Famagusta is one of the major resorts in Northern Cyprus

History and nature are closely bound here, business neighbors with carefree life, and the city is rightfully considered one of the “pearls”of Turkish Cyprus. And the famous but inaccessible ghost town adds this "pearl" a slightly piquant shine. 


Famagusta: A Brief Review

The city lies on the east coast of the island of Cyprus, and it has a population of about 50,000 inhabitants - the exact number remains a mystery due to the difficulty of maintaining such statistics because of the special status of Northern Cyprus. Famagusta is one of the main resort cities in Northern Cyprus, and one will not mistake naming it the most developed of them.

Tourists can find here rest for every taste and budget. This area is represented primarily by photos of five-star palm beach hotels with all infrastructure on the territory - but, besides them, one can easily find more affordable housing both on the coast and away from the sea. The property of Famagusta regularly receives excellent reviews, with Russia and its citizens making a significant contribution to its prosperity.

The city abounds with restaurants, markets, and shops. Probably, it is the best place for plunging into unique, indescribable, and hospitable Cypriot exoticism.

Famagusta has all infrastructure facilities and all kinds of historical sights from the times of the Trojan War, the Middle Ages, and the Ottoman Empire. However, the city is small, and one can walk it up and down - a bonus for many visitors to Famagusta wanting both to enjoy a seaside holiday and thoroughly study historical material.


Famagusta: History

Who founded the settlement? What is Famagusta's origin?

The first evidence of a city on the site of modern Famagusta dates back to the 3rd century BC. and is associated with the Hellenized Egyptians. King Ptolemy II founded it. At that time, the city was called Arsinoe. The capital of Cyprus - Salamis (in some sources - Salamis) - lied very closely.

However, as a result of two big earthquakes in the region in the 4th century AD. both cities were destroyed. They restored Salamis, and a small village of fishermen, Famagusta, arose on the site of Arsinoe. But how did a majestic medieval fortress emerge out of it?


Middle Ages: crusaders and the Venetians in the city.


In the 7th century, the capital of Cyprus, Salamis, fell under the onslaught of the Arabs. Most of the inhabitants fled to neighboring Famagusta, which caused an extension of the settlement.

Somewhat later - presumably in 1191 - several ships of the famous knight Richard the Lionheart crashed off the coast of Cyprus, and the ruler of the island did not treat the passengers very mercifully, including the sister and bride of the king. In response to the unfriendly behavior, Richard the Lionheart captured Nicosia and Famagusta and declared himself their sovereign.

True, he did not use this residence for long, and after some time, he sold the island to the Order of the Templars, and they resold the land to the former king of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Almost 100 years after Richard captured the island, Famagusta suddenly became the last stronghold of Christians and the center of the Christian world.

After being defeated in Palestine and massively leaving the Holy Land, many Christians settled in Cyprus, choosing the port of Famagusta as their outpost.


Famagusta under Turkish rule: how did it end?

Famagusta got stronger and flourished, and eventually, after several infightings, it ended up in the hands of the Venetians. They perfectly fortified the city, which allowed them to keep defense against the troops of Sultan Selim II for a whole year in 1570. However, the forces were too unequal, and in 1571 Famagusta still fell.

The Turkish rule era started, and the conquerors established their own rules on the island. For example, they turned the former Cathedral of St. Nicholas into a mosque named after Lala Mustafa Pasha (Lala Mustafa Pasha was that very commander who persuaded the Famagusta garrison to surrender, promising to release all the defenders but treacherously breaking that promise).

At the time, the city remained the most important port in the Mediterranean. Under any government, there were enough rich people here receiving fantastic benefits from the successful location of the island at the junction of worlds.


Current events

The Turks continued to develop the city until the end of the First World War - in 1925, Cyprus became a British colony. Here appeared a British military base, which is still on the island, and allows us to say that Cyprus is under the control of three countries - Greece, Turkey, and Great Britain.

After more than 30 years, Cyprus gained independence from Great Britain and became an independent state. The population of the island consisted of Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

In addition to traditional trade, tourism started actively developing here, and even a whole tourist quarter of Varosha appeared, which - according to the legends - was visited by such celebrities as Elizabeth Taylor, Brigitte Bardot, and Richard Burton.

Life in the city, and Cyprus in general, seriously changed in a single day - on August 14, 1974.


Famagusta Today: Ghost Town, Elizabeth Taylor, and Other Legends

Why is Famagusta a ghost town? What is the name of the abandoned city in Cyprus?

Now Famagusta welcomes guests and thrives, but its most luxurious part, Varosha, has been surrounded by a barbed wire fence since the 70s. It is Varosha that is called the ghost town. The ghost of glamorous hotels, the ghost of peaceful life, the ghost of the luxury resort town, and the unity of Cyprus.

Varosha is a coastal city in Famagusta, to be precise, a former city. Perhaps this is one of the most unusual places in Cyprus, and possibly the world.

Famagusta has clean beaches with white, fine sand like on the ocean. Part of this beauty, called Varosha, is fenced in with wire and is heavily guarded. Only the police of the Turkish part of Cyprus and specially accredited journalists can enter the city territory; no one else is allowed there under penalty of an impressive fine and deportation from the country.

It stops not everyone. Varosha is somewhat reminiscent of Pripyat and attracts the attention of "stalkers" from everywhere. A rare site dedicated to Cyprus stays without a detailed description of the abandoned city.

Turks and the Greeks divided the island during the military conflict between them, which unfolded in Cyprus. Varoshaturned out to be the closest city to the new border and the center of military activity, not recreation. Helicopters evacuated tourists urgently, and the Greek Cypriots had to flee to the southern part of the island.

According to some reports, during tank and air attacks, not only the military and residents were killed but several tourists.

Everything left here at the beginning of the military conflict, which marauders have not plundered, continues to slowly collapse and deteriorate - expensive cars of elite brands, luxury hotels, and shops. Now it is a dead zone, which is not changed or touched.

The Turkish military base operates in Varosha, and the majestic buildings of the former city are decaying by themselves. Varosha is worth seeing to feel what the war causes. Today the dead town is a monument calling for no more repetition of the mistakes leading to destruction, grief, and loss.

However, at a recent press conference, Turkish President Erdogan hinted that the territory of Varosha might soon be open to the public - perhaps the phrase "Famagusta is a ghost town" will gradually lose its relevance. Though, no efforts of the peacekeeping forces have helped to resurrect the ghost town yet. 


Why did they close Varosha?

The main version is the absence of any clear legal assessment of the expulsion of the Greeks from the city. In the meantime, many who could lay claim to the local real estate are still alive and ready to return their property - which obviously can lead to a new round of conflict in the city.

According to the official UN resolution, only former residents may enter Varosha, but Turkey prevents this.

That is why the best places for recreation and the most picturesque beaches have not brought the city a penny for almost half a century but have been the center of attraction for the unhealthy interest of post-apocalyptic lovers.

However, most researchers of the issue are sure that they left nothing valuable in Varosha and looted everything in the first days of the invasion because the expelled Greeks were allowed to take only those things they could carry on themselves.


Who lives in Famagusta?

The main city population is Turkish Cypriots, and most Greek Cypriots were expelled from Famagusta for 24 hours in 1974. However, apart from the original people and vacationers, there are enough immigrants here, for example, from the UK.

Russia also makes a significant contribution to migration. Though, it is hard to find out how many of our compatriots live in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus due to the peculiarities of local statistics.


How to get to Famagusta?

Get into the Famagusta area by legal or not very legal ways.

The entirely legal way is a check-in through the Republic of Cyprus. In this case, you can get to Famagusta by a rented car (you will have to pay about 20 euros for insurance), or with a tour, or by a regular bus from Ayia Napa and then you have to walk about an hour along the highway. The last is the cheapest but one of the most tiresome ways - some tourists even have to use hitchhiking.

Easier but illegal due to the Republic of Cyprus legislation ways are either through Ercan Airport in Northern Cyprus (it takes only about an hour to get to Famagusta by car) or by ferry from Turkey, going directly to this city.


What to see in Famagusta?

It is hard to single out some of the most important attractions. The already mentioned former cathedral, which bore the name of St. Nicholas, is not inferior to the rest of the old part of the city. In particular, the famous Tower of Othello is here - after all, Shakespeare wrote his immortal tragedy about the commandant of Cyprus. Fans of antiquity should visit the monastery of St. Barnabas and the ruins of ancient Salamis.

There are many other sights worthy of attention in the city, but we do not recommend going too deep into antiquity unless you are an archaeologist. At last, staying in Famagusta and not enjoying the local climate is a crime!

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