Famagusta Cyprus: Compact City Guide

Famagusta, Ammókhostos in Greek, and Gazimağusa in Turkish is an eastern harbor city located in east Cyprus. Famagusta is home to one of the deepest harbor in the island that gives the city strategical importance. In the 70s, Famagusta was the best tourist destination in Cyprus and one of the world’s top tourist destinations.


Celebrities like Brigette Bardot & Elizabeth Taylor used to enjoy their summer holidays repeatedly in this dream destination. Next to JFK Avenue, the famous Argo Hotel was Elizabeth Taylor’s favorite hotel facing fig tree bay and Protaras. Before they were a band, ABBA made a rehearsal, if not a concert in the Twiga Towers.


We know that the city has been found around BC 200. There has been a big earthquake in Salamis’s neighboring town, and when the whole city was seriously damaged collapsed, a new city closeby has formed with the name”Arsinoe.” 


By 1192, Lusignans started to control the town. Later in 1372, it was seized by Genoa and in 1489 by Venice. This brought the harbor city wealth and prestige. Shipowners and merchants built lots of churches to show their wealth, and even today, most of these churches are great attractions in and around Famagusta. In 1570, Mustafa Paşa of the Ottoman surrounded the city for 13 months, lost nearly 50.000 soldiers, including his son, and invaded the town.


Later Famagusta has been ruled by Brits, where it greatly developed as a harbor town and finally gained independence in 1960. Later in 1974, the Turks invaded the north of the island, and the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus has been formed recognized by Turkey.


Famagusta Cyprus - Compact City Guide - Churches


Top Attractions & Things To Do in Famagusta


With thousands of years of history, invasions, and trades, the city surely offers many tourist attractions such as churches, mosques, monasteries, and castles. Let’s briefly go through some of them:


The Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque: The largest former church in Famagusta, built by the French in flamboyant Gothic style. It is weathered to gold by the Eastern sun and winds. Turks added a sleek minaret and kept the interior as it is and white, doing a great service to its silky ogival arches and columns.


The Othello Castle: The fortress’s name in Famagusta, came from the Venetian governor of Cyprus in 1506. The castle has impressive walls and some large rooms. Shakespeare’s play of 1603 was inspired by this place.


Palazzo del Provveditore: built-in 1598, it was the Venetian Republic representative’s residence and the city’s civil and military authorities. Today it houses the office of the Mayor and the municipal administration.


Sinan Pasha Mosque: Before this structure was rebuilt into the Sinan Pasa Mosque, it was originally the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul. Unfortunately, this mosque is currently closed to the public.


St Barnabas Monastery and Icon Museum: This place is of great importance to the Orthodox Christians of the island. Miraculous events have taken place here in the 5th century. The wall paintings and the important collection of icons are well worth seeing.


St George of the Greeks: As you walk around Famagusta, do not miss this once magnificent Cathedral dating from the 1360s. You can still get a sense of the grandeur from the large domed roof and remains of some of the outer rooms. Unfortunately, though, it is now just a building shell, but you can see where it was pitted by cannonballs. Definitely worth a visit.


Namık Kemal Dungeon: The house and dungeon where Namık Kemal stayed. You can see the dungeon from the outside, a very sad sight. The house has been turned into a museum, and it is worth seeing.


Agioi Saranta: A beautiful and unusual little church with great views. Also, lots of open space around it for the kids to play and explore.


Famagusta Cyprus - Compact City Guide - Harbour


Where to Stay in Famagusta


Famagusta Cyprus has various accommodation options, from small pensions to ultra all-inclusive family resorts and private villas. It all depends on your budget and purpose, but Famagusta has more than enough options, whether you are planning a wedding in Cyprus, a family holiday, or just a day trip. Before booking your holiday, it’s best to check reviews by TripAdvisor, and it’s also a good idea to check Airbnb Famagusta.


How to Get to Famagusta & Famagusta Visas


Famagusta is a 33 min (40 km) ride from the Ercan International Airport. It takes around 52 mins ride (65 km) from Larnaca airport. Remember that Famaguısta is lying in North Cyprus is not a widely recognized state. So, you may not find direct flights to Ercan Airport. All flights towards North Cyprus first touch down, Turkish mainland, and then fly to Ercan Airport.


Turkish & European citizens entering the Turkish Republic of Cyprus (TRNC) need an ID or passport to enter the country. Turkish Airlines (THY) has direct flights from the major cities in Turkey, and you can check them here.