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Guzelyurt and Lefke Region

The Vibrant Tones of Orange, Green and Blue Await Visitors to the Guzelyurt and Lefke Region

This greenest corner of the island, with its citrus groves and its rich and varied culture and history, is an oasis of peace and calm. This is a place where one can just sit in the shade of a tree and watch the turquoise waters of the sea or, if you feel like it, wander around the evocative ruins of Soli or, from a dizzying height above the Mediterranean, watch the sun go down over the ruins of the Vouni Palace, the sole extant example of Persian culture on the island. The Ancient City of Soli was one of the nine ancient city states of Cyprus and today its magnificent Swan Mosaic, dated from the 4th century A.D. is on display at the site. In 2005 gold artifacts were discovered here; – the “Golden Leaves of Soli”, which can now be seen in Guzelyurt Museum of Archaeology and Natural History. During Ottoman rule Turks migrated to Lefke and consequently the area is known for its mosques and Ottoman mansions. The area is also famous for its aqueducts, date palms and citrus groves.

This region is especially endowed by nature and is home to several species of orchild and other endemic flora including the Medos Tulip (Tulipa Cypria) There are also a great many monumental trees in the region, most notably the monumental olive trees of Kalkanli area.

The History of Lefke

Enchanting of Lefke

There are many theories relating to how the town came to be named “Lefke” but perhaps the most likely is that it was from “Lefkon”, the son of one of Alexander the Great’s generals, Ptolemy Philedelphus. It is said that the region was given to him as a wedding presenr in order for him to found a town which was at first known by his name of Lefkon or Leukon but which, in time, changed into Lefke. There are several sites of historical interest in the area from the Byzantine, Venetian, Ottoman and British Period.

Nonetheless, it is Lefke’s unrivalled natural green splendour which mainly attracts visitors. Situated in the North west of the island at a distance of 62 km from Nicosia and 68 km from Kyrenia, Lefke has, throughout history, been a ideal place of settlement, helped no doubt by its pleasant climate, plentiful water supplies, productive soil and also, importantly, its rich copper reserves.

The Ottoman period, in particular, left many striking works in the town and its environs. The remnants of other civilizations, too: – Roman, Venetian and the British Administration can be seen. The vast copper mines of  Cyprus Mining Corporation which began operating in 1914 and continued up to 1975 operated mainly in the Lefke area. Lefke’s golden years were between 1940 – 1950 when copper mining was at its peak and the population of the town increased to 15.000. In 1990 the European University of Lefke began operations and today attracts around 3000 students. There are approximately 2000 date trees originating from Egypt in the area and the baskets made from their fronds were used to bring the mined copper  ore from the underground mines to the surface.

Guzelyurt – A Place Like its Name “Beautiful Land”

Guzelyurt – Beautiful Land

In Turkish “Guzelyurt” means “Beautiful Land” and how apt this is for small yet charming town situated between Nicosia and Lefke. This is the part of this beautiful island where the greatest concentration of the citrus groves for which Cyprus is famous can be found. Indeed, this whole corner of the island is resplendently green but also blessed with a wealth of historical sites for the visitor to see. Although the region is rightly famous for its oranges, lemons, mandarins and grapefruit, the abundant water of the terrain also allows a host of other seasonal crops such as melon, watermelon, potatoes, pomegranate, and others to be grown here making this North Cyprus’ most productive agricultural region.

Set inn the foothills of and with splendid views of the Troodos Mountains, Guzelyurt’s mild climate is perfect for the production of citrus. The vast majority of North Cyprus’ exports of this vital crop are from region. Every year, in June and July, the Guzelyurt Orange Festival is held bringing a great social and cultural vitality to the region.

Along with its rich natural splendour though, Guzelyurt is home to a wealth of important historical sites such as the ancient of Soli, the ruins of the Vouni Palace, The Bronze Age settlement of Toumba Tou Skourou and the Church of Aya Mamas in the centre of Guzelyurt. The region is also home to two of Cyprus’ leading universities: The North Cyprus campus of Turkey’s renowned Middle East Technical University at Kalkanli and The Lefke European University situated in Lefke.

Guzelyurt can easily be reached by road and is 40 km from Nicosia and 47 km from Kyrenia. In addition to the main highway via Nicosia, there is also a pleasant sea and mountain road from Kyrenia.

The hospitable people of Guzelyurt are ever ready to share the rich culture, fascinating historical sites and wonderful natural beauty of this region with the visitor.

The History of Guzelyurt

Whilst the definite date of Guzelyurt’s first settlement isn’t known, remains and artifacts from the Neolithic and Bronze Ages have been discovered in the vicinity of the town. One story relates that Morphou was founded by Spartans amigrating from Greece who brought with them the worship of Aphrodite. Prior to 1974 the town was knows as Morphou but was changed to the Turkish, Guzelyurt which carries the same meaning of beautiful land.



Myths and Legends of North Cyprus

The Legend of Pygmalion and Galatea

The ancient city of Carpasia was a harbour town located on the coast 4 km west of today’s Dipkarpaz village. It was established during Pagan times as a city-state before christianity. Today, it is possible to see the fortification walls and columns of the palace, as if waiting to be discovered, in the clear waters of the sea.

The Legend of Aphrodite and Adonis

Kinyras(Cinyras), the king of Cyprus, had a daughter who was a legendary beauty, called Smyrna. One day her father let slip the claim that his daughter was more beautiful than the goodness Aphrodite. When Aphrodite heard this, she was angry and decided to make the king and his daughter fall in love with each other. They both fell under the effect of the spell, and she became pregnant by her father. The King’s daughter, ashamed and afraid, sought refuge in a forest. The King, meanwhile, looked everywhere for her with the intention of murdering her. Symrna begged to the gods and Zeus took pity on her, turning Smyrna into a myrtle tree to save her from this terrible situation. (Incidently, the name of the Turkish city of Izmir comes from Smyrna). After nine months, the princess, who was pregnant when she was transformed into a tree, gave birth to her son Adonis by ripping apart the trunk of tree. The goodness Aphrodite found this beautiful baby on the trunk of the tree and took care of the child, taking him to live with her.

The Legend of St. Mamas

St. Mamas was a priest who was born in Cyprus and gave his name to the Church in Guzelyurt. He was reowned for having ridden a lion while holding a lamb on his lap. Once upon a time Mamas was living in a cave in this region. According to a mandate, everyone was forced to pay taxes. However, Mamas refused to pay taxes saying that since he was living in a cave, he didn’t enjoy any of government’s facilities. As a result of this speech, he was arrested. On his journey to Nicosia, a lion jumped into the road whilst chasing a lamb. As Mamas raised his hand, suddenly, lion paused. Mamas picked up the lamb and mounted the lion, riding on its back until he reached the throne room of the duke who proposed the tax rule. The duke was so shocked that he agreed to waive Mamas’s payment.

The Legend of the Olive Tree

In the past, the wealth of people was measured by the number of olive trees that they owned. Weddings were only scheduled after the harvest of the olives in Templos, today’s Zeytinlik Village.The olive tree is a sacred tree which had economic, cultural and spiritual value. The sanctity of the olive tree is believed to be based on a legend about Jesus Christ. It was said that Jesus hid on top of an olive tree while he was trying to escape from his enemies and after the enemies went by, he said this prayer “live 100 years more than the person who cultivated you; give plentiful fruit, be a tree which gives fruit and oil and makes your owner rich”. The olive tree asked: “what will happen if they cut and burn me?”. He replied: “the smoke which comes from your wood and leaves will protect you from devilry and envy”. Today, for the people of Cyprus, as for the Zeytinlik Villagers, the olive leaf has a sacred meaning offering protection from evil.

The Legend of Five Finger Mountains

There was a very beautiful girl who lived in a village in the range of the mountains which form a backdrop to today’s Kyrenia. There happened to be two young men who loved this girl. One of them was a good-hearted person and the other one was not. They had a bet as to who would win the girl and they decided to have a deul and that it should take a place on the edge of a marsh in Meserya. The malevolent youth made a crafty plan to overcome the good-hearted one. He wounded the good man by pulling him to the marsh. The good-hearted youth gradually started to sonk in the marshy ares while he was trying to push himself up out of the mud. He raised his sworn with a final effort, and as the sword slipped from his grasp, he was buried with five finger open to sky. In time the marshy area dried out and the good-hearted youth’s hand turned into mountains resembling his five fingers.

The Nursing Rock On The Top Of The Fortifications of Famagusta

There is a location on the fortifications of Famagusta where a white liquid flows like milk. The people of Famagusta think that it has a specific and extraordinary power. Women, who have just given birth who have difficulty in breast-feeding come to this place to make a wish. It is also visited by women who want to have children, who come to touch the rock.

The Legend of Canbulat Pasha

The Venetians had placed a rotating wheel with knives around it at the gate of the harbour to cut every invading soldier in half. Canbulat Bey was fed up of the siege as it was taking so long and rode his horse towards the wheel. He was decapitated and then replaced his head and he continued to fight. After the conquest of the war, he lay down in peace and died a martyr.

The Legend of St. Barnabas

St. Barnabas was born in Salamis as a Jewish person and Jesus Christ during one of his journeys to Palestine. He came to Cyprus 46 years after the death of Jesus Christ. He was killed by the jewish people when he attempted to go to Salamis to spread Christianity. His corpse was hidden in a marshy area from which they planned to throw it in to the sea. The followers of St. Barnabas found out what had happened and they buried his corpse in a cave to the west of Salamis. They put a copy of the Bible, written by St. Matthew, with him. The place of the grave was not known and was kept in a secret. 432 years after his death, the bishop Anthemios says that he saw  the grave in his dream, identified its location and asked for it to be opened. When the people opened the grave in his dream, the Bible was found and the grave was easily identified as the grave of St. Barnabas. In Ad 477, the monastery was built on the site of that grave. It is one of the most important religious places for Greek Orthodox Cypriots.

The Legend of Fire Rock

A villager who always complained about God, blamed God for the bad harvest season. The shepherds meeting around the rock of fire after releasing their animals to herd them into the Mountains of Five Finger, heard him complaining and said to the farmer that he should go to the rock of fire and make his complaints directly to God there. The farmer, who always blamed God for every negative event in his life, climbed to the top of the mountain. He raised his hands an began to shout at God like a mad man. At the moment he was hit by a lightening bolt and turned into stone. If you visit the rock of fire which shines very brightly during sunset, you will see that it definitely looks like a human silhouette.

The Legend of Phoenix

There is a big stone in the Ciklos region, which looks like a huge half-divided egg which is known locally as the Soil Stone or Egg Stone. According to the legend, the Ciklos region of Kyrenia is the nest of the phoenix and after the death of his mate, he protected his last egg. He sat on the egg day after during incubation. However, because he got hungry he left the egg to find food. During that time the egg was about the hatch. When the infant moved, the egg over-balanced towards the ground and the crows ate the newly-hatched phoenix, and the race became extinct. It is said that the crows always circle on the top of that rock because they have not forgotten the taste of that creature.




The ancient Greek writer Homer started the Lambousa, along with Salamais and Paphos, was founded by Achaeans returning from the Trojan Wars around 1200 years B.C.E. The ph’losopher Strabo in the other hand, claimed that it was founded by the Spartan King Praxandros around the same time. Yet another tale relates that the city was founded by Belus, King of Tyre, in the 8th century B.C.E as a Phoenecian colony. During the proto-christian period and Byzantine Period, Lambousa moved to its present site by the sea from whence it gained great wealth partly also because of its port and its shipyard.

During the christian period it was also the centre of one of the 14 Bishoprics. During this period it was given the name Lambousa, meaning “shining”, maybe because of its shining wealth. it is thought the city fell into ruin as a result of either Arab pirate raids or due to earthquakes. It is related that tales of Lambousa’s wealth attracted Arab raiders who laid siege to the city in the year 654 A.D In return for their lives and freedom to leave the city unmolested the Arabs demanded the inhabitants surrender their possessions and jewelery. However, subsequent archaeological excavations appear to reveal that the Lambousans, instead of surrendering their possessions to the raiders, hid them in walls and ceilings.

During the Lusignan and Venetian Periods. Lambousa was known under the name Le field de la Pison and was the property of a wealthy feudal lord. It was during the Lusignan Period that Lambousa was abandoned by its inhabitants who left to found nearby Lapithos. In the 18th century, a section of Lapithos was split off to form a new village. Karavas, the present day Alsancak, and the ruins of the ancient city of Lambousa were utilised to supply stones fro the construction of the new village. This led to the disappearance of much of the ancient city.

Today, amongst the features of Lambousa that can be seen are the Akhiriopietos Monastery (6th-16th century), the St. Evlalios Church (16th century), the Queen’s Bath, remains of the city walls and carved funerary chambers.


Buffavento Castle

Buffavento Castle

Buffavento Castle is situated on the top of the Five Finger Mountains range at a heught of 950 metres. It was built as a defence against Arab raids and as a signals post. It has been variously known as “The Lion Castle” and “The One Hundred and One Houses”. During the Lusignan Period (1192-1489) it was used as a prison and this is when it was known as “The Lion Castle”. The name Buffavento was given to it by the italians and means “Defier of the Winds”. An ancient myth relates that there were 101 rooms in the castle and that whosoever passes through the door of the lost  101st room would inherit a treasure.

buffavento castle cyprus

The lowest part of the castle was probably built by Byzantines in the 11th century. The base was expanded by the Lusignans in the 14th century. It is not regular in shape as it makes use of the mountain itself for its defense. During the Venetian period Buffavento, like the other mountain strongholds of St. Hilarion and Kantara, fell into disuse as the costal castles of Cyprus, such as Kyrenia and Famagusta, became more important for the defence of Cyprus.

Another tale related to the castle tells of a Byzantine princess who, suffering from leprosy had retreated to the castle. Her dog also suffered from the same disease and one day the princess noticed that the skin of her dog had begun to heal. Following him she saw the animal bathed in a spring far below the castle. She did the same and was cured. In gratitude, she founded the Monastery of Ayios loannis Chrysostomos at the spot near the water source.