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Famagusta and Kyrenia

Famagusta and Kyrenia

Famagusta and Kyrenia

Famagusta and Kyrenia

Famagusta and Kyrenia

Famagusta and Kyrenia

Famagusta and Kyrenia

Duration: 8 hours

Location: Famagusta, St.Illarion Castle&Bellapais Abbey

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Famagusta and Kyrenia


The rarely used term ‘Lost City’ is intensely exciting. This is one tour in Cyprus that is not devoid of surprises and amazing stories that will stretch your examination and make your heart race. First, we, on an Aphrodite Tours excursion, need to get to our base, the hither to mysterious city of Famagusta. It is the de jure capital of Famagusta District of the Republic of Cyprus. Located east of Nicosia and south of occupied by Turkish territory, this city has started to develop and Newsweek Magazine believes that it may finally be on its way back to being a world-class tourist destination; for one, it possesses the deepest harbour of the island, though not in use today. Turkey calls it the capital of Gazimağusa District of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which is recognized only by Turkey and no other country in the world. This one idiosyncratic obstinacy has held up Turkey’s admission to the EU for ages. That said, Famagusta hosts a beautiful ghost township, called Varosha, frozen in time for 40 years now. This is definitely one of the many places to see in Cyprus.

Varosha had regal status in the 1960s as the Middle East's Riviera, with its crescent shaped white sand beach that lured 10,000 tourists at a time from all over the world. Movie stars like Elizabeth Taylor and pop groups like ABBA were regular visitors. Varosha had been developed by the Britishers in their time of occupation as a posh residential area, mainly occupied by Greek Cypriots. But after the Turkish invasion of 1974, all Greek Cypriots were driven off and Varosha, with its four star category was fenced off and left to decay. Famagusta, the mother city also lost mention and faded from public memory. Aphrodite Tours is doing its best to revive interest in Famagusta!

We will begin our excursion in Cyprus from this very city of dreams, Famagusta. It has a fascinating history, having been the residence of Mycenaean Greeks in the Bronze Age, followed by the Assyrian, Egyptians, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Arab caliphates, the French Lusignan dynasty, the Venetians, the Ottomans and the British. A once crowded historical centre area thronged by tourists is gradually recovering from the mist of anonymity. You will have a short stop in old city centre surrounded by Venetian fortifications, where you will have some free time for stretching your legs and acquainting yourself with the city centre, while your vivid imagination conjures a beautiful city, like Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’. The walled in sections of Famagusta contain many unique buildings. The city is also home to the Eastern Mediterranean University. Famagusta has a vibrant nightlife, which, regrettably, cannot be accommodated on our itinerary. But it is one of the places to see in Cyprus.

In this tour around Cyprus, we will move next to Kyrenia, a town on the northern coast of Cyprus, noted for its historic harbour and castle. Internationally recognised as part of the Republic of Cyprus, its population now comprises largely of Turkish Cypriots, British people and Turkish immigrants. There are two neighbourhoods, Kato (Lower) Kyrenia and Pano (Upper) Kyrenia.

Kyrenia Castle at the east end of the old harbour is a spectacular site. It dates back to Byzantine times and has served the Byzantines, Crusaders, Venetians, Ottomans, and British. Within its walls there is a 12th-century chapel containing reused late Roman capitols, and a shipwreck museum. Huge round towers that the Venetians built in 1540 AD occupy the corners. This castle and royal summer palace, named 'Dieu d'Amour' by Frankish knights, has extravagantly crenellated walls and towers tumbling over the craggy hilltop, evoking a fairy-tale vision of bygone chivalry. Aphrodites Tours in Cyprus makes it a point to include this entrancing site in its tour schedules.

Outside the town, on the Kyrenia mountain range, one can see Buffavento and Kantara Castles as well as St. Hilarion Castle, all of which were probably constructed by the Byzantines for safety against Arab raids. The mountaintop castle of St. Hilarion dominates the town of Kyrenia and is visible for many miles along the coast, making it a popular tourist attraction in Cyprus.

A number of eye-catching attractions are located in the mountains of the three ancient castles – Buffavento, Kantara and St. Hilarion, including a lot of churches and monasteries, the most famous of them being the monastery of St. Barnabas, the monastery of the Holy Apostle Andrew and an iconic museum housed in a church once dedicated to the Archangel Michael. You could even think of this Aphrodite tour as a religious tour.

From within, the paths and steps wind up through the three castle sections, one superimposed on the other, and culminating in the royal apartments ingeniously sheltered in their own natural courtyard of rock. Walt Disney reportedly used it as inspiration for the palace in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This surprising structure was cut into the rock between the 8th and 10th centuries and is at a height of about 1000 metres above sea level. Kings used to reside here in ancient times. Kyrenia was considered as the best resort of Central Europe last century. You will have enough free time for dinner or a cup coffee, or to stroll down to the famous Kyrenia Harbour.

Kyrenia Harbour is a small but charming place, where you will find everything from calming ambience and soothing atmosphere to beautiful views and stunning surroundings. The harbour is particularly enchanting in the evenings, when you can enjoy the gentle breeze and the beautiful views combined with unique charm and a lively atmosphere. The harbour is filled with yachts and boats, and the landscape is somewhat dominated by the fascinating Kyrenia Castle. At Kyrenia harbour, you will find the beautiful sea stretching out ahead of you, and the breathtaking mountains providing a stunning backdrop. This harbour is a major tourist attraction in Cyprus.

In the final leg of our tour we will head for Belapais's Abbey, to one of the most remarkable samples of the artistic skills of the Eastern Mediterranean. It is the first Catholic monastery on Cyprus, opening sometime in the beginning of the 13th century. Bellapais Abbey (Peace Monastery), in the northern village of Bellapais, was constructed between 1198–1205 AD. The main building, as seen today, was built during the 13th century AD by French Augustinian monks, and specifically during the rule of King Hugh III 1267–1284 AD. The pavilions around the courtyard and the refectory were constructed during the rule of his successor, King Hugh IV, between 1324–1359. You can also see the Ancient Greek Orthodox Church of Mother Mary, who is robed in pristine white. In 1570, depredatory Turks destroyed a large part of the abbey. The remains were preserved in the covered gallery around the monastery, basements and the Gothic church of Panayia Asproforussa (Virgin Maria of the white vestments.

Note: Dinner is not included in the cost of the excursion. Please wear convenient footwear. Do please carry your passports along as FOREIGN PASSPORTS ARE OBLIGATORY IN TRNC!

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Excellent traditional food! We were introduced to this pub by Aphrodite Tours on a stopover during a daylong trip in December 2012. Had a great experience! This time too, we chose Aphrodite Tours for our excursions in Cyprus and fortunately, we were lucky to find this pub unchanged. The food was amazing, the place was great; it is also a non smoking zone inside. Cozy table next to the fire place. Fair prices, value for money, traditional home made wine; my husband went for delicious steaks but I recommend the traditional cuisine. The service was excellent both times. We must thank Aphrodite Tours for this trip.

Ades Smith
Village Pub, Kakopetria, Cyprus

I chose the Larnaca-Nicosia & St. Thekla Monastery trip offered by Aphrodite Tours. A practising Christian, I was amazed to hear about and see the resurrection of Lazarus as related with a personal touch by the guide. The Church of St. Lazarus was marvellous; part of the sacred relics of the Saint were discovered just forty odd years ago! Stavrovouni was breathtaking as was the small village of Meniko, where the remnants of the tomb of St.Thekla were kept. The story of Church Panagia Chrysospiliotissa in a natural cave consecrated in honour of Virgin Chrysospiliotissa was very moving. I’m glad I took this tour and I am grateful to Aphrodite Tours for this edifying trip.

Alexandra Chichikova
Larnaca- Nicosia-St. Thekla Monastery Tour

My husband and I opted for Aphrodite’s Tours excursion to the Donkey Farm at Kelokedara Paphos. The concept is noble and the entire package wonderful. The local delicacies like sushukko washed down with Zivania warmed us up for the ride which was most enjoyable. The meal on return was delicious. The whole package was invigorating and exciting. I’ve framed my Diploma! Thank you, Aphrodite Tours, for suggesting this diversion.

Andrea Taylor
Safari on Donkeys