Kyrenia (or Girne in Turkish) is a coastal city and, arguably, at the heart of the North Cyprus tourism industry. Photos of its harbour and castle are often used in tourism brochures to promote the entire territory. Both inside and outside the city limits are a number of great hotels, making the city and area surrounding it a great base for exploring the rest of the island.
Best things to see and do in Kyrenia
In this post, we cover a handful of the best things to do in Kyrenia. One of the best things about basing yourself in Kyrenia is that it’s a great launch pad for exploring the rest of what North Cyprus has to offer.
So, while Kyrenia itself doesn’t have loads to see and do within the city limits, you’ll still be spoilt for choice in terms of the rest of the territory’s attractions.
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Kyrenia Castle: Pristine 16th Century Venetian Castle
Just to the east of Kyrenia Harbour is a 16th century Venetian castle. Kyrenia Castle (Turkish: Girne Kalesi) is in remarkable condition, particularly the exterior fortifications which look like they were constructed fairly recently. As with most of the attractions listed on this page, you’re free to roam pretty much wherever you like.
A walk along the exterior walls is good fun and offers some great views of the harbour and city centre below. Don’t forget to visit the Shipwreck Museum, exhibiting the remains of a Greek merchant ship and its cargo from the 4th century. Once you’re done exploring, there’s a charming little cafe inside the courtyard which serves simple sandwiches, mezze and Turkish tea.
Find out how to plan and book your flights, transfers & accommodation for this destination
Bellapais Monastery: Ruins of a 13th Century Monastery
The ruins of a 13th century monastery can be explored in the village of Bellapais, around 5km to the southeast of Kyrenia. The setting, between mountains and the coastline is really lovely with palm trees planted amongst the ruins. Thanks to the site being situated 220 metres above sea level, there are fabulous views of the surrounding area and out across the sea towards Turkey to be enjoyed.
Be sure to explore the monastery thoroughly, particularly the roof top. There’s also a museum and cafe on site.
Saint Hilarion Castle: Dramatic 11th Century Castle in the Mountains
Photos of Saint Hilarion Castle are often included in publicity for North Cyprus and it’s really easy to see why. As you wind your way up the mountain pass, the castle stays hidden. It’s only as you approach the car park that the castle suddenly reveals itself, merged almost impossibly into the side of the mountain in the most dramatic fashion.
Visiting Saint Hilarion is absolutely unmissable. Despite the best efforts of the Venetians, much of the castle is in tact and it is a truly breathtaking sight to behold from every single angle. Additionally, thanks to its mountaintop location, the views of the Mediterranean coastline, Girne/Kyrenia and beyond are jaw-dropping.
Pro-tips: Make sure you’re wearing sturdy shoes and take a wind-breaking coat/jacket with you. There are a significant number of steps between the three parts of the castle and it felt noticeably colder and windier when we were there. Additionally, keep an eye out for resident mountain goats clinging precariously to the mountainside as they graze.
Plan & Book your visit to Kyrenia
In this section, we’ll go through how you can plan and book your visit to Kyrenia.
Let someone else do the planning for you! Go to TourRadar* to find out more about the pre-planned tour packages that are available in North Cyprus.
Flights to North Cyprus
Ercan International Airport is the primary international airport in North Cyprus. Despite flights to the airport being internationally banned, aeroplanes do come and go, though only via Turkey.
The government of the Republic of Cyprus, who governs the area to the south of the UN buffer zone, considers anyone who has entered via Ercan airport to have entered the country illegally. This is certainly worth considering, especially if you’re keen to visit Southern Cyprus during your visit. You may encounter serious problems if you attempt to cross the border.
While you’ll find flight prices are pretty unbeatable to and from Ercan, you’ll find options with more flexibility and considerably more direct flights to and from Larnaca airport in Southern Cyprus.
All things considered, we heartily recommend flying into Larnaca, and then booking an onward transfer into North Cyprus. It’s pretty common to be offered transfers when you book your accommodation, so keep your eyes peeled.
Skyscanner* is a great place to start your search for the best prices on flights to Cyprus. They compare fares from multiple airlines and travel agents all at once.
Getting around Kyrenia and North Cyprus
Kyrenia is fairly small, so your exploration of the town itself will mostly be on foot.
To explore further afield, hiring a car offers the best flexibility and value. We really appreciated having our own wheels during our trip, especially as many of the attractions in North Cyprus are remotely situated.
Buses and taxis do operate in and around Kyrenia and mostly offer an excellent and inexpensive service. If you’re reluctant to drive, you should be able to get without any major problems using public transport. Before you make a decision though, read about how buses and taxis operate in North Cyprus first.
Hotels and Holiday Homes in Kyrenia
During our visit to North Cyprus, we stayed at The Olive Tree Hotel* on the outskirts of Kyrenia. We enjoyed our stay, despite the rooms looking a bit tired in places. The breakfast buffet was excellent, the outdoor villa-style room layout was pleasant and staff were helpful.
For general accommodation searches, we recommend Tripadvisor*.
Activities, Tours & Excursions in Kyrenia
To find out which activities, tours and excursions are available in Kyrenia, we recommend TourScanner*. With one quick search on TourScanner, you can view activities and experiences from GetYourGuide, Viator, Tiqets, Groupon and Headout (plus many more providers) all at once!
We have created a separate post containing 15 essential things you need to know before visiting North Cyprus. It contains information concerning currency, language and safety matters.