Kyrenia (Greek: Κερύνεια Keryneia, Turkish: Girne) is the chief port and tourist resort of Northern Cyprus. Its old centre is dominated by the castle over the harbour, built by the Venetians in 1540. The city in 2019 had a population of 45,881, with as many again in the resort strips that extend for 20 km on either side.
This city was founded by Hellenistic people over 3000 years ago. They valued Cyprus for its copper and other metals, and mostly got around by sea, but the Romans from the first century AD carved a road right around the island and another inland through the mountains. As the chief port on this coast Kyrenia controlled trade and needed to be defended - the harbour castle you see today was built in 1540 and has been maintained ever since. Kyrenia had a Greek majority population until 1974, when Turkey invaded and most Greeks fled. After the ceasefire there was a population exchange, with Greeks deported and Girne, as it now became, settled by Turks from villages in the south.
The 1990s saw a thawing of the "Cold War" or frozen conflict between Greece, Cyprus and Turkey, and Girne became a popular resort for westerners. It's always called Kyrenia in tourist literature so that's the name used here.
1 Ercan (ECN IATA) is the airport for Northern Cyprus so most visitors arrive this way. Flights by Turkish Airlines and Pegasus connect across Europe but all make a stop in Turkey, see Northern Cyprus#Get in. Flights are hourly from Istanbul (IST and SAW) and frequent from Ankara, Izmir, Adana and Antalya.
Ercan is 42 km south and public transport is limited, you'd probably have to take the bus into Nicosia then out again. Hire a car unless your tour package includes a transfer.
Fast-cat foot-passenger ferries (Deniz Otobüsü) sail May-Oct from the Turkish mainland:
- from Mersin Su Tu Th at 21:00, from Kyrenia M W F at 23:00, taking 80 min and operated by Akgunlerdenizcilik
- from Taşucu at 14:00 and from Kyrenia at 10:00, Friday only, taking 2 hr and operated by Akgunlerdenizcilik
- from Alanya is not sailing in 2023.
- from Hatay, operated by HADO[dead link], is not sailing in 2023.
The only year-round ferry, and the only one to take vehicles (Feribot), is from Taşucu and takes 6 hours. It's operated by Akgunlerdenizcilik and in summer sails four times a week, usually at 23:30: from Taşucu on Su M Tu Th and from Kyrenia M Tu W F. Winter sailings are only once or twice a week.
The 2 ferry terminal is 1 km east of the historic harbour and castle.
Buses here are like Turkish dolmuşes, they're minibuses that don't have a fixed timetable but set off when full, see Northern Cyprus#Get around.
Buses from Nicosia run every 15 min from Kyrenia Gate on Cemal Gürsel Cd, north edge of the city, and take 30 min.
3 Kyrenia bus station is a fancy name for the drop-off / pick-up point on Mustafa Çağatay Cd, 200 m south of the castle. Don't go looking for the otogar shown on some maps 1 km south, it's just a bus parking lot.
The town is walkable, but you need a car to explore - there are a dozen rental companies in town if you didn't pick one up at the airport.
Minibuses ply along the coast resort strip but don't reach outlying sights such as St Hilarion Castle.
There's no longer a bicycle hire shop here.
- 1 Kyrenia Castle. M-Sa 08:00-18:00. Stonking great castle dominating the harbour. The first known castle was Byzantine, 7th century AD, and that was probably the version captured by Richard the Lionheart (along with the rest of Cyprus) in 1191 during the Third Crusade. He sold it to his French allies the Lusignans, who saw off sieges by Genoa but fell to the Venetians. They rebuilt the castle in its present form in 1540, but in 1570 had to surrender it to the Ottomans. They in turn occupied it to 1878 then ceded it to the British, who used it as a police barracks and training school, and in the 1950s as a prison for EOKA guerrillas. The castle interior is fairly bare, but there are various living quarters, a Byzantine church, a museum displaying a 4th century BC shipwreck (no extra fee), and the tomb of Admiral Sadik Pasha the Ottoman conqueror of Kyrenia. Take care on the battlements as there are worn steps and broken railings. 25 TL.
- Ağa Cafer Pasha Mosque west side of the castle was built in 1590. The interior is fairly plain.
- St Andrews Church at the southwest corner of the castle is Anglican. Baldoken graveyard next to it has a few old Ottoman tombs.
- 2 Archangel Michael Church (Ιερός Ναός Αρχαγγέλου Μιχαήλ) is Greek Orthodox. The church and its museum of frescos have been closed since 2018 for re-building.
- 3 Harbour breakwater is a good spot for views of the castle. Some sections are in poor repair and work is under way in 2023.
- Museum of Decorative Arts on Bozoklar Sk by the harbour remains closed in 2023. The Museum of Fine Arts has closed permanently.
- 4 Bellapais Abbey, Zafer Cd (6 km southeast of town). Daily 08:00-18:00. A monastery founded in 1197 by the Canons Regular of the Holy Sepulchre after they fled Jerusalem. The main building you see now was built in the 1270s and the cloister and refectory circa 1330 by King Hugh IV of Cyprus, who resided here. The place was ransacked by the Genoese in 1373 and wrecked by the Venetians in 1489. When the Ottomans took control of Cyprus they handed it over to the Greek Orthodox community, who used it as a parish church. Pockmarks in the refectory walls are from British soldiers enjoying food fights, only with pistols instead of potatoes and stale buns. 20 TL.
- Bitter Lemons 200 m south of the abbey is the cottage where the writer Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990) lived in the 1950s. Shortly after he left he published Justine, the first part of his best known work Alexandria Quartet. The naturalist Gerald Durrell was his younger brother. In 2023 the cottage is derelict and for sale.
- 5 Noble Peasant Statue is a 40 m-tall metal structure visible from the Nicosia highway. The kneeling figure is meant to symbolise the common heritage of the warring factions of Cyprus, descendants all of humble farmers of the same soil, and thus promote reconciliation. Well, worth a go maybe.
- 6 St Hilarion Castle, Karaman (10 km south of town). Daily 09:00-16:00. Saint Hilarion here is not the 4th century monk of Palestine, but an obscure fellow who fled the Holy Land after the Arab conquest. The mountaintop castle was built in the 10th century and reinforced by the Byzantines in the 11th. Richard the Lionheart captured it in 1191 when he took over Cyprus. Access is by a lane off the highway to Nicosia: do not stray from this, as it's a military area. From the car park a steep rugged footpath ascends to the Lower Ward, which housed the guard and stables, then the Middle and Upper Wards for the royal family. Great views back to Kyrenia on the coast. 15 TL.
- 7 Buffavento Castle is a similar Byzantine fortress, reached from its south side by a rugged trail.
- City Amphitheatre is a modern venue off Mersin Cd near the ferry port.
- Hiking: there are several trails in the mountain ridge separating Kyrenia from Nicosia.
- Scuba diving centres near town include North Cyprus British Scuba, Amphora Diving, Nautilus, Scuba Cyprus and Cyprus Underwater Explorers. They all offer training, equipment hire and trips for certified divers.
- Turtle watching: Loggerhead and Green turtles nest on Alagadi beach 30 km east of town. Females lay eggs in June and July, and hatchlings emerge in Aug and Sept. The beach is closed to the public on summer nights to protect the turtles, but you can join the volunteer rangers on guided walks.
- Boat trips potter along the coast, often in gulets and serving a meze lunch. Operators based at the harbour include Aphrodite, Derya Deniz, Happy Sea Yacht Tours and Vela Yachting.
- Paragliding: Highline have tandem paragliding flights, no experience needed.
- Golf: the nearest course is Korineum Resort, see Sleep.
- The official currency is the Turkish lira (TL), but most businesses accept euro, British pounds, US dollars and bank cards.
- Supermarkets: a dozen medium-sized places, typically open daily 07:00-23:00, no dominating big store.
- Harbour waterfront has 6 Brothers, Set Fish Restaurant, Kyrenia Four Season and Corner Balık.
- Halil İbrahim Sofrası on Ziya Rızkı Cd scores well for its Turkish food. It's open daily 10:00-02:00.
- Mantı Sofrası on Göksu Sk a block back from the harbour also scores well. It's open daily 11:00-23:00.
- The George, off Ziya Rızkı Cd (opposite Town Hall), ☏ . Daily 08:00-01:00. Cheerful place serving trad British fare all day.
- Niazis serves great fish and meze. It's on 20 Temmuz Kordonboyu Cd next to Rocks Hotel and open daily 12:00-00:00.
- Los Amigos, Semih Sancar Cd 91 (by Grand Pasha Hotel), ☏ . Daily 11:30-23:00. Not that you'll admit to needing a change from Turkish food, but this is a great value Mexican east side of town.
- Cafes and restaurants serve alcohol. Most free-standing bars folded during covid.
- Sitare Bar a block back from the harbour is open daily 13:00-02:00.
- Gillham Vineyard (see Sleep) offers tours and tastings.
- No brewery or distillery in Northern Cyprus so you'll be drinking imported Efes again.
- 1 ENTER hostel, Sht Salim Akbulut Sk, ☏ . Stylish clean hostel with A/C, common kitchen and balcony. Dorm 500 TL.
- Nostalgia Hotel, Çafer Paşa Sk 22, ☏ . Simple place near the castle, they no longer have a dorm. B&B double 500 TL.
- 2 Dome Hotel, Kordonboyu Cd, ☏ . Waterfront hotel, some facilities worn but clean, friendly and central. B&B double 2500 TL.
- Olivia Palm Hotel, Karakız Sk 21 (by amphitheatre), ☏ . Great value for what you're paying, close to town centre. B&B double 1500 TL.
- Lord's Palace is a mid-price hotel at Dr Fazıl Küçük Cd 38 by the ferry terminal. Most customers are here for the restaurant and rooftop bar.
- Oscars Resort, Hasan Esat Işık Sk 16 (1 km east of ferry terminal), ☏ . Convenient for town, mixed reviews for quality. B&B double 1800 TL.
- 3 Sammy's Hotel, Ömer Sami Coşar Sk 7 (1 km from ferry terminal). Simple convenient hotel, some street noise. B&B double 1500 TL.
- 4 Pia Bella Hotel, Iskenderun Cd 14, ☏ . Reasonable mid-town hotel, facilities need repair. B&B double 1500 TL.
- 5 Grand Pasha Hotel, Iskenderun Cd, ☏ . Run-down place, some construction noise, and the casino attracts low life. B&B double 2500 TL.
- 6 High Life Hotel, Akdeniz Sk 25, ☏ . Smart friendly place on seafront. B&B double 2000 TL.
- 7 Altınkaya Hotel, Kurtuluş Cd, ☏ . Pleasant small hotel 2 km southeast of town centre. B&B double 1800 TL.
- 8 Kemerli Konak Hotel, Dereboyu Sk 7, Zeytinlik (2 km southwest of town), ☏ . Charming little hotel on the edge of town. B&B double 2500 TL.
- 9 Ship Inn, Karaoğlanoğlu Cd 31 (2 km west of town), ☏ . Clean friendly place, great value for the price. B&B double 1200 TL.
- 10 Topset Hotel, Karaoğlanoğlu Cd (4 km west of town), ☏ . Simple efficient hotel. B&B double 1200 TL.
- 11 Mountain View Hotel, Karaoğlanoğlu Cd (5 km west of town), ☏ . Mixed reviews for this small hotel. B&B double 1000 TL.
- 12 Bare Hill Holiday Village, Karaoğlanoğlu Cd, Alsancak (8 km west of town), ☏ , email@example.com. Simple but clean hotel near Escape Beach. B&B double 1000 TL.
- 13 Denizkizi Hotel, Dumlupınar Sk, Alsancak (8 km west of town), ☏ . Quiet mid-range hotel amid gardens by the beach. B&B double 2000 TL.
- 14 Citrus Tree Gardens, Karaoğlanoğlu Cd, Alsancak (10 km west of town), ☏ . Pleasant clean hotel. B&B double 2000 TL.
- 15 Riverside Garden Resort, Salhane Sk, Alsancak (11 km west of town), ☏ . Resort hotel, frankly tatty. It's 2 km from the beach but there's a free shuttle bus. B&B double 1500 TL.
- 16 Almond Holiday Village, Bademli Sk, Alsancak (15 km west of town), ☏ . Rave reviews for welcome, comfort and service at this little hotel towards Lapta. B&B double 2000 TL.
- 17 Rose Gardens Holiday Village, Arslan Sk 60, Lapta (15 km west of town). Quiet friendly hotel. B&B double 1200 TL.
- 18 Manolya Hotel, Fevzi Çakmak Cd 48 (16 km west of town), ☏ . Pleasant friendly hotel by the beach, the rooms could do with redecorating. B&B double 2500 TL.
- 19 Lapida Garden Hotel, Şehit İbrahim Nidai Cd, Lapta (17 km west of town), ☏ . Small clean hotel 1 km from beach. B&B double 1000 TL.
- 20 Hotel Sempati, Ali Ocak Cd 24, Lapta (20 km west of town), ☏ . Small quiet hotel with a beach. B&B double 1000 TL.
- 21 Bella View, Bellapais Yolu 2, Ozanköy (4 km southeast near monastery), ☏ . Secluded relaxing hotel. B&B double 2000 TL.
- 22 Cratos Premium Hotel, Cennet Sk (4 km east of town), ☏ . Decent mid-price place, not much beach.
- 23 MC Palace Hotel, Uğur Mumcu Blv, Çatalköy (10 km east of town), ☏ . Clean and spacious hotel. B&B double 2000 TL.
- 24 Olive Tree Hotel, Inonu Cd 89, Çatalköy (in the hills 11 km east of town), ☏ . Secluded hotel, needs a facelift and overrun with cats. B&B double 1500 TL.
- 25 Acapulco Resort, Çatalköy (13 km east of town), ☏ . Family-oriented resort hotel with a sandy beach, some facilities tired. B&B double 1500 TL.
- 26 Korineum Golf Resort, Esentepe (24 km east of town), ☏ . Plush place with spa, restaurants and golf. Limited amusement for youngsters. Free shuttle to the private beach. B&B double 2000 TL.
- 27 Colony Hotel, Ecevit Cd, ☏ . The top choice in town, great scores for comfort and service. Has its own parking lot. B&B double 3000 TL.
- 28 Rocks Hotel, Kordonboyu Cd 102, ☏ . Smart hotel with casino near the castle. B&B double 5000 TL.
- 29 Chamada Prestige Hotel, Cesur Sk 4, Çatalköy (12 km east of town), ☏ . Hotel with spa, casino and shuttle bus to beach. Way overpriced for what you get. They also run Pia Bella in town. B&B double 6000 TL.
- 30 Elexus Hotel, Uluçay Sk 21, Çatalköy (15 km east of town), ☏ . Smart hotel with spa and casino, scores well for comfort and service. B&B double 4000 TL.
- 31 Merit Park Hotel, Karaoğlanoğlu Cd (10 km west of town), ☏ . Upmarket hotel and casino, good comfort and dining, not much beach. B&B double 9000 TL.
- 32 Gillham Vineyard Hotel, Kavaklı Sk 1, Ilgaz (in hills 25 km west of town), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Great style, cuisine and wine at this boutique hotel, adults only. B&B double 4000 TL.
As of Sept 2023, Kyrenia, the beach strip and approach roads have 4G from KKTC Turkcell and KKTC Telsim. 5G has not reached Northern Cyprus.
- Famagusta has an old centre with Venetian fortifications, amidst much war damage ancient and modern.
- Nicosia is a fascinating Ottoman city. The ceasefire line runs through it, so its southern part is in Greek-speaking Cyprus.
- You need your own vehicle to tour the Karpaz peninsula to the east, to be assailed by wild donkeys.