Places to Visit in Northern Cyprus

Nicosia (Lefkosa)

St. Sophia Cathedral (Selimiye Mosque)

This is the earliest and perhaps the finest of the Lusignan churches, built by French architects and Queen Alix of Champagne (wife of Hugh the First) in the same style as Chartres and Rouen Cathedrals in France. Following the Ottoman conquest in the 16th century, it was transformed into a mosque with the addition of two minarets.

Atatürk Square and the Venetian Column

The grey granite colımn which stands in the middle of the major square of Nicosia is thought to have been brought from the ruins of Salamis by the Venetians. Originally it bore a lion on its top. Its base is decorated with Venetian coats of arms. The Ottoman Turks overturned it after the conquest in 1570. In 1915 the British re-erected it this time with a copper globe at its top.

Mevlevi Tekke Museum

This 17th century building was used as the Tekke, or monastery, of the Whirling Dervishes, an order founded by the mystic poet jelal-ed-din Rumi Mevlana in the thirteenth century, until 1920, when Atatürk banned the monastic orders. After this period the dances of the dervishes were allowed only as a cultural event. In Cyprus the tradition leved on until its last sheikh died in 1954.

Dervish Paşa Konak

This is a nineteenth century mansion of two storeys which was recently restored and opened to the public as a folklore museum. Dervish Paşa, who once owned the mansion or konak was the publisher of the first Turkish newspaper ‘Zaman’, or ‘Times’ in Cyprus.

Arap Ahmet Mosque

The mosque which was built in 1845 carries the name of the Turkish governor at the time that it was erected. In the construction of its floor, stone lids from nearby Lusignan graves were used as building material.

Turunçlu Mosque

This was built in 1825 by the Ottoman governor Seyit Mehmet Ağa. It has a wooden roof which rests on four arches. The wooden private gallery for women is in the north-east and stands on wooden columns with decorated capitals.

İplik Pazarı Mosque

The 19th century edifice is named after the the old cotton market which once existed here during the Ottoman period. Its knot shaped minaret is thought to belong to a former mosque bulit on the same ground.

Büyük Hamam

It is thought that Büyük Hamam, or the Great Bath, Which still functions, incorporates the remains of the fourteenth century Latin Churuch of St George of De Poulains. Its Lusignan Gothic portal is thought to have come from another monument. The rest of the establishment follows the general principes of Turkish bath architecture.

Büyük Han

Büyük Han, or the Great Inn, was built in 1572 by the first Ottoman governor of Cyprus, Muzaffer Paşa. Its architecture is similar to numerous hans encountered in Anatolia: a courtyard surrounded with rooms arranged on two floors. The lower rooms were used as shops, storage rooms and offices. The rooms on the upper floor served for lodging and each is fitted with a fireplace which has an octagonal chimney. In the middle of the courtyard there is a domed octagonal mosque resting on eight columns with a fountain for ablutions under it.

Kumarcılar Hanı

Kumarcılar Hanı, or the Gamblers Inn was built at the end of the seventeenth century. The arch inside the entrance passage may point to the existence of an earlier building on the site. It has no mosque or ablution fountain.

Bedesten

Bedesten, or’covered market’ is a building originally built as a Byzantine church in the twelfth century. In the fourteenth century during the Lusignan rule it was enlarged by the addition of its Gothic elements. The last grpup of alterations took place during the Venetian rule when it became the Greek Orthodox Metropolis. Its main portal on the north side is elaborately carved like that of St Sophia. During the Ottoman period it was used as a textile market.

Sultan Mahmut’s Library

This monument was founded by the Ottoman Sultan Mahmut II in 1829. Its collections include some rare Turkish, Persian and Arabic manuscripts.

KYRENIA (GIRNE)

Bellapais Abbey

Four miles to the east of Girne, on the outskirts of the peaceful village which was once home for Lawrence Durrell, Bellapais Abbey is arguably one of the most impressive sites in the Mediterranean and indisputably one of the most majestic sites of the island. It is the most impressive Gothic monument in North Cyprus. Yielding magnificent views, it overhangs citrus gardens which stretch out to the sea below. The name comes from the combination of the French words 'belle' and 'pais' meaning "beautiful peace". It has also been called Abbey de la Pais (the Abbey of Peace). It was founded during the Lusignan reign by the Augustinians in 1205. Hugh III, a Lusignan king, financed the majority of the construction. Hugh IV was even more attached to Bellapais, adding magnificent apartments and living there between 1354 and 1358

Lawrence Durrell in his book "Bitter Lemons", gives us a beautiful description of Cyprus in the fifties, and is linked to the other main landmark in the village: "the tree of idleness". This tree still stands today and visitors can enjoy a drink sitting in the very spot at which he composed this famous novel.

Atatürk Square and the Venetian Column

The grey granite colımn which stands in the middle of the major square of Nicosia is thought to have been brought from the ruins of Salamis by the Venetians. Originally it bore a lion on its top. Its base is decorated with Venetian coats of arms. The Ottoman Turks overturned it after the conquest in 1570. In 1915 the British re-erected it this time with a copper globe at its top.

Old Kyrenia Harbour

It is undoubtedly one of the most enchanting sites of the oriental Mediterranean. The marina is surrounded by old Venetian houses, restaurants and taverns. It attracts numerous colourful fishing boats as well as elegant yachts. Kyrenia was founded by the Myceneans towards 1600 BC.

Kyrenia Castle

Nobody has yet been able to establish the exact date of the construction of the castle. As a result of excavations at the site, it is thought that the original castle was built in the 9th Century AD by the Byzantines to defend Kyrenia against Arab raids. Later additions were constructed by the Lusignans and the castle was further strengthened by the Venetians. An interesting fact about the castle is that in al its history, the caste was never captured by assault.

The Shipwreck Museum

The museum, which is inside the castle walls, houses the remains of the oldest trading ship ever to have been recovered from the sea. It sank in a storm around the year 300 BC, less than a mile off the coast of Kyrenia. The ship was raised from the sea bed by a team of experts in 1969, reassembled, and treated with a preservative before being put on display. Also in the museum is the cargo carried by the ship on its last voyage, including 400 wine amphorae, 9,000 almonds, 29 millstones, 4 wooden spoons, 4 jars of oil, 4 salt pots, and 4 casks of alcohol.

Icon Museum/ Church of Panagia Chrysopolitissa

Church of the 18th century now has the finest collection of icons in Kyrenia.

The Crusader Castles of Northern Cyprus

The crusaders left behind three castles on the Five Finger Mountains: Kantara, Buffavento and St. Hilarion which were used as observation and defence posts. St. Hilarion, the best preserved of the three, was used as a summer residence by the kings of Cyprus. Its crenellated walls look as if they were cut in the rock. Its square tower shelters a small tavern. Built in the 10th Century during the Byzantine period, used in the middle ages by the Lusignans and destroyed later in the 15th Century by the Venetians, Buffavento Castle is only accessible after quite a sportive walk. Those courageous enough will not be disappointed by the spectacular view. It used to be a prison, escape castle and hideaway. Situated at the beginning of the Karpaz peninsula, the Kantara castle has an unsurpassed view on both north coast and the Mesaoria plain towards Famagusta.

Famagusta

The Ruins of Salamis

Only a few miles North of Famagusta, you can find the remnants of the ruins of the antique city of Salamis abandoned to the encroaching sand. It was built in the 11th century BC by Achaean and Anatolian settlers who were soon joined by the refugees who finally abandoned Enkomi-Alasia in 1050 BC. Salamis is a great site. The most impressive remains are the theatre and the gymnasium. The others are the palaestra (vast exercise ground with marble columns), the sudatorium (or sweating room) and the calderium. The excavations are scattered over a square mile of scrub and acacia. It was in the town of Salamis that St. Paul and St. Barnabas first set foot into Cyprus.

Othello Tower

A visit to this tower which keeps guard on the port is a must. It is said that the drama which inspired Shakespeare took place in Famagusta.

St. Nicholas Cathedral

It became the Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque in the 16th century, after the Ottoman conquest. It is a replica, with yellow stones, of the Reims Cathedral in France.

The Monastery of St. Barnabas

It houses a church built in 1756 and the National Museum of Antiquities with objects, especially potteries, discovered at Salamis and Enkomi-Alasia.

Ayios Philon

This is a 4th Century complex which consists of a peristyle court, a bishop's palace, a basilica and other few buildings. They were built on the foundations of earlier Roman and Hellenistic structures. In the 12th Century, a Byzantine church was erected on the site of the earlier Christian basilica.

Guzelyurt (Morphou)

Guzelyurt is a thriving market town – visit the Farmers’ Market on Saturdays. In spring, the light breezes scatter the white orange blossoms from which you can smell the fragrance around the town, while in other seasons the golden oranges and lemons shine on the trees. It is an ideal picnic spot for those who want to escape from the noise and rush of city life and to spend the day in the peace and quiet of the natural surroundings.

St. Mamas’s Monastery

Guzelyurt was previously a Greek town, and this monastery includes s a superb example of a perfectly preserved Greek Orthodox Church – complete with ornate chandeliers and icons. The church in the monastery was originally a Byzantine building, built on the site of an Aphrodite temple. It has been reconstructed at various times over the centuries, with most of the buildings dating to the 18th century when the large central dome was added. However, the side portals and columns of the nave survive from an earlier Gothic church built by the Lusignans.

Soli

A lovely road, along the coast, takes you to the discovery of the antique city of Soli with beautiful mosaics and a theatre. The famous statue of Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of Love, was discovered here. Soli was a great city, founded in the 6th Century BC. It was at its most importance during the Roman occupation of Cyprus, and was destroyed during the Arab invasion in the 7th Century. A Swedish archaeological expedition excavated the Roman amphitheatre in 1930 and an early Christian Basilica and mosaics came to light during the later work by Canadian teams. Much work remains to be done over the huge site.

The Vouni Palace

It was built in the 5th century BC, at 820 feet above sea level; the view is absolutely breath-taking from this site.