Kyrenia (Greek: Κερύνεια locally [t͡ʃeˈɾiɳˑa];
Turkish: Girne [ˈɟiɾne]) is a city on the northern coast of Cyprus,
noted for its historic harbour and castle. It is under the de facto
control of Northern Cyprus.
While there is evidence showing that
Kyrenia has been populated since
ca. 5800–3000 BC, it is traditionally accepted that the city was
founded by Achaeans from the
Peloponnese after the Trojan War. As the
town grew prosperous, the Romans established the foundations of its
castle in the 1st century AD.
Kyrenia grew in importance after the 9th
century due to the safety offered by the castle, and played a pivotal
role under the
Lusignan rule as the city never capitulated. The castle
has been most recently modified by the Venetians in the 15th century,
but the city surrendered to the
Ottoman Empire in 1571.
The city's population was almost equally divided between Muslims and
Christians in 1831, with a slight Muslim majority. However, with the
advent of British rule, many
Turkish Cypriots fled to Anatolia, and
the town came to be predominantly inhabited by Greek Cypriots. While
the city suffered little intercommunal violence, its Greek Cypriot
inhabitants, numbering around 2,650, fled or were forcefully displaced
in the wake of the Turkish invasion in 1974. Currently, the city is
populated by Turkish Cypriots, mainland Turkish settlers, and British
expats, with a municipal population of 33,207.
Kyrenia is a cultural and economical centre, described as the
touristic capital of Northern Cyprus. It is home to numerous
hotels, nightlife and a port. It hosts an annual culture and arts
festival with hundreds of participating artists and performers and is
home to three universities with a student population around 14,000.
1.1 Prehistoric and ancient times
1.2 Middle ages
1.3 Ottoman rule
1.4 British rule
7 Notable people
8 International relations
8.1 Twin towns – sister cities
11 External links
Main article: History of Kyrenia
Prehistoric and ancient times
The earliest document which mention
Kyrenia is the ‘Periplus of
Pseudo Skylax' It dates to the thirteenth century but is based on
fourth-century BC knowledge. The manuscript names numerous towns along
the Mediterranean coast and mentions
Kyrenia as a harbour town:
‘Opposite Cilicia is the island of Cyprus, and these are its
city-states (poleis): Salamis, which is Greek and has a closed winter
harbour; the Karpasia, Kyrenia, Lapithos, which is Phoenician; Soloi
(this has also winter harbour); Marion, which is Greek; Amathus (which
is autochthonous). All of them have deserted (summer) harbours. And
there are also city states speaking strange languages inland.’4
Interestingly, Skylax referred to both
Phoenician towns. Coins with Phoenician legends underline that the
Northern coast between
Lapithos were at least under
Another topographical source is the ‘Stadiasmus Maris Magni’ (from
the name 'stadion', a unit measuring distances, 1 stadion = 184
metres). The unknown author, who sailed from Cape Anamur on the
Cilician coast to
Cyprus and circumnavigated the island, gave the
distances from Asia Minor to the nearest point in Cyprus. This was 300
stadia, about 55 000 metres. He also recorded distances between towns.
From Soli to
Kyrenia he counted 350 stadia, from
Kyrenia to Lapithos
50 and from
Lapithos to Karpasia it was 550 stadia.
The 'Geography' of Claudios Ptolemaios which was lost for over a
thousand years and rediscovered in medieval times, is a further
important source upon which the later cartography of the Renaissance
is based. Ptolemy, who lived in Alexandria, Egypt, about 150 A.D.,
gives the distances between the towns and settlements of
are marked by cycles. He also lists Kyrenia.
Another medieval reproduction of an ancient scroll is the 'Tabula
Peutingeriana' or 'Peutinger Table’. It is nearly seven metres long
and one metre wide and shows the road network in the
Roman Empire of
the 4th/5th century. The roads are drawn in straight lines and the
road-stations are marked by kinks, and towns by pictograms with the
name of the place and the numbers in Roman miles.
with Paphos, Soloi, Tremethousa and Salamis are marked by a pictogram
showing two towers close together.
Kyrenia is connected by a road via
Lapithos and Soli with
Paphos and via Chytri (Greek Kythraea, Turkish
Deirmenlik) with Salamis.
Through the use of milestones during Roman times, a new source
appeared which shows that the road circuit around the island was
Kyrenia was connected via Soli and
Paphos to the western
and southern part of the island. At the same time, the road to the
east was extended along the shore to Karpasia and Urania on the Karpas
peninsula. During the following centuries,
Kyrenia is variously named
on the maps as Ceraunia, Cerenis, Keronean, Kernia and Kerini.
Arcadia is believed to be the founder of the town of
Kyrenia. A military leader, he arrived at the north coast of the
island bringing with him many settlers from various towns in Achaea.
One such town, located near present-day
Aigio in the Peloponnese, was
also called Kyrenia.This is said to be the home of the mythical
Ceryneian Hind from the 12 Labours of Hercules. East of
the "Coast of Achaeans". It was at Kyrenia, according to Strabo, that
Teucer came first ashore, to found the ancient Kingdom of Salamis
after the Trojan war.
The earliest reference made to the town of
Kyrenia is found, together
with that of the other seven city kingdoms of Cyprus, in Egyptian
scripts dating from the period of Ramesses III, 1125-1100s BC.
From its early days of settlement, Kyrenia's commerce and maritime
trade benefited enormously from its proximity to the Asia Minor coast.
Boats set sail from the Aegean islands, traveled along the Asia Minor
coast, and then crossed over the short distance to the northern shores
Cyprus to reach the two city kingdoms of
Lapithos and Kyrenia. This
lively maritime activity (late 4th or early 3rd century BC) is evident
in an ancient shipwreck discovered by Andreas Kariolou in 1965, just
Kyrenia harbour. The vessel's route along Samos, Kos, Rhodes,
the Asia Minor coastline and then Kyrenia, demonstrates the town's
close maritime relations with other city kingdoms in the eastern
During the succession struggle between Ptolemy and Antigonus that
followed Alexander the Great's death in 323 BC,
Kyrenia was subdued
under the rule of the kingdom of
Lapithos that allied itself with the
Antigonid dynasty. Diodorus Siculus(19.79) observes that in 312 BC.
Ptolemy arrested Praxipos the king of
Lapithos and the king of
Kyrenia. Once the Ptolemies were successful in dominating the whole
island, all city kingdoms were abolished.
Kyrenia however, because of
its maritime trade, continued to prosper. In the 2nd century BC, it is
cited as one of six Cypriot towns which were benefactors to the Oracle
at Delphi, that is, it received its special representatives who
collected contributions and gifts. The town's prosperity at this time
is also evident from its two temples, one dedicated to
Apollo and the
other to Aphrodite, and from the rich archeological finds dating from
Hellenistic period excavated within the present-day town limits.
The Romans succeeded the Ptolemies as rulers of
Cyprus and during this
Lapithos became the administrative centre of the district. The
numerous tombs excavated and the rich archeological finds dating from
this period indicate however, that
Kyrenia continued to be a populous
and prosperous town. An inscription found at the base of a limestone
statue dating from 13–37 AD, refers to ‘Kyrenians Demos' that is,
the town's inhabitants. Here as everywhere else, the Romans left their
mark by constructing a castle with a seawall in front of it so that
boats and ships could anchor in safety.
Christianity found fertile ground in the area. Early Christians used
the old quarries of Chrysokava, just east of
Kyrenia castle, as
catacombs and cut-rock cemeteries which are considered among the
island's most important specimens of this period. Later, some of these
caves were converted into churches and feature beautiful iconography,
the most representative of which is that found at Ayia Mavri. The
latest editions of the Roman Martyrology no longer include a
mention, as a martyr, of Bishop Theodotus of this see. The Greek
Menologium recounts, under 6 May, that under
Licinius he was arrested
and tortured, before being released when the
Edict of Milan
Edict of Milan of 313, of
Licinius was co-author, mandated toleration of Christians in the
With the division of the
Roman Empire into an eastern and a western
empire, in 395
Cyprus came under the Byzantine emperors and the Greek
Orthodox Church. The Byzantine emperors fortified Kyrenia's Roman
castle and in the 10th century, they constructed in its vicinity a
church dedicated to Saint George, which the garrison used as a chapel.
Then, when in 806, Lambousa was destroyed in the Arab raids, Kyrenia
grew in importance because its castle and garrison offered its
inhabitants protection and security. Isaac Komnenos of Cyprus, the
island's last Byzantine governor, sent his family and treasures to the
castle for safety in 1191 when King
Richard I of England
Richard I of England went to war
with him and became the island's new master.
Richard's rule was not welcomed in
Cyprus so he sold the island first
to the Knights Templar, and then in 1192, to Guy of Lusignan. Under
Frankish rule, the villages of the district of
Kyrenia became feudal
estates and the town became once again the administrative and
commercial centre for its region. The Lusignans enlarged the castle,
built a wall and towers around the town, and extended the
fortifications to the harbour. They also fortified the Byzantine
castles of Saint Hilarion, Bouffavento and Kantara, which, together
Kyrenia Castle, protected the town from land and sea attacks.
Kyrenia castle played a pivotal role in the island's history during
the many disputes among the Frankish kings, as well as the conflicts
with the Genoese. On numerous occasions the castle came under siege,
but it never capitulated.
Cyprus came under Venetian rule. The Venetians modified
Kyrenia Castle to meet the threat that the use of gunpowder and
cannons posed. The castle's royal quarters and three of its four thin
and elegant Frankish towers were demolished and replaced by thickset
circular towers that could better withstand cannon fire. These new
towers, however, were never put to the test. In 1571, the castle and
the town surrendered to the Ottoman army.
An illustration of
Kyrenia in 1837
Under Ottoman rule,
Kyrenia district was at first one of four, then
one of six, administrative districts of the island and the town
remained its administrative capital. The town's fortunes declined
however as it was transformed into a garrison town. The Christian
population was expelled from the fortified city, and no one was
allowed to reside within the castle other than the artillerymen and
their families. These men coerced the town's inhabitants and those of
the surrounding villages, Christian and Muslim alike, with their
arbitrary looting and crimes. The few local inhabitants who dared to
stay were merchants and fishermen whose livelihood depended on the
sea. They built their homes outside the city wall, which through time,
neglect and disrepair, turned to ruin. The rest of the inhabitants
moved further out to the area known as Pano
Kyrenia or the ‘Riatiko'
(so called because it once belonged to a king) or fled further inland
and to the mountain villages of Thermeia, Karakoumi, Kazafani,
Bellapais and Karmi.
The town revived again when bribes and gifts paid to local Turkish
officials caused them to permit local maritime trade with Asia Minor
and the Aegean islands to resume. In 1783, the church of
Chrysopolitissa was renovated. Then in 1856, following the Hatt-i
Humayun, which introduced social and political reform and greater
religious freedom for the various peoples of the Ottoman Empire, the
Archangel Michael was rebuilt on a rocky mount overlooking
the sea. At about this time, many of the Christian inhabitants of the
surrounding villages re-established themselves in the town. Local
agriculture and maritime trade, particularly the export of carobs to
Asia Minor, allowed the people of
Kyrenia to have a comfortable
living, and some even to educate their children and pursue other
According to the 1831 census, Muslims made up 52% of the
In 1878, following a secret agreement between the British and Ottoman
governments, the island was ceded to
Great Britain as a military base
in the eastern Mediterranean. At first,
Great Britain did not
undertake major administrative changes, so
Kyrenia remained the
district's capital. A road was constructed through the mountain pass
to connect the town to the island's capital, Nicosia, and the harbour
was repaired and expanded to accommodate increasing trade with the
opposite coast. The town's municipal affairs were put in order and the
municipal council took an active role in cleaning and modernizing the
In 1893, a hospital was built through private contributions and
effort. By the 1900s (decade),
Kyrenia was a buzzing little town with
a new school building, its own newspaper, social, educational and
athletic clubs. It was also a favoured vacation spot for many wealthy
Nicosia families. Many homes were converted into pensions and
boardinghouses and in 1906, the first hotel, "Akteon", was built by
These first decades of British rule however, also saw increased
economic hardship for the population. High taxation, frequent droughts
and a world economic depression were precipitating factors for a mass
exodus of people from the town and district, first to
Egypt and then
to the United States. The transfer of the island to the British rule
also prompted anxiety in the Turkish Cypriot population, whose numbers
stagnated as a significant emigration to
Turkey took place. Meanwhile,
the ratio of the
Greek Cypriots grew significantly from 49% to
In 1922, the episcopal see of
Kyrenia relocated back to the town after
the completion of a new metropolitan building. That same year, the
Greco-Turkish war brought to a halt all trade with the opposite coast
causing a serious economic depression.
Costas Catsellis, a young repatriate from the USA, came to the rescue
by building the town's first modern hotels, the Seaview in 1922 and
the Dome in 1932. Kyrenia's mild climate, picturesque harbour,
numerous archeological sites, panoramic views that combined sea,
mountains and vegetation, coupled with modern amenities, soon
attracted many travellers and Kyrenia's economy revived through
After the Second World War, more hotels were built and the town
remained a favoured vacation spot for people from
Nicosia and foreign
travellers alike. To the town's Greek and Turkish inhabitants were
added many from Great Britain, who chose
Kyrenia as their permanent
place of residence.
Kyrenia Harbour in 1967
Cyprus gained its independence from Great Britain. However,
the intercommunal conflict that broke out in 1963–64 between the
island's Greek and Turkish population again eroded Kyrenia's
prosperity. While skirmishes in
Kyrenia were minimal, the Turkish
Resistance Organisation did blockade the Kyrenia-
Nicosia road and
occupy Saint Hilarion castle.
Despite these difficulties, the 1960s and early 1970s was a period of
lively cultural and economic activity. A new town hall was built and a
Folklore Museum established. The ancient shipwreck already alluded
to was reassembled, together with all its amphorae and cargo, and
permanently exhibited at the castle. The number of new hotels and
tourists multiplied and a new road was constructed in the early 1970s
connecting the town to
Nicosia from the east. The town's cultural
activities greatly increased. Other than the many traditional cultural
and religious fairs and festivals annually celebrated, flower shows,
yachting races, concerts and theater performances were organized.
Kyrenia, the smallest of Cypriot towns, was undoubtedly the island's
most precious jewel.
According to the 1973 census, 67.7% of the city's inhabitants were
Greek Cypriots, while the
Turkish Cypriots made up 25.1% of the
population. The town's inhabitants, Greek, Turk, Maronite,
Armenian, Latin and British peacefully coexisted and cooperated in
their daily affairs and the town had grown beyond its two historic
neighbourhoods of Kato (Lower)
Kyrenia and Pano (Upper) Kyrenia. It
expanded towards the mountain slopes to form the new neighbourhood of
"California", and eastward it had just about reached the outskirts of
Thermia, Karakoumi and Ayios Georgios.
On 20 July 1974, the
Turkish army invaded
Cyprus in response to a coup
d'état carried out by
EOKA B and the Greek military junta of
1967–1974, landing at 5-Mile point, west of Kyrenia. Gaining
ground against the local forces, the
Turkish army reached
22 July 1974 during the UN-sponsored cease fire. The
majority of the Greek Cypriot population of the city fled in the wake
of the Turkish advance. A small group of
Greek Cypriots who tried to
Kyrenia were kept in the Dome Hotel until October 1975,
after which they were taken to Bellapais; the total number of the
Greek Cypriots were around 2650. Subsequently,
Turkish Cypriots displaced from elsewhere in
Cyprus and immigrants
Turkey moved in, with the result that the town's present ethnic
make-up is predominantly Turkish and Turkish-Cypriot.
In its heyday, just before the British occupation of the island in
Kyrenia harbour was a quiet, often ignored, port between Cyprus
and other countries in Europe and the Middle East. From there local
Caïques, Cypriot owned - Greek and Turkish Cypriot - and Greek owned,
conducted a thriving trade. Depending on the season, they exported
wheat and olives, donkeys and goats and much more. Larger boats,
mostly from Europe, arrived in the late fall and early winter to take
in the crop of carobs, the main export item of the area. The caiques
brought in wood, earthenware, legumes, cheese, butter, and even small
luxuries items such as silk and cotton cloth, buttons and odd pieces
of furniture. Slowly, two storied buildings emerged around the harbour
as the owners used the lower floor as warehouses and the second floor
as their residences.
The town's trade with the Anatolian coast and beyond the Levant sea
was badly affected when in 1885, the then British government of the
island began the
Kyrenia harbour works that left the harbor wide open
to the northern gales. Slowly, over the next decades, scores of
caiques were wrecked within
Kyrenia harbour, with their owners often
unable to recover from the loss.
Kyrenia harbour is currently a tourist location.
Kyrenia Castle (Girne Kalesi)
Kyrenia Castle at the east end of the old harbour is a spectacular
site. The castle dates back to Byzantine times and has served the
Byzantines, Crusaders, Venetians, Ottomans, and British. Within its
walls there is a 12th-century chapel containing reused late Roman
capitols, and a shipwreck museum. Huge round towers that the Venetians
built in 1540 occupy the corners. These strengthened the castle
against artillery.
The town has an icon museum housed in a church that had been dedicated
to the Archangel Michael. Not far from it there are some tombs cut
into the rock dating from about the 4th century. Behind the harbour
are the ruins of a small Christian church, and in the harbour is a
small tower from which a defensive chain could be slung to close the
harbour to any enemies. The Anglican Church of St. Andrews is behind
the castle, close to the bus station, and is open all year round.
Bellapais Abbey inner court
An example of Ottoman architecture in the city centre is the Agha
Cafer Pasha Mosque, built in 1589-90. The city is also home to
four 19th century fountains and an Ottoman-era cemetery where
soldiers serving at the castle and victims of contagious diseases are
rumoured to have been interred.
Bellapais Abbey (from the French "abbaye de la paix" which means the
Peace Monastery), in the northern village of Bellapais, was
constructed between 1198–1205. The main building as it can be seen
today was built during the 13th century by French Augustinian monks,
and specifically during the rule of King Hugh III 1267–1284. The
pavilions around the courtyard and the refectory were constructed
during the rule of King Hugh IV between 1324–1359. You can also see
the Ancient Greek Orthodox Church of Mother Mary Robed in White.
Outside the town, on the
Kyrenia mountain range, one can see
St. Hilarion Castle
St. Hilarion Castle and Kantara Castle, all of
which are thought to have been constructed by the Byzantines following
the Arab raids on the island. During
was a prison and called 'Château du Lion'. There the despot Byzantine
king of the island, Isaac Comnenus, is said to have fled after Richard
the Lion Heart conquered
Cyprus in 1191. The mountaintop castle of St.
Hilarion dominates the town of
Kyrenia and is visible for many miles
along the coast. Historical records show that the castle was
originally a monastery, founded about 800 when a monk by the name of
Hilarion chose the site for his hermitage. Later, perhaps in 1100, the
monastery was changed into a castle. The easternmost of the three
castles is Kantara castle. Sources only make mention of the castle in
the year 1191, when Richard Lion-Heart captured the island.
Kyrenia has a
Mediterranean climate with long, dry and hot summers and
cool winters with mixed weather of sunny spells and rain.
Climate data for Kyrenia
Average high °C (°F)
Average low °C (°F)
Average precipitation mm (inches)
Average rainy days
Mean monthly sunshine hours
Source #1: BBC Weather 
Source #2: K.K.T.C 
Escape Beach Club - one of the many seaside facilities around Kyrenia
Called a "very vibrant city" by the Near East University, Kyrenia
is the centre of tourism in Northern Cyprus and one of the most
important cities of
Cyprus in terms of tourism. It hosts numerous
shopping areas and malls, restaurants and a vibrant nightlife with a
number of entertainment facilities. The harbour, in
particular, is lined with cafés, bars and restaurants frequented by
locals and tourists. In 2009, it had 93 hotels, nine of which had
In early 2000s, the city and the surrounding area saw a construction
boom due to the positive mood created by the Annan Plan for Cyprus.
Between 2001 and 2003, construction cases per year increased by more
than three times and the city saw a great amount of property being
sold to foreigners. The construction boom resulted in the building of
numerous housing estates and apartment buildings. The city
continued to receive heavy investment throughout the decade and is
still a centre of investment. However, the recession that struck
Cyprus at the end of the 2000s and the beginning of 2010s
affected the city and caused great difficulty for the small-scale
entrepreneurs and shop owners to maintain their businesses. An
important part of the economy consists of tourists that come to visit
casinos, but this does not necessarily provide benefits for the local
In addition to its historical harbour,
Kyrenia is home to a port named
Kyrenia Touristic Port, opened in 1987. This port is a major
transport hub in Northern
Cyprus due to its relative proximity to
Turkey and is home to important commercial activity, while being a
popular place of entry for tourists who choose to travel by ferry. It
has contributed greatly to the flow of commercial products and
Turkey and Northern Cyprus.
Street art in Kyrenia: steps painted in rainbow colours
Kyrenia annually hosts the
Kyrenia Festival of Culture and Arts for
the whole month of June. The festival includes concerts ranging from
popular Turkish bands and singers, such as Duman,
Sertab Erener and
Zülfü Livaneli to Latin music and reggae in the city's amphitheatre
and the Ramadan Cemil Square, talk shows, plays and musicals performed
by theatrical groups from Turkey. The festival in 2012 saw the
participation of 500-600 artists and performers. It has also hosted
international performers such as the bands
The Animals and
invited street artists from Europe for performances. It has also been
praised for its inclusive approach to local musicians as a way of
encouraging cultural activity in Northern Cyprus. Under
mayor Nidai Güngördü, the festival was renamed "
Kyrenia Days of
Culture and Arts" with activities spread from May to September.
The city hosted the Golden Island International Film Festival in 2014,
the first time such an organization took place in Northern Cyprus. 20
Turkish Cypriot films were shown in the festival as well as foreign
The city is home to various musical activities. One such activity is
the annual International
Bellapais Music Festival, in which notable
Turkish Cypriot musicians, such as the pianist
Rüya Taner and
international musicians participate. Another such organization is
Bellapais Spring Music Festival, which features operas and
classical music concerts from Turkish Cypriot, Turkish and
international individuals and institutions.
The city has three universities: Girne American University, the
University of Kyrenia
University of Kyrenia and the British University of Nicosia.
Charlotte of Cyprus, Queen of Cyprus
Costas Catsellis, Hotelier and town benefactor
Charilaos Demetriades, Town Mayor for 30 years and benefactor
Mehmet Ali Talat, the 2nd President of the Turkish Republic of
Northern Cyprus, was born in
Kyrenia on 6 July 1952.
Osman Türkay world renown Cypriot poet, nominated for Nobel
Literature Prize in 1988.
Patriarch Gregory II of Constantinople was Ecumenical Patriarch of
Constantinople between 1283–1289.
Pantelis Kyriakides, the vice president of the European Patent Office
Praxander, Founder and first king of Kyrenia.
Elias Agapiou, Track and Field Pancyprian champion in Triple Jump.
Eleni Mavrou, politician and ex mayor of Nicosia.
See also: List of twin towns and sister cities in Northern Cyprus
Twin towns – sister cities
Kyrenia is twinned with:
Turkey (since 1999)
Bucharest Sector 4,
Romania (since 2013)
Turkey (since 1998)
Turkey (since 2009)
A view from the
Kyrenia Shipwreck Museum
The new harbour of Kyrenia
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^ "18. Uluslararası
Bellapais Müzik Festivali başlıyor". Kıbrıs
Postası. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
Bellapais Müzik Festivali, cuma Samsun Devlet Operası konseriyle
sürecek". Kıbrıs Postası. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
Mudanya - Twin Towns". © Mudanya-City.sk. Retrieved 19 October
^ "Girne İle Bükreş Belediyesi'nin "kardeşlik Protokolü"
Çerçevesinde Öğrenci Değişiminin İlk Adımı Girne'de...'". ©
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^ "Girne'den 'Kardeş'lik teşekkürü'". © Girne İle Adana
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^ "Çankaya - Twin Towns'". © Girne İle ÇankayaBelediyesi. Archived
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^ "Karsiyaka - Twin Towns'". © Karsiyaka Municipality. Retrieved 19
^ "Twin Towns'". © Muratpasa Municipality. Retrieved 18 June
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