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Kyrenia

 

Kyrenia Castle
Kyrenia Castle
Kyrenia is the prettiest town on the island, a tranquil seaside resort with a tiny, charming harbour full of bobbing yachts and fishing boats. Framed by the colossal hulk of Kyrenia Crusader castle, the town exudes an ambience of intoxicating serenity - the perfect place to escape the bustle of the city, to relax the mind and revitalise the body. At least, so say the tourist brochures. True, it remains the most scenic destination, but this is mainly by virtue of the undeniably picturesque harbour, and in a country that boasts architectural blemishes such a statement should not be construed as glowing praise.

 

Kyrenia Harbour
Kyrenia Harbour
With a seemingly relentless level of development and traffic problems that belie a settlement of this size, Kyrenia (in Turkish: Girne) faces the prospect of becoming another Mediterranean resort.

 

Nowhere in North Cyprus is the recent economic surge more evident than in and around Girne. Officially the town is home to 14,000 residents, although when considering the outlying suburbs and transient student population conservative estimates put this figure at closer to 25,000. But amidst all this mayhem the heart of Girne still beats around the horseshoe of the harbour, and some elements remain constant. The jagged Kyrenia mountains lend a spectacular backdrop and the tiny, winding lanes around the Djafer Pasa Mosque convey images of the past.

The shops on and around Hurriet Caddesi and Ataturk Caddesi continue to attract Turks from the mainland with their sophisticated range of choice, ever more so as North Cyprus opens up and international brands move in. Numerous bars and cafes offer friendly service for drinks and meze, whilst evening dining options are extensive, excellent value and of a generally admirable standard. On long summer evenings, eating out on the terrace, enjoying a stroll along the harbour wall or merely indulging in a spot of people-watching, it's possible to cast off the shackles of the 21st century and imagine the town in days gone by.

It is these qualities that will continue to attract visitors to Girne, and for many the town remains an excellent base for exploring the attractions of North Cyprus. Unspoiled it may no longer be, but the premier tourist destination it remains.

Since the new road was built (with Saudi finance) the capital city of Lefkosa (Nicosia) is just a 20-minute drive away, Ercan Airport is a 40-minute drive and Gazimagusa (Famagusta) is an hour and ten minutes. From Girne it takes one hour 45 minutes to reach Vouni, the westernmost point of interest, and three hours to reach Kastros at the easternmost tip of the Karpas, travelling on the new north coast road as far as Tatlisu. If you choose to catch a taxi from Ercan Airport into Girne, it will probably cost you around J30 one-way, but most of the tour operators offer their own transfers.

Dolmus buses (shared taxis) run fairly regularly until about 19.00, although not to a timetable, from the bus station in the centre of Girne to all the major towns in the north (sample fares: J0.60 to Lefkosa, J0.50 to Lapta, J0.30 to Karaoglanoglu). They can also be flagged down on the main roads, although they often fill up before they leave the bus station itself.

Tourist office is on the harbour front. It's supposed to be open Monday-Friday 09.00-17.00 and Saturday-Sunday 10.00-18.00 but don't be surprised if it isn't. Besides, they will almost certainly respond to your questions by directing you to their brochure shelf. If you've got a burning question, you'll definitely find your hotel will be a far more reliable source of information. Post office (summer opening 07.30-14.00, Mon 07.30-14.00, 15.50-18.00; winter 08.00-13.00, 14.00-17.00) is on M Cagatay Cadesi behind the bus station/car park.