Kyrenia, also known as Girne in Turkish, is a true pearl of Northern Cyprus. Located at the foot of the Kyrenia mountain range near the Mediterranean Sea, this lovely town is famous for its picturesque harbor, breathtaking views, and fascinating historical sites dating back to the Trojan War.
Hop on a romantic boat tour, explore the old town or enjoy the sun on the beach – the city of Kyrenia is an ideal combination of blissful tranquillity and crazy holiday beat, offering something to everyone.
History of Kyrenia
Founded by the Mycenaean Greeks around the 10th century BC, Kyrenia has always been an important harbor town. Arab raids in the 7th century led to the building of a castle, which was constructed by the Byzantines.
Later, it was enlarged and redeveloped by the Lusignans and the Venetians when the Ottoman rule was eventually established.
During the British period, Kyrenia became a popular place for British civil servants to retire to. After the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, many retirees fled the city along with Greek Cypriots.
However, the population of Kyrenia increased as Turks settled in the area. Nowadays, Kyrenia is a well-known tourist town, drawing thousands of visitors every year to explore its wonderful historical attractions and enjoy the mild climate and romantic atmosphere.
Things to See and Do in Kyrenia
Kyrenia, Cyprus, is a true paradise for history buffs, art enthusiasts, and nature lovers. The following are some of the main attractions you should not miss while visiting this amazing city:
- Bellapais Abbey – a well-preserved ruin of a beautiful Gothic monastery built in the 12th-century, located in Bellapais, just outside of Kyrenia. Every year during May and June, the romantic abbey turns into a venue for the Bellapais Music Festival.
- Kyrenia Castle – is a 16th-century castle built by the Venetians. Overlooking the harbor, this enchanting fortress has an extensive history that traces back to the 7th century when the Byzantines built the original castle. Over the centuries, along with the city of Kyrenia, it was conquered by the famous Richard the Lionheart, the Lusignans, the Venetian, the Ottomans, and the British, who used it as a prison and a training school. Now it is home to the well-known shipwreck museum.
- Saint Hilarion Castle – the fascinating ruins of a Crusader fortress, standing on the hilltop in Kyrenia Mountain Range. With stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea and a historic atmosphere, Saint Hilarion Castle is thought to have been the inspiration for Walt Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty.”
- Kantara and Buffavento – the other two medieval castles located in the Kyrenia Range, the other two medieval castles located in the Kyrenia Range, lesser-known as the main one, St. Hilarion, but undoubtedly worth paying a visit.
- Kyrenia Harbour – one of the most picturesque spots in the city. A historic harbor is a lovely place to take a stroll and watch the sunset or try the delicious Turkish Cypriot cuisine in one of the many wonderful restaurants and bars surrounding it.
- Ağa Cafer Pasha Mosque – easy to spot because of its minaret, this Ottoman-style mosque was built in the 16th-century. It is named after the Governor of Cyprus, who donated the land for its construction. Nearby the mosque, there is also the Hasan Kavizade Huseyn Efendi fountain of the typical Ottoman design.
- Alagadi Turtle Beach – a famous beach close to Kyrenia. This area turns into a nesting spot for dozens of sea turtles during the summer months, attracting many nature lovers.
- Ancient Shipwreck Museum – located in Kyrenia Castle, this small museum displays a wooden Greek merchant ship that sank along with its cargo around 300 BC, making it one of the oldest shipwrecks in the world. It was discovered by a local diver in 1967.
- Archangelos Michael Church and Icon Museum – a former Greek Orthodox church built-in 1860. It now serves as an icon museum, featuring fascinating exhibits from the 17th to 19th centuries. It includes the famous depictions of the beheading of Saint John the Baptist and Saint George and the Dragon. There are three levels of exhibits in total.
- Chrysopolitissa Church – the oldest church in Kyrenia, Cyprus, dating back to the 1500s. With the Gothic doorway, this roofless ruin remains an interesting attraction for history lovers.
- Museum of Folk Art – opened in 1974, this unique museum is an excellent example of pre 18th-century Cypriot house. It showcases many traditional households and other items such as bridal wear and wooden crafts.
- St Andrew’s Church – a small, white Anglican Church built-in 1913. It’s one of two Anglican churches located in North Cyprus, holding services for believers.
Where to Stay in Kyrenia, Cyprus
When it comes to accommodation, Kyrenia’s visitors, Cyprus, have many choices to choose from. If sightseeing is your main goal, there are a few small hotels and hostels in central locations, offering good value for the price.
Deluxe family hotels catering specifically for vacationers and families with children are located outside the city center and often have private beaches, pools, spas, and other wonderful amenities.
If you are looking for a quiet and romantic place to stay, hotels in Bellapais Village are an excellent option. This beautiful little village is located just a few kilometers outside of Kyrenia; therefore, it is easily accessible.
There are also simple family-run guesthouses, budget and boutique hotels, and self-catering apartments for those who do not seek a luxurious stay.
Keep in mind that Kyrenia’s summer season is always the busiest. The prices are normally higher during this time, and travellers book the best properties really fast.
How to Get to Kyrenia & Visas
The most convenient way to reach Kyrenia’s city is by flying to Larnaca International Airport and then taking a bus. Many airlines operate commercial and charter flights to this airport, situated approximately 80 kilometers away from Kyrenia.
European travellers, don’t need a visa to enter Cyprus. Just make sure you bring a valid passport or national identity card along, and you are good to go.
You can stay on the island for up to 90 days within a 180-day span. However, if you fly to Ercan International Airport in Kırklar, the closest one to Kyrenia, your passport will be stamped with a free 30-day tourist visa upon arrival.