The island of Cyprus is well known for its history and for being steeped in myths and legends. There are often several different versions of a tale claiming to be the real story but the one thing they all have in common is that they are all fascinating to hear about! There are several well known legends which we will give you an insight into, but there are plenty more than this so try and pick up as many as you can on your travels.
Visitors to Northern Cyprus are spoilt for choice when it comes to ‘places to see,’ and whilst you might feel that there is not enough in one place you can always take a day to explore places, fit in some shopping, have some lunch at one of the many restaurants around, and take in the sights in one area.
Perhaps you might like to see some of the history of a town or city such as Lefkoşa or Kyrenia, and there are several museums that can occupy you for hours on end and all within walking distance of each other in either location for example. The area of Famagusta is a real treat for those who love a day out spent exploring ancient ruins too, you must visit the mystical Othello’s Tower.
In central Kyrenia there are many ways in which to spend a day, and you would be surprised how quickly the time goes! It’s a great place to even just spend time sitting in the harbour, people watching, having a drink and some lunch in one of the many restaurants, taking in some of the sights and sounds, and perhaps popping into the odd shop along the way!
Obviously there are the glaringly obvious places of interest to absorb you, such as the magnificent Kyrenia Castle and the Shipwreck Museum housed within it, the stunning St. Hilarion castle as well as other exhibits housed in centuries old buildings, and you can find out more about these in our articles on museums and castles. Also, just taking a walk behind the harbour will introduce you to some interesting and restored houses, as well as the Paşah mosque, all set in a myriad of cobbled and narrow streets which you can get quite lost in!
Going west from Kyrenia, there are many places to stop off and explore – and you may be surprised to learn that there are many more than you will usually find in most guidebooks. The further west you travel from Kyrenia you come across many fascinating and historical places that remain a proud testament to an island rich in history.
Starting in Karaoğlanoğlu (pronounced Kara-o-lan-o-loo) is the ‘Şehitleği’ (martyrs’ monument) in a well-kept garden on the coastal side of the main road. This is the resting place of 71 men who died during the intervention of 1974. The Peace and Freedom museum is also located here, featuring tanks and other military vehicles and an indoor exhibit reporting on the intervention of the Turkish military. Further along the main road is the Peace and Freedom monument, a plain concrete structure rising into the air which marks the 1974 landing place.
If you are visiting the city of Lefkoşa whilst on your travels in North Cyprus, or just fancy spending some time looking around whilst you may have business to attend to, it’s well worth taking time to explore the sights, of which there are plenty.
Beside the abundance of museums covered in our separate article, there are some great examples of period architecture, some of which have been restored in recent years and some which are still partially intact, enabling you to at least get a feel for the history of this ancient city. Lefkoşa is believed to have begun as Ledroi in around 280 BC, and was further developed during the Byzantine era and further still by the various occupiers of the subsequent centuries, and has always been a place of importance.
Once one of the world’s richest cities, Famagusta is an oasis of history, and you would be wise to either make a weekend of it, or visit several times to give yourself enough time to explore this wondrous and historical gem.
During the Lusignan period from 1192-1489, Famagusta became a very prosperous place with many residing academics, meaning that plenty of money flowed to this part of the world, and subsequently the homes and buildings were opulent and plentiful too. Today you can see ruins, museums, churches, mosques, basilicas and much more. We will list a few of the major sights and places of interests to get you going, but there is certainly more to be seen!
The Karpaz Peninsula is one of the last remaining true sanctuaries of peace and calm, it’s a place littered with historical sites and stunning views where everyone should visit at some point whilst on the island of Cyprus.
To get to the Karpaz you can go either via Famagusta on the south-east coast and turn inland heading north, or you can now take the coastal road via Esentepe and Tatlısu where a new road is being constructed, but as yet it’s not quite finished.
If you’re considering taking a break in North Cyprus why not spend some time exploring North Cyprus’s ancient castles? Even if you aren’t a keen walker or you’re coming to the island in the heat of the summer sunshine when walking too far is pretty impossible, you can still get close enough to each magnificent castle to be impressed – we promise you!
North Cyprus is home to a trio of Lusignan Gothic Crusader castles: St. Hilarion, Buffavento and Kantara, as well as the Byzantine built Kyrenia Castle. Each dominates its location so that you can’t miss them really! A word of warning though, there are steep climbs at fairly high altitudes to the Crusader castles, and parents need to keep a close eye on children, and those who suffer vertigo should hold the hand of someone they trust! Another tip would be to have fluids readily available and to not visit in the heat of the midday sun in the summer time, as it can get a little too hot for many!