Kyrenia Castle lies at the entrance to the town's famous harbour and stands majestic guard over the port. Well worth a visit, the castle is in a remarkable state of preservation and is fully accessible to the public today.
As well as offering a fascinating glimpse into the history of Cyprus, and the stunning views on offer to visitors, Kyrenia Castle is home to Northern Cyprus' shipwreck museum, the setting for one of the world's most important and well-preserved pieces of marine history.
Kyrenia Castle has stood guard over the important and strategic North Cyprus port of Kyrenia since the 1500s. Although the town of Kyrenia itself has existed since the 10th century BC, the first evidence of the castle is from Roman times, and it was subsequently fortified by the Byzantines. The Byzantine construction of four towers linked by walls was later strengthened again and enlarged by the Lusignans, but the current appearance of Kyrenia Castle mostly dates back to the Venetian rule of Cyprus from around 1489.
The Venetians were concerned about the possibility of the invasion of Cyprus by the rapidly expanding Ottoman Empire. With the Ottoman mainland only miles away, and their forces gaining strength every year, the Venetians set about fortifying Cyprus. The walls of Kyrenia Castle were enlarged, thickened and reinforced to defeat artillery attacks, and to resist any siege. The Venetians replaced the original drawbridge at the castle's entrance with the protected gatehouse that still exists today. They also kept the 12th century Byzantine church of St George the Castle safely within the walls. As fate would have it, when the Ottoman invasion finally occurred in 1571, the Venetians seem to have given up without a fight!
Today, you pass through the entrance in the northwest corner of the castle and walk along a long ramp, leading to the central parade ground area of the castle. On the way, passing a tomb, which is the last resting place of an Ottoman admiral. The central area is lined with guardrooms, living quarters and stables, with more ramps leading to defenses on the upper sections of the walls. You can also climb steps that take you to the Lusignan royal apartments and the small chapel. In the depths of the castle, you will discover dungeons, storage rooms and the all-important ' magazines', where gunpowder was stored clean and dry, ready for use. The battlements of Kyrenia Castle are worth the climb for the view alone, and with care you can walk around the whole extent of the castle's walls.
Kyrenia Castle is also home to one of the world's most important pieces of marine archeology. In 1965, divers off the coast of Northern Cyprus discovered what has been found to be the oldest recorded shipwreck. The vessel, dating back to 300BC was a trade ship, carrying cargo that included amphorae full of almonds and wine as well as other items. The wreck was brought to the surface and is kept in a specially-controlled atmosphere to ensure its continued preservation.
A wonderful monument to those who built it, Kyrenia Castle is the most accessible of all the historical sites in Northern Cyprus. Though you could easily spend longer, half-day tours can be booked during your holiday from our local representatives, though you can obviously make your own way around.