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St. Hilarion Castle

St. Hilarion Castle

The castle is the main castle in Cyprus and one with the most impressive architecture. The name of the Saint Hilarion castle, also known as Dieu D’Amour belongs to a saint who is believed to have lived here. The second name came about with a word trick that was liked by many in the Middle Ages. In the old times this area was known as Didymos (twins) because of the two peaks that were separated by a valley. This name was mispronounced by the first Latin settlers and the name Dieu D’Amour became widely used.

St. Hilarion Castle

St. Hilarion was one of the many castles built on the highest point of mountains to protect the Cypriot public from attacks by the Arabs. This protection chain also involved castles in Kyrenia, Buffavento and Kantara. The Arab attacks started in the 7th century and continued until the 10 th century with breaks in between. In this respect it is being predicted that the first observation tower here was built during the years these attacks took place. Also, written accounts state that the castle was present when Richard the Lionheart took the island in 1191.

St. Hilarion Castle

The castle was refurbished and developed during the Lusignan period. The fact that unlike the other castle in Cyprus, the garden in St. Hilarion always stayed cool even in hot weather and the chance to see one of the best sceneries in Cyprus made it the point of attraction for Lusignan nobles. The castle was also a point of refuge for the Lusignan nobles.

The castle was emptied and left vacant in 1489 when the Venetians the island.

St. Hilarion Castle

The biggest tragedy of this castle that has faced many tragedies and successes has been that of the Prince John of Antioch, brother of Peter I, King of Cyprus. The prince and his family started living in the castle in order to be protected from the Genoese attacks. John, due to the lies of Queen Eleanor, believed that his loyal Bulgarian mercenaries were secretly plotting against him. Prince got really upset at this incident and called his guards one by one to the castle and dropped them off the highest point. It is being predicted that this took place at what is now known as the Prince John Tower.

St. Hilarion Castle

The castle is made up three main sections that are built in different levels. The 1st section is built for soldiers and the castle workers and contains cisterns, stables and other structures. The barbican that protects the main entrance has been fortified with horseshoe shaped tower. It is predicted that underneath the entrance, which is an example of good architecture, in the plain and semi circular area were the kingdom weaponry and the picture of the saint.

St. Hilarion Castle

The second section consists of a church, the royal apartments and hall, kitchen, cistern and rooms that belong to the castellan as well as a pantry workshop, barracks and Middle Age toilets. The entrance could only be reached through a large closed door and a bridge that could be pulled up. The 10th century Byzantine church had an impressive architecture.

St. Hilarion Castle

The climb up to the third section starts with a steep pathway that used to have stairs, which made the climb easier in the past. Once you are in the internal garden, there is a kitchen with an oven inside, cisterns and subsidary buildings. To the west, the garden ends with the Lusignan period Royal rooms. The Gothic style windows in this section are also known as the Queen windows and are worth seeing. You reach the top after a short climb from the garden. The top is 732m from sea level and has a magnificent scenery. On the way down, those, who want to take on a challenge can take on an alternative path and visit the prince John Tower, which is isolated.

Places to Visit in Kyrenia

Places to Visit in Kyrenia

  • Kyrenia Castle and Sunken Shipwreck Museum
  • The Old Harbour 
  • St. Hilarion Castle and the Five Finger Mountains
  • Bellapais Abbey 
  • Buffavento Castle in the Five Finger Mountains 
  • The Church of the Archangel Micheal and the Icon Museum 
  • The Sourp Magar Armenian Monastery at Alevkayasi 
  • The Ruins of the Roman city of Lambousa, Lapta 
  • The Temples of Pighades, Camlibel 
  • The Akdeniz Tombs 
  • The endemic flora of Cyprus, orchids and rare plants in the Alevkayasi area and the Alevkayasi Herbarium
  • The Karaoglanoglu War Graves and Martyrs Museum
  • The Blue House, Camlibel

Things to do in Kyrenia

Things to do in Kyrenia

  • Pay a visit to the Eastern Mediterranean’s most magnificient example of gothic architecture at the Bellapais Abbey.
  • See St. Hilarion Castle, one of the Kyrenia mountain range’s three legendary and enigmatic castles and the inspiration for Walt Disney’s fairy castle in his film of  “Sleeping Beauty”.
  • At St. Hilarion marvel at the awe-inspring view of Kyrenia and Northern coast of Cyprus, from the Queen’s Window situated at 732 metres above sea level.
  • Visit the Herbarium at Alevkayasi where you can see the collection of all plant species endemic to Cyprus including rare species. Take part in an “Orchid Trail Walk”. The best time for this is from January to May.
  • Take a first hand at one of nature’s wonders; the hatching of turtles at Alagadi Beach. The months of July, August and September are the most suitable for this most unforgettable of experiences. You gave the chance to watch Caretta Caretta and Chelonia Mydas(Green Turtle) hatchlings’ first randezvous with sea.
  • Take a trip back in time with a visit to see the remains of the 2300 year old sunken trading vessel in the Ancient Shipwreck Museum inside Kyrenia Castle.
  • Take a pleasant stroll through the lanes and paths of the English village of Karmi(Karaman) nestled on the mountainside overlooking Kyrenia. All the streets carry the name of the flowers which are so abundant here.
  • Discover the underwater wealth of Kyrenia region by taking a dive at the one of the many diving spots.
  • For lovers of golf the course to the east of Kyrenia possesses perhaps the best views of any course in the Mediterranean.
  • Between the months of Fabruary and May a climb to the peak of Buffavento Castle will elevate your spirit. 
  • There are ample possibilities to join some of many walking or bird watching tours that regularly take place. 

Kyrenia – The Pearl of Cyprus Tourism

Situated between the Five Finger Mountains(The Northern Range) and the Mediterranean Sea, Kyrenia is unquestionably one of the most beautiful and evocative cities of the Mediterranean. It is blessed with beautiful sandy beaches the length of its coastal strip and also possesses the greatest concentration of touristic facilities. In terms of its geographical location, its history and its natural beauty as well as the enchanting Mediterranean Sea, Kyrenia is truly blessed. Beyond the coastal littoral upon which the town stands lies the mountain chain through which a narrow pass allows passage to the interior of the island.

Kyrenia is truly the perfect place for relaxing holiday. Without doubt, one of the town’s most evocative places is the old horseshoe shaped harbour which has become the symbol of the city. Here, the old buildings of the Venetian, Ottoman, and British Colonial, periods and the delightful restaurants, bars and small hotels offer tourists an unrivalled atmosphere of charm and fascination. And, as if not already beautiful enough, during the summer months Kyrenia bursts into colour with the vibrant hues of its fishing boats and yachts.

From the historical perspective, Kyrenia offers its visitors immense riches; Amongst the must see places are the historical harbour, Kyrenia Castle and the Ancient Shipwrecked Museum housed within it, St Hilarion Castle and Bellapais Abbey.

On the fringe of the historical harbour stands the imposing Kyrenia Castle. It is the largest and the best preserved castle in all of Cyprus and bears the indelible traces of the Byzantine, Lusignan and Venetian periods. One inside the castle visitors can see the Lusignan Dungeons, a recreation of the Vrysi Neolithic Settlement, The Akdeniz Village Tomb, The Kirni Village Tomb, The Lusignan and Venetian Towers and, of course, the Mediterranean’s second oldest recovered sunken trading vessel in the Ancient Shipwreck Museum.

All of these features; The castle and the harbour, as well as the most beautiful example of Gothic architecture in Cyprus at the Bellapais Abbey, and all its other attractions put Kyrenia at the very heart of North Cyprus’s tourism industry.

Situated in the foothills of the Five Finger Mountains, The Bellapais Abbey, built in the early XIII century, is the Eastern Mediterranean’s  finest example of Gothic architecture. The English writer Lawrence  Durell, who wrote his novel “Bitter Lemons” relating his experiences whilst sojourned in Cyprus, bought and restored a house in Bellapais village.


Useful informations about North Cyprus

Useful informations about North Cyprus

Where are the tourist information offices?

There are various tourist information offices in North Cyprus:
Kyrenia – in the Old Harbour
Lefkosa – by Kyrenia Gate
Famagusta – the Land Gate (the main entrance to Famagusta old town)
Ercan Airport – located inside the airport

Do I need to bring a plug adaptor?

Most electrical plugs in North Cyprus are the 3 pin type, the same as in the UK.
Occasionally, three to two pin adaptors are necessary, however this is quite rare nowadays.

What bank holidays / religious festivals are there?

North Cyprus observes the religious holidays of Islam and like the religious holidays in the Christian Church they are moveable feasts.

Ramadan is a period of fasting followed by three days of feasting called Kurban Bayram (feast of the Sacrifice). The date of Ramadan changes each year.Other major holidays are:

New Years Day, January 1st.

Children’s Day, April 23rd.

Labour Day, May 1st.

Youth and Sports Day, May 19th. Peace and Freedom Day, July 20th.

Communal Resistance Day, 1st August.

Victory Day 30th August.

Turkish National Day, 29th October.

Independence Day 15th November, (proclamation of TRNC in 1983).

What currency does North Cyprus use?

The currency in North Cyprus is the Turkish Lira, which has a constantly fluctuating exchange rate. For this reason, shopkeepers and restaurant owners are fully conversant with all major currencies and bills can be paid in UK Sterling, Euros and US Dollars as well as local currency.

If you change your money into Turkish Lira in North Cyprus, you will generally get a much better exchange rate than you would otherwise get in the UK.There are many money exchange bureaux in all of the major towns. Major UK Credit and Debit cards are widely accepted, and can be used in cash machines, however you should ensure that you inform your bank before you travel so that they do not block your card. You should also enquire about charges to use your card abroad.

Travellers Cheques as well as Scottish banknotes are not widely accepted in North Cyprus and changing them can be very difficult.

What about medical care?

If you have an accident, or have a medical emergency, you can visit one of the state hospitals in Kyrenia, Famagusta or Lefkosa. Private hospitals are also found in most towns.

Minor cuts and bruises will be treated usually free of charge in the state hospitals. However, major medical treatment can incur a hefty bill and it is essential that you take out comprehensive insurance cover for your holiday, and that your insurance covers you for Turkey as well as Europe. Please ensure that any pre-existing medical conditions that you may have are notified to the insurance company prior to travel. Failure to notify them may well render the insurance cover null and void.Please note that the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is NOT accepted in North Cyprus.

Useful telephone numbers

Police: 155
Fire: 199
Forest Fires: 177
Ambulance Emergencies: 112
General Hospitals
Nicosia/Lefkosa 0392 2285441
Kyrenia/Girne 0392 815 2226/8152254
Famagusta/Magusa 0392 3662876/3665328
Guzelyurt 0392 7142125Dialling CodesTo call a phone in North Cyprus from elsewhere you need to dial 0090 followed by either the code for landline numbers: 392 or for mobiles 542 or 533.
There are two mobile service providers in North Cyprus; KKTC Telsim which uses the 542 prefix and Turkcell which uses 533.
Mobile numbers are usually supplied with the necessary code to facilitate access.When dialling from North Cyprus to the UK enter 0044 followed by the number required with the deletion of the initial zero.

Bellapais Abbey Kyrenia

Bellapais Abbey

The present day name is the corrupt form of the Abbaye de la Paix or the Abbey of Peace. The building is regarded as a masterpiece of Gothic art and the most beautiful Gothic building in the near east.

The first monks who were known to have settled here were Augustinians who had to flee from Jerusalem when the city fell to Selahaddin Eyyubi in 1187. It is known that the original construction was built between 1198-1205, and a large part of the present day complex was constructed during the rule of French King Hugh III (1267-1284). The cloisters and the refectory were built during the reign of Hugh IV (1324-1359).

Following the Ottoman conquest the monks were turned out and the building was given to the Greek Orthodox Church. The monastery begins with a gate, whose tower is a kater addition, and a forecourt. The church which is situated on one side of the courtyard is the best preserved part of the monument and dates from the 13th century. The murals which have survived above its facade are thought to be from the 15th century. The forecourt leads to cloisters of 18 arches. Under one of the northern arches there are two Roman sarcophagi which once served as lavabo. The door being the sarcophagus leads to the refectory of the monks. The marble lintel above the door contains the set of coats of armas of the royal quarterings of Cyprus, Jerusalem and the Lusignans. This is an exquisite sample of Gothic architecture and the finest room in the monastery. The room contains a pulpit for addressing the monks during their meals. Six windows in the north wall which illuminate the room are reinforced by a rose window in the eastern wall. A door in the western wall leads to the kitchen and cellar built under the refectory. The rooms between the refectory and kitchen are thought to have once served as lavatories. The east side of the inner courtyard was occupied by the chapter house and work rooms (undercroft). The first of these functioned as the administration office of the abbey and retains its interesting Gothic stone carving: a man with a double ladder on his back, another man represented between two sirens, a woman reading, two beasts attacking a man, a woman with a rosary, a monkey and a cat in the foliage of a pear tree under which a man holding a shield is seen, and a monk wearing a cloak.

The column standing at its centre is thought to have come from an early Byzantine church. The rooms of the monks occupied the second floor above this section. A pair of stairs on the south of the inner courtyard lead to the treasury room in the North-west corner of the monastery.