Cyprus History: Must See Sites for History Lovers!
The island of Cyprus is small but by no means does that mean that there isn’t lots to do! Cyprus is rich in history and tradition, making it a great place to visit for history lovers. Situated between three continents – Europe, Asia and Africa. Cyprus has experienced many changes throughout the eras, due to wars, invasions and rebellions.
This Blog will give you some of the most interesting historic landmarks to see in Cyprus, from the South to the North. No matter which end of the island you are planning to stay, the other side can be visited in a day trip. That’s how small the island really is!
We lived on the Island for a few years so we explored as much as possible. Below are some of our favorites. Enjoy!
Paphos Castle sits at the end of the cities port and stands out quite nicely from a far. The castle is square shaped with a courtyard in the middle. The view from the top of the building is spectacular. The location of this historic castle makes it a great one to tick off the list. This can be visited while out for a day along Kato Harbour.
Originally Paphos (Pafos) Castle was a Byzantine fort built for protection of the Harbour. It was rebuilt in the 13th century by Lusignans before later being dismantled by the Venetians.
Location: Paphos Kato Harbour, South Cyprus
Kourium Archaeological Site
If you like history and I guess you do if you’re reading this, then this archaeological site is definitely worth a visit! Despite a lot of the precious ruins being destroyed in a severe earthquake in 365 AD there is still lots to see. There are also lovely views over Kourium beach to be enjoyed here. The site is pretty big, so involves a bit of walking and sensible shoes are advised.
Kourion Archaeological Site (Greek: Κούριον) was an important ancient city-state on the southwestern coast of Cyprus and is located nearly 100 metres high along the coast of Episkopi Bay.
Ancient Kourium Stadium
If you’re passing through or you’ve planned to visit Kourium Archaeological Site (above) you’ll pass this one! Therefore, you may as well stop off and see the only ancient stadium that was ever found on the island. Ancient Kourium Stadium is only a small ruin but it’s worth seeing when you pass.
This Stadium was used for the sports of the Hellenic pentathlon, such as; running, wrestling, throwing and jumping. Kourium Stadium was constructed during the reign of Emperor Antoninus Pius in the 2nd century CE. Thus, making it a great historical landmark for Cyprus.
Cyprus Historic and Classic Motor Museum
Classic car enthusiast? Or just enjoy seeing what we drove around in back in the day? If yes, this museum is a must… I wouldn’t say I’m even a motor fan by any means, but this was an interesting visit. They have a huge range of vehicles from classic to vintage to antique and more!
Cyprus historic and classic motor museum opened its doors in 2014, however the idea of this business venture started in the year 2000. This was when the founder of the museum, Mr. Dimi Mavropoulos had a vision of offering a unique experience to all like-minded classic car enthusiasts.
St Hilarion Castle
This one is definitely worth a visit on your Cyprus trip, especially if you are already heading over to the Northern side of the island. St Hilarion Castle is said to be the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. What’s more, the views from the top will not disappoint. Not one to miss off your Cyprus History list!
However, I’m not going to pretend that getting to those views is easy, this one is quite a hike! The castle sits 3,100ft (940m) high in the Kyrenia mountain range. Over-looking the surrounding areas of North Cyprus, as well as the mediterranean sea.
The castle gets its name from a hermit monk named ‘St. Hilarion’ who lived and died in a cave in the mountains after fleeing from persecution in the Holy Land. St Hilarion Castle was originally built as a watch tower to give warning of a continuous sequence of raids on Cyprus and the coasts of Anatolia by pirates.
Location: Kyrenia, North Cyprus
Famagusta Ghost Town
Famagusta also known as ‘The Ghost Town’ was abandoned in 1974. This happened after The Turkish military invaded the island as a way to protect Turkish Cypriots. The Turkish army evacuated the city, walled it off and no one was allowed in since, until 2020.
What was held in the town of Famagusta, has remained a mystery until now. The public can now visit and walk around the abandoned town. This is a bit sad, and surely will be an emotional visit. As you walk down the streets you’ll see exactly how they were left in the 70s. You will see how real people’s lives were disrupted when they had to up and leave their homes. However, this is definitely a huge historic landmark to visit while on your trip to Cyprus.
Famagusta beach (pictures below) has always been accessible to the public, however, you could only ever see the outskirts of the town from the beach.
Location: Farmagusta, North Cyprus
Kyrenia Castle (& Shipwreck Museum)
The castle sits at the entrance to the towns harbour, standing grandly over the port. Kyrenia Castle is in excellent condition, open to the public and well worth a visit. Not only does this castle give you a look into Cyprus’ history, but the views are stunning from the top of the castle. And what’s more, this is also home to Northern Cyprus’ Shipwreck Museum! (2 for the price of 1 😉).
Kyrenia Castle dates back to the 1500s where it’s stood guard over the Kyrenia Port. Although Kyrenia town itself only dates back to the 10th Century BC, the first evidence of the castle is from the Roman times. The current presence of Kyrenia Castle generally dates back to 1489 from the Venetian rule of Cyprus.
Location: Kyrenia, North Cyprus
Antiphonitis Monastery is hidden away not far from a village called Esentepe. We cycled down to this to check it church out. We expected to carry on DOWN past it, however, we had to cycle BACK UP! …Although, I imagine if you drive here through the mountains from the village, it will be significantly less exhausting and just as stunning. The views over the coastline are beautiful and the church itself is also stunning. Antiphonitis is only small but still worth a visit, as the decorated interior can still be seen inside, despite it’s wear over the years. The architecture of the building is a unique one, the only one of it’s kind in Cyprus at present.
The 12th century monastery church of Antiphonitis is in Byzantine style and was dedicated to the blessed Virgin Mary. The décor inside the church dates back to between the 12th and 15th centuries.
Location: Approx 4miles from The Village of Esentepe, North Cyprus
The Selimiye Mosque (Cathedral of St. Sophia)
If you are exploring Cyprus history, put this one on your list! The Cathedral of St. Sophia was said to be the most important one on the island, as well as the largest and oldest church in Cyprus history. Despite this the building was unfortunately damaged by earthquakes not once but twice during the 13th and 14th century. Although you couldn’t tell, as the buildings architecture is very beautiful.
The Cathedral was said to have started being built in the 1200-1300’s after many delays. The stunning Gothic Building was then converted from a church to a mosque in 1570, during the 50-day Ottoman siege of the city. The mosque gets its name from the Sultan Selim who took the throne after the renowned Sultan Suleyman. Selimiye is now the largest Mosque on the whole island, holding upto 2,500 worshipers.
Location: Nicosia, North Cyprus
Tomb of Makedonitissa
Last but by no means least, as it is an important part of Cyprus history. This is an emotional one, but worth a visit and an interesting piece of Cyprus’ history. The Tomb of Makedonitissa, is a place to show respect to those who made sacrifice for their homeland, a place of historical memory. We visited this on the way over the boarder to Nicosia. So if you are heading that way, factor a visit into your plans.
The Tomb of Makedonitissa is also known as The Military Cemetery of Makedonitissa and that’s exactly what it is. It is the cemetery of the Greek and Greek Cypriot military personal who’d fallen during the Turkish invasion in 1974. The Greek officers and soldiers, who fell in the fight for Cyprus’ freedom lay here until 2014.
In 1974, on July 22, an airplane carrying Armed Forces personal to Cyprus from Chania in order to defend the island was shot down by friendly fire. Several years later the wreckage of the aircraft as well as those who lost their lives lay buried under the grave mound. Until recent years where they have attempted to identify the young lives that were lost all those years ago.
Location: Makedonitissa, Close to Nicosia, North Cyprus
For more things to do in Cyprus see our Cyprus Category.
We hope you enjoyed this blog… We hope it gives you some ideas on what to do when you visit Cyprus. Please leave us a comment if it’s helped you in anyway and let us know! 🙂
Lu & Ad