Cyprus

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.

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 – 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.

 

 

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 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.

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