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Lapta is located about 10 kilometres west of Kyrenia; it’s a local tourist hotspot and has some excellent hotel and general accommodation options for visitors to North Cyprus.
The main town is located behind the tourist strip along the beach and is popular for its beautiful views, a selection of good restaurants and its cool leafy ambience. It was saved from the forest fires that ravaged parts of the island back in the 1990s and so it remains not only physically intact, but its spirit and history have been untouched for generations.
Lapta manages to represent the best in coastal towns and mountain villages and it offers some of the best scenery on the island with stunning mountain views from the old town and beautiful and peaceful Mediterranean views from the coast.
Visiting the town of Lapta you’ll find it’s divided into two distinctive parts, each offering the visitor interesting alternatives for entertainment. Firstly, ‘Lapta strip’ as the main road through the town is known is home to a number of bars, restaurants, pubs, cafes and hotels. You have casinos, water sports, beach access, live music and a really good holiday feel along the strip. Tourists of all ages are very well catered for and Lapta in this respect offers a lot of entertainment options. During the main summer season the area triples its population such is the popularity of the resort.
The old town is a popular retreat for expatriates and has been for many years; initially they were attracted by among other things the town’s excellent and pure water supplies! It also enjoys a protected micro-climate and it’s where Greek and Turkish Cypriots lived peacefully and happily side by side for generations.
Lapta is historically one of the richest and most historically interesting areas of Cyprus.
From the 8th century when Phoenicians settled in Cyprus, Lapta or Lapithos as the area was known then, became one of the city kingdoms in Cyprus, then later when Cyprus was under Roman rule Lapta was a regional capital.
During the Byzantine period Lapta, or Lambousa as the area around the town as we know it today was known, was so prosperous that it became renowned as ‘the city of treasure’ which unfortunately led to its invasion and partial destruction by Arab pirates.
The residents of Lambousa were forced to hand over much of their treasure to the pirates before they were allowed to flee, but they still managed to hide a lot of their remaining wealth. When the pirates finally finished ransacking and destroying Lambousa the surviving residents returned but found the city destroyed and were unable to unearth what they had hidden. The treasure of Lambousa became a legend was almost dismissed as such until archaeologists and amateur treasure hunters began unearthing some incredible, stunning and priceless treasure from the area early in the 1900s.
Lapta is also famous for its abundance of richly flavoured fruit and vegetable crops which are nourished by the mountain springs I mentioned earlier. It is a town as rich in resources as it is history, natural beauty, charm and appeal. If you visit, take time out to enjoy both the relaxed rural and historical charm of the old town and the fun and lively scene along the strip.
History of Kyrenia
Kyrenia was first settled by mainland Greeks, and they soon made use of local quarried stone to build their town. The Kyrenia town grew in population, and was well established by Roman times. In the seventh century, Arab raids made living on the coastline of North Cyprus dangerous, and Kyrenia’s basic defence walls were useless the marauding raiders. The citizens of Kyrenia quickly built a defensive castle, the first of four that were to stand in the same spot, overlooking the modern harbour.
(The ancient harbour had been further east).
The Northern Cyprus city of Kyrenia is a jewel just waiting to be discovered. Kyrenia is not a big town in terms of population; just over 13,000 people live here, but it’s packed with history and charm.
The harbour at Kyrenia
The coolest place to be in Northern Cyprus in the summer is the Kyrenia harbourside, and with good reason! Sea breezes mix with cooler air from the nearby mountains, creating a great place to escape from the heat and dust in the height of summer. So, needless to say, Kyrenia harbour is always busy in summer, its cafés packed with visitors and locals alike enjoying the unique atmosphere. You’ll need to get there early if you want to bag a waterside table for either lunch, or a romantic dinner beside the water’s edge.
The history of Kyrenia harbour
There has been a settlement at Kyrenia since the 10th century BC, but the harbour today was shaped most by the Venetians. When they gained control of Cyprus in 1489, the Venetians fortified the island against possible invasion by the Ottoman Empire. At that time Kyrenia was the most important port on the northern Cyprus coastline, a little too close to the mainland for the Venetian’s comfort. So, they build impressive defences for the town, although when the Ottoman invasion did come in 1571, the Venetians gave up without a fight!
The Venetian castle at Kyrenia
Today, the somewhat time-scarred Venetian castle of Kyrenia guards over the harbour like a benevolent grandfather, whilst the robust Tower marks the entrance to this little harbour of calm. The long, thin breakwater juts out into the sea like a long, crooked finger, beckoning in weary sailors past the Marine Martyr’s Monument situated opposite the harbour entrance. The Custom House still dominates the west corner of the harbour, commanding an excellent view of any boats entering Kyrenia harbour. Originally a chain gate was stretched across the old harbour entrance from here to the Tower, preventing enemy ships from forcing their way in.
Venetian Kyrenia, Northern Cyprus
By 1300, the town was well defended, with a moat around the castle and the entrance to the port secured by a chain right across it, preventing ships from entering without permission. The Venetians came and improved the defences no end, enlarging the castle and forming the shape of the harbour that we see today. They also built fine buildings in Kyrenia itself; the Folk Museum is housed in one such three storey house.
After the Venetians were defeated in 1571, many Ottoman military men stayed behind in Cyprus to colonise the island, and others came from mainland Turkey with their families. The Ottoman Empire gave such settlers generous tax breaks and other incentives to move, and by 1878 there were 95,00 Turkish Cypriots on the island.
Kyrenia's population through the years
The town’s population fluctuated between just a few families in the early 1800s to thousands in the first years on the 20th century. During the British administration, Kyrenia became a popular place to retire for British officials, and despite the upheaval of the events of 1974, it is still a popular place for British ex-pats today.
Kyrenia (Girne) Today
As soon as you arrive at the Kyrenia harbour, you can see immediately why Kyrenia in North Cyprus is so popular. The graceful arc of the harbour side is filled with the tables of restaurants and cafés, ideal for sitting back and simply watching the world go by. The former carob warehouses have been converted into restaurants and shops, giving the harbour a bustling lively feel without feeling rushed or crowded.
The harbour is dominated by the impressive kyrenia castle, which sits at the mouth of the harbour. It’s a great castle to visit and explore, and you get some great views of the town from the top. The Castle also houses the Kyrenia shipwreck museum, where the remains of an ancient trading ship, pulled from the mud just outside the harbour, are preserved.
Shopping in Kyrenia, North Cyprus
Back from the harbour, the narrow medieval town streets wind amongst shops, workshops and historic buildings, such as the Djafer Pasa mosque, dating from around 1570. It’s a fascinating wander up and down the steps that link the streets of Kyrenia, so take you time, to stop and admire a craftsman at work or just catch a glimpse a hidden walled garden. You can shop at the Municipal Market for your fruit and vegetables to take back to your North Cyprus villa, then drop in at the Round Tower Gallery, housed in a former town walls defence tower, for local North Cyprus crafts.
You really can’t help but walk on history in Kyrenia; under your feet are over 70 catacomb tombs cut into the limestone, many of which have long since been built over. Kyrenia’s former churches have been put to various uses, such as housing the icon museum, whereas other exists as picturesque ruins. The outskirts of Kyrenia have grown immensely in recent years due to new development, but the historic heart still beats with life and interest all year round.
Many consider Kyrenia the place to visit.
Magnificent Gothic refectory was added by his success King Hugh IV by 1359. Bellapais is a pretty village set high in the Five Finger Mountains of Northern Cyprus. Its most famous site is the Bellapais Monastery, sometimes called the Bellapais Abbey. The name Bellapais probably derives from the French “Abbaye de la paix” meaning ‘Monastery of Peace’.
The Bellapais Monastery was founded by Augustinian monks, who came to CyprusJerusalem, and who began constructing the first buildings here in 1198. The Lusignan King Hugh III built much of what can be seen today between 1267 and 1284, whilst the courtyard pavilions and from
The Monastery rose to prominence after a wealthy knight known as Roger the Norman left them a gift of an important religious relic, a supposed fragment of the True Cross. Pilgrims flocked to the Bellapais Monastery to see the relic, spend some time in retreat, and give a generous donation at the end of their stay. However, when the Genoese invaded in 1373, the monastery’s treasury was plundered and the precious relic stolen. This marked a rapid decline in the monastery’s fortunes – and the morals of the monks, who took wives and let the great building fall into decay.
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