There is less to be seen than to be felt… The ruins of the Palace of Vouni have a mystic kind of feeling to them. The views from its hilltop position over the bay of Güzelyurt and the Troodos Mountains are spectacular. Built around 480 BC by the pro-Persian king of Marion as an outpost in order to intimidate and control the pro- Athenian citizen of the city of Soli below, Vouni is the only structure of the Persian period that survives in North Cyprus.
Tip: we recommend walking from the bottom of the hill to the site on top. The view changes around each turn and you can observe interesting geological layers and features right next to the road.
Story: The palace was destroyed by fire after 80 years after being build. During the Swedish excavation of the site, an amphora blackened through the fire and filled with gold ducats, was found under one of the stairwells leading to the now none existent first floor of the building.
St. Mamas Monastery is the third most important place of worship for the Greek Orthodox in North Cyprus after St. Barnabas tomb at Famagusta and Apostolos Andreas Monastery at Karpaz. Most of the compound dates from the 18th century but its Iconostasis is a gorgeous sample of artful wood carving of the 16th century. A splendid crystal chandelier surprises every visitor upon entry through the side entrance and its plain outer façade gives not hint of its splendid interior.
St. Mamas Monastery
Story: St. Mamas is shown as a relief on the outside of the church as well as on several icons in the interior of the church. Local legend has it that St. Mamas, a devout Byzantine hermit who refused to pay tax since he had no income other than alms and lived in a cave, was ordered to be arrested by the local Governor. As he was escorted into custody the group encountered a lion about to devour a lamb along the roadside. The saint commanded the lion to stop, picked up the lamb, mounted the lions back and rode on the back of the lion into town. Upon seeing this, the Governor exempted the saint from taxes thereafter; hence he became the patron saint of tax-evaders and animals.
The archaeological sight of Soli is located about 1.5 hours drive to the west of Girne. Dating back to the 6. th Century BC, Soli was one of the approximately 10 city-kingdoms of Cyprus. Most of what you can see today dates back to the roman period. In particular the ruins of a very large 5.th century basilica with its splendid abstract as well as animal mosaic floors are of interest to the visitor. It is here that you will find the famous “swan mosaic” of Soli. The mostly rebuild small theatre above the basilica offers a fine view over the bay of Güzelyurt.
Soli From Above
Soli Swan Mosaic
Story: The area surrounding the sight was and still is, rich in copper ore and has been mined since the ancient times until the outbreak of the war in 1974. You will notice the derelict remains of the abandoned American “Cyprus Mining Corperation” right next to the road when you drive towards Soli.
The nature and archaeology museum of Güzelyurt consists of two different sections. Most interesting is the small, first floor permanent exhibit of artefacts dating from the Neolithic to Byzantine period. It is here that your will find the statue of the fertility Goddess Artemis which was discovered in the sea, just of the ruins of Salamis at Gazimağusta.
TIP: Currently running until further notice, a very special exhibit in an extra room upstairs! “The golden leaves of Soli”. An absolute must if you are interested in archaeology and history. On display are amazing gold artefacts which were excavated from Greco/Roman tombs, discovered two years ago at Soli.
St. Sophia Cathedral was built by the Lusignans in the 13th century. It is the oldest and one of the finest examples of Gothic art in North Cyprus. Within, Lusignans Princes were crowned kings of Cyprus. When the Ottoman’s took Cyprus in 1571, they converted the cathedral and because of this, it features a unique mixture of typical medieval gothic church architecture and Muslim adaptations in form of a Mihrab (indication niche towards Mecca) and a mimber (pulpit) and a women’s gallery in the north transept amongst. The cathedral was renamed in 1954 as Selimiye Mosque (cami).
St. Sophia Cathedral
Tip: If you go around the old Cathedral and you will find a small square behind it. There you can suddenly smell fresh coffee… if you follow your nose you find a small Turkish coffee factory… Don’t miss the public market hall to the right of the Cathedral… great place for fresh vegetables, fruits, Turkish delight and much more…
The Venetians started to build new walls in place of the old Lusignan walls ringing the city, so as to be able to defend Nicosia in 1567, just before the conquest of Cyprus by the Ottomans. A famous Venetian engineer named Guilio Savorgnano drew the plans of the walls. The walls have a circumference of three miles, eleven bastions each like a castle, and three gates. The walls consisted of earth ramparts with a stone facing. The names of the gates were: “Porta Del Proveditore – The kyrenia Gate” in the North, “Porta Guiliana – The famagusta Gate” in the East, and “Porta Domenica – The Paphos Gate” in the West. In order to build the walls, the Venetians demolished the houses, palaces, monasteries and churches outside the three-mile circumference of the city and used their stone in the construction of the walls. The bastions were named after the nobilities and other people who contributed to the construction of the walls (Rochas, Loredano, Barbaro). The Venetians were defeated by the Ottomans before they had time to finish the construction of the walls.
Located south of the Kyrenia Gate, this Museum was constructed towards the end of the 16th century by Arap Ahmet Pasa after the conquest of the island by the Ottomans. The commander of the conquering army, Lala Mustafa Pasa, Arap Ahmet Pasa, and the first kadi and mufti of the island were members of the Mevlevi order. Inside the building, there are tombs and a semahane (dervish meeting-house for religious music and whirling). Until Ataturk banned the lodges in 1920, it served as a Mevlevi Lodge; its last sheikh – or head of the order – died in 1954. At the entrance to the lodge there is a panel and a fountain. Sixteen Mevlevi sheiks are buried in the six tombs in the building. The building which constitutes a different aesthetic sight in the city centre is now used as a museum of ethnography.
The Inn or “Büyük Han” was built by the Mustafa Pasha in 1572. Its function was that of a trade station in which traders could safely store and sell their goods in the downstairs rooms, while the upstairs rooms served as overnight accommodation. The building was recently restored and after its re-opening in 2002 , its 68 rooms have become home to local artists who use these rooms in order to display their paintings, woodworks, lace and other works.
The Great Inn
Tip: Sometimes Friday’s, sometimes Saturday’s shadow play theatre performances take place in one of the upstairs rooms. You are most welcome to watch the performance and have the figures explained to you! Look out for the small cafe downstairs – hidden in its corner, you can usually observe local women preparing local dishes the old fashion way…. always fun to watch and taste!
The Mansion got its name from its previous owner Dervish Pasha, who besides being the last judge of the country also published its first Newspaper “Zaman” (Time). The Mansion was restored to its old former glory. Nowadays it harbours an ethnographical museum, displaying typical artefacts from the Ottoman period.
TIP: Being located in the Arab Ahmet Quarter of Lekoþa, you could stroll from the Dervish Paþa Mansion down the road and have a look at a recently restored section of this quarter, which features lovingly restored old houses dating back to the 18th and 19th century. What an atmosphere! In one of these restored homes you can find a very nice restaurant with a different flair to it. We recommend you visit and have a drink in their courtyard or even a meal.
The Grand Bath was built on the remains of an old Latin church. The bath still functions today. It is evident from its ornamented Gothic style arched doorway and its stone walls that it was built in the Lusignan period. The name of the building was St George of the Latins. A feature of the building is that it is 2-3 meters below road level.
The building was constructed in the 12th century as a Byzantine church (The St. Nicholas Church). It was later enlarged by some Gothic annexes built by the Lusignans. Some more changes were made in the Venetian period and the building was given to the Greek Orthodox Metropolis. With its different architectural styles it is of a hybrid nature. In the Ottoman period, it served as a depot and a market where mostly textile products were sold. The masonry on its northern entrance resembles the masonry on the entrance of the St. Sophia Cathedral.
The ancient city of Salamis is a must to see in North Cyprus. The remains were first excavated in 1882 and stopped in 1974. There is still vast areas of the ancient city waiting to be discovered.
The current excavated site is about 1 kilometer long, along the coast. Salamis, once the main commercial centre of Cyprus, serves her visitors with a beautiful gymnasium, an amphithatre, roman baths, the basilica and the forum.
With mosaics and malbe statues, was once the school and main cente rof attraction of the ancient city. The columns were reassmbled after being victims of a major earthquake in the 50’s. Sadly, none of the statues have their heads in place.
The Roman Baths:
Much of the roman baths were covered with their Byzantium replacements; but some remains of Romans can still be seen beneath the Byzantium pools and steam rooms. Bases of pools are covered with mosaics, and amongst them is the famous Legend of Leda and the Swan.
The Basilicas: Ayios Epifanios basilica was once the largest basilica in whole Cyprus. And towards the sea is Kambanopetra basilica.
The theatre with and original capcity of over 15,000 people and 50 rows of seats, now has 18 rows. As a typical Roman theatre, it still hosts concerts throughout the year.
The Castle is the most easterly of our three mountain castles. 645 m above sea level, it was built by the Byzantines to use as a watch tower in 10th century. From the so called “queens window” which is actually part of the old signal tower, a commanding view over the northern as well as southern coastal plain can be obtained. On a clear day you can see almost all the way to the end of the peninsular of Karpaz!
Story: Its been said, that Richard the Lionheart, who’s fiancé had been treated like a hostage after her unfortunate emergency landing during a storm on the coast of Cyprus, imprisoned and shackled the self pronounced Byzantine king of Cyprus, Isaac Comnenos in gold chains in the dungeons of the Castle of Kantara as a punishment.
Antiphonitis Monastery was built originally in the 12 th century AD in a remote area of the Five Finger mountains. The dome of the monastery sits not on four but on 8 columns and the church walls are covered with the remains of frescos. Located only 5 km away from the village of Esentepe the building is now open to the public.
Story: The monastery takes its name –“she who answers”- from the legend in which a poor man and a rich man met at this place. The poor man ask the rich man for a loan, who retorted, “.. and who will act as a witness that I have loaned you the money?”, to which the poor man replied, “God”. As soon as he had said those words, a celestial voice was heard santifying this transaction, and the monastery grew up around the miracle.
Karmi is a village in which tombs in shapes of rooms which stem from the Bronze Age were discovered. There is a human effigy in the corridor of one of the tombs. It is said to be the oldest found in Cyprus so far and is also said to be the goddess of fertility. Blue beads and bowls where found in the grave, the beads were gifts for the dead, bowls were for the Minos civilization brought from Crete (Minos is the king of Crete and the son of Zeus and Europa). These items are said to have belong to sailors working on the ships in Lapithos (Lapta). This shows how the various countries interacted in the Bronze Age. The village better known for its name Karmi was a former Greek village and was damaged in a fighting in 1974 and in 1983 the whole village was taken over by the TRNC ministry of tourism. Houses in these area are only leased to foreigners with the provision that they maintain it in the same shape they met it. It has a British feel to it with streets names like Geranium lane or the Crows nest pub. The Greek orthodox village church has been turned into a museum.