Standing on the eastern coast of Cyprus, Famagusta is a relatively large town with the deepest harbour in the island. Originally settled around 300BC, it remained a small fishing village for centuries, only becoming initially of importance during the Lusignan rule of Cyprus. Over time, it expanded into one of the region’s most significant centres of trade, shipping and commerce. Many buildings of significant historical merit and scale were constructed during the 13th century, including a large number of churches that remain to the present day. As is the case for many towns in Cyprus, Famagusta bears historic testament to its myriad of rulers and during Venetian rule, it was the capital of the island. The Lusignans and the Venetians in particular built vast fortifications and much of the city’s ancient surrounding walls have survived the centuries. The Ravelin (Land Gate) still forms the main entrance into the old city and some fifteen towers and bastions exist today. In places, the walls are in excess of 30 feet thick.
The old town of Famagusta is a fascinating area to visit. Here, there is a unique flavour of the Levant, where East meets West in spectacular style. Famagusta was severely affected by substantial earthquakes long in the past, which caused significant damage to many of its great buildings, however, the strength of the city walls prevented their destruction. A few miles to the north of Famagusta, lie the amazing ruins of the City of Salamis, the capital of Cyprus in Roman times. A little further north is the start of the Karpaz Peninsula, a sparsely inhabited and vast nature reserve. The east coast of Cyprus and the area around Famagusta are known for their beautiful, sandy beaches, making this an excellent place for a holiday in North Cyprus; for sun worshippers, nature lovers and history buffs alike.
Places to Visit
Othello’s Tower and the City Walls
Within the walls are a number of citadels and fortresses, the best known of which is probably Othello’s Tower. Although this is referred to in Shakespeare’s play, Othello was actually a Venetian Governor of Famagusta in the 16th century. Inside the tower, the great hall is a substantial area, giving a feel for what life must have been like in Venetian times. Steps lead to the top of the tower, from where there are superb views over the old harbour and the modern commercial port. There are a number of other places worth visiting around the walls, including Djanboulat’s Bastion, with an interesting museum.
The Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque
Formerly the St. Nicholas Cathedral, this is the greatest of the medieval buildings in Famagusta and its construction was started in 1300AD. Similar to the St. Sophia Cathedral in Nicosia, the external construction bears a remarkable likeness to a number of great French cathedrals, which of course reflects the rule of the French Lusignans.
The Sinan Pasha Mosque
Originally constructed in the 14th century as the Church of St Peter and Paul, this is a magnificent building of significant scale and historical importance. It was restored in the 1960s when it came into use as a town hall and is currently a municipal library.
The Cathedral of St. George
Close to the Cathedral of St. Nicholas, the ruins of the Cathedral of St. George give an indication of the substantial original size of this building. Some traces and parts of the original frescos are still visible inside the remains, and the bases of earlier columns can also be found, showing the unusual methods of construction.
St. Barnabas Monastery
The site comprises a monastery, church and chapel. The buildings were all restored in the 1990s and today the monastery is home to an archaeological museum while the church contains many important religious icons, some from the original building and many found during excavations of other churches. St. Barnabas is the patron saint of Cyprus and having witnessed the miracles of Jesus, he returned to the island around 40AD and so impressed the Roman governor of the island at the time, that he converted and Cyprus thus became the first country in the world to have a Christian ruler. The current building dates back to the mid-18th century. Adjacent to the monastery stands the tomb of St. Barnabas. The site is considered of special religious importance to all the people of Cyprus and regular services are still held here.
These are just a few suggestions, but Famagusta is a fascinating and vibrant place full of interesting things to discover.
Places to Stay
At A1 Cyprus we offer a number of hotels in the Famagusta area. In the town itself, the superb Arkin Palm Beach Hotel, and travelling a little further north along the coast, the Salamis Bay Conti resort, the Noah’s Ark Deluxe Hotel, The Merit Cyprus Gardens and the Long Beach Club. Further north again, the amazing Kaya Artemis Hotel.
For something a little different, we also offer twin-centre holidays, staying in the Famagusta and Kyrenia areas, to offer a feel for everything the island and a holiday in Northern Cyprus have to offer!