Top 9 Things to Do in Kyrenia (Girne) on a Weekend
Are you looking for the best things to do in Kyrenia? Look no further, you are in the right place. Kyrenia, or Girne as locals call it, is a charming historical city, very popular in Northern Cyprus.
From fairy-tale castles to beach parties, Kyrenia has it all for a perfect weekend getaway. Keep reading to find out what are the best places to see in Kyrenia, the activities you’ll enjoy, and how to even get there from the airport.
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Cyprus has become a favorite beach destination for travelers. However, the island also has other beautiful historical and cultural sites worth exploring and this city is full of them. Let’s go through the best things to do in Kyrenia on the following list.
1. The Old Harbor
Probably the most charming area of Kyrenia. The Old Harbor is the perfect place to relax, eat, and take in the view after a day of visiting the main attractions.
Walk along the cobblestone streets next to the numerous yachts and boats. The harbor is filled with beautiful restaurants, and the landscape is dominated by the Kyrenia Castle.
By the way, the seafood is as fresh as it gets! The fishermen catch it very close from there and take it almost directly to your plate.
2. Kyrenia Castle
The exact date of construction is unknown, but it’s believed it was around VII AD. It was probably built for defending against Arab attacks, along with other castles like St Hilarion, Buffavento, and the Castle of Kantara. This was during the Lusignan reign, with some changes added by the Venetians.
The Kyrenia Castle is well preserved, and you can clearly see the fascinating influence of the Byzantine, Lusignan, and Venetian. Inside, you’ll also find the tomb of Admiral Sadik Pasha, who took over Kyrenia in 1570.
Get at the top of the castle for an amazing view of the Old Harbor.
3. Chain tower
Initially, I assumed this place was a lighthouse, which apparently is a common mistake. A local then explained to us that this tower is actually part of a fortification system.
The chain tower owes its name to how Venetians used it for defense. When in danger, they raised a chain between the fortress and the tower to block hostile ships.
Walk along the chain tower so you can observe the yachts, the castle, and the Mediterranean Sea from a different viewpoint.
4. St. Hilarion Castle
The best preserved of Northern Cyprus’ castles, this fairytale castle is supposed to have been the inspiration to the Disney’s production of Snow White.
It was built in the eleventh century (the exact date is unknown) and abandoned later. The castle is located above the town, so it has amazing views and lots to discover in terms of history.
Note that there is no public transportation, so you if you are not renting a car, you’ll need to hire a car/taxi. The path to the castle from the main road passes through military terrain, and walking is not allowed.
The castle has an entrance fee of 7 TL (that’s less than 2 USD in 2018). You start from the bottom and then walk uphill. The view from the top shouldn’t be missed, but keep in mind it’s a steep climb to get there. Don’t miss it because is one of the best things to do in Kyrenia.
5. Bellapais Monastery
Also known as Bellapais Abbey, is located on the flanks of the Five-finger mountain in the village of Bellapais. It’s only 10 minutes by car from the center of Kyrenia.
The most outstanding characteristic of the monastery is its beautiful gothic architecture. The biggest part of it is the Orthodox church with well-preserved frescoes. There’s also a cloister with 18 arches, a common spot for pictures.
The entrance fee is only 9 TL (2 USD)
6. Buffavento Castle
Also built for defense purposes, Buffavento Castle is situated 950 m (3,100 ft) above the sea level overlooking the bay.
Climb to the top for incredible views of Northern Cyprus, but remember to bring comfortable shoes to do so, as the path can be rough.
You’ll enjoy walking around the hallways and coming across big stone windows of the 11th century Byzantine architecture. One of the best places to visit in Kyrenia.
7. Mavi Köşk (Blue House)
The story behind the former owner of this house is full of mystery. The Blue House was built by Byron Pavlides, a Greek Cypriot. His family dedicated to motor trade, and he was the main representative of General Motors, Vauxhall, and Opel in Cyprus during the 50s’ – 60s’. However, it is rumored that he was also very involved in contraband and smuggling arms, as a gun-runner for the EOKA.
Apparently, the Blue House was built in its special location to have an ample view of the sea, where he could see the ships arriving with his weapons.
The house is now a museum, and the views from the upper rooms are fantastic! The museum provides guided tours in Turkish, but they also offer a translated brochure in English.
8. Enjoy the Nightlife
Kyrenia might not be a party destination as its neighbor Ayia Napa. But there are plenty of open-air bars along the harbor, beach parties (during summer), casinos and restaurants.
While walking by the harbor at night, Ego Bar can be a good choice to enjoy the night. It has a relaxed environment with a unique interior design and live music. It can get a little crowded though.
If you want to party, head to Escape Beach. Escape Beach Club is the most popular venue in that area and hosts many international DJs in a beach setting. Is very visited by tourists and locals.
I received many recommendations to go to the Casablanca Bar. It is close to the Harbor and has a chill/hippie environment as far as I was told. Also, the drinks had a reasonable price so it may be worth to check it out!
9. Get a Mediterranean Tan
If you go during summer, you will probably want to check out some of the many beaches Kyrenia has to offer. One of the most fun things to do in Kyrenia is visiting the beaches, which have all facilities and restaurants/bars so you don’t need to worry about carrying anything with you.
Acapulco Beach is popular among tourists and has sun beds for renting and a bar. Lots of people come here for windsurfing so you can find equipment.
Alagadi Turtle Beach is a great alternative to spend the day in a more ‘natural’ environment. It is a turtle nesting beach, so there are no sunbeds available, but you can rent beach umbrellas. There is also a beach bar and toilets.
If you want more activities during the day, Escape Beach can be a good option for you. There are different water sports including diving, jet ski rental, banana boats, canoeing, and others. You can find a beach club, a restaurant, and a bar.
Other good options are Kervansaray Beach, Mermaid Beach (or Deniz Kizi), and Green Coast Beach (or Güzelyali).
How to Get from Ercan Airport to Kyrenia
Ok, so everything sounds nice, but how the heck do I get to Kyrenia?
Most international flights land on Ercan International Airport, in Nicosia. The airport is part of Northern Cyprus, so your visa and entry requirements are the same as if you were going to Turkey. (The northern section of the island of Cyprus is a partially recognized state under Turkish control.)
When going through migration control, Turkish citizens frequently receive a paper instead of a stamp in their passport. This is for avoiding possible problems when entering other countries. In my case, they stamped my passport (I am Peruvian), and I’ve never had any issue at all.
After leaving the airport, you can either rent a car, hire a private transfer, or go by bus from the airport to Kyrenia. It takes 20 to 30 minutes to get to Kyrenia.
Renting a car
If you are 2 or more people, renting a car can be the most convenient and affordable option. It will also allow you to move easily to the main attractions in Kyrenia. There are several offices for car rental at the airport.
A private transfer can vary from 33 USD to 85 USD, depending on the size of the car. You can find some of them outside the airport, but it is safer to book one beforehand. A quick google search will show you tons of options.
If you prefer to take public transportation, the only option that takes you to Kyrenia is a company named Kibhas. You don’t need to make a reservation. You walk a few meters from the exit door of the airport to your left and there it is. However, keep in mind there are no buses available after midnight.
Where to Stay in Kyrenia
Kyrenia center is the most convenient area because there are more activities, sites, and people, but it can also be more pricey than other areas. You can look around Karaoglanoglu and Karakum for more affordable hotels located at 5 – 10 minutes from the center.
Type “Kyrenia” in the banner below to find the best hotel for you.
Do you have more recommendations? Let us know in the comments!
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