Kyrenia history and holiday guide


Framed by rugged mountains, dominated by a crusader castle and fringed by turquoise seas, the photogenic port of Kyrenia is the saviour of Northern Cyprus' postcard industry. Kyrenia's natural setting is the envy of the island and arguably the most beautiful in the whole of Cyprus. A relative lack of development has preserved the ancient harbour, and visitors can trace Kyrenia's six thousand year history in the weather worn jumble of architecture that lines the waterfront.

Kyrenia began life as one of classical Cyprus' most important 'city kingdoms', successively under the control of the Greeks, the Romans and later the Arabs. By the 12th century the port was flourishing under Crusader control, but Ottoman interference soon pitched it into decline. The British successfully revived Kyrenia's fortunes, but the Turkish invasion of 1974 once again emptied it of people. Today Kyrenia's population is beginning to swell, but this time it's mostly with expatriates drawn to the region by its mild climate and relaxed pace of life.

Kyrenia Accommodation Activities

Most visitors to Kyrenia stay in one of the nearby resort complexes, as accommodation in the historic centre is limited. However, if you decide against one of the resort complexes the shoreline is home to the best hotels in the district. The only real 'sight' in Kyrenia (aside from the harbour itself) is the castle, which most guidebooks will tell you was begun during the crusades and later expanded by the Venetians. Once you've had a nose around this impressive fortress and Shipwrech Museum within, the chances are that you'll be talked into taking a boat trip along the coast. More adventurous types might be tempted by some of the excellent local dive sites, which boast a number of wrecks and reefs to explore.

Besides serving as an inspiring backdrop, the Kyrenian mountain range provides endless days out. Hiring a car is highly recommended in order to visit St Hilarion Castle and Bellapais. St Hilarion Castle is almost too picturesque for its own good; perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking Kyrenia, it is the best preserved of the crusader redoubts and should fulfill the knightly fantasies of all but the most hardened modernists. Bellapais village is a charming sprawl of old farmhouses and villas dominated by a ruined abbey. It's probably best known as the inspiration (and setting) for much of Lawrence Durrell's classic Cypriot treatise, Bitter Lemons.