MERİT PARK HOTEL & CASINO
POINTS OF ATTRACTION
Girne, which has a history that stretches back 6,000 years, and its surroundings are Northern Cyprus’s top vacation spot. Girne’s history dates back to the tenth century BC. The city was inhabited by peoples migrating from the Aegean region to live there in small groups. The Kingdom of Kyrenia was one of the Ten Kingdoms of Cyprus. Girne is a historic city that bears the traces of many of the island’s civilizations.
As the city was located to the east of the castle in the Roman and Byzantine periods, the graveyards were on the western side. These tombs were rooms carved out of the rock. Only these rock chambers have survived to the present day. Today, some of these tombs can be found by the rocks around the Rocks Hotel’s parking lot at the rocks across the Icon Museum. The rock tomb on the street leading from Chrysopolitissa Church to the Icon Museum is fully underground. There are steps leading down to the tomb, and entry requires special permission.
This ancient ship set out to the Mediterranean in the age of the Hellenistic kings. In the third century BC, it sank off the coast of Girne after being caught in a storm in the open sea. It was located one and a half kilometers off the shores of Girne, at a depth of three meters, in 1965 by a sponge diver. It was recovered from underwater as a result of the efforts of an expert crew from the University of Pennsylvania between 1968 and 1969 and transferred to where it rests today. The ship’s Aleppo-pine hull is 15 meters long. It was concluded from carbon 14 tests conducted on samples of the wood that the ship sank in 389 BC. Carbon 14 testing on traces of almonds obtained from the wreck dated them to 288 BC. Based on these data, the ship is estimated to have been around 80 years old when it sank. Based on the items found in the ship, it is said to have been a merchant’s ship that embarked on its final journey with four crewmembers.
Lambousa (Lapithos), one of the 12 kingdoms on the island, was founded circa 1200 BC by the Achaeans on a peninsula near present-day Alsancak (Karava). Lambousa, whose name means “bright,” became a trading city with a population of 10,000 and prospered in the Roman and Byzantine eras. Among the architectural works built in that period were gymnasiums and theaters.
The village of Akdeniz, due west of Girne, possesses the island’s most expansive forests. Formerly, it was named after Hagia Irene, a priestess who lived there around 1260. At the confluence of green and blue, the village is located two kilometers from the seaside. The breeze that comes from the sea attracts throngs of visitors seeking to bathe in the sea during the blistering heat.
Sourp Magar Monastery, dedicated to St. Macarius of Alexandria, was built around the year AD 1000 as a Coptic monastery. Also known as Mother Mary’s Monastery, the monastery was transferred to the Armenian Church in the 15th century and was visited as a site of pilgrimage by Armenian pilgrims en route to Jerusalem. These visits continued through 1974, and the site was used as a summer retreat by Armenians who lived in Lefkoşa. The remains that stand today belong to the 19th century. There is an inscription in Armenian on the monastery’s wall.
Girne Castle has survived to the present day from the Middle Ages. As one of the most magnificent structures in Cyprus, it came to symbolize Girne. The earliest mention of the castle dates back to when the English king Richard the Lionhearted defeated Isaac Komnenos, the king of Cyprus, and took Cyprus in 1191, during the Third Crusade. Several alterations have been to Girne Castle, which underwent several phases before reaching its present state. Little remains from the period it was first built. However, it is assumed based on examinations conducted inside and around the castle that it was initially constructed in the seventh century by the Byzantines to defend the city against Arab attacks.
The Orthodox Church of the Archangel, constructed in 1860 on the hill beside the Port of Girne, is a museum that possesses a rich archive on Christian history and a large range of icons.
This museum was established in honor of the soldiers who lost their lives in the 1974 peacekeeping operation. Together with the house where 50th Infantry Field Division Regiment Commander H. İbrahim Karaoğlanoğlu and Air Force Squadron Leader Fehmi Ercan were martyred as well as this museum, where military vehicles and weapons are displayed outdoors, the Straits Martyrs’ Cemetery, Naval Martyrs’ Cemetery, Karaoğlanoğlu Martyrs’ Cemetery, Taşkent Martyrs’ Memorial, and Limassol Martyrs’ Cemetery add especial value to Girne.
Vrysi, east of Girne en route from Çatalköy toward Tatlısu, is located inside the Acapulco Holiday Village, one of the island’s touristic facilities, on a hill by the shore with a commanding view of the sea. It is one of the first Neolithic-era settlements.
Buffavento Castle, part of a chain of castles along the Beşparmak (Pentadaktylos) Mountains with St. Hilarion and Kantara Castle, was built during the Byzantine era as a watchtower to defend and warn the island against Arab attacks. Situated on the ridge of Çatalköy east of Girne, the castle was given the name Buffavento-”defier of the winds”-by virtue of its location on the steepest, windiest peak in Cyprus, at an elevation of 950 meters above sea level. Although the exact date the castle was built is unknown, its first historical mention was recorded during the time of Richard the Lionhearted. Compared to other castles in Cyprus, it is the hardest to reach on account of its location. The castle was used as a prison from 1382 to 1389, when it was known as the “Lion’s Chateau.” The Venetians seized the castle in 1489. During their rule, Buffavento Castle lost its previous importance as seaside castles gained more significance in the defense of the island.
Girne, one of the most enigmatic cities in the Mediterranean, is famous for its yacht harbor, beautiful beaches, holiday resorts, casinos, and other entertainment establishments. The old Venetian houses, shops, restaurants, bars, and entertainment establishments surrounding the marina in a horseshoe shape present a picturesque appearance. Fishing boats and yachts flock to the exquisitely beautiful marina in the summer.
This two-story 18th-century house by the historic Port of Girne is in use today as a Folk Art Museum. Agricultural instruments such as looms, olive oil presses, jugs, trouncers, plows, shuttles, and wooden threshers are exhibited on the first floor.
The monastery was built on the remains of a sixth-century early period Christian basilica. Additions were made to it at various times, and it bears the features of early Christian, Byzantine, and Lusignan architecture. The primary worship structure was built in the 11th century. As the region’s religious center, the monastery was used as the headquarters of the Lambousa Diocese-one of the island’s 15 dioceses-until 1222. The monastery fell into disuse early in the 20th century once no monks were left in it. Since 1960, the area in which the monastery is located has been used as a military zone.
One could hardly fail to sense the history that has passed within the walls of the castles in Girne. Climb up to the bastions of St. Hilarion Castle on the northern foothills of the Beşparmak Mountains for an incredible bird’s-eye view of Girne. St. Hilarion Castle is located ten kilometers from Girne. The road leading up to it is rough and unreliable; however, the castle can be reached by way of a 480-step stairway up 700 meters. The enchanting view here will be worth the effort.
This Late Bronze Age sacred area is located near Çamlıbel en route from Girne to Güzelyurt. A courtyard surrounded by rooms and the remains of a well were found in excavation work carried out in the center. The most important finding is a square-shaped altar with four pyramidal steps and a hornlike base at the top.
The craggy area known as Kirsokava (Chrysokava) is a point jutting out to the sea one kilometer east of Girne Castle. The area was used as a gravesite during the Roman era. Later, it was used as a quarry to serve the construction of Girne Castle and the port.