The city of Famagusta is located on the Eastern coast of Cyprus. During the reign of the Genoese and Venetians (14-16 centuries), powerful fortresses and hundreds of churches were built here. For a while, it was even the capital of Cyprus. Now Famagusta is located on the territory of Northern Cyprus, but it is easy to visit even with a rented car.
Famagusta was founded in the 3rd century BC by king Ptolemy II of Egypt, 6 kilometers from the city of Salamis. Ptolemy II was called Philadelph (meaning "loving sister" in Greek) because he married his sister Arsinoe. He gave his sister`s name to the new city, Arsinoe. Then the city was named Ammochostos ("Lost in the sand").
If you come to Famagusta, you should definitely visit the ruins of ancient Salamis. This is one of the most impressive ancient cities that have survived to this day. There you can see the Marble Forum, The Roman baths and the Roman theater.
During the third crusade, Cyprus was conquered by king Richard the Lionheart, who sold it to the Templars. In 1187, Jerusalem was recaptured by Salah ad-Din from the crusaders. The king of the Kingdom of Jerusalem was then Hugo de Lusignan. He was forced to leave Jerusalem, but in 1192, with financial and military support from the Genoese, he bought Cyprus from the Templars and became its king. Hugo de Lusignan gave the city the name Famagusta.
Famagusta`s most active development began in 1291, when the crusaders lost their last strongholds in the Holy Land: the cities of Tyre and Accra. Most of the crusaders settled in Famagusta. During this time, Famagusta became a key commercial port in the Eastern Mediterranean. A large Gothic Cathedral of St. Nicholas was built in the city, where the kings of the Lusignan dynasty were crowned as the Kings of Jerusalem.
Since 1374, Famagusta was owned by the Genoese, although formally the kings remained representatives of the Lusignan dynasty. In 1489, Catherine Cornaro, the last of the Lusignan family, signed the act of abdication and power over Famagusta and all of Cyprus passed to the Venetians. These two centuries were the Golden age of Famagusta. Powerful fortresses were built here, as well as hundreds of churches. Famagusta was then called "the city of 365 churches".
Famagusta had such strong fortifications that even after the capture of all of Cyprus, in 1570, the Turks were unable to storm Famagusta. The Turkish army was commanded by Lala Mustafa Pasha, and the defense of the Venetians commanded by Marcantonio Bargain. The city was defended for 11 months. Only when it became clear that there would be no help from the Republic of Venice the garrison of the fortress stop resisting.
After Cyprus gained independence in 1960, Famagusta became the main tourist center of the country. Hundreds of hotels, restaurants, and night clubs were built on the Golden sand beaches. Special popularity was gained by the Bohemian quarter of Varosha. It was visited by famous people of Europe.
This prosperity ended on July 20, 1974, when Turkish troops invaded the island. As a result of this war, Cyprus was divided into Northern Cyprus, where the Turks now live, and southern Cyprus, where the Greeks and Cypriots live. Famagusta became part of Northern Cyprus, and the Varosha quarter was included in a closed demilitarized zone. A few decades later, it became known as the "Ghost town". Famagusta has a border crossing from southern Cyprus to Northern Cyprus, so if you are vacationing in southern Cyprus, it is very easy to visit Famagusta with a guided tour.