North of Gazimagusa ( Famagusta) on the coast are the extensive Roman ruins of Salamis. The whole site covers a very large area but eventually we lost the energy to explore it completely because it was a boiling hot day. Nevertheless we found enough to interest us including the columnar courtyard with communal toilets - enough for 40+ bottoms, bath houses and the impressive but renovated amphitheatre. Fortunately they are all within easy walking distance. There are the occasional mosaics and some headless statues as well. You can choose to wander round on your own - the entrance price includes a small explanatory leaflet - or you can join a tour guide.
I'm really glad we went. My teenage children were less enthusiastic but they did manage to say it had been worthwhile . My photographer son found lots to interest him.
The site is right next to the beach so after a hot time mooching around the ruins you can go for a swim or snorkel off the public beach. Pity we didn't find any Roman treasure.
As you stroll round the old harbour in Girne you will be invited to consider taking the traditional Gulet sailing boat out for a day trip. We were persuaded because we enjoy that sort of thing and the prospect of sitting on deck in the sunshine, stopping off for a swim and snorkel and enjoying a freshly prepared lunch was irresistible.
There were just 3 families on board - all British as it happened - and we chatted and shared the huge lunch that the skipper had prepared whilst we were anchored up in a small bay. There were drinks on board that we could buy which made me feel incredibly mellow.
I even spotted some flying fish skitter and glide over the surface of the waves as the boat sailed back to harbour. We were out for about 6 hours. At 50YTL (about £21)each ( in Oct 2007) I thought it was good value because the lunch alone was equal to other meals we'd had in restaurants for about the same price.
The captain was saying how it was nearly the end of the season for him ( it was end October) as the winds build up and the sea becomes too choppy and unreliable. So if you go in November to April you will probably find that the trips are not running.
For us the boat voyage was one of the best highlights of our holiday, we'd recommend it.
St Hilarion Castle at 732 metres offers brilliant views over Girne and right along the range of hills that run parallel to the coastline. But it's not just the views that make this location very special because the castle is very extensive and you'll enjoy exploring the ruins with its dark corners, steep turrets and eery stories about murder and intrigue. Some paths in the castle grounds are quite steep climbs and you need to be reasonably fit and nimble for the higher towers and turrets. I remember the Prince John tower being a bit of a climb - that's where, according to the guidebook, Prince John got "so upset" he pushed his bodyguards out of the window to their doom on the rocks below.
If you like mountains, local history ( and there's plenty of it in Cyprus) and exploring ruins then a visit to St Hilarion castle should be on your itinerary.
All the guidebooks feature the castle and access is easy. We drove our hired saloon car up and parked at the foot of the castle. Just don't stop on the way up as it's all part of the military training zone or at least it was back in 2007.
To the north-east of Kyrenia (Girne), set on the side of a mountain, this twelfth-century monastery is a fine example of Gothic architecture of the Lusignan period.
The abbey comprises of a church, refectory, dormitory and storage rooms grouped around an inner courdyard
During the reign of the Latin kings, this order was held in great esteem. The abbot was allowed to wear the protifical mitre during mass, and was accorded the honour of carrying a sword and wearing golden spurs while riding.
The beauty of Bellapais is legendary. Set in the mountains, just ten minutes above Kyrenia, a visit to this 14th century Lusignan abbey with its fabulous location and pervasive atmosphere of calm is a must.
We went for a meal at Bellapais Gardens Hotel Restaurant and then to a concert at the abbey. The abbey was illuminated, and during the interval, we were able to explore it. Altogether, a very enjoyable evening!
For its history and a description, go to cypnet
Kyrenia Castle, probably built by the Byzantines in the 8th century on the site of a Roman fort, dominates the entrance to the harbour. It is an interesting place to wander around.
The Shipwreck Museum, which houses the hull of a sailing ship which sank in about 270 b.c., is on its eastern side. Unfortunately, the part of the museum containing the hull itself was closed for work on it when we visited, but we saw some fascinating items that had been salvaged from it.
At a distance of only about 5kms from Girne there is the tourist honeypot of Bellapais village and Abbey. Set up on the hills southeast of Girne you get a wonderful view over the coastline. The Abbey, which dates back to the 14th century is often considered a place of calm and tranquility but given that it is on the itinerary of most visitors to the area it's hard to achieve that sense of peace unless you are there early morning or late afternoon. There is an entrance fee to the grounds. When we visited there was also a small exhibition of paintings in the cellars. I am glad we went to explore but probably wouldn't rush back.
The village of Bellapais was the home of the writer Lawrence Durrell who wrote Bitter Lemons. You can find his house not far from the main square. There is a yellow plaque above the house doorway announcing the famous occupant .
The village has a wide selection of restaurants particularly on the main square. These are particularly pleasant because they overlook the Abbey which is flood lit at night. Amongst these is the restaurant named after the 'Tree of Idleness' which features in Durrell's book. Despite the invitations to sample their food we chose to eat in the other restaurant on the first floor. It had lovely views of the Abbey but do check your bill - they had made quite a big error in their favour.
On a warm balmy evening in October it was very pleasant to stroll around the harbour wall and take in the atmosphere of the bustling town. The Kyrenia castle ( seen in the photo) provides a great backdrop to the place. There are numerous restaurants to choose from but we were happy to wander around deciding which boats we liked the look of before stopping by for a drink. Locals and visitors alike pass the time in this way - very relaxing and part of what makes a holiday in a place like Kyrenia very special.
The remains of the town of Soli, founded in 600 b.c., lie about 40 miles to the west of Kyrenia. We spent an hour or so there during which we were the only people exploring the site.
Bellapais is one of the most beautiful locations in Kyrenia district. History and natural beauty are blended well. You should definitely see the Bellapais Monastery when you go to Bellapais(Beylerbeyi). It was built during Lusignan period in Cyprus. It's one of the most amazing Gothic style architecture piece you can see in the islanf.
On my last trip to Kyrenia I decided to try the local Turkish barber for a shave and a haircut. What a blast! I can highly recommend it. A special treatment at a very reasonable price. I had my hair washed and trimmed at the sides along with a hot shave with a straight razor for about 10 Turkish lira. And they did a very good job as well. For the more adventuresome they also offer hot wax treatments for unwanted facial hair like around the eyebrows and ears. That was a little too much for me, but I would have loved to have taken a picture, but I did not have my camera handy as my friend got his done. Really funny to see! Next time I will be better prepared. Such a fun thing and because the weather is HOT it feels so good to get a fresh shave and a haircut. You'll feel better all day long and be glad you did! Enjoy.
Last summer I did my NAUI Open Water Diver Course in Limassol and the surrounding area. Prior to starting my Advanced Course I wanted to get some more dives in. It is always good to stay current with your diving and to keep your skills up to date.
I went over to Kyrenia because I had heard that the water is very clear and the diving very good in northern Cyprus. I had planned to do two dives for a total cost of GBP 35 including the equipment.
However, when I talked to the divemaster at Blue Dolphin he convinced me that instead of just taking two recreation dives that it would make more sense to start my PADI Advanced Course in Kyrenia by doing Part I, which is the Adventure Diver certification. Basically, it would allow me to do several deeper dives and to work towards my advanced certification.
Okay, fine enough, but instead of paying GBP 35 I ended up shelling out GBP 135 including the PADI Advanced Course textbook called Adventures in Diving, plus some miscellaneous expenses for my PADI passport, etc. All well and good if you can afford it, but if not, do not feel guilty about saying, no, I just want my two basic dives thank you very much, as they are constantly trying to upsell you it seems?
So I did three dives. One deep dive to 30 meters, one dive to 20 meters where we fed large fish (officially my boat dive), and a last shallow dive to identify fish and other marine life as part of PADI's AWARE (aquatic world awareness, responsibility and education) project for divers. I also had to read three chapters in the textbook and take three short quizes, so it was a long day!
Now in order to complete my Advanced Open Water Diver course I need an additional two dives, plus my reading and the quizzes. One underwater navigational dive, one night dive or one other optional dive. So in all it was worth it. The diving itself was brilliant. The water was so clean and there were lots of fish to observe.
Recently we had the chance to spend the weekend in Kyrenia and on the Sunday that we were there we took a boat cruise complete with live Samba music and dancing on board during the cruise with a stop at some beaches along the way and the chance to dive from the boat and swim in the clean, warm waters off the coast of northern Cyprus. Yes, it was perfect!
And great value, too! The jazz cruise costed CYP12- per person including cruise, life music, lunch on board and one free drink from the bar. We left at 11.00 a.m. and got back closer to 17.00. The day was very warm and sunny, so we were happy that there was plenty of shade on board. As a matter of fact it was one of those older, ocean going sailing ships, so there were below decks and ample room for the party goers, dancers, musicians and even us passengers. The lunch was good, the cold beers after a swim in the afternoon divine.
However, it was a long day, so if you come with children you should plan how you intend to keep them amused after the first hour? Even I was bored by late afternoon. Went for a few swims, dove off the highest rail, listened to the music and chatted with friends, but it was still about an hour or two long in my opinion? Would I go again? Sure! ; - )
The ruins of this abbey are still very impressive. You can climb the walls en visit the chapel inside. There are many tourists here, but the atmosphere is very relaxed. The vieuw from the top of the abbey is amazing! We enjoyed walking through the village next to the abbey. Avoid the restaurant inside the abbey en the ones next to it. There are very nice places to eat in the bellapais village.
This is the main castle of Northern Cyprus and its fairytale appearance is said to be the inspiration behind Disney's Sleeping Beauty castle. It is situated on one of the highest peaks of the Kyrenia mountain range and can be seen for miles around. This means that the drive up to it is quite scarey - partly because of the steep winding road and partly because the majority of the road is controlled by the Turkish military - so there's no stopping and no photography allowed until you get to the Castle car park. The mountainside appears to be an army training camp and is guarded by gun-toting soldiers as you pull off the main road to start the climb.
Once you've braved the hairpin bends and the armed guards, the Castle itself is on 3 levels and involves a lot of steep climbing to see all of them, so it's not for anyone with walking difficulties and I should imagine it's quite strenuous in the mid-summer heat. However, if you can manage it, both the Castle itself and the breath-taking views over Kyrenia and the surrounding coast are well worth it.
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