Where the gods go on vacation: Cyprus is an absolute dream destination for sun lovers and culture lovers alike. While the Republic of Cyprus provides you with beautiful beaches and turquoise water, you can find historical treasures and buildings in Northern Cyprus. Convince yourself of Cyprus’s uniqueness!
1. The Girne Harbour
The horseshoe shaped historical Girne Harbour, which was built at the centre of the city, is most definitely one of the first places to visit in Girne. The colourful fishing boats and yachts anchored at the harbour make the Girne Harbour a favourite attraction for locals as well tourists to visit. Up until recently the harbour was used as a centre of commerce.
2. The Historical Lefkoşa Houses
The walled city of Lefkoşa has a well founded history which leads way back into the Lusignan era. Especially the bay windowed single and double storied houses with their flat arched entrances and wooden eaves which are set up in the narrow streets of both the Arabahmet and the Samanbahce neighbourhoods attract a lot of interest from tourists from all over the world.
3. The Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque (St. Nicholas Cathedral) and Monumental Tree
The building which was built in the Lusignan era between 1298-1312 is one of the most flamboyant examples of gothic architecture throughout the whole Mediterranean. The Lusignan Kings were initially crowned as the Kings of Cyprus in Lefkoşa’s St. Sophia’s Cathedral and then they were crowned in Gazimağusa’s St. Nicholas Cathedral as the Kings of Jerusalem. The building was converted into a mosque and opened to worship by the Ottomans in 1571 with the addition of a minaret. The monumental East African Fig Tree (Ficus Sycomorus), which is located at the entrance of the cathedral, is the island’s oldest tree. The tree was planted when the building of the cathedral began in 1298 and is now 15 meters in height and 5 meters in width.
4. The Great Khan
It is not only Lefkoşa’s, but one of the Island’s most important Ottoman works of architecture. It was built between 1572-1579 as a two storied, square planned building with Bursa’s Koza Khan taken as an example. The Khan consists of a total of 68 rooms, where the rooms on the ground floor were used as shops of commerce and the rooms on the top floor were used as hotel rooms. The building is now used as an entertainment and travelling center where handcrafts and souvenirs are sold.
5. The Ancient City of Salamis
The ancient city of Salamis was founded by Tefkros in the Bronze Age located to the north of Gazimağusa. The earliest findings at the ancient city date back to 11th century BC. The Salamis Ancient City was discovered with excavations carried out between 1952-1974 and is one of North Cyprus’ most important sites to visit. The ruins of the gymnasium, the baths, the forum and the agora which one can see whilst visiting the ancient city are all from the Roman Period.
6. The Selimiye Mosque (St. Sofia’s Cathedral)
The Selimiye Mosque is one of the Cyprus’ most important gothic styled buildings. The construction of the building begun in 1208 and was eventually completed and opened to worship in 1326. The Lusignan Kings were crowned in this building. Later on in the Ottoman Era, the Cathedral was converted into a mosque with the addition of two minarets.
7. The Girne Castle and the Shipwreck Museum
The Girne Castle which is one of Cyprus’ most astonishing historical buildings stands proudly as Girne’s symbol. The almost square planned structure has undergone many changes through the years up until it reached its present view. The ship believed to have been made in 3rd century BC, which is being exhibited at the Castle’s Museum is thought to be the oldest commercial ship ever to be recovered from the bottom of the sea.
8. Golden Beach
The wonderful Golden Beach is one of the Mediterranean Sea’s virgin beaches; it stretches 2 km along the Karpaz Peninsula with its clear blue water and golden sandy shoreline. All along Golden Beach you will have the captivating opportunity of walking bare footed for kilometers and refreshing yourself by taking a dive into the cool blue waters.
9. Karpaz Peninsula
The Karpaz Peninsula, with its historical and natural beauty, is the most unspoiled area in Cyprus. Karpaz plays host to North Cyprus’ only National Park as well as many ancient cities, monasteries and the traces of various civilizations.
10. The Kantara Castle
The Kantara Castle is the easternmost of the castles situated on the Girne Mountains, at a height of 700 meters from sea level; the castle has a strategic advantage, as it overlooks the northern shoreline, the Mesarya Plains and the Karpaz Peninsula. The castle was believed to have been built by the Byzantines, however, it was first mentioned in written records, when Richard the Lionheart captured Cyprus in 1191.
11. The Bellapais Abbey and Lawrence Durell
The Medieval Bellapais Abbey is located at the foot of the Beşparmak (Five Finger) Mountains to the east of Girne where it fascinates visiting tourists from all over the world with its unique Gothic styled architecture and astonishing scenery. The world famous English author Lawrence Durell, who wrote his book the “Bitter Lemons” whilst living in Bellapais Village between 1953-1956, constantly mentioned his admiration for the abbey. The house in which he lived in next to the abbey, also attracts many visitors.
12. Glapsides Beach
Glapsides Beach in Famagusta has everything you could want from a beach. It has white sand, crystal clear waters and a coastline that extends kilometers away. The beach is open to the public, and there is a restaurant, pedal boats, jet skis, pedals, deck chairs and showers. The beach restaurant and bar is lively, with a resident dj. It’s also a great place to bring the kids, as the water is shallow and the sea calm.
13. St. Mamas Church and Monastery
The St. Mamas Monastery is located in Güzelyurt, and the church within the monastery was built by the Byzantines. There are many stories about St. Mamas, but the most common one is that of a Christian Saint who lived in the Güzelyurt area. The Monastery is now being used as a museum.
14. St. Hilarion Castle
St. Hilarion Castle is one of the three castles set upon the Beşparmak (Five Finger) Mountains and is located towards the west of the mountains at a height of 700 meters from sea level. In the 10th century a monastery and a church were added to the castle, which was named after a saint who migrated from Jerusalem to Cyprus and spent the last years of his life praying there. It is said that, the famous Walt Disney was also inspired by the St. Hilarion Castle and that the location of the renowned cartoon “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was based in this Castle.
15. St. Barnabas Monastery and Icon Museum
St. Barnabas Monastery was built in the memory of St. Barnabas, who was the son of a Jewish family from Salamis. After going to Jerusalem to study, he converted to Christianity and returned to Cyprus preaching Christianity all over the island together with St. Paul. The Monastery consists of a church, courtyard, monastery rooms and the chapel in which St. Barnabas’ tomb lies. The Monastery is being currently used as a museum.
16. Bufavento Castle
The Bufavento Castle sits astride the Beşparmak (Five Finger) Mountains towards the east of Girne and it is the highest of the three castles, with St. Hilarion Castle to the west and Kantara Castle to the east. It was named ‘Bufavento’, because the mount that it was built on is very windy and Bufavento literally means “defier of winds” in Latin. Looking towards the south from the castle, you will be met with the beautiful panoramic view of Lefkoşa.
17. Derviş Pasha Mansion
The owner, of the two storied classical Ottoman Mansion, which was built in the 19th century, was Dervish Pasha, who was also the publisher of the ‘Zaman’ Newspaper which was one of the first Turkish newspapers printed in Cyprus. The mansion is located in the well preserved neighbourhood of Arabahmet within the walled city of Lefkoşa. The mansion was opened to the public in 1988 as the Ethnographic Museum.
18. The Mevlevi Tekke
The Mevlevi Tekke is situated at the south of the Girne Gate in Lefkoşa, it is one of the most important and historical buildings in Cyprus. It is believed that the Mevlevi sect came to Cyprus with the Ottoman Conquest. The Mevlevi Tekke, where the tombs of 16 prominent Mevlevi’s are laid to rest, is currently being used as a museum.
19. The Beşparmak (Five Finger) Peak
The Beşparmak Mountains stretch 160 kilometres in length, running parallel to Cyprus’ northern coastline. The name ‘Beşparmaklar’ comes from the five finger-like projections of the mountain towards Girne’s east. There are many legends about the Beşparmak Mountains. The most common one tells the story of two young men who fought a deadly duel over a girl they had both fallen in love with. The virtuous young man who won the duel by killing the selfish young man and throwing him into the nearby swamp also drowned in the swamp as a result of the injuries he had sustained. Reaching out for his loved one as he drowned, only his hand up to his wrist remained outside the swamp, it turned into stone as time passed on and eventually became today’s ‘Beşparmak Peak.’
20. Hz. Ömer Tekke
The Hz. Ömer Tekke, dating back to the Arab Raids which took place between the 7th and 10th centuries, is one of the most important votive places for Muslims to visit in Cyprus. The Tekke is located approximately 4 km to the east of Girne.