Famagusta – The Walled City


If you have even a passing interest in Cyprus history you will love the walled City of Famagusta. Apart from being one of the closest places of interest in Northern Cyprus to the main southeastern coastal resorts, it is a fascinating place to visit in its own right. The old town is completely enclosed in the 30 feet thick walls that stretch over a distance of some two miles.

All of the original gateways are still intact and the fact that so much of the walls still remain in existence since their construction is a testament to the engineering prowess of those who built them.  While the ancient city already had some form of a defensive wall built by the Lusignans before the Venetian invaders arrived in 1489, it was their engineers that created what visitors can admire today.

They just don’t make them like they used to

At an average of 30 feet thick and much of them built on top of the existing outcrops of bedrock, the walls of Famagusta acted as a formidable deterrent and a real defence against invaders. Well, at least they did until the Ottomans turned up in 1570 with some cannons and around 200,000 well-armed troops in tow to take over the island. Even they didn’t manage to breach the walls, however, and it was the eventual loss of three quarters of his men and the impending starvation of the remainder that forced the city’s garrison commander to surrender.

History buffs reckon that the capital of Nicosia which had similar walls fell to the Turkish (Ottoman) siege in about 40 days. Famagusta, however, proved slightly more difficult, with as little as 8,000 inhabitants managing to hold out for 10 months. It is said that during the siege the Ottomans suffered losses of 50,000 and expended some 150,000 cannon balls. The evidence of this onslaught is still visible in the damage to the walls that can be plainly seen to this day. Despite the ravages of the Turkish cannons the walls of Famagusta have actually, to date, never actually been breached.

The 30 feet thick walls also housed stables, armouries, and tunnels that were used to get from one part of the walls to another. This feature came in handy as recently as 1974 when Turkish Cypriots took refuge there to escape the Greek Cypriot militia.

Famagusta – a city loaded with history and culture

The area inside the walls is literally littered with ancient cathedrals, churches, and other historical sites. Many of the old churches suffered fatal damage at the hands of the Turkish cannon fire onslaught of 1570 as their height meant they were an easy target. Others have survived or been renovated and the main one in the city is now used as a mosque.

A vibrant and busy city

A short walk from the main ramparts that overlook the Port of Famagusta is a vibrant shopping area with traditional shops, cafes, and several preserved buildings. Some of the original cannons and the huge balls that they fired have also been preserved there. One of the most striking features of Famagusta is its mix of old and new with the modern city of Famagusta still growing right next door to the old one.  Unlike much of the south side of the island, however, Famagusta has retained its traditional character making it a fascinating and unspoilt place to visit.

Getting to old Famagusta

The best route into Famagusta from the southeastern resorts is to travel inland through the main town of Paralimni to Deryneia, then on to Frenaros where you turn right just short of the village centre onto the road that is signposted to Vrysoulles. Following that road to its end, you simply turn right and carry on past the Litsa supermarket right through the Agios Nicholas army base to the border crossing. Follow your nose after that and the old town is right (third exit) at the first major roundabout with a huge war memorial at its centre.

Both the modern and old walled towns are located in the Northern part of the Island which means that visitors have to cross the border into the Republic of Northern Cyprus. Anyone who is entitled to cross is also automatically entitled to stay for up to 90 days without an extended visa. You will need to show your passport when crossing over and there are certain duty-free restrictions on tobacco and alcohol products on the way back to the South.

For friendly and helpful advice concerning places to visit in Cyprus, or to book your holiday there, please contact us at Cyprus Sun Holiday Rentals, or call us on 00 357 2383 1194.


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