkes known as the Arab Ahmed Pasha and Ferhad Pasha Tekkes, constructed in 1593 and 1607. The Mevlevi Tekke was built in the early 17th century, on a piece of land donated by a landlady called Emine Hatun.
When tekkes in Türkiye were closed as a part of Ataturk’s Reforms in 1925, some in the Turkish Cypriot community demanded the closure of the tekke. However this call was disregarded by the British administration of the time, and since the centre of the Mevlevi Order had moved from Konya to Aleppo, it decided to appoint a sheikh from Syria. The first such sheikh was Muhammed Selim Dede from Damascus, appointed in 1933 and who remained in position until his death in 1953. This however marked the beginning of the end of an era in which the whirling dervishes performed their sacred dance the “sema”, and the tekke finally ceased operation in 1954, the Mevlevi Order in Cyprus itself officially ceasing to exist from April 1956. After remaining closed for several years, the Tekke was reopened in 1963 as the ‘Turkish Cypriot Museum of Ethnography”. On 17 December 2002, after extensive repairs, it became the Mevlana Museum, opened on the anniversary of his death, or “union with the beloved” as is the case in Sufi tradition.
When it was first built, the Mevlevihane included a complex of buildings and extensive grounds. A kitchen provided food for the poor of the city, permanent accommodation was made available for dervishes and guest rooms for visitors. The inner courtyard was an area for contemplation, surrounded by an orchard in which almonds, pomegranates and figs offered fruit. An ancient well dated to the Venetians and a reservoir provided water to a fountain for ablutions.
Today, the Mevlevihane has an arched doorway, above which an Ottoman inscription informs visitors they have arrived at the house of Mevlana. Behind the entrance is a courtyard with Ottoman tombstones collected from various locations in Cyprus, dating from the 18th century onwards. One of the buildings is the semahane, the auditorium used for the whirling sema rituals, the mihrapor niche in the wall indicating the direction of Mecca. Along the northern wall is a wooden balcony where accompanying musicians once performed. The beams of the wooden ceiling of the semahane rest on two square columns and a series of arches divide the room into two sections.
The first contains an exhibition of Rumi’s greatest poem the Mesnevi, alongside a display of musical instruments, costumes worn by the dervishes when they danced, and various other reproductions and illustrations. The other is an exhibit of the only remaining dervish cell, in which cooking utensils, a table and other objects are displayed. The southwest doorway of the semahane next to the mihrab, leads to the chamber in which the sheiks of the Mevlevihane lie buried. A total of sixteen unmarked tombs rest beneath six glorious domes, extending south along Kyrenia Street. Photographs of some of the sheiks, manuscripts and various other items are displayed on the walls, while the tombs themselves are covered in embroidered textiles. Traditionally, as part of Turkish Cypriot heritage, a ceremony of the whirling dervishes is performed here around the 17th of December each year.
Sightseeing > Minia Cyprus Museum
Located in Tatlisu, about 50km/30 miles east of Kyrenia. in an archaeological area dating back over 1,000 years. It contains miniature models, usually on a scale of 1:25, of famous historical Cypriot monuments, displayed in the courtyard of a millennial church which belongs to the Byzantine period, with more artefacts planned. The miniatures include:
18th Century Clock Tower
18th Century Ulu Mosque
Apostolos Andreas Monastery
Arab Ahmet Mosque
Bekir Pasha Aqueduct
Castle of Gaziantep
Derviş Paşa Mansion
- Hala Sultan Mosque
Harnup Ambari Tatlisu
Hatuniye Medresseh of Erzurum
House of Veli Passa
Hz. Omer Tomb
Lefke CMC Bath
Morphou Culture House
Mosque of Hersekzade Ahmet Pasa
Namik Kemal Dungeon
St Hilarion Castle
St Barnabas Monastery
Statue of Artemis
Yusuf bin Osman Mescit and Mosque
The museum has been popular with tourists since it opened in 2015, and the number of models has consistently grown. It was inspired by the famous “Minia Turk” garden in Istanbul.
Sightseeing > Namik Kemal Dungeon
An historical building in Famagusta, famous for being the temporary abode of influential Turkish writer Namik Kemal. Known as the Shakespeare of Turkish literature, Kemal spent 38 months imprisoned here, between 1873 and 1876.
Seen as a potential revolutionary and threat, he was exiled by Sultan Abdulaziz in 1873 after the first performance of his play ‘Vatan yahut Silistre’ (Fatherland or Silistria) a drama centred on the Siege of Silistria. The play was considered dangerous by the government as it promoted nationalism and liberalism.
The building Kemal was exiled to was originally part of the Venetian Palazzo del Proveditore but the jail building as it currently stands was built during the Ottoman era, in a corner of the ruined palace. The building has two floors. The lower displays pre-Ottoman Lusignan architecture and the upper is
distinctly Ottoman in style. The building is L-shape with the lower floor made of ashlar stone, and the upper floor built using lath and plaster.
The ground floor, with only one vaulted cell is rectangular shaped and has a low arched entrance door and barred window which opens onto the courtyard of the Venetian Palace. Although described as a dungeon, it's not underground. When Namik Kemal came to Famagusta, he first stayed on the ground floor. Notes found described his initial cell as too dark and unsuitable for living. It was just over 10 squares metres with no furnishings (where would you put them?!) . He was transferred to the floor above with permission of the Cyprus Governor, Veysi Pasha. Steep stone stairs at the side of the building lead to this storey which has two large windows, a landing at the front and marbled flooring.
When Abdulaziz was dethroned, Namik Kemal was pardoned by Murad V and returned to Constantinople in 1876. He penned his plays ‘Gulnihal’ and ‘Akif Bey’ while imprisoned here. Restoration of the dungeon in the 1990's into a museum contains many of his belongings and documents. The same dungeon was also reportedly used by the British during the First World War. A bronze bust of Namik Kemal faces the square named after him, across from the dungeon. The founder of the Republic of Türkiye, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, referred to Namik Kemal’s works as a major source of inspiration, and today he still enjoys the status of a literary hero for many in Türkiye and North Cyprus alike.
Sightseeing > Nicosia Venetian Walls
During the Renaissance, Venetians constructed great walls around cities in Cyprus to protect against the Ottomans. Among the finest examples of these are the walled cities of Famagusta and Nicosia for which fortifications commenced in 1567.
The Venetians commissioned military engineers Giulio Savorgnano and Francesco Barbaro to design the plans after the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, by the Ottomans increased fear of them. New walls replaced medieval fortifications built by the Lusignans, which were demolished. The Venetians destroyed palaces, including the King’s Palace, churches and monasteries to acquire building materials and get a clearer perspective for the defence of the city. The Venetian fortifications had a circumference of 5km, with 11 pentagon-shaped bastions and 3 gates, all named after noblemen who sponsored the construction, including Rochas, Loredano and Barbaro.
Nicosia, like Palmanova in Italy and Valletta in Malta, became a practical example of an ideal city of the Renaissance, with its fortifications and urban life inside city walls. Gates to the side of bastions allowed the city to be better protected from siege, while leaving the upper wall unlined with masonry increased its ability to absorb the impact from cannons.
Nonetheless, the Venetians surrendered to the Ottoman Admiral Lala Mustafa Pasha in 1570. The Ottomans captured the bastions almost intact and they remained pretty much unchanged until the British era. A major tourist attraction, the walls and gates have undergone restoration and are recognised among the best-preserved Renaissance fortifications in the Eastern Mediterranean. Of the 11 bastions, 5 remain in Northern Cyprus and one is under the control of the United Nations.
Sightseeing > Othello's Tower
Othello's Tower in Famagusta is the ancient fortress which guards the harbour, built during the Lusignan period in the 14th Century. It used to be called "impenetrable fortress" due to it being nearly impossible to attack because of very deep ditches surrounding it.
Also known as the Harbour Citadel, members of the royal family and their servants are believed to have lived there during the Lusignan period. Later, the Venetians took over the tower and turned it into a fort, which then provided residence for soldiers.
Christoforo Moro, the governor upon whom it is generally believed Shakespeare based his tragic hero Othello, would more likely have lived in the Palace of the Provveditore. The tower was constructed around a central oblong courtyard with a square tower at each corner. On the ground floor,
the kitchens, great hall, storerooms and servants quarters were situated, whereas the reception rooms and bedrooms were situated on the second floor.
After Cyprus was sold to the Republic of Venice, the castle's square towers were replaced with circular ones to suit more modern artillery. After these modifications, a relief of the Lion of St Mark was engraved above the castle's main entrance. The name of Captain Nicolo Foscari, who directed the alterations to the castle, and the date 1492 are inscribed near the relief. Apparently Leonardo da Vinci advised the refurbishment in 1481.
The tower was renamed Othello's Tower after Giovanni San Michele, the Venetian civil engineer who was responsible for remodelling much of the city of Famagusta. You can still gain access to the round towers, with the gun ports and smoke holes still clearly visible. It contains a refectory and a dormitory, which were constructed during the Lusignan period. The castle's yard contains cannonballs left behind by the Spaniards and Ottomans, relics of its turbulent history. One of the larger parts of the tower is the Great Hall, measuring 92ft by 25ft, which in size, easily competes with the refectory at the Bellapais Abbey near Kyrenia.
In 1900, the castle's ditch was drained of water to reduce the risk of malaria. The castle began to be restored in 2014 and reopened to the public on 3 July 2015. Othello's Tower is well worth a visit if you’re sightseeing in Famagusta, as apart from the architectural wonder of the tower itself, there’s magnificent views to be had from the top of the tower over the city of Famagusta, with clear views of the Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque in the centre of the city.
Sightseeing > Petra tou Limnidi
From the Palace of Vouni in Lefke, you can see this small, yet immense, island. The Petra tou Limnidi, a small rock just across the water, is the site of the first settlement in Cyprus.
This is one of the oldest places in Cyprus to be inhabited, and was excavated at the same time as Vouni, with artifacts found from the pre-pottery Neolithic Period. An excavation team swam to this small rocky island and excavated for 2 weeks in 1929.
At the top of the island, which is only accessible from the east, remains were found of two rather primitive huts from the Neolithic period, one clearly divided into a living room and a kitchen with a hearth placed against the wall. Archaeologists revealed objects of flint, bone and stones including needles, utensils, farming tools as well as sculptures.
Petra tou Limnidi is believed to have been an island even in those times, though the sea level was probably much lower than it is now, since no Neolithic remains have been found on the adjacent headland. It probably served as a very exposed temporary camp for fishermen from time to time.
The islet today is an important nesting place for the Yellow-Legged Gull and also used by the European Shag. If you’re visiting Lefke, the Palace of Vouni will be at the top of your list but you’ll have an opportunity to stare and just imagine the thousands of years of mankind this island has carried to this day. For the more curious, journey to the shoreline for a close up.
Sightseeing > Porta Del Mare Gate
One of two original entrances to the old walled city of Famagusta, this gate is remarkably well-preserved. When the Venetians took control of Famagusta in 1489, they started strengthening city walls in line with modern warfare and this program continued for over 70 years.
The Sea Gate, or Porta del Mare, was one of the earliest projects to be completed, in 1496. Built in Italian Renaissance style by Venetian Commander Niccolo Prioli, it protected entrance to the city from the port. Built at an angle, enemies would see its superiority from far out at sea.
Dominating the entrance is a large marble sculpture, sourced from the ancient ruins of Salamis, of the winged lion of St Mark, the patron saint of Venice. The lion has a book in one of its paws with the Latin inscription, “Peace to you Mark, the Evangelist”.
The iron portcullis that opens towards the sea is from the Venetian era, while the iron-clad wooden door that opens land side, was built by the Ottomans. On the land side, to the right of the Porta del Mare, you'll see another statue of a lion, again brought from Salamis. Legend has it this lion will open its mouth on one occasion only and anyone brave enough to put their hand inside will receive a very generous fortune, which may be a reference to treasures rumoured to be hidden by Venetian merchants below the Othello Citadel during the Ottoman Siege. To date, nobody has seen the lion open its mouth - yet. The port side of the gate is better seen from the Othello Tower, which you'll no doubt want to visit at the same time.
Sightseeing > Railways of North Cyprus
In Northern Cyprus you won't find any railway, metro or tram systems. You'll need to hire a car, get a dolmus (local small bus) or hire a taxi to get around. The only “train” is a distinctive yellow road train which runs from Oscar’s Resort to Kyrenia town centre. However, Cyprus did have an active railway for over 45 years.
The Cyprus Railway was a narrow gauge (2’ 6”) railway network, which operated from October 1905 to December 1951 and was called the Cyprus Government Railway (CGR). It had 39 stations, stops and halts along the 37-mile route from Famagusta in the east to Evrychou in the west.
It was built in 4 sections, with the original railway running from Famagusta Port to Nicosia, section II from Nicosia to Guzelyurt opening in 1907, and sections III and IV as an extension to the railway from Guzelyurt to Evrychou
opening in 1915 to serve the Cyprus Mining Corporation (CMC).
When the Cyprus Railway opened in 1905, there were 12 steam trains which used the line during its operational years, all of which were made in England by either the Hunslet Engine Company or Nasmyth Wilson and Company.
Some of these trains can still be seen scattered around the island, with the most well-preserved, Locomotive Number 1, still standing outside Famagusta Station to this day. The trains travelled at 20-30 miles an hour and ran on coal brought in from England via Famagusta Port. The railway network was used for various operations, including passenger travel, with stations located every two miles along the route, with signs in Turkish, Greek and English. There were only two trains per day for passenger use, one in the morning and one in the evening. The government also used the railway for transporting mail, carrying timber from the Troodos Mountains and freight from Famagusta port.
The CMC used the railway for transporting freight, ore and minerals across Cyprus. Interestingly, some of the stations along the route also served as telephone exchanges and post offices/telegram offices as well as train stations. During both World Wars, the railway was also used to transport troops from Famagusta, Denizli and the airport. You can see the train as you go through Denizli by the old CMC Bar (now called Yakamoz Night Club) as well as an old CMC steam tug and the abandoned jetty. Further up the road, again on the sea side, you'll find lots of mining equipment and conveyors used by the CMC Mining Corp. There’s also another abandoned CMC jetty called “CMC Maden Yükleme İskelesi” on Google maps.
The ancient city of Soli nearby is also well worth a visit if you're in the area. The railway stations themselves were either knocked down or turned into Police Stations or warehouses, with the exception of Famagusta Station which is the Land Registry Office, and Evrychou which was turned into a dormitory for forest workers and which recently became the Cyprus Railway Museum. The museum is home to the restored Wagon 152 which sits under a shelter with the original hand-powered trolley, 100 metres of track and lots of information about the old railway. So next time you're driving from Famagusta to Nicosia along the motorway, spare a thought that you're actually driving on a large part of where the Cyprus railway tracks used to be all those years ago.
Sightseeing > Rivettina Bastion
Originally named the Ravelin by the Lusignans who built it to protect the main entry to the city, the name reflects its half-moon shape. Venetians took control of Cyprus in 1489 and decided they had to strengthen the walls of cities to withstand threats posed by the Ottomans and their large cannons. In 1492 they began 70 years of fortifications, some inspired by Michelangelo. The two gated entrances into the wall were the Land Gate and the Sea Gate or Porta del Mare.
3km of sea walls up to 18m high were built and the Martinengo Bastion and Land Gate, later known as Rivettina Bastion, were redesigned at great cost. Tours of the Famagusta Walls usually start at the southern end near the Rivettina Bastion which is the second oldest part of the walls after Othello’s Tower.
It became part of huge defences laden with cannon, connected passages and chambers and configured to divide any assault force. In 1570-71, the Ottomans besieged the city. Although the walls were never breached, the Venetians surrendered after 10 months. The Ottomans renamed it Akkule, ("white tower"), after the white flag of surrender that was hoisted there.
Entrance to the city continued through Akkule, over a drawbridge and portcullis the Ottomans built. If you enter through this gate, you'll see frescoes and coats of arms dating to Venetian times and the Akkule mosque built by the Ottomans in 1619. Stairs lead to the top of the walls, from where you can walk across the Arsenal and continue until you reach the original Sea Gate, Porta del Mare.
Sightseeing > Round Tower
Kyrenia Castle was originally built in the 7th century by the Byzantines to protect the town from Arab raids. It was extended by the Lusignan’s and the round tower was built around 1300 using recycled Roman stones and was joined to other round towers by a curtain wall.
The Venetians widened the original Byzantine walls making the Lusignan fortification largely redundant. The Lusignan walls gradually fell down, and by 1600 the Ottomans were so established they deemed it safe to build houses outside the walls.
The round tower stood derelict for several hundred years becoming a roofless shell, until in 1987, a local businessman received permission to restore it. A fibre glass dome was added, a wooden gallery erected, and during excavation work a rough “shelf” was revealed. This and the floor were
covered in natural stone flags. Since 1988, it's been open as a gift shop and art gallery displaying works by local painters. Although this round tower is the best preserved, there are remnants of others you can see. One is on the street leading from the Bandabuliya towards the harbour, and the another overlooks the harbour itself.
Guides > Sightseeing > Salamis Ruins
Salamis is an ancient Greek city-state, 6 km north of Famagusta. According to tradition, the founder of Salamis was Teucer, son of Telamon, king of the Greek island of Salamis, who couldn’t return home after the Trojan war because he’d failed to avenge his brother Ajax.
Earliest archaeological finds go back to 11th century BC, when copper made Cyprus an important trading partner. Children's burials in Canaanite jars indicate a Phoenician presence, and a harbour and cemetery from this period have also been excavated.
The town is mentioned in Assyrian inscriptions as one of the kingdoms of Cyprus. Although under Assyrian control, city-states enjoyed relative independence provided they paid their tribute to the Assyrian king. This allowed kings of the various cities to accumulate wealth and power. Certain
burial customs observed in the "royal tombs" of Salamis relate directly to Homeric rites, such as the sacrifice of horses in honour of the dead and the offering of jars of olive oil. Most of the grave goods come from the Levant or Egypt. Originally, the town was confined to a small area around the harbour but expanded west to occupy an area which is now forest. The cemetery of Salamis extends from the western limits of the forest to the Monastery of St Barnabas to the west, to the outskirts of the village of Ayios Serghios to the north, and to the outskirts of Enkomi village to the south. It contains tombs dating from the 9th century BC down to the Early Christian period. The earlier tombs are within the forest area, near the boundary of the early town.
Salamis had links with the Near East and the Aegean during the 8th and 7th centuries BC. One royal tomb contained a large amount of Greek Geometric pottery, the dowry of a Greek princess who married into the royal family of Salamis. In 450 BC, Salamis was the site of a simultaneous land and sea battle between Athens and the Persians. Under King Evagoras I (411-374 BC) Greek culture and art flourished in the city. A monument which illustrates the end of the Classical period in Salamis is the tumulus, which covered the cenotaph of Nicocreon, one of the last kings of Salamis, who died in 311 BC. On its monumental platform were several clay heads, some of which are portraits, perhaps members of the royal family who were honoured after their death on the pyre.
After Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire, Ptolemy I of Egypt ruled Cyprus. He forced Nicocreon, the Ptolemaic governor, to commit suicide in 311 BC, because he didn’t trust him anymore. In his place came King Menelaus, who was the brother of the first Ptolemy. Nicocreon is supposed to be buried in one of the big tumuli near Enkomi. Salamis remained the seat of the governor. In 306 BC, It was the site of a naval battle between the fleets of Demetrius I of Macedon and Ptolemy I of Egypt won by Demetrius who captured the island. In 58 BC, the Roman Republic annexed Cyprus and Ptolemy of Cyprus, the last Cypriotic king, committed suicide rather than surrender to Rome. Salamis became part of the Roman province of Cilicia governed from Paphos.
Salamis suffered heavily during the Jewish rising of AD 116–117. Although itt ceased to be the capital of Cyprus from the Hellenistic period onwards when it was replaced by Paphos, its wealth and importance didn’t diminish. The city was particularly favoured by the Roman emperors Trajan and Hadrian, who restored and established public buildings. The "cultural centre" of Salamis during the Roman period was situated at the northernmost part of the city, where a gymnasium, theatre, amphitheatre, stadium and public baths have been revealed. There are baths, public latrines (for 44 users), various bits of mosaic, a harbour wall, a Hellenistic and Roman agora. and a temple of Zeus that had the right to grant asylum. Byzantine remains include the basilica of Bishop Epiphanos (AD 367–403). It served as the metropolitan church of Salamis. St Epiphanios is buried at the southern apse. The church contains a baptistry heated by hypocausts. The church was destroyed in the 7th century and replaced by a smaller building to the south.
There are very extensive ruins, with the theatre and gymnasium extensively restored. Numerous statues are displayed in the central court of the gymnasium, most of which are headless. A statue of Augustus originally belonged here. The theatre is of Augustean date and could house up to 15.000 spectators before it was destroyed in the 4th century. Water came via an aqueduct from Kythrea, destroyed in the 7th century. The water was collected in a large cistern near the Agora. The necropolis of Salamis is west of the town and contains a museum showing some of the finds. The best-known burials are the so-called Royal-Tombs, containing chariots and extremely rich grave gifts, including imports from Egypt and Syria. A tomb excavated in 1965 brought to light an extraordinary wealth of tomb-gifts, which show trade relations with the Near East.
The "First Missionary Journey", was made by Paul the apostle and the Cypriot-born Barnabas, landing in Salamis after heading out from Antioch of Syria. There they proclaimed Christ in the Jewish synagogues before proceeding through the rest of the island (Acts 13:1-5). Tradition says that Barnabas preached in Alexandria and Rome, and was stoned to death at Salamis in about 61 CE. He is considered the founder of the Church of Cyprus. His bones are believed to be located in the nearby monastery named after him.
Several earthquakes led to the destruction of Salamis at the beginning of the 4th century. The town was rebuilt and became an Episcopal seat, the most famous occupant of which was Saint Epiphanius. Emperor Constantius II helped Salamis with reconstruction and tax exemptions, and the town was named Constantia after him. The silting of the harbour led to a gradual decline of the town. Salamis was finally abandoned during the Arab invasions of the 7th century.
Archaeological excavations began in the late 19th century and are now in the British Museum in London. Excavations started again in 1952 and were in progress until 1974 when international embargo prevented continuation. The site and the museums are maintained by the antiquities service, with important archaeological collections kept in the St Barnabas monastery. In the District Archaeological Museum there are marble statues from the gymnasium and the theatre of Salamis, Mycenaean pottery and jewellery from Enkomi. Several of the statues and sculptures from antiquity are disfigured, headless or mutilated, likely by Christian zealots in late antiquity, during the persecution of pagans in the late Roman Empire.
Buildings uncovered show The Temple of Zeus Salaminios must have existed since the foundation of the city. Early excavators discovered in the esplanade of the Temple of Zeus an enormous marble capital carved on each side with a caryatid figure standing between the foreparts of winged bulls. Now in the British Museum's collection, the function of the capital remains unclear, although it does indicate influence from Achaemenid art and is consequently dated to between 300 and 250 BC.
Sightseeing > Seyyid Emin Efendi Water Cistern
You'll probably come across this site if you're heading to Kyrenia Harbour.
It dates back to Ottoman rule, who built public water taps for passer-by’s.
Made of hewn stone and with an arched roof, it's located northeast of St Andrew’s Church.
A marble inscription written in old Turkish reveals the water cistern was constructed by Es-Seyid Mehmed Emin Efendi, who was a clerk to the tax collector between 1816 and 1821 and later Governor of Cyprus in 1834. Collect it then spend it, so to speak.
He also initiated the building in 1817 of one of the holiest places for Muslims in the world, Hala Sultan Tekke which is in Larnaca and is a listed Ancient Monument with thousands of pilgrims visiting each year.
Sightseeing > Soli Ruins
Soli is one of the ten ancient kingdoms of Cyprus dating to the 6th century BC. Near Lefke and southwest of Guzelyurt, what remains today at the coastal site of Soli dates mainly to the Roman era.
It’s believed to have been founded by the Athenians returning from the Trojan Wars in the 13th century BCE and the region was first known as ‘Aipeia’. A Greek statesman, Solon, advised that the city be moved nearer the shore to facilitate export of copper ore. The ruler of the town King Philocypros, who was also a pupil of Solon, duly obliged and the relocated city was renamed Soli.
Rich in copper deposits, Soli had a good water supply, fertile soil and a protected harbour, making it one of the most important capitals of Cyprus. The city fell under the successive influence of the Hellenistic, Roman and
Early Byzantine periods. In 498 BC, the people of Soli joined the other kingdoms in the Ionian Revolution against the Persians, who took the city. It was only in 449 BC and during the Roman period, that Soli became a prosperous city.
By the 4th century AD, the copper mines were almost exhausted and its harbour silted up, leading to a period of stagnation for the city which gradually lost its importance. The city was destroyed during Arab raids of the 7th century and later by earthquakes and was finally left abandoned after a millennium of continuous occupation. What remains today is an impressive collection of structures and findings.
Excavations in 1929 discovered The Roman Theatre, which dates to the 2nd century AD. It occupies the site of the original Greek amphitheatre, on the northern slope of a hill overlooking the sea below. It holds an auditorium of 17 rows of seats, carved in a semicircle out of the hillside rocks with some 4,000 capacity, restored though to only half of its original height. After the theatres of Salamis and Kurion, it is the third largest theatre in Cyprus. A grand semi-circular orchestra with great acoustics has also since been restored. the theatre consists of the skene (stage building), orchestra (middle section) and auditorium, The stage building is comprised of a number of rooms and corridors and would have provided space for the performers to get changed as wellas providing a backdrop for their performances.The middle semi-circular section, the orchestra, is the section wehre religious celebrations and plays would have taken place. The seats at the bottom of the theatre are made from carved rocks from the hillside, covered with cut stone. The upper tiers of seats have not survived. Admission to this area alongside the auditorium was gained through two side entrances, the audience separated from the orchestra through a limestone wall.
As with many ancient ruins, the stones of Soli were recycled, those of the theatre used by the British for the construction of Port Said in Egypt in the second half of the 19th century. The former limestone wall is now part of this harbour. The original stage was made up of two levels, covered with marble panelling and decorated with statues. Some of the original masonry can be seen in the orchestra section. The theatre today is occasionally used for atmospheric concerts and plays.
St Auxibus Basilica
An ancient coin found during excavations dates the basilica to the latter part of the 4th century AD, one of the first Christian churches on the island. According to Christian tradition, Soli is believed to be the place where Saint Mark baptised St Auxibus, a Roman Christian who later became the first bishop of the Church of Soli. When the first basilica was destroyed in the 6th century, a new basilica was built with two rows of columns. The mosaics in the narthex of the basilica date from this time. Built over several different stages, the initial build was a five-naved church, later modified into a three aisled structure in the 6th century near to 200 metres in length, separated by twelve columns some of which are still standing today. The small church has three doors and a courtyard that boasts a fountain ringed with further columns.
One of the most prestigious finds at the basilica are its’ mosaics, found in the flooring, most of which have survived to the present day. Cyprus church mosaics were originally of geometric design, and gradually animal figures such as birds and bulls were incorporated and decoration from small coloured stone tiles were later created. The goose-like swan mosaic in the floor of the nave, surrounded by floral and four small dolphins, is the most recognisable and immediately catches visitor’s attention. The inscription in the mosaic set reads, “Christ! Mercy to those who have created this mosaic”. The narthex and the northern part of the basilica floor is decorated in art opus sectile mosaic, a type using geometrically tailored stones which originate from the 6th century.
After the excavation of the theatre building, the Isis, Aphrodite and Serapis temples were unearthed. The Aphrodite temple is situated on a hill above the theatre but not accessible to the public. A famous sculpture of Aphrodite dating back to the 1st century was also discovered at this site, and the palace buildings from the Hellenistic period are also on this hill.
Recent excavations by archaeologists have unearthed many tombs from Geometric and Roman periods. One which was carved into the rocks is of a majestic three-tomb structure and is believed to have belonged to a noble. Valuable artifacts discovered include a golden throne, diadem and gold jewellery, as well as other metal cups, which are today exhibited at the Guzelyurt Museum of Archaeology and Natural History. The findings indicate a high level of wealth and power. Excavations have also uncovered a Hellenistic Period colonnaded avenue leading to the Agora, the local public gathering and market space, which holds the remains of a monumental marble fountain or nymphaeum which dates to the 3rd century. Corinthian pillars were used in its building. AN inscription records that it was dedicated to the Roman Emperor Caracalla. Generally, such buildings have a façade decorated with statues with the cistern behind. The traces of the ancient city stretch over a wide area and have still not been fully uncovered which just adds to the mystery when discovering this archaic site.
Sightseeing > St Hilarion Castle
St Hilarion Castle (Girne)
To reach St Hilarion castle from Kyrenia, drive south toward Nicosia. As the road climbs into the mountains, and just before it gets to the top of the pass and begins it’s descent, follow the signpost off to the right. A side road snakes up through a military camp for about 3km past a large statue of a soldier in battledress at its entrance. The firing range on the left was once the site for medieval tournaments. Go up the sharp hill and you arrive at a small car park outside the castle gate. It takes about 20 minutes to get there from Kyrenia, but remember you’re in a restricted military area so don’t stop or take photos.
Of the three magnificent castles in the Kyrenia mountains, by far the most accessible, popular and most complete is St Hilarion, one of the best-
preserved Crusader Castles. Dramatically sited on a rocky crag with elegantly ruined turrets, towers and windows, writer Dame Rose Macaulay described it as a “picture-book castle for elf kings” and it inspired the fairy-tale castles of King Ludwig in Bavaria and Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom.
In spring when the wild flowers bloom, the views from the snack bar are to die for. St Hilarion appeals to those with an interest in history and those seeking spectacular views, because on a clear day you can see all the way to the Turkish mainland. Stout shoes and refreshments are definitely required.
The castle was named after St Hilarion, an obscure 4th century Syrian hermit monk, who fled from persecution in the Holy Land and lived and died in a cave on Mount Didymus (“Twin peaks”). Extremely self-disciplined, Hilarion reputedly never washed and built a following by banishing demons and performing miracles. The monastery’s strategic position, commanding the pass through the Kyrenia mountains and overlooking the northern coastal plain, was not lost on the Byzantines, who built a church and monastery here. Facing repeated Arab raids, they converted it into a castle, probably sometime in the 8th century AD and The French Lusignans improved and strengthened it in the 13th century.
Along with Kantara and Buffavento castles, it was built as a watchtower to warn of pirates who raided Cyprus and the coasts of Anatolia. The first references to the castle are found in 1191 records and it remained strategically important for a while. until it became the summer resort of the French Lusignan nobility. Most of what you see today was built in 1228 by John d’Ibelin and it became not only a military stronghold but also a palace for the Lusignans nicknamed “Dieu d’Amour”, loosely translated as Cupid’s Castle. This was the castle’s heyday with tournaments, knights and courtly intrigue, especially under the rule of King Peter I and Queen Eleanor of Aragon. It continued to be a castle of importance during the latter Lusignan period, but when the Venetians took over in 1489 it fell into disrepair and became the ruin it is now.
The castle has three parts. Parapets for the defence of the main entrance were fortified by the Byzantines in the 11th century; the lower section of the castle was used to billet soldiers and their horses; and the middle section contained the royal palace, kitchen, church and a big cistern. At the entrance to the castle in the upper section, there’s a Lusignan Gate with a courtyard in the middle. The panoramic view of Northern Cyprus from the Queen’s Gothic style window on the second floor of the royal apartments is superb and well worth the climb.
The castle entrance includes a barbican leading to a large outer bailey, originally built by the Byzantines. Go right for the first of the spectacular views, then continue upwards along the “Main Road” . You’ll see as you climb a watchtower and to your left an impressive curtain wall that rises steeply to the upper parts of the castle. This outer bailey was where peasants and livestock could be withdrawn when the castle was under attack. The castle stables are now used as a small visitor centre, offering sketches and information about the Lusignans. Beyond the stables, the path winds steeply upwards to the tunnel-like gate of what is described as the “second section”. It’s a warren of alleys, buildings and rooms opening off a central tunnel, some of which were part of the original 10th century monastery. To the right is the monastery church now open to the elements, but with a well-preserved apse. North of here is the Great Hall, now home to the Café Lusignan. Along one side of the hall is a wooden balcony hanging over a staggering view of the coast below.
On a clear day you can see Turkey, some 100km away. Beyond the hall are a group of rooms which serviced it – kitchen, buttery and privies – and a belvedere, a shaded vaulted terrace with picnic tables and arches and more of those superb views. Left of the hall are more workaday rooms and the castle governor’s quarters, which contain displays with mannequins, illustrating medieval life. Continuing along the path which tunnels through these rooms, right takes you to the barracks and Royal Apartments and left goes up to the third section. A very large cistern appears to have been built rather than carved out of the rock and then a path, partly steps, partly rock-strewn tracks, soars upwards. Just before you reach the top, a left fork leads to the isolated Prince John’s Tower, where several of John’s Bulgarian mercenaries were murdered. Turning right instead of following the path to Prince John’s Tower brings you to the main gate of the Upper Ward. Through the gate are a Byzantine tower, a kitchen, a cistern and a group of subsidiary buildings. Beyond them are a further set of Royal Apartments and the famous Queen’s Window, at which Queen Eleanor is said to have sat. From here glorious views to the west open out, with, in the foreground, the village of Karmi. All that remains to be seen is the Western Tower and the Zirve (summit) of the mountain, marked with a sign: “732m – Congratulations! You are at the peak”.
On January 17, 1369, Peter I, King of Cyprus was stabbed to death as he slept in his palace in Nicosia, supposedly by three of his own knights. He was succeeded by his son, Peter II. Queen Eleanor, now the Queen Mother, became convinced that her husband had been killed on the orders of Peter’s brother, Prince John. Despite rumours of her infidelity in the king’s absence, she vowed to avenge his murder. John had taken up residence in St Hilarion Castle, which he held with a force of Bulgarian mercenaries, while Peter’s other brother James, held Kyrenia. A Genoese invasion, possibly at Eleanor’s instigation, led, in 1374, to the surrender of Kyrenia, and James ended up as a prisoner in Genoa. Eleanor now turned her attention to John. Having persuaded him that all was forgiven, she warned the prince that his Bulgarian forces were planning to overthrow him. John responded by throwing several of them to their deaths from Prince John’s Tower. Eleanor’s accusations were almost certainly untrue and a Machiavellian-type plan aimed at bringing him closer and weakening him. The drama concluded when Eleanor invited John to dine with her and the young king in Nicosia. They ate in the very room where Peter I was murdered and, when the final dish arrived, she dramatically flung back the cloth to reveal her dead husband’s blood-stained shirt. This was the signal for retainers to appear and stab Prince John to death in his turn.
St Hilarion Castle often features in publicity for North Cyprus and it’s really easy to see why. As you wind your way up the mountain pass, the castle stays hidden but as you approach the car park the castle suddenly reveals itself, merged almost impossibly into the side of the mountain in the most dramatic fashion. Visiting St Hilarion is absolutely unmissable. Despite the best efforts of the Venetians, much of the castle is intact and it is a truly breath-taking sight to behold from every single angle. Thanks to its mountaintop location, the views of the Mediterranean coastline, Kyrenia, and beyond, are jaw-dropping.
Sightseeing > The Great Inn (Büyük Han)
The Great Inn is considered to be one of the finest buildings on the island. Known locally as Büyük Han, it's the best-preserved example of Ottoman caravanserai (an inn with a central courtyard) architecture, and the largest in Cyprus. Located in the traditional market centre within the City Walls of Nicosia, it was built by the Ottomans in 1572, the year after they had seized Cyprus from the Venetians.
Under the guidance and patronage of Muzaffer Pasha, the first Ottoman governor of Cyprus, Büyük Han was modelled after the Koza Han in Bursa. It was built to provide accommodation for travellers from Anatolia and other parts of Cyprus and originally named “Alanyalilar’s Han”.
Later when a new inn, the Kumarcilar Han was built nearby in the 17th century, as a result of the comparison made by the public between
the two Hans, it was referred to as the Büyük Han (Big Inn or Great Inn).
Square shaped, with 68 rooms over two floors, the ground floor rooms rimming the courtyard functioned as stables for horses, storage areas and shops, where traders could carry out their business, and the floor above was for accommodation. The rooms on the ground floor each have a low-arched door, arched window and a hearth. The windows of Hans were always high up, partially to deter thieves who saw rich merchants staying as a source of easy riches, and also because glass was very expensive at the time. In the centre of the inner courtyard is a mescit (Muslim prayer room), built with stones from other buildings and balanced on six pillars over a şadırvan (Ablution fountain).
A grave that lies to the southwest of the masjid is thought to belong to a high-standing person who died while worshipping in the masjid. With two entrances to the Han, this design is rare and similar only to two others located in Turkey. Externally, the Han resembles a fortress, and when the British took over in 1878, the inn was restored for use as the Central Prison of Nicosia. Between 1903 and 1947, the building was used as an inn, after which it became a refuge for poor families where they could rent rooms cheaply until 1962.
After spending most of the 1990s being restored, the inn has been revived as a thriving arts centre, consisting of several galleries and workshops, and has once again become the hub of North Nicosia’s Old City bustle. Folklore dance shows, piano recitals, drama displays are common nowadays.
Sightseeing > The Royal Tombs
The Royal Tombs, sometimes called the Kings Tombs given their scale and splendour, are located between Tuzla and Salamis, with the entrance to the complex close to St Barnabas' Monastery. It’s divided into two sections, yet has never been fully excavated since its exact boundaries are still unknown. One area contains high-ranking inhabitants of Salamis, and a second was for ordinary citizens.
This site became famous in the 1950s because of the rich finds here. Treasure hunters did cause damage previously but entrances (dromos) were undisturbed, and it was in this area the richest discoveries were made. The tombs date to the 8th and 7th centuries BC. Some go back to the 11th century BC, suggesting that for some time, Salamis coexisted with Enkomi.
In all, at least one pair of yoked horses has been sacrificed in the dromos,
with or without a chariot. The wooden parts of these chariots had decayed, but left impressions in the soil with the metal parts still in place. The horses were likely to have been sacrificed as grave goods, to ensure their owners were able to ride their favourite mount in the afterlife. There were also human sacrifices, most likely servants, who could continue to serve their masters in the afterlife.
The burial customs evident from these tombs are similar to those described by Homer in The Iliad. The horse-drawn hearse would be driven down the sloping dromos (ramp) to the entrance, along with other horse-drawn chariots, before the body was raised onto a funeral pyre and cremated. The ashes were then stored in a bronze cauldron inside the chamber, along with other grave goods, and horses and servants would be sacrificed.
Two burials from different periods. The first had a bronze cauldron containing the cremated bones of a dead woman wrapped in cloth, with a necklace of gold, rock crystal beads and several thin sheets of gold. The shape of the tomb and the richness of the material suggests it belonged to a noble lady or princess. The skeletons of two horses were found on the floor of the dromos, with traces of the wooden parts of a chariot. These date to middle of the 8th century BC. The second burial, around 100 years later, was disturbed badly, but four horses' skeletons, traces of a two-poled chariot, as well as some metal parts of horses' gear and a chariot's metal parts were found.
This wonderfully impressive tomb, which contained only a single burial, is marked by a tumulus (man-made hill) which reaches a height of around 10 metres, although it's thought to have been even higher originally. It's now protected by a modern roof, and it's possible to see how the hill was constructed, with walls of rubble, supported by mud bricks. It contains one chariot with armour; a silver studied sword; bronze and iron-headed arrows; bronze shield; iron-headed spear and offerings of food and honey placed in amphora. The weapons and richly decorated tack suggest this was the burial site of a rich and important warrior around 600 BC, based on pottery found buried in the floor of the dromos. Looking down the dromos (sloping ramp approaching the tomb) towards the entrance, the construction of the overlying tumulus can clearly be seen.
The largest tomb, alongside the Royal Tombs Museum. It has a spacious cemented dromos leading to a monumental temple in front of a chamber built of enormous well-dressed stones. This tomb was used twice for burials. In the first, two horses of a hearse were sacrificed. One of the horses had tried to escape when its companion was killed, but had twisted round the chariot pole and was found with its neck broken. The iron bits of the horses were still in their mouths, and the remains of leather frontlets and blinkers covered with sheets of gold on their heads. There was no trace of the chariot in this burial, and it was probably used as a hearse and placed with the body. At a later burial, six horses were sacrificed, yoked in pairs, with ornamental coverings, iron bits and blinkers and frontlets of ivory and bronze with relief decorations of lotus flowers.
Tomb 50 - St Catherine’s Prison
This is perhaps both the most interesting and also the least typical of the Royal Tombs, with a domed roof that can be seen from the road as you approach the site. Originally the site of a tomb dating to the same period as the other tombs on site, around the 8th or 7th century BCE. A small chapel was built above this tomb in Roman times, and dedicated to St Catherine of Alexandria who, according to legend, was imprisoned here. As a result, its appearance differs significantly from the other tombs, although it does have a characteristic dromos leading down to it and the skeletal remains of two sacrificed horses were found during excavation. Some of the stones used in its construction were taken from other tombs, and a section of cornice used in the chapel matches that in nearby Tomb 47. It has two chambers, a large vaulted chamber, which was added in Roman times, and a smaller chamber, lying to the west, which is much older. It was used as a chapel from approximately the 14th century onwards with an altar in the smaller chamber, and an ikon of St Catherine in the larger chamber.
Houses many of the richest finds. Had two burials in a short space of time towards the end of the 8th century BC. A four-horse chariot had its wheels held by magnificent lynch pins nearly 2 ft long, with a bronze sphinx head at one end, and a hollow bronze figure of a warrior at the other, wearing a crested helmet, body armour inlaid with blue glass, and a long sword hanging from a baldric. A two-horse hearse had bronze lion heads on the corners and on the front. The bronze gear of the horses lay piled in a corner, including breast plates with embossed designs of oriental animals and myths, and two side pendants showing the goddess Ishtar as mistress of the wild beasts. Also of oriental design was a bronze tripod cauldron, decorated with illustrations of griffins and bird-men round the rim. The principal find at this tomb was a number of ivories, including a gold and ivory throne and an ivory-veneered bed. Of the ornaments discovered, the finest was probably an openwork, two-sided plaque of a winged sphinx wearing the crowns of Egypt. Some of the horse skeletons have been left in situ, and there is a small museum on site showing some of the finds, although most are now elsewhere, the bed for example being in the Cyprus Museum in south Nicosia. When the second burial took place, it seems that the remains from the first were simply pushed further back in the burial chamber to allow the later, richer burial to take place. It was later re-used for burials during the Roman period, with niches for sarcophagi being carved into its walls during this time. When Tomb 79 was excavated, Roman pottery, lamps and the remains of clay sarcophagi were found inside the chamber.
There’s no evidence to show that the Royal Tombs belonged to the Kings of Salamis, but with the precious death gifts, and the monumental architecture of the tombs, there's no doubt they belonged to noble or rich persons. And the less noble or rich? They were buried at the Necropolis of Cellarka, which is to be found within this complex, as is Tomb 50 - St Catherine's prison.
Necropolis of Cellarka
About 400 metres away from the Royal Tombs, and was used to bury common town people. A set of much smaller tombs, these were cut into rock with staircase access. Finds here indicate that sacrifices and feast ceremonies also took place in the dromos before the burials, however revealing more modest grave goods.
Sightseeing > Varosha Ghost Town
Varosha is 6.19 square kilometres in the southern quarter of Famagusta. It gets its name from the Turkish word varoş meaning 'suburb'. The place where Varosha is located now was originally empty fields where animals grazed.
In the early 1970s, Famagusta was the top tourist destination in Cyprus with new high-rise buildings and hotels and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the whole world, attracting celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Raquel Welch, and Brigitte Bardot. In 1974 Varosha came under Turkish control, and has remained abandoned ever since.
In 2004, The Annan Plan to reunify the island provided for the return of Varosha to the original residents, but this was rejected by Greek Cypriots in a referendum.
Buildings continue to decay with parts of the city have being reclaimed by nature as metal corrodes, windows are broken, and plants work their roots into the walls and pavements, and grow wild in old window boxes.
In 2014, the BBC reported that sea turtles were observed nesting on the beaches in the city. The main features of Varosha included John F. Kennedy Avenue, a street which ran from close to the port of Famagusta, through Varosha and parallel to Glossa beach. Along JFK Avenue, there were many well-known high-rise hotels including the King George Hotel, The Asterias Hotel, The Grecian Hotel, The Florida Hotel, and The Argo Hotel, which was the favourite hotel of Elizabeth Taylor. The Argo Hotel is located near the end of JFK Avenue, looking towards Protaras and Fig Tree Bay.
Another major street in Varosha was Leonidas, that came off JFK Avenue and headed west towards Vienna Corner. Leonidas was a major shopping and leisure street in Varosha, consisting of bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and a Toyota car dealership.
In a show of good faith, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) recently opened two of Varosha's streets to visitors. It has become a tourist attraction, with bike rentals, cafes, playgrounds and a beach volley court at the foot of empty buildings on the verge of collapse.
Since the partial reopening of Varosha, apparently more than 400,000 visitors have walked its streets. On 19 May 2022, Northern Cyprus opened a 600m long X 400m wide stretch of beach on the Golden Sands beach (from the King George Hotel to the Oceania Building) in Varosha for commercial use. Sun beds and umbrellas were installed.
Sightseeing > Venetian Column
In the centre of Ataturk square in Lefkosa is the Venetian Column, locally known as Sarayonu.
The granite column was originally at the temple of Zeus in Salamis, but was moved in 1489 to Nicosia, as a tribute to Venetian rule, which is why many think it was built by the Venetians although it wasn't.
On top was the Lion of St Mark to symbolise Venetian dominance, and at the bottom, coats of arms of 6 noble Venetian families. The Ottomans removed the lion and toppled the column in 1550, leaving it in the courtyard of the Sarayonu Mosque.
In 1915 it was re-erected by the British who replaced the lost St. Mark lion with a bronze orb and decorated the plinth with the dates of the demolishing
and re-erection, 1550 and 1915.
Where it stands today was occupied by raspberry trees when the Lusignan Palace was constructed. If you visit the walled city you'll pass this column.
In the same square, at the corner of the Law Courts, there's also a fountain built during the Ottoman period and a platform built by the British to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953, the announcement of which was made to Cyprus from this platform.
Sightseeing > Venetian Palace
Commonly known as the Venetian Palace, it was a royal palace in Famagusta built around 1300 by the Lusignan Kings of Cyprus across from St Nicholas Cathedral.
It was used as living accommodation until the reign of Peter II in 1369, when it was partially destroyed by earthquakes, the central sections of the palace completely demolished, and only its grand façade and back courtyard walls surviving.
The Venetians moved the capital of Cyprus from Nicosia to Famagusta and greatly renovated the palace ruins in 1552 – 1554, transforming the Gothic style features and replacing them with Italian Renaissance architecture. It was then used as the residence of the Venetian Military Governor, the
The palace was an immense building and stood to remind the population of Venetian power and influence. The door to the palace opened up onto what was once the largest central square in all of Europe.
The final inhabitant of the Palazzo del Proveditore in 1569 was the appointed Captain General of Famagusta, Marco Antonio Bragadin, who led the Venetian resistance to the Ottoman conquest that began in 1570. He was famously killed in August 1571, enduring a slow death, starting with the carving of his ears, after the Ottomans took the city, the fall of which signalled the end of Western presence in Cyprus for the next 300 years.
During Ottoman rule, structures of the palace were used as military barracks, a prison and as a site for military drills. Under British rule, the building was used for similar policing purposes. Amongst the Ottoman prisoners was Namik Kemal, the Shakespeare of Turkish literature, who was held here between 1873 and 1876, having been exiled to Cyprus after criticising the Ottoman Sultan Abdulaziz. There is a bronze bust of the novelist facing the square named after him, by the Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque across from the Palazzo. In mid-20th century, the remaining structures from the palace were evacuate,d and parts were moved into the Namik Kemal Dungeon Museum, displaying the late writer’s life and works.
The Venetian Palace was largely destroyed by the Ottomans, but what little remains is impressive, and is a rare example of Renaissance architecture in Cyprus, at the time of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. The most noticeable surviving parts are the front façade, with its three arches, mirroring the triumphal archways of ancient Rome, supported by four genuine Roman columns raided from the ruins of the old nearby city of Salamis. Behind the façade are several arches that run parallel, much plainer in comparison, potential remnants of the original Lusignan palace. Above the central arch a coat of arms can be seen, those of Giovanni Renier, the Italian Governor of Cyprus at the time in 1557. Further in you’ll find a chapel and L-shaped wall that dates to the Venetian era. Small rooms facing the courtyard have been used as prisons or arsenals. The courtyard exhibits military equipment including modern cannons and cannonballs as well as ancient columns and sculptures, a delightful scenic spot to have a break when touring Famagusta.
Sightseeing > Vouni Palace
Vouni Palace is 9 kilometres west of Gemikonagi, past the town of Lefke. The site is reached by taking the signposted turn from the main road and following a narrow, steeply winding road all the way up the hill. The ruins may seem sparse, but the 360° views from the hilltop are glorious, and well worth the trip as they're some of the best in Northern Cyprus. Visitors during late winter and early spring will be met by orchids and other rare flowers that bloom and bathe the palace surroundings with colour.
Located on steep slopes of a conical hill, Vouni Palace overlooked the city kingdom of Soli for over a century. In 500 BC, Phoenician and Greek city kingdoms were warring with battles on land and sea. Marion, a pro-Persian city of the kingdom, besieged the city of Soli and established a guarding settlement on an overlooking nearby hill. King Doxandros of Marion built
Vouni Palace 250m above sea level, towering over the city of Soli, allowing both sea traffic and the city’s activities to be monitored without hindrance from afar.
The structure was a military settlement until 449 BC, when Greek rule was established and the ruler of Marion was replaced by a pro-Greek prince making Vouni a Royal Palace.
In 380 BC the palace, which had been a continuous threat to Soli, was mysteriously destroyed by a fire, so the history of Vouni Palace only lasted for over a century. Later documents reveal its foundations were further destroyed by Soli inhabitants. The palace resembles a typical Hellenic house, but with qualities and features which connect it to the more oriental middle eastern world.
Structure and Architecture
Excavations have shown different construction periods. In 500 BC the core of the palace was built with strong eastern features, such as the tripartite division of official buildings into living quarters, large storage rooms and bathrooms. During the Persian period, further modifications were made to the structure and the number of rooms increased. During Greek rule, eastern architectural features were replaced, major alterations were made and the palace adopted its final character. The tripartite division was altered, the central area resembled a Mycenaean megaron (central hall), and a second floor was added.
What you see today is made up of three terraces. The highest holds the remains of the Athena shrine. The middle terrace holds the palace which is believed to have had 137 rooms in total, surrounded by smaller religious buildings. The lower terrace faces the sea and contains housing with stone foundations and mud brick upper storeys which housed most of the residents.
The site consists of the megaron, a large rectangular room with a central throne, rooms mainly on the eastern wing and a 7-step stairway leading down to the courtyard and cistern. These steps, at 16 metres, are the widest of their kind on the whole island. Column heads in the courtyard made of limestone, show the face of the ancient Egyptian goddess Hathor, although natural erosion has meant the facial features of the goddess of the sky, fertility and love have not made it prominently to the present day. The palace and the smaller surrounding buildings mainly comprised of temples, were surrounded by a wall, creating the impression of a fort.
Temple of Athena
Outside the Palace there were several temples which were simple rectangular buildings with open yards and a variety of altars. The most important shrine is the one devoted to Athena, who was the goddess allied with wisdom, handicraft and warfare. Greek mythology says she was born from the head of her father Zeus, the first of the Gods. The temple is dated 5th century BC and has a courtyard, forecourt, and a large two storey rectangular enclosure built to hold two main entrances. Sculptures stood in the forecourt and a semi-circular altar was to the right of the entrance. The Temple’s main room was behind the enclosure and held a statuette of the goddess.
Vouni had a really sophisticated plumbing system. Cisterns were vital since Vouni had no natural water sources, so storage was created by digging out rocks to create natural wells. The large stone standing by the cistern in the courtyard was designed to hold a windlass which would have been used to lift water from the cistern. This stone has become the symbol of Vouni. If you look closely at the centre of the stone, you’ll see an unfinished carved face, thought to be a goddess. Channels were also made to link rooms to a constant supply of water. You can see remains of an elaborate bathhouse with evidence of a furnace below – one of the earliest examples of a fully equipped Roman hot tub.
The palace was evidently a building of great wealth and luxury, containing sculptures, works of art, and ‘Vouni Treasures’. Excavations in the 1920’s unearthed a baked clay cup, blackened by the fire, which destroyed the palace. Ornamented silver cups and bowls, as well as two magnificent gold bracelets, rank among the finest known examples of Persian gold work. Hundreds of coins bearing the stamps of the City Kingdoms of Cyprus including Marion, are also among the valuable findings. The temple has unearthed various offerings and several bronze statues, one of a cow and two identical groups in relief, each with two lions attacking a bull.
Soli & Petra Tou Limnidi
Because Soli is so close, you may want to visit it on the same day, considering Vouni’s sole reason for being built in the first place was to spy on Soli. From the palace you can also see the small island of Petra Tou Limnidi, which was the first settlement in Cyprus. It was excavated at the same time as Vouni and where Archaeologists discovered Neolithic findings. These excavations were together described as the “Awakening of the Island”. Visitors during the late winter and early spring months will be met by a rich array of orchids and other rare flowers that bloom and adorn the palace surroundings with colour.