November 2023: During my previous trip to Cyprus a few years back, I was denied entry into the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) because I didn’t have all of the required Covid documentation to enter. My intrigue to visit the break-away republic was peaked and I squeezed in a quick two-day visit as part of a larger weeklong trip to Kazakhstan with my friend Frank. The main goal of my trip was to see the ghost city of Varosha which opened in the last few years to tourists after decades of closure. See history here: DMZ Ghost Town of Varosha, Republic of Cyprus | Venture The Planet

Northern Turkish Republic of Cyprus

I have always been lured by abandoned historical places and Verosha with its tragic past was more than a few abandoned buildings, it was an abandoned city. In my travels, I am aware of only one other city that is entirely abandoned besides Verosha, and it is Chernobyl. Of course, Verosha and Chernobyl are different since the abandonment of verosha was imposed by military force and then it remained abandoned as a result of a United nation brokered agreement between the TRNC and Turkey.  Despite the decades old agreement not to re-open Verosha, TRNC and Turkey plan to slowly desensitize the world with its re-opening by doing it very slowly eventually I imagine with plans to rebuild and open the city in the same image as the resort tourist paradise of its past.

In order to get closest to the ghost city of Varosha, I booked a room at the hotel facing Varosha, the Arkin Palm Beach Hotel. As soon as we arrived to the hotel, we quickly set off on the beach into Varosha to explore the city and we entered varosha along the beach at nighttime not realizing that the city is actually only open from 8amto 5pm. At the end of the beach was a Turkish military barracks that we weren’t aware of and we walked through a laser trop wire that activated an alarm and siren that left Frank and I wondering we would be arrested or shot. We ran back down the beach to the hotel dreading that there might be soldiers pursuing us bit there were not. Soon thereafter a severe lightning storm descended down upon us, and the sky lit up with an incredible display of thunder and lightning, which we watched from the hotel. I fell asleep to a cool ocean breeze while watching the lightning illuminate the ocean with my hotel room patio door open. Hours later I awoke to a steamy sauna in my room and swarms of mosquitos buzzing around my head. The storm was over, and the wind died, and my rooms door left open inviting all hungry mosquitos to feast.

 

 

View of Varosha Ghost City from Beach where a new beachside cafe has popped up. 

No entry signs near the buildings of the ghost city

Turkish troops posted in Varosha

The next morning, we visited verosha when it was open from 8-5. Like clockwork at 8am, a soldier opened the gate to the ghost city and checked my bag and asked me if I had a drone and if I was a journalist when he saw my camera. When the soldier was satisfied that I wasn’t he let us in, and we had the whole city to ourselves. It was a strange feeling to walk among this once bustling resort city full of life on the idyllic shores of the Mediterranean that was now crumbling and left in ruins. Some of the main streets have been repaved by the government for visitors but the rest are roped off and considered off limits. This includes all of the buildings. Tourists are allowed to enter the city only during opening hours and if they stay on the main roads and beaches. There were bikes available to rent and even some beach venders began to set up food stands and beach chairs. All of this was in effort to slowly get the world used to the idea of verosha re-opening under the Turkish flag.

 

 

Newly paved road into Varosha

Old delapitated roads in Varosha

Varosha Abandoned City

Varosha Abandoned City

Varosha Abandoned City

Varosha Abandoned City

Varosha Abandoned City

Varosha Abandoned City

Varosha Abandoned City

Varosha Abandoned City

Varosha Abandoned City

Varosha Abandoned City

Varosha Abandoned City

Varosha Abandoned City

Varosha Abandoned City

The TRNC was completely different than its neighbor. There were far more tourists on the other side and development as well as hotels and traffic. I liked the TRNC because it was more relaxed and had few visitors and I wish i had a few more days to explore but the next day we had to continue our journey to Kazakhstan to see visit the Soviet Union nuclear testing site of the Polygon in NE Kazakhstan, so we departed on a flight to Istanbul and onward to Astana. 

 

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