Kyrenia, with a population of 35,000, is the third biggest city in Northern Cyprus. However, with it's picturesque harbour, and wide range of great restaurants, bars and clubs, it is also the most popular one.
The top three places to visit in Kyrenia:
Kyrenia Castle is located near the harbour, which is horse shoe shaped. It was originally built by the Romans in the Third century to defend the city, which was located up on the hillside. In the Tenth century, the Byzantines then further enhanced the shape of the castle in order to protect the people of the city from Arab pirates. In the Twelth century, the French Lusignans extended the castle to East by adding another watch tower.
In the Fifteenth century, the Venetians then put the finishing touches to the shape of the castle, which is now under the protection of the Antiquities Department of North Cyprus, who use it as a museum, demonstrating the history of the country and the people.
Bellapais AbbeyBellapais Abbey is located in the hillside, 6 miles South East of Kyrenia. The Abbey is the best example of Gothic architecture in Cyprus, as well as being ones of the finest in the Middle East. Built by the Lusignans, the first settlers in Bellapais Abbey were the Agustinas Monks, who escaped from Jerusalem in late Twelth century. At that time, the Abbey was built with fortified walls, with the people allowed to walk inside from the breach door, which can still be seen today. Originally, the name of the Abbey came from the Latin alphabet : 'Bella De Lapaix' means beautiful peace, because the monks wore white robes instead of black.
Until the late Sixteenth century, the Catholic religion was practiced in Bellapais Abbey. However, when the Ottoman Empire captured the island, they took the control of the Abbey, and gave it over to Orthodox religion, which was followed until 1974. While you are visiting the Abbey, you can still see the church with Frescos which date from as far back as the Thirteenth century. The refectory, meeting room, cellar and court yard are also worthy of a visit, whist the view to Kyrenia below is outstanding.
St. Hilarion CastleSt.Hilarion Castle is located 732 meters above sea level, a 20 minute drive from Kyrenia. It is the biggest castle in the mountains, built by the Byzantines in the Seventh century as a Watch Tower from which to see their enemies who may sail too close to the North coast of Cyprus.
When the Lusignans arrived in Cyprus in the late Twelth century, they admired the location of the castle, and developed it further. However, when the Venetians came to Cyprus in the late Fifteenth century, they favoured the coastline castles in Kyrenia and Famagusta, as their locations were better suited to the use of canons and gun powder, which had since been invented, and St Hilarion Castle fell into mis-use. It has recently been renevated, provding many fine examples of animations which date to the Middle Ages, as well as marvelous views across Cyprus. On a clear day, it is possible to see as far as Turkey.
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