"Famagusta (Gazimagusa)" Top 5 Page for this destination Famagusta by Pinat

Famagusta Travel Guide: 81 reviews and 225 photos


Although most of my friends spent at least a weekend in Northern Cyprus, for some reason, it never caught my attention. My friends were mostly attracted by the sandy beaches and gambling opportunities (Gambling is banned in Turkey). Still, I never felt like joining them. Additionally, my hubby is not a sea-person so we never thought about Northern Cyprus as a vacation spot. Ironically, we ended up in Famagusta (Gazimagusa) thanks to my husband, Ozgur.

In Turkey military service is compulsory for men. The soldiers are randomly assigned to 81 cities in Turkey plus 4 cities in Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). Ozgur was assigned to Famagusta in March 2011 for a 9-month long duty. I was so sure he’d end up somewhere in Turkey and I was totally shocked when I learned he’d be going to TRNC. I was even more shocked to learn that Turkey still has over 150.000 soldiers there and my husband would be one of them. Ozgur moved to Famagusta for his military service in March and I had the chance to visit him and Northern Cyprus (mainly Famagusta).

Famagusta was the place for me that solidified the never-ending”Turkey-Cyprus issue”. It was the place to understand the issue as Famagusta lies on the border between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. I was surprised to see both Turkish and Northern Turkish and United Nations soldiers all around as everthing seemed to be pretty peaceful. The funny thing about those soldiers is that they all seem to be on holiday as well. Why that many soldiers? I’ll tell you shortly.

Famagusta lies on the east coast of the island of Cyprus, east of Nicosia, and it possesses the deepest harbour of the island. Famagusta is a Frankish corruption of its Greek name, which means "buried in the sand". It was founded as Arsinoe by the Macedonian Egyptian king Ptolemy II (308-246 BC). An influx of Christian refugees fleeing the downfall of Acre (1291) in Palestine transformed it from a tiny village into one of the richest cities in Christendom. In 1372 the port was seized by Genoa and in 1489 by Venice, and in 1571 it fell to the Ottoman Turks. Hit by wars and earthquakes, the old walled town of Famagusta is now only partially inhabited, but it contains some of the finest examples of medieval military architecture extant and the 14th-century Gothic-style Cathedral of St. Nicholas, now Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque. Under British administration (1878-1960) the modern section, called Varosha, was developed in large part as a tourist resort. In 1974 Turkish Cypriots started to rule the northern part of Cyprus. The island was divided into two parts: southern part is under Greet Cypriots rule and is recognized as an independent state, known as Cyprus, a European Union member. The northern part is under Turkish Cypriots rule today. With the help of Turkish military and political aid, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was founded in 1974 but it is recognized as an independent country only by Turkey.

There was no peace treaty. The situation is known as “cease fire only”. Thus, Turkish Cypriots presence and rule in the northern part of the island is considered as an invasion. This issue is one of the hottest topics when it comes to Turkey – European Union negotiations for Turkey’s participation to EU. Due to this so-called “invasion”, we see United Nations soldiers all around Famagusta with their sunglasses and convertible cars. Famagusta is the most striking city of the 1974 events as a big part of it, namely Varosha (known as Marash by the Turkish Community) was sealed off to civilians and a big military zone controlled by Turkish Armed Forces together with UN.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Empty, sandy, long beaches
  • Cons:Too hot and humid in summer time
  • In a nutshell:Why so many soldiers, so few tourists?!?
  • Last visit to Famagusta: Aug 2011
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (23)

Comments (2)

  • hopang's Profile Photo
    Sep 5, 2011 at 11:33 AM

    I already knew Northern Cyprus is beautiful and your travel pages attest to it especially Famagusta. It is great that you show us the picture of pre-1974 Varosha which was so lively. Unfortunately it is still a ghost town today! ~ho & pang

  • starship's Profile Photo
    Sep 3, 2011 at 9:01 AM

    Excellent page! I appreciate the historic information about why Northern Cyprus is considered a separate country from the South. Great transportation and restaurant tips too. It's too bad that Varosha is a deserted city.


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