The ancient settlement on the site of Kyrenia appeared in the Neolithic period. There is a convenient deep-water harbor, although its size is not very large. The polis of Kyrenia was founded more than a thousand years BC by the ancient Greeks. Then the polis passed into the possession of the Ptolemies, who ruled in Egypt, and then the Romans.
Kyrenia did not play such an important role as Salamis and Paphos in ancient times, or as Famagusta and Limassol during the reign of the Lusignans. However, for centuries it was a key trading port on the northern coast of Cyprus, and was also a key point for the protection of the north of Cyprus.
In 1974, there was a conflict between the Turks and the Greeks, which led to the division of the island. Now Kyrenia belongs to Northern Cyprus, where the Turks live. In the Turkish transcription, the town is called Girne. However, if you are on vacation in southern Cyprus, there are no problems with visiting Northern Cyprus. You can cross the border in Nicosia or Famagusta, even by car rented in the south.
The largest and most beautiful castles in Cyprus are located here. These are the Kyrenian Castle and the Castle of St. Hilarion. Be sure to visit Bellapais Abbey. The port of Kyrenia, surrounded by a maze of narrow streets of the old town, is also of great interest to tourists. After a tour of the castles, you can sit in the port of Kyrenia in one of the many fish restaurants or taverns.
The Kyrenian Castle is a powerful citadel that protects the entrance to the port of Kyrenia. The construction of this castle was started during the Byzantine rule. Next to the castle, the church of St. George was built in the 12th century. In 1540, the Venetians significantly expanded citadel, erected new walls and bastions to protect it from artillery. The Church of St. George was included inside the fortress walls. It was not destroyed.
On the Kyrenian rocky ridge above the town rises the Castle of St. Hilarion, the most romantic of all the castles that have remained on the territory of Cyprus. In the 6th century, there was a hermitage of the monk Hilarion. Later the there was built the watch tower by Byzantines.
King Guy de Lusignan, who began to rule in Cyprus in the 12th century, decided to build his summer residence here. At the beginning of the 13th century, three levels of the castle were built. Below there were the barracks, stables, and utility rooms. On the second level there were the main halls of the castle, where the king received guests. At the top of the mountain were the king`s private chambers and a small garden. It offers magnificent views of the mountains and the sea.
Bellapais Abbey is located in Kyrenia at the foot of a mountain range. Its construction began simultaneously with the construction of the Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Famagusta. Bellapais Abbey is built in the high Gothic style, as is the cathedral. Only the ruins have remained to this day, but they are also impressive.
The best place to finish your tour of Kyrenia is in the old harbor of the city, where there are many fish restaurants and taverns. There are no beaches in Kyrenia or its immediate surroundings, but on the northern coast of Cyprus there are excellent opportunities for swimming on sandy beaches.