Northern Cyprus » Places to Visit in North Cyprus
The list below is a summary of the where to go in North Cyprus – places to visit in North Cyprus. A helpful guide to help you build your own itinerary. For a more detailed description ask at reception.
Founded in the 10th century B.C., by Achaean settlers, it was for many centuries one of the ten kingdoms of Cyprus. In the 7th century it was fortified by the Byzantines who built the original Kyrenia castle. The town remained a minor port under Ottoman rule. Under British rule, the harbour and quay were built, as the town was used as a resting place for officers, captains and their families due to its beautiful harbour and leisurely, romantic atmosphere.
This photo of Kyrenia Harbour is courtesy of TripAdvisor
The impressive Kyrenia Castle, at the eastern end of the harbour, was built in the 7th century by the Byzantines in order to protect the city against Arab raids, with additional fortification and enlargement carried out later during the Lusignan and Venetian periods.
The castle is also the home to the Shipwreck museum, which displays the oldest shipwreck ever discovered believed to date from 300 B.C.
Agha Cafer Pasha Mosque
Just behind the harbour, you can find the Agha Cafer Pasha mosque, constructed in 1580 during the Ottoman period. The mosque was named after the Turkish landowner who funded its construction. Beside the mosque lies the Hasan Kavizade Huseyin Efendi fountain, built in 1841. The three arched design is typical of fountains from that era.
Museum of Folk Arts
The museum is by the harbour. It is a perfect example of traditional Cypriot architecture with utensils, embroideries and furniture. Next to the museum is the oldest church in the city – Chyrsopolitissa Church, built Gothic style. It adds to the beauty of the harbour.
Archangelos Mikhael Church
The church built in 1860, is to the west of the harbour. Currently the church functions as the icon museum of Kyrenia displaying icons from the 18th century onwards.
St. Hilarion Castle
Is believed to have been the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Snow White’s Castle…. It was first fortified by the Byzantines. According to a legend the castle is said to be named after a saint who escaped Jerusalem after the Arab conquest and moved to Cyprus. It was originally a monastery and known as Didymus from the two peaks over which it sprawls. St. Hilarion remains the best preserved of the Crusader castles in Cyprus and a notable monument of medieval architecture. You can drive right up to it on a good tarmac road and if you have the energy to climb to the very top of the castle the views are outstanding and well worth the effort.
Tekke of Hazreti Omer
The small mosque and mausoleum were built during the Ottoman Period for the Commander Omer and his six soldiers who dired during the Arab raids in the 7th century.
A Medieval Temple….The first inhabitants of the monastery were Augustinian monks who migrated there after the capture of Jerusalem by Salahaddin Ayyoubi in 1187. The main part of the monastery was built during 1198-1205 by King Hugh III of France. The Italian frescoes seen at the entrance of the chaple were painted in the 15th century. Overlooking the town of the magnificent Gothic-style monastery, with its dining room, underground cellars, kitchen, meeting room and treasury is really worth visiting. The Village and Abbey at Bellapais are immortalised in Laurence Durrell’s book Bitter Lemons.
Sourp Magar Monastery
The monastery was built around 1000 AD and was dedicated to saint Makarius of Alexandria. In the 15th century the monastery was taken my Armenians, and became rest point for Armenian pilgrims on the way to and from Jerusalem.
This is the least accessible of the Crusader castles, and is also the highest at 1300ft. The castle was origionally contructed as a watchtower by the Byzantines and the converted into a castle by the Lusignans. The origins of the castle of the Lion, are something of a mystery, but known to have been in existence in 1191, when it was surrendered to Richard the Lionheart by Isaac Comenos’ daughter. Pierre 1, the idealistic Lusignan king, found an unpleasant use for the castle: he imprisoned his loyal friend Sir John Visconti there as a punishment for warning him of Queen Eleanor’s infidelity, and allowed him to starve to death!
Dediated to Virgin Mary this Church used to be the centre of an influential monastery. It was built in the 7th century and Its fresco-covered walls are the most fatal attraction. The nartex and the gallery were added by the Lusignans. During the Byzantine period, it is thought to be built by local artists due its unusual style.
The Necropolis is in the Palealona region Karmi (Karaman) village – one of the most beautiful villages in Northern Cyprus. It dates back to 2300 1625 BC. One of the graves here has a woman figure carved onto it – the oldest gravestone in Cyprus, beleived to symbolise the Goddess of Fertility.
Lambousa Antique City – Todays Lapta
Lapta was once one of the most significant cities on the island. This city, previously named as Lapithos or Laphetos, was the capital of one of the ten kingdoms into which Cyprus was divided. Lapithos was believed to be established in the 8th Century B.C. by the king of Tir Belrus as a colony of Phoenix.
In the late 18th century, people from Lapithos established the village of Karava (now called Alsancak) at the original site of the city of Lambusa, thus today there is little left of the ancient city. Much of the gold and silver was smuggled abroad and today some of it can be found in Nicosia Museum in Cyprus, and other major museums across the world.
During the Ottoman rule in the 19th Century new churches were built, examples of which still stand. Today the remnants of the historical city of Lambousa on the coast include its city walls, a number of stone tombs and a series of rock fish pools. The stone tombs, apart from being pillaged for centuries by grave robbers, were used in the Middle-Ages as a source of stone.
Adjacent to the port are the fish pools which were carved out of the rocks during the Roman times. They are the oldest example of their type, and were used by fisherman to keep their catches fresh.
The archaeological excavations in Lambousa that began in 1992 continue today. It is believed that much of the wealth of Lambousa still remains hidden.
Famagusta is one of the most important, greatly fortified ports in the Mediterranean. The city lies on the eastern coast in a bay between Capes Greco and Eloea, and possesses the deepest harbour in Cyprus. Famagusta, which means “buried in the sand”, is descriptive of the silted mouth of the Pedieos River north of the town.
To the north of Famagusta lie the ruins of the great city of Salamis, believed to have been founded in the 11th Century B.C. Salamis was construced by tribes moved to Cyprus from Anatolia and Greece towards the end of the Bronze age. After the influences of the many conquering nations, including the Romans, the city was finally abandoned in 648 A.D. after the combined catastrophes of earthquakes and raids by Arab pirates.
The spectacular ruins give a fascinating insight into long-lost civilisations and include a magnificent amphitheatre, Roman baths, a gymnasium and royal tombs.
Just inland from Famagusta are the church and monastery dedicated to St. Barnabas, the founder of the apostolic church in Cyprus in 45 A.D. Barnabas, a Cypriot from Salamis visited the island accompanied by St. Paul and St. Mark and was later martyred in Salamis in 52 A.D. The church of St. Barnabas is preserved to this day, and houses a wonderful collection of 18th century icons. The monastery cloisters now house an archaeological museum.
The Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque
The Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque, previously the St. Nicholas Cathedral stands in Namik Kemal Square within the walls of the city of Famagusta. Built by Lusignans between 1298 and 1312, it is a stunning example of gothic architecture.
The Sinan Pasha Mosque
The city also houses the Sinan Pasha Mosque, once known as the St. Peter and St. Paul Church. Built between 1358 and 1360, by a merchant from Famagusta. Like its larger neighbor it was converted to a mosque once the city was captured by Ottomans.
Akkule ( Ravelin)
Ravelin is one of the two entrances into the ancient walled city of Famagusta. When the Venetians surrendered to the Ottomans in 1571, the white flag was hoisted here. This is the reason why the Ravelin was called Akkule( white tower)
Venetian Palace ( Palazzo Del Proveditore)
Situated in the west of Namik Kemal Square, it was built in the 13th Century by the Lusignans as a royal palace. In the garden of the palace there is a door which leads to the Namik Kemal Dungeon which is also a museum.
It was constructed in the 14th century by the Lusignans in order to protect the harbour. It is the Cypriot setting for Shakespeare’s “Othello”.
Porta Del Mare
One of the two original entrances to the city. It is well preserved and it has a beautiful architectural structure which was constructed by the Venetian Nicolo Prioli in 1496.
It is situated in the Cambulat Bastion, by the harbour gate of Famagusta. The bloodiest battles during the Ottoman siege of Famagusta were fought on this bastion, which was then known as Arsenal Bastion.
St. Nicolas Church
It is a small church built around the 15th century in the Byzantine style.
Ayia Zoni Church
Built around the 15th century, the Byzantine church carries fresco marks on its walls.
St. George of the Latin Church
A beautiful example of the gothic architecture, the church was built towards the end of the 13th century. The standing round wall of the alter with its gothic archers creates a magnificent scene.
Nicosia – The only divided capital city in the world…..
According to Assyrian sources from the 7th century B.C., Nicosia used to be a city named Ledra. In about 300 B.C., the son of the Egyptian King Ptolemy Soter I, Lefkos, rebuilt this city and this name is immortalized in the modern name of Lefkosa (Turkish). The Frankish name Nicosia is thought to have appeared in the 12th century.
Richard the Lionheart captured the island of Cyprus on his way to the Holy Land during the Third Crusade in 1191. It was in Cyprus that he married Bregadine of Navarre, who was chosen as his wife by his mother, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. Cyprus remained under Richard’s rule for one year until 1192, when he sold it to the Knights Templars who ruled the island from Nicosia. The Templars permitted Guy de Lusignan, who had lost his Kingdom of Jerusalem to his cousin, to buy Cyprus a few months later. From that date onwards, Nicosia remains the capital city of Cyprus.
The Kyrenia Gate
The Kyrenia Gate is still intact today, and remains as an attractive historic monument situated in North Nicosia. The efforts of the Venetians did not prevent the island from falling to the Ottoman admiral Lala Mustafa Pasha in 1570 during the reign of Sultan Selim II.
Selimiye Mosque ( St. Sophia Cathedral)
Constructed by the Lusignans between 1208 – 1326, Selemiye Mosque, or St. Sophia Catherdral, is widely accepted to be the most important example of Gothic architecture in Cyprus. After the Ottomans conquered Nicosia in 1570, a minaret was added to the cathedral and thus transfers to a mosque – named as Selimiye Mosque in 1954.
St. Nicholas Church ( Bedesten)
The building was constructed in the 12th century as a Byzantine church (The St. Nicholas Church). It was later enlarged by some Gothic annexes built by the Lusignans. After some more changes in the Venetian period, the building was given to the Greek Orthodox Metropolis.
The Dervish Pasha Mansion
The owner of this two storey mansion built in the 19th century was Dervish Pasha, the publisher of “Zaman” – the first Turkish newspaper in Cyprus. The mansion is in the Arap Ahmet region of Nicosia: this is the region of the walled city which has preserved the fabric of the historical environment most intensely.
Arap Ahmet Mosque
The most notable of the mosques built by the Turks in Nicosia is the Arap Ahmet Mosque. The mosque, like many others, was constructed on the site of an old Latin church. Among the marble floor tiles of the mosque are around 25 tombstones with epitaths and drawings. The mosque was named after one of the generals of the Turkish army during the conquest of the island. It is a good example of classical Turkish mosque architecture.
The Great Turkish Bath
Buyuk Hamam was built on the remains of an old Latin church. The bath still functions today. It is evident from its ornamented Gothic style arched doorway and its stone walls that it was built in the Lusignan period.
Library of Sultan Ahmet
The library was constructed by the Ottoman Sultan Mahmut II in 1829. It is close to the eastern entrance of the Selimiye Mosque. The building consists of a large domed room and a domed and arched porch. Like the Arap Ahmet Mosque it is an example of classical Ottoman mosque and medrese (theological school) architecture.
Armenian Church ( Notre Dame de Tyre)
The church was built in the 8th century, probably by refugees from Jerusalem. The sarcophagus of Sister Fimi, an Armenian Saint, is here.
The Great Khan
‘The Big Inn’ situated in the south west of Nicosia, made from hewn stone is two storied and rectangular in plan. The inn, which was the product of the most important Turkish era in Cyprus, was built in 1572 by the first Governor of Cyprus Muzaffer Pasha.
Up to the year 1961 poor families lived in the Inn. Restoration began in 1963 and the Great Khan was re-opened to visitors in 2002. It now is a very popular stop for locals and toursits alike. Lovely authentic bars, restaurants, cafes and gift shops now decorate this once well know Inn.
The Gambler’s Khan
This small asymmetrical building, of hewn stone, is located on Asmaalti Square in Nicosia, to the north-east of the Buyuk Khan. Its exact date is uncertain as it has a medieval gothic arch in the entry hall and there is a second carved gate inside the passage which is clearly Medieval.
Haydarpasha Mosque ( St. Catherine Church)
After St. Sophia it is the most notable Lusignan building in Nicosia. The St. Catherine church was built in the fourteenth century and converted into a mosque after the Ottomans gained control of the island. Long, narrow Gothic windows have been placed between the pedestals which get narrower as they approach the ceiling. The west entrance is larger with the same architecture.
St. Lucas Church
The church which is now headquarters of Cyprus Folklore Association, was built in 1758. Archbishop Philatheos was the head of this church.
Museum of Lapidary
The Lapidary Museum to the east of the Selimiye Mosque is a Venetian style building constructed in the 15th century. It houses many works of stone (insignias, works of marble, tombs and columns) from the Medieval Age to the present day.
The mosque was constructed in 1825 when Seyit Mehmet Agha was the governor of Cyprus.
Iplik Pazarı Mosque
The mosque is situated in the walled city and built in 1826. It is one of the two mosques in Cyprus with stone minaret-cones.
The original Yenicami was a 14th century church which was transformed into a mosque by the Ottomans in 1571. Yenicami was almost entirely destroyed in the 18th century and the current mosque was constructed.
The classical Ottoman mosque with Arabic or Northern African architectural taste was built between 1820 – 1824 during the reign of Sultan Mahmut II, but was destroyed during an earthquake in 1902. It was rebuilt in 1903. It now serves as a marriage hall.
The building to the South of the Kyrenia Gate was constructed towards the end of the 16th century by Arap Ahmet Pasha after the conquest of the island by the Ottomans. The building which constitutes a different aesthetic sight in the city center is now used as a museum of ethnography.
The mansion from the 15th century, which is situated within the Lefkosa moat (ramparts), has survived to this day and attracts attention by its Gothic arch entrance door with its Lusignan era coat-of-arms as well as the Ottoman era addition of a “kosk” and decorated wooden ceilings.
The mansion which has a typical inner courtyard characteristic was built from cut stone and is 2-storied with a roof but the added-on “kosk” (kiosk style) was constructed from lath and plaster. The medieval buildings researcher Camille Enlart speaks about this mansion in his book “Gothic Art and Renaissance in Cyprus”. The mansion, which has been furnished with authentic furniture of the Lusignan and Ottoman periods, was restored between 1995 – 1997 and is now open to visitors.
Its large eaves hanging into the street have given it its name. The medieval building was restored and enlarged during Ottoman rule and has the characteristics of classical Ottoman architecture. Nowadays it serves as a cultural center where exhibitions, conferences and seminars take place.
The Chapter house is in the gardens of Selimiye Mosque and was built in the 14th century. The two story building was the meeting hall of the priests of St. Sophia Cathedral. It now houses the Association of Museum Friends and the Mountain Climbing Sports Association
Latin Archbishopric Palace
This palace was constructed in 1329, and was built upon during the Ottoman Period. It is now used as the Turkish Cypriot Municipalities Union.
The Covered Bazaar
The covered bazaar “ Bandabulya “ was the main market place of the city during Ottoman times, and the historic bazaar is still a superb local market for fresh vegetables, meats, Turkish Delights and Souvenirs.
Ataturk Square and The Venetian Column
In the center of the most important square is the Venetian Column, moved from its original spot in Salamis to Nicosia as a tribute to the Venetian rule in Cyprus. On the top of the column was the Lion of St.Mark, at the bottom the coats of arms of noble Venetian families.
The bronze sphere, currently sitting on top of the column, was placed by the British in 1915. In the northern corner of the square, a platform bearing the English coat of arms was constructed in 1953 in honour of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth
Situated in the northwest of Cyprus, It is one of the richest agricultural areas in Cyprus. Guzelyurt is famous world wide for its lemons, oranges, grapefruits and strawberries…
St.Mamas Church and Icon Museum
The church in the monastery was originally a Byzantine building, however it has been re-constructed various times, and it has obtained its dominant Gothic style in the middle ages. The icon section dates back to the Lusignan and Venetian periods. The pillars date back to 1500AD, the pulpit was built 1711, the oldest icon 1745 and the monastery rooms 1779. The seat of st. Mamas and the detailed carved stone window of the wear wall have survived to our time.
Ayios Georgios Maronite Church
The church is in the village of Korucham, where most of the Maronite population of Northern Cyprus live. Mass is conducted every Sunday at Ayios Georgios, as well as on other holy days.
Piri Osman Pasha Mosque ( Lefke)
The mosque from the Ottoman period was built in the local architectural style. In the garden of the mosque is the marble grave of Vezir Osman Pasha who died in 1839. His marble sarcophagus is one of the most beautiful carving works of the Ottoman period.
The city was constructed as a result of the Athenian statesman Solon’s suggestion of building a city near the river Ksero during his visit to the Philokypros, King of Aepia, and thus the city was names “Soli”. After the Persian conquest of Soli, the pro Persian king of Marion had the Vouni Palace constructed 5 miles west of the city, in order to keep it under control.
Vouni Palace and Ruins
The residence was constructed on a hill of an altitude of 250meters. Its eastern architectural details show that the palace was constructed under Persian rule. The city has 3 terraces on the slope from the top of the hill towards the sea. The palace is thought to have 137 rooms.
Petra Tou Limnidi
Petra Tou Limnidi is a tiny island to the west of Vouni. It is one of the oldest places in Cyprus to be inhabited – Its first inhabitants date back to the Neolithic Age. Between 1927 – 1931 the island was dug and searched by the Archaeological Society of Sweden. Needles made of bones, stone utensils, farming tools and sculptures were discovered.
Tumba Tou Skuru Residential Area
The city which is also known as the “ Dark Hole” dates back to the Early Bronze Age. After a difficult archaeological dig, only a small portion of the city has been un-earthened. 800 antiquities made of gold, silver, bronze and ivory , graves, a ceramics shop and several houses have been revealed. The first grave is thought to be of King Skuru, the mystery around whom has not yet been solved.
The temple, like Tumba Tou Skuru, dates back to the Bronze age. After it was destroyed around 1150 AD it was never used again.
Museum of nature and Archaeology
This building used to be used as a Metropole building before 1974. It consists of Local Animals, remnants of the Neolithic and Bronze ages in Cyprus and Geo-metrical, Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine Eras.
Iskele is a little fishing village between Karpaz and Famagusta. It is very well known for its small harbour, Bogaz, and also for its historical treasures in the heart of the village.
Livadya Panagia Kyra Church
The tiny Byzantine church just outside of Sazlikoy passessess 6th century mosaic figures of Virgin Mary. Around the church are also ruins of an ancient city, which dates back to the late Roman period.
One of the 3 castles on Besparmak Mountain range, Kantara Castle stands 2068 feet above sea level. This castle like the others are thought to have been built for protection against the Arab raids. The castle had its best times during the Lusignan and Venetian Periods.
Panagia Theodokou Church
The 12th century domed church is of very original character. Most of the frescoes have survived to our day.
Ayios yakavos Church ( St. James Church)
The little 14th century church is found in the centre of Yeni Iskele. It is said that this church had astonished Queen Maria of Romania, who has a very similar one constructed at the temple on the Black Sea coast.
Karpaz ( Panhandle)
With its miles of golden sandy beaches, unspoilt countryside, spectacular scenery and unique wildlife – Karpaz will take your breath away! Only a few hours away from Kyrenia you will find another world whose beauty is seen as sacred by the Cypriots….
Apostolos Andreas Monastery
The monastery is found at the very tip of the Karpaz Peninsula, on Cape Zafer. Apostolos Andreas, who originally was a follower of John the Baptist, His monastery is accepted to be sacred by all Cypriots.
Panagia Kanakaria Church
This church is outside Boltashli village. Archaeologists claim that there used to be two churches at this spot, one of which used to belong to the Byzantines.
The castle is located on a cliff on the coast 4 miles south of Kuruova village. It is thought to have been built for protection against Egyptian raids during the Bronze Age. The ruins have survived to our day.
Kastros Neolithic City
The city which was constructed during the Neolithic period is one of the oldest settlements in all of Cyprus. The findings suggest that the inhabitants during the Neolithic period were fishermen and farmers.
Ayios Trias Baslica
The 5th Century basilica, situated near Sipahi village on the Karpaz peninsula, was discovered in 1957 by chance. The basilica mosaics are full of leaf and cross figures.
Ayios Philon Church
This church was built in the 5th century BC, It was the heart of the ancient Phoenician city of Karpasia which used to be a market place between Salamis and Anatolia.
Ruins of an ancient marina, tombs from the Hellenistic period and a fortress from the Late Greek period can all be seen at the site of Aphendrika which used to be one of the six major towns in Cyprus in the 3rd century BC.