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Date Sheet of Cyprus

Kyrenia (Girne) is a city on the north coast of Cyprus, known for its cobblestoned old town and horseshoe-shaped harbor. The ancient Kyrenia Castle is a large fortification with a dungeon accessible by a stone bridge. The castle houses the Shipwreck Museum, with a shipwreck from the 3rd century B.C. The nearby Icon Museum displays religious icons inside the restored Greek Orthodox Archangelos Michael Church.

Kyrenia Harbour


Kyrenia Old Castle

he former Greek Orthodox church of Archangelos Mikhael now houses the Kyrenia icon museum.  The large collection on three levels offers an assortment of 17th to 19th century examples, rescued from unspecified churches in the district.

The church was built in 1860, and its bell tower, which can be seen from all over Kyrenia, added about 25 years later. The church was restored, and opened as an icon museum in 1990. There are three levels of exhibits, thanks to the use of the former women's gallery of the church.

St George and the ddragon
St George Slaying the Dragon

The icons on show have a particularly local flavour in their design, although there is no indication which church might have been the original home. The most artistically noteworthy include Saint Luke with his emblematic ox, and the beheading of John the Baptist, a  grisly scene with Herod's feast in full swing just above. Unfortunately, a rare icon of the ecumenical council of 843, which restored icon worship after the Iconoclastic period is  missing.

The legend of St Hilarion

Although there is not adequately evidence, the castle is said to be called after the saint of the name. St Hilarion, a little-known hermit and monk fled persecution from Palestine during the 7 th century to dwell and die up in the castle. According to legend he was extremely deaf and resilient to the shrieks of pagan demons that had been lurking and wandering about in the mountain peak. Disgusted at their inability to make him go, they left mountain in peace. During the 10 th century a Byzantine chapel, monastery and later a fort grew around his tomb.

St Hilarion Castle, North Cyprus

It is known that the Byzantine fort was called Didymos , the Greek name for the twin peaks overhead. The Lusignans corrupted this to Dieu d'Amour , maybe confusing a mixture of legends and believing that this was the castle of Aphrodite .

With walls and towers that appear to sprout out of the rocks almost randomly, it is a fairly-tale sight living up to Rose Macaulay's much-quoted description ”a picture-book castle for elf-kings” and the rumour that Walt Disney used it as a model for the castle in Snow White and Seven Dwarfs. The legend that was spread locally says that St Hilarion housed 101 rooms, of which 100 could easily be found; the last, an enchanted garden with a magnificent treasure belonging to an elusive “queen” of Cypriot folklore, most probably a holdover of Aphrodite worship.

Buffavento Castle

One of the three castles, Buffavento was constructed on the Kyrenia Range as a line of defence against the Arab attacks - the other two being St. Hilarion Castle, and Kantara Castle. It is the least well preserved and sited on a hill top 940m above sea level.

Getting there

Take the main road that leads from Kyrenia over the mountains via the Besparmak mountain pass. As the road reaches its highest point and before descending the southern slopes there is a turning to the right. The road is accessible by car but the first 800 yards (730m) is rough, driving with care is recommended. It is a 4.2 mile (6.8km) drive along a road which is a military access route. There are red signs that forbid entrance strategically placed along the track. According to the signs you should not deviate from the route, but follow strictly. Do not go to the castle from the south via G üngör (Koutsov éndis ) and monastery of Agios Ioannis Khrysostomos. Beyond the village the route is unmarked and an army camp blocks the way.

Practical info

During summer, come early or later in the day if you can, as climbing to the top of 730 m is tiring and can be quite a difficult work on a hot day. Make sure you wear stout shoes because the ground is often uneven. For climbing St Hilarion a walking stick, camera, binoculars and a bottle of water are recommended accessories. Be aware of many long drops everywhere, especially when taking children. After scaling the castle you can have refreshment at the café by the car park.

Opening hours:

Summer 9.00 – 18.00, last entry: 17.00

Winter 9.00 – 16.30, last entry: 15.30

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