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Holidays to Kyrenia

Updated on May 16, 2015

One of the most popular of the resort towns in north Cyprus, Kyrenia has a long and interesting history, but is as well known for its shopping and restaurants as it is for its ancient monuments and stunning harbour. And it is the ‘must see’ harbour that remains in most people's memories after a visit. Described by at least one travel writer as "one of the most beautiful places in the world", Kyrenia was founded around the end of the Trojan wars. Archaeology suggests that occupation of the site may be from as early as 5800BC. The earliest recorded reference to Kyrenia is in ancient Egyptian writings, dated to around 1100BC.


For today’s holidaymakers, the town and its surroundings are an excellent location and a perfect base from which to explore all of Northern Cyprus. There are a number of excellent hotels in Kyrenia itself, but go a small distance along the coast in either direction and you will discover some beautiful holiday locations, offering a little bit more peace and quiet, but still in easy reach of everything. The choice of location depends mostly on your priorities. Staying in Kyrenia town itself puts you close to all the local attractions, and for the majority of hotels, the old town, harbour and shopping areas are an easy walk. When it comes to restaurants, the choice seems almost endless as well!


On the other hand, getting out of the centre itself means finding more space where you can relax. The types of location are also surprisingly different. Kyrenia is a coastal resort and ancient port town. To the west, the coastline is rugged and rocky. Views are spectacular, but you do need to travel a few miles to find a decent beach. However, virtually every out-of-town hotel features at least one large pool with plentiful sunbathing space. Many have multiple pools, making them ideal for both families and couples, as one pool is usually dedicated as ‘child-free’ and provides are peaceful spot in which to lounge and soak up the sun. To the east of Kyrenia, although again a few miles out, there are some spectacular beaches and a number of larger, resort-style hotels. These also have multiple pools, together with well-maintained and expansive beaches.


As for what to do during a stay in the region, there really is something for everybody. For lovers of antiquity and archaeology, Kyrenia harbour is overlooked by a massive and superbly-preserved crusader castle. The castlesite was originally occupied in Roman times and was fortified and enlarged during Byzantine rule, the Lusignan occupation of Cyprus and more recently, Venetian rule. Inside the massive ramparts, you will find a 12th century church and the top of the massive structure provides breath-taking views across the town and in the other direction the harbour and the Mediterranean beyond. Kyrenia Castle also houses one of the world's most important pieces of marine archaeology. In 1965, divers off the cost discovered what is now established as the oldest recorded shipwreck. The ship was built around 300BC. It was raised a few years ago, carefully preserved and it, and its cargo, can be seen in a large, specially air-conditioned display. Even if you prefer things modern, the shipwreck museum is a fabulous place to get cool on a hot afternoon!


There are many more treasures to be found within a short drive. The mountainside village of Bellapais, with its wonderful abbey, still exudes an atmosphere of peace and quiet that is amazing. A meal here in the evening is an unmissable experience. Nearby St Hilarion castle is probably the world’s best-preserved crusader castle. A climb to the top rewards you with spectacular views, though it is a long, hard climb suited to the fitter of us and best done early or late in the day to avoid too much sun. For the more relaxing, boats offer day trips from Kyrenia harbour along the coast, with lunch on board and plenty of stops to cool down in the Mediterranean. You can try a bit of snorkeling and see if you can spot one of the number of species of rare marine turtles that return to the coast of Northern Cyprus to breed every year. For the shopaholics, the old streets of Kyrenia are a dream come true, stuffed with all manner of unusual treasures.


Whatever your requirements, holidays to Kyrenia really are still some of the best in the world. Northern Cyprus remains outside the Euro-zone, so value for money is excellent. The climate year-round is favourable, and depending on the time of year, you can find a range from warm to sizzling. Whilst just about every modern activity can be found somewhere in the area, the country as a whole still retains and old-fashioned approach to life. It is the Mediterranean like it used to be.


The Old Tower adjacent to the harbour in Kyrenia
The Old Tower adjacent to the harbour in Kyrenia

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