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What to see around Villa Margarita

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"Northern Cyprus was as good as we'd been told; miles of untainted beaches, superb weather, cheap prices." Mail on Sunday Magazine

Kyrenia Castle

Kyrenia Castle - Shipwreck Museum entrance The castle is thought to have been constructed to protect the town against the Arab raids in the 7th century. Like the Kantara Castle, it played an important role in the Lusignan period. In this period the castle underwent a lot of changes due to restoration work. The restoration work was interrupted briefly in 1373, because of the Genoese siege but went on afterwards.

When the castle was first built, the fortifications were constructed with the armoured knights and archers in mind. When the Genoese took control of the castle in 1489, they reconstructed the fortifications taking the Ottoman artillery into consideration. They added the northwestern and the southeastern towers as an extra precaution.

The 7th century Kyrenia Castle In spite of all this, however, following the fall of Nicosia in 1570, they surrendered the castle to the Ottomans without putting up any resistance. The entrance to the castle is via a bridge built over a wide ditch. This ditch was full of water until the 14 hundreds. The Lusignan insignia of three lions on the vault of the inner gate has been brought here from another building.

Inside the castle there is a Byzantian church (St. George) thought to have been constructed in the 11 hundreds. The tomb of the Ottoman Admiral, Sadik Pasha the Kyrenia castle Algerian, who was killed during the conquest of Cyprus by the Ottomans in 1570 is also in this castle. The other sections of the castle are: the Venetian Towers of the Northwest, Southwest, and Southeast; the guards’ room, the big hall, various dungeons, and rooms used as depots belonging to the Lusignan period; a tower belonging to the Byzantine period; the Venetian defence platform; a cistern; an arsenal, and a cannon parapet belonging to the Venetian period; and the shipwreck museum.

The Department of Antiquities created the atmosphere of an open-air museum in the castle by personifying different historical characters and by using site-animation. back to top

The Shipwreck Museum

Shipwreck Museum The Shipwreck Museum, is housed in the Gothic halls of Kyrenia Castle. The Shipwreck Museum houses one of the most remarkable marine archaeological finds in the world.

Sailing to North Cyprus – in 288BC Around 288BC, a trading vessel, laden with millstones and amphorae (large jars) of wine from Kos and Rhodes set sail for Cyprus. The ship was caught in a storm, and was wrecked outside Kyrenia harbour. The remains of the ship sat on the seabed covered in sand for 2300 years until discovered by a sponge diver in 1965. A team of marine archaeologists from the University of Pennsylvania surveyed the site of the wreck, which measured sixty feet by thirty feet During 1968 and 1969, the team brought the remains of both ship and cargo to the surface in pieces, a delicate operation to recover what was then the oldest discovered ship in the world. It would take another six years to reconstruct the wreck as it appears today.

The ship itself was already around 80 years old when it sank, and had been repaired several times, including having a skin of lead applied to the outside to keep it watertight. back to top

Kyrenia Harbour

Kyrenia Harbour The coolest place to be in Northern Cyprus in the summer is the Kyrenia harbourside, and with good reason! Sea breezes mix with cooler air from the nearby mountains, creating a great place to escape from the heat and dust of North Nicosia in the height of summer. So, needless to say, Kyrenia harbour is always busy in summer, its cafés packed with visitors and locals alike enjoying the unique atmosphere. You’ll need to get there early if you want to bag a waterside table for either lunch, or a romantic dinner beside the water’s edge. back to top

Bellapais

Bellapais village can be seen towering above Kyrenia, directly south into the hills, about four miles from the Harbour.

There are some superb restaurants in the village, most notably The Tree of Idleness, The Abbey Bell Tower Restaurant and (confusingly!), The Abbey Restaurant (situated in the grounds of the Abbey itself, with beautiful views, particularly from the 'balcony table, which has only two seats and is perched precariously over the side of the Abbey walls; book it if you can!!)

Bellapais Abbey Bellapais Abbey, the former monastery, is situated in Bellapais village. It was constructed between 1198 and 1205. Bellapais Abbey derives from the French "abbey de la paix" which means the Peace Monastery. The initial building was constructed between 1198 and 1205. The main building was built during the 13th century A.D. by the monks of the Order of St. Augustine. The pavilions around the courtyard and the refectory were constructed during the rule of King Hugh IV between 1324 and 1359. You can also visit here the Ancient Greek Orthodox Church of Mother Mary White Dressed.

Lawrence Durrell used to live in Bellapais and used to sit around under a large shady tree with the other Cypriot menfolk watching the world go by. This shady tree was nicknamed the "Tree of Idleness" by the locals. These days it is immortalised by a cafe/restaurant of the same name. Whether the tree outside is the same tree is hotly open to debate. So we'm guessing the cafe isn't authentic either! Anyhow, it's a good place to get a drink as you leave the Abbey to walk up to see Lawrence Durrell's old house which is further up the hill. back to top

Turtle watching in Alagadi Beach

Alagadi Beach and its Turtles The sight of newly-hatched sea turtles scrabbling out of their sandy nest chambers on North Cyprus beaches and scuttling towards to the open sea is a joy to watch. Their mothers have swum in the warm Mediterranean sea for twenty years before mating. One moonlit might, they will come ashore to lay their eggs. The females come ashore in May and dig deep pits into which they lay their eggs, about 40 cm down, before carefully covering them with literally tonnes of sand. Then they swim away, leaving the eggs safe and cool in their sandy nest, the sand around the eggs trapping air, which is vital to their development. Female green turtles can make several nests during a season, each containing a batch of eggs laid two weeks apart. The Marine Conservation team from Glasgow University takes small groups of tourists onto the beaches to observe their activities from a safe distance. Warm clothing, flasks and sleeping bags are essential but this once in a life-time experience is not to be missed. Booking is essential and places fill up fast so an early visit to their camp at Alagadi is strongly recommended to get your name down!!back to top

Nicosia

The beautiful city of Nicosia The capital of the Island is split between the Greeks and Turks, though passage across the Green Line is now a lot simpler, and quite exciting!! The city has everything you'd expect from a modern European metropolis. Nicosia lies roughly at the centre of the island, with a rich history that can be traced back to the Bronze Age. It only became Capital of the island in the 11th century AD. The Lousignians turned it into a magnificent city with a Royal Palace and over fifty churches. Today it blends its historic past brilliantly with the bustle of a modern city. The heart of the city, enclosed by 16th century Venetian walls, is dotted with museums, ancient churches and medieval buildings preserving the nostalgic atmosphere of years past. Yet this old heart is split in two, leaving Nicosia the only capital city in the world to remain divided by force.

The new Nicosia developed outside the walls became a contemporary, business and cultural centre. Just a few miles away are enchanting places of interest such as Byzantine churches and monasteries, archaeological sites and charming villages.
Without a doubt, Nicosia the 1000-year-old capital of Cyprus should be on every visitor's agenda. back to top

The City of Famagusta

The City of Famagusta The city of Famagusta is one of the finest examples of mediaeval architecture in the eastern Mediterranean and, in its present state of preservation, is equal to that of the old cities of Carcassone and Ragusa (Dubrovnik). One full day spent in Famagusta will reveal the history of Cyprus in a nutshell.

Much of the history of the town is obscure as there are no written records and our only source of material is from travellers' accounts of merchants passing through. Some historians declare that it was founded by King Ptolemy Philadelphus of Egypt in 285 B.C.

It is believed that the city occupies the site of ancient town of Arsinoë. Famagusta prospered through the destruction of the neighbouring Salamis, the former capital of the island. back to top