After Cyprus gained independence from The United Kingdom, despite a constitution which guaranteed a degree of power sharing between the Greek Cypriot majority and the Turkish Cypriot minority, the two populations, with backing from the governments of Greece and Turkey, clashed heavily in 1974, with the end result being the invasion and occupation of the Northern side of the island by Turkey.
In 1983, the Turkish held area declared itself the ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’. Thus far, only Turkey recognises the region, while all other governments and the United Nations recognise only the government of the Republic of Cyprus over the whole island. The UN operates a peacekeeping force and a narrow buffer zone between the two ethnic groups.
Some Useful Information:
ℹ️ Travel: There are many check-points along the border where you can drive across into Northern Cyprus. From Larnaca the drive will take around 45 minutes to Famagusta, crossing at ‘Black Knight’ at the Southern check-point. Remember Cyprus is in the EU but Northern Cyprus is not.
However, crossing the border if you hold an EU passport is relatively easy going. You will pass through the Cypriot check point first. From here you will need to park the car and purchase extra car insurance to enable you to drive your Cypriot (EU style plate) vehicle on the Turkish side. You can only purchase a minimum of a month, so even if you are only planning a day trip you will need to purchase a months insurance priced at €59 (GB£51). Once you have this certificate you then need to drive to the Turkish check-point were you need to produce the insurance certificate you have just purchased along with your passport. Remember, this is an international border so treat it as that.
Whilst Cyprus is a member of the EU, Turkish Cyprus is not in the EU and is part of the Republic of Turkey and follows very different rules.
ℹ️ Currency: The Turkish Lira
The Euro is wildly accepted. Nonetheless, if you pay in Euro’s ensure you give the exact amount otherwise your change comes back in Turkish Lira.
ℹ️ Credit Cards and Banks: Although there are not vast amounts of ATMs most restaurants and shops will accept the major credit cards.
The walled city of Famagusta (Gazimağusa) was made for exploration on foot. Winding lanes rimmed with terrace rows of houses suddenly give way to ruined Gothic churches where birds nest between roofless arches and scraps of faded frescoes cling to stone walls. From atop the Venetian walls, the shattered shards of these once grand churches punctuate the skyline of what was Cyprus’ most lavish city.
St Peter and St Paul Church
Although not open to the public, the magnificent facade of this mammoth 14th century church, which has survived intact, gives you a good impression of what Famagusta would have looked like before most of its churches and monuments were ruined. The church’s construction was funded by a local merchant. During the Ottoman period it served as a mosque and after the British arrived it was used as a wheat store.
St George Church
The ruins of this once stately Gothic church are one of the most picturesque in the walled city. You can still make out the faint outlines of once-rich frescos upon the interior stone walls.
Lala Mustafa Pasa Camii
This Cathedral has to be the most beautiful in the area. The former Cathedral of St Nicholas is the finest example of Gothic architecture on the island, built between 1298 and 1326.
Converted into a mosque (camii in Turkish) after 1571’s Ottoman invasion, it still dominates the skyline of the Old Town. The church was damaged during the Ottoman siege of Famagusta and its twin towers were destroyed. The west facing facade, now a pedestrian zone, is the most impressive part opening out into a square peppered with restaurants and cafes.
Petek Patisserie and Restaurant
As you wander the streets of Famagusta ensure you make time for a little treat. Head towards Othello Tower near the city wall and go inside ‘Petek Patisserie’, adjacent to ‘Petek’ corner restaurant.
This placed is an Aladdin’s cave brimmed with all sorts of Turkish delights to tantalise the taste buds, all reasonably priced too!
Famagusta and indeed Turkish Cyprus is a beautiful region. It still holds that flare of Turkish lifestyle whilst trying to keep up with the ‘Western World’. Its definitely worth a visit even if just for a day trip.