NORTHERN CYPRUS: FAMAGUSTA
Since 2004 Northern Cyprus has become more accessible to visitors. After the division of the island in 1974, the only way to get to this piece of land was a flight with stopovers in Turkey, which extended the journey by more than 7 hours! This situation has changed with the accession of Cyprus to the European Union and thanks to this nowadays we can travel around the island without any problem.
In the northern part of Cyprus there are only three cities: North Nicosia, Kyrenia and Famagusta, and the last one I would like to bring you closer to. The remaining areas are mostly rural. Here dominates the mountain landscape created by the Kyrenia mountain range, reaching 1000 m above sea level. The development of tourism increases the need for coastal development, which, like in the southern part of the island, is changing natural landscapes into a chain of hotels that encloses almost every beach. The Karpass Peninsula is the only place where you will find a relatively intact landscape, with a few modest hotels and a handful of tourists.
ON THE BORDER WITH NORTHERN CYPRUS
To get to Northern Cyprus by land, a valid passport is required. In our case, only identity documents were checked at the border, and the entire procedure did not last more than half an hour. It should be added that there was no one but us on this border. If you are traveling by car, you also need to buy at the border additional insurance for 20 euros, valid for three days. Traveling from the west coast, the nearest border can be found at the northern end of Agios Nicolaos.
FAMAGUSTA - THE GHOST TOWN
Until 1974, Famagusta was the most important port city in Cyprus and the main holiday resort of the island, with the largest number of hotels at that time. Its fame lasted uninterruptedly from the Middle Ages, and in the fourteenth century, the number of residents was 70,000! Unfortunately, during the invasion of the Turks in July 1974 in a few days the city was deserted, and from the popular Varosha district, 15,000 people were displaced within 48 hours! In the 1960s and 1970s, great stars came for vacation here, such as Elizabeth Taylor; while the streets were still full of exclusive hotels and boutiques. Currently, the district known as the Ghost Town or the City of Ghosts is fenced off from the rest of the city of Famagusta, and access to it is strictly forbidden. It was also forbidden to photograph or film this place, which can only be entered by the Turkish army or ONZ members. And so for over 40 years, the Varoshy apartment buildings are falling into disrepair, and watching them can be quite disturbing.
Famagusta is the perfect symbol of the Greek-Turkish conflict: on the one hand, deserted, ruined buildings, on the other, luxurious hotels created mainly in the new part of the city. You can also see here the remains of the former splendor of Cyprus. It is worth visiting the Lala Mustafa Mosque, transformed from a former Gothic cathedral. Only a small minaret reveals that it is no longer a Christian building. A well-preserved gem of architecture is also the Church of Agios Georgios with impressive Gothic ornaments - unfortunately, it is possible to view it only from the outside.
Golden Beach is the deserted beach on the easternmost peninsula of Cyprus, also known as the Golden Sands, where even in the high season you can meet sea bream turtles going ashore to lay their eggs there. Apart from July and August, the beach is practically uninhabited, and the nearby four taverns can be closed, so it's worth checking before you arrive, or getting supplies and water beforehand.
Regardless of how much time you spend in Cyprus, I recommend going to its northern part even for a one-day trip. This will allow you to compare how much a small piece of land, divided for political reasons, can differ from each other. This will also bring you closer to the dramatic history of this country, which took place less than half a century ago, and perhaps it will inspire you to find out more about what had happened!