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Abandoned Mediterranean Resort: Varosha Quarter in Famagusta, Cyprus

In the early 1970’s the Varosha quarter in Famagusta, Cyprus was one of the Mediterranean’s most glamorous and popular tourist destinations. The bright blue waters and beautiful sandy beaches were draws for such celebrities as Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Raquel Welch, and Brigitte Bardot among others. Population grew to about 39,000, but by the end of 1974 the town would be conquered by Turkish troops, fenced off completely, and have a population of zero.

Today the former millionaire’s playground resort still stands vacant and fenced off, guarded by Turkish soldiers and unlikely to re-open anytime soon.

**

The island of Cyprus has been the subject of a constant tug-of-war battle between Greece and Turkey for centuries. Until recently, both Greek and Turkish Cypriots had managed to coexist on the island – albeit not always peacefully.

But in August of 1974, the Turkish military seized the predominantly Greek Varosha quarter of Famagusta and changed the course of the island’s history forever.

Residents – fearing being slaughtered by the advancing tanks – fled the city with only the clothes on their backs, leaving all possessions behind. Other sections of Varosha were bombed by the Turkish air force, destroying many buildings. Once the Turks had gained control of the area they fenced it off, and have since refused admittance to anyone.

(click thumbnails to enlarge)

Homes still have closets full of clothes, cabinets full of dishes, and there is even a car dealership still stocked with ‘brand new’ 1974 model-year cars. Dozens of hotels along the coastline sit empty with broken windows exposing fully-furnished rooms to the elements. Countless cars sit collecting dust in garages. There is even a construction crane still towering above the skyline, the hotel it was constructing also frozen in time and never finished.

Varosha-10

So why is the area still barricaded and patrolled by Turkish troops? Varosha is protected by a 1984 UN Security Council resolution that states the empty town can only be resettled by its original inhabitants. This resolution has prevented Turkish authorities from re-opening Varosha as they are in no hurry to return it to the Greeks. Some speculate Turkey is holding Varosha as a bargaining chip for future concessions from Greece.

Until Turkey relinquishes Varosha, it will continue to be battered by the elements and slowly crumble over time. Turkish troops still patrol the region and trespassers are imprisoned or executed. Troops are authorized to use lethal force, so enter at your own risk.

No official visits have been granted; most of the photographs we have are from bold photographers brave enough to jump the fence and risk personal harm eluding Turkish troops in order to snap pictures.

*

The Future

The future is not bright for Varosha; the entire city is beyond repair. Experts have pointed out that almost forty years of unmaintained exposure to the elements has taken its toll on the structures. Engineers assert the city would have to be completely torn down and rebuilt as nearly all of the buildings are unsafe and have major structural damage. Roads are cracked with overgrowth, water pipes underground have disintegrated, the sewage system has crumbled, and the power grid infrastructure is now antiquated.

Rebuilding Varosha would require a complete razing. Perhaps that is a contributing factor to why, at this point, there is no rush for a resolution.

**

Video footage of Varosha during the Turkish invasion (warning: graphic): click here

Video footage of Varosha right after the Turkish attack (again, graphic):  click here

Video footage of a more recent visit to Varosha, after it was deserted: click here

…and part two: click here

Varosha in its heyday:

Before and after:

*

Visitors are not allowed

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nearby Nicosia International Airport, now a UN buffer zone:

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  1. Rscott
    July 22, 2013 at 14:04

    Moving forward is always a better way, The past just can not be changed, only now and the future. We need to remember the past and do our best not to repeat it regardless of who you are and who did what. I always try to learn from others mistakes so as not to repeat them and I don’t know of any culture that has not made some at some time in the past. I have read much on Varosha as it grabbed my interest several months ago and I am not going to wade into the political aspects of it because as long as there is finger pointing by anyone, there never seems to be anyone coming up with solutions to the problem and movement forward. Biggest lesson I get from this.

    Varosha was and in a way even in its current situation a beautiful place in the world. Yes it has shades of the past and corrosion going on, but the fountains, architecture (not really talking about the high rises on the beach) Arches…then the beach, nature and sparkling water… It would be a wonderful thing to see it be a bustling, busy, and colorful attraction in what ever form as it once was. I have heard much about those saying much could be restored, unfortunately, little will be able to be restored. As a one time contractor involved in new construction, remodeling, and disaster restoration it does not take very long for mold to take hold. Especially in a moist, warm not ventilated environement. I have seen properties vacant for only a few months have major mold and there are many types (Black mold being one) that are known killers and health hazards. While windows are broken now and I’m sure some were then, mold was there within the first year I am sure if the buildings were not kept in use. Now almost 40 years later? You can forget it. I have seen houses torn down due to mold infestation from only a few weeks (one rental that was vacant for a month with a busted water heater comes to mind) It was condemned by the health department. Then you have cracked foundations from bombing in some areas I’m sure and just plain old exposure. If and When this place can be rebuilt, look for big money development companies to come in a build much the same when it comes to highrise resorts unless there is a lot of control by government in charge to thwart it, thing is, that those big companies are about the only ones that can raise that kind of capital to take on such a project and then once again, prices will be to where only the well off can really enjoy it. It will however create jobs during the rebuild and help the economy for a long time to come.

    I hate what I have said, but reality is sometimes a hard thing to swallow. I hope something can come of the area and that it can be beautiful afterwards, but…well…time will tell.

    • Martin Standage
      July 23, 2013 at 00:02

      This is exactly what Alan Weissman wrote about Varosha in his book ‘The world without us’ but sadly very few of the Greek-Cypriots who hope to return are aware of and still have visions of renovating their old properties and moving back in again.The point abut big developers etc. is also very valid-they still continue to ruin Cyprus in the same way as they spoiled Famagusta seafront in the 1970’s!!

  2. mike
    August 1, 2013 at 15:44

    What is this and what does this have to do with Varosha???

  3. August 1, 2013 at 16:31

    Mike: I believe that was spam which got through the filter. Apologies, it has been removed now.

  4. mike
    August 3, 2013 at 01:00

    Is anyone getting these stupid posta off someone called online form builder???

  5. Robert mccarthy
    August 12, 2013 at 11:32

    What a spitefull people are the Turks, what have they done to the 1100 people missing since they invaded,and they want to join the eu,they must be joking

  6. Stephen
    August 12, 2013 at 14:37

    Robert mccarthy :
    What a spitefull people are the Turks, what have they done to the 1100 people missing since they invaded,and they want to join the eu,they must be joking

    I’m not sure that’s helpful… It’s estimated that 1500 Greek Cypriots are missing and 500 Turkish Cypriots (and GCs outnumbered TCs by about 4 to 1 in 1974 so proportionately there’s not much difference). I presume the work begun a few years ago to identify remains is still ongoing: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/6166560.stm
    “The team carrying out this delicate task is a combination of Greek and Turkish Cypriot scientists, working alongside international experts. It is the only official joint project on the divided island that is actually working.”

  7. Yarex
    September 1, 2013 at 09:52

    As an ex service man at Ayios Nikolaos . Its so very sad to see the once beautiful town of Varosha abandoned and deserted. So many happy times spent there. Lets hope that one day it will arise from decay and become a thriving place once more

  8. November 5, 2013 at 05:21

    Any conflict has casualties, civilian, military, geographiic, financial, personal etc etc, and all so tragic and mostly so avoidable. There is also always at least 2 sides to any conflict. Without wishing to stir up any anger or historic bad feeling, I think this article is very biased toward the Greek sufferances. It is well established and documented that the Turkish inhabitants pre 1974 suffered some horrendous tragic attacks by Greek terrorists intending to cleanse the Island of the Turkish residents. Schools were attacked with women and children murdered whilst in bondage, farms, and villages were attacked with many dispicable acts of brutality and murder. The Turks appealed for help and assistance, The Turkish government appealed to stop the massacres, but these appeals went unheard. (I accept that the Turkish residents retaliated and committed many similar atrocities) The Turkish government appealed to the UK and USA to help stop these acts but were ignored. Eventually, in an attempt to stop the bloodbath, Turkey demanded that all atrocities stop or (in an attempt to save the lives of Turkish civilians) they would be forced to authorise military intervention. Again this was ignored and so Turkey was left with no alternative but to invade. The military invason occurred at the North of the Island and could easily have resulted in the seizure of the whole Island. However the Turks merely wanted to preserve the safety of the Turkish community and there possessions. So they stopped the invasion at Nicosia. Thus the divided Island. If the Turks were the barbarians that most portray them to be they would have (and easily could have) seized the whole Island. What occured was absoltutely necessary to stop the massacre of civilians. Since 1974 the Turks have tried to re-unite the island on may occasions, but at every (without one exception) all attempts have been declined by the Greek counterparts. Im sure there are many political agendas still occuring and as a result the Island remains status quo. I would ask in hindsight if the UK would have stood by whilst one section of their nationals were being systematically murdered, tortured or butchered, Would the USA do likewise? or would they take action.

    • Martin Standage
      November 5, 2013 at 10:34

      It is very easy to be misled by the excuses offered by Turkey for invading Cyprus and keeping it occupied since 1974 if you have not studied all the ins and outs of the situation and I don’t criticise you for this but also try to ask yourself why they are still here after almost 40 years and have colonised the north with thousands of mainlanders who are now the majority there over the Turkish Cypriots and control most businesses,including gambling and brothels!Also ask what looting Varosha and then leaving it to decay so much that it needs to be demolished and completely rebuilt has to do with ‘protecting the Turkish Cypriots’ etc etc. who are not even allowed to enter it?Left alone the Greek and Turkish Cypriots can work out a solution and are ready to compromise but the question still remains as to whether Turkey will allow them to or if all this is just a ruse for them to continue controlling the north for ever?

  9. toey00
    November 5, 2013 at 15:20

    I don’t believe that it was Turkey who stopped the unity of Cyprus at the last attempt, I was under the impression that the Greek Cypriots stopped the deal going through because they did not trust Turkey to deliver what they signed up to after the joint government was formed. There is good reason for that given their past record, and it proves that the TCs and the GCs cannot do a deal on their own because their is too much distrust.. The only way that a deal will be done is for another government and the UN broker a deal, and make sure that it is fully adhered to. What I don’t understand is why this has not and is not happening. Maybe because there is no oil on Cyprus? (thats the cynical side of me). I am not fully advised on the matter, but I have read a couple of books written by authors from both sides. It is clear that the past is still too clear in everyones minds and until someone focuses on delivering both sides committments to a deal, it will never be resolved. I hope and pray for both TCs and GCs sake someone picks up the batten and takes it over the finishing line.

  10. Peter Efthymiou
    December 24, 2013 at 17:09

    Peter Efthymiou :
    Marilena I am wondering if you know where Cyprus is or if you ever lived there!!!! Your comments are a total joke!!!

  11. fudge
    January 15, 2014 at 10:45

    Give it back its not yours…about time the british helped them get it back should of happened years ago

  12. February 21, 2014 at 22:18

    Can the site admin or author of this post please re-upload the content for “Video footage of a more recent visit to Varosha, long after it was deserted: click here and part two:click here. The website multiply.com closed down on Monday, May 31, 2013 in witch those links are dead now.

    Thank you for sharing this article.

    • February 24, 2014 at 21:42

      Thanks for bringing that to my attention. I managed to find it again elsewhere and have updated the links. Cheers.

      • Mike
        February 25, 2014 at 00:43

        I have videos of the Turkish Army driving through Varosha in 2009 and inside the Golden Sands Hotel but unsure how to upload on here???

        • February 26, 2014 at 12:43

          Mike, can you upload it to YouTube? If so I would be happy to post the link in the article with the other videos. Or I would be happy to host it on my YouTube channel & post the link if we can find an alternate way to get the video to me.

          • mike
            June 13, 2014 at 05:54

            Hi,sorry i have not been here for a whileAre you on facebook??? I have 3 video clips. It might be the case the ones you have are from me but either way i would like to see the footage you have if possible..

            • June 13, 2014 at 07:46

              Have either of you done any good from this exchange of messages? Think about it!

  13. David Souster
    April 18, 2014 at 09:48

    Why cant people just learn to co-exist such a beautiful location and to rebuild would only be beneficial to all of Cyprus

  14. A. S. Tuzun
    June 12, 2014 at 00:26

    “Until 1974 both Greek and Turkish Cypriots were able to coexist on the island largely without incident. “…You must be kidding, right? Officially 104 British soldiers killed by EOKA in 1950’s. Then between 1963-74 thousands of Turkish civillians killed or exiled by EOKA again. There are mass graves of “ethnic cleansing” found(and you can visit them today) in Turkish Murataga, Sandallar and Atlılar villages. A mother and her three children murdered in the bathroom of their home( http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-hvGFJklbWvc/Ub8sJzsO2-I/AAAAAAAABHI/ahahdy7RZ3s/s1600/k%C4%B1br%C4%B1s-katliam.jpg ).

    And you call this “without inciden”…well, what can I say….

    • mike
      June 12, 2014 at 08:15

      A.Z. Tuzun are you on facebook?????

    • June 12, 2014 at 15:01

      The only way to get an answer to your question A.Z. Tuzun, is to read some history!

      • June 13, 2014 at 01:01

        Cyprus history is bad enough-better to try and look towards the future and be positive!

        • June 13, 2014 at 01:14

          Im agree on that newmart. Whatever is happened is happened and finished. But unfortunatelly some people doesnt like to look future and still wants to go back 40 years ago. Past is past, accept that and learn to leave peacefully with your neighbours, try not to massacare them, and accept their rights too ;)

          • mike
            June 13, 2014 at 05:51

            The only way to look forward to the future is to have the removal of the Turkish Army from the north as well as all the illegal settlers. The full return of places like Varosha to the original owners. It is a disgrace that Varosha has been left to decay and to add insult the Turkish army enjoy 3 of the hotels in Varosha. One of them i happened to stay in,in 1973.

            • June 13, 2014 at 06:47

              sure lets remove the Turkish Army from North and keep slaughtering Turkish minority in there as you were doing before 1974. Thats what we call a “peacefull solution to a bright future”, isn’t it Mike. I thing Adolf Hitler and Slobodan Milošević were thinking the very same solution for Europe as well. But I’m affraid that didn’t work for them and won’t work for you either ;)

              • mike
                June 13, 2014 at 10:34

                History is as it says,history but you cannot expect to move forward with a 40,000 Turkish army occupying your country. If the tables were turned and it was your town Ali then i am sure you would have a different view.

                • June 14, 2014 at 03:34

                  I’m sorry Mike but I’m a fair person. If I try something like gaining land, taking control of the island by killing and/or exiling other and lost the struggle then don’t complain. I would say to myself “well, I’d tried something nasty and didn’t succeed so I don’t have any right to complain” ;)

        • Peter Efthymiou
          June 13, 2014 at 17:56

          I don’t think so. On the contrary, we are trying to negotiate and leave the past behind however your side wants to bring back the black times when Cyprus was fully occupied byTurkey! Comparing Adolf Hitler and Milosevic with Greek cypriot leaders, it is really funny! You could easily compare those creatures with those who decided the Turkish invasion in Cyprus and killed thousands of people, left 200,000 refugees in their own country, almost 2000 missing people etc. With those who are still occupied one third of Cyprus with 40,000 armed forces to protect the “North Turkish Republic”!

          • June 14, 2014 at 03:29

            Peter, all good but you still don’t mention one thing like all the greeks; what about the Turks lost their homes and their life BEFORE 1974? you all act like nothing happened before 1974, suddenly one morning Turkey decided to invade(!) island out of the blue! If you don’t accept responsibility for your actions you keep repeating the same mistakes and you will have similar consequences in the future. This is a rule for people, nations and countries. What you call negotiation is “we take all, you take nothing”. That’s not negotiation and that wont take you anywhere. 40 years or 400. First you have to accept your responsibility. Or you can “negotiate” and argue with people on the net for ages, but everything will stay as it is ;)
            Now here is a few simple questions; do you accept many attroticies happened before 1974 or not? Do you accept at the period of 07/08/1964-10/08/1964, under the orders of Grivas, the Cypriot National Guard overrun the Turkish Cypriot villages of Masoura and Lorovouno or not? What is Akritas plan? these are simple questions. If you want to argue about so called “Turkish Invasion” you have to answer many questions like these first. Because so called “Turkish Invasion” is not a begining as you mentioned often but the result of many other things.

            • June 14, 2014 at 16:19

              Αli, it seems that the brain wash you suffered over the years, it worked perfectly! The turkish cypriots who left their homes and their villages where they lived peacefully with greeks for more than five centuries, were forced to do so not by Makarios or Grivas but by the biggest enemy of Cyprus Rauf DenKtash. The person who was acting on a plan to divide Cyprus with the co-operation with the British since early 1950s! This is the reality and the true history and not what you suggest above. Any mistakes made by Greek cypriots were in response to the actions of your community leaders who in reality created the so called “cyprus problem” by falling in the trap of the British whose the policy “divide n rule” found the perfect persons in Cyprus to help them! As I said in my previous comment, if you want to learn more about Cyprus, you need to read history written by independent outsiders and not to rely on Turkish propaganda! As a start, I would suggest two very informative books, both editions of Oxford University. The one has the title BRITAIN AND THE REVOLT IN CYPRUS 1954-1956 written by Robert Holland and the other has the title THE CYPRUS PROBLEM and is written by James Ker-Linday. Although the second one I believe it is bias against Greek cypriots, a reasonable person can easily find the true version of the events!

              • June 14, 2014 at 22:17

                Thank you very much for proving my opinion Panikos. This attitude is exactly what I was mentioned above. I said some specific names and dates but you prefer to blame me being braşin washed rather than to answer any of those. Right, it seems like I’m the brain washed one ;)
                This attitude is exactly what I mentioned above, don’t take any responsibility, deny everything and blame one side only. And that’s why the situation doesn’t change for 40 years. You still don’t get unless this attitude changes there wont be any change in the situation. From my point of view, as my brain is washed there is no point to discuss with you.

                • June 15, 2014 at 01:23

                  I think you need to read once more what I wrote above. The answer to your question…….”…..what about the Turks lost their homes and their life BEFORE 1974…” it is clear in my reply if you can’t see it and admit the truth is your problem and indeed there is no need to discuss it! You can also find the answers in one of the books I mentioned, written by not greeks!

                  • June 15, 2014 at 13:22

                    Yes I can see “all” the answers in your reply ;)

                    • June 16, 2014 at 01:00

                      There is no excuse for leaving Varosha in its present condition-both the Turkish Cypriot people who live in Famagusta and the former Greek-Cypriots who lived in Varosha agree that it should be re-opened for everyones benefit!The only people who object are Eroglu and nationalists who don’t want the Greek and Turkish Cypriots to co-operate because it would destroy their aim of partitioning the island into two separate states-this is the reality!

                  • June 15, 2014 at 13:28

                    O by the way you said “The turkish cypriots who left their homes and their villages where they lived peacefully with greeks for more than five centuries…”.Right, that’s absolutely true. Only thing you forgat to add that, they lived peacefully UNDER OTTOMAN(TURKISH) RULE. So if the Turks wanted these attroticies they were extremely fool didn’t do them in 400 years, isn’t it my “clear minded” friend. I envy you as you are such a lucky person to have a “clear mind” and not brain washed as I am ;)

                    • June 15, 2014 at 15:49

                      That’s why you are trying to bring back the Ottoman rule!!!!!!!!!!!!!! To force peoples live “peacefully”! I do not understand why I waste my time!

      • June 13, 2014 at 01:12

        oh I do Panikos, a lot. The problem in here is you read just your own version of history always.

    • June 14, 2014 at 14:26

      I apologize for the poor choice of words Ali, I was intending to speak of a grander level and did not mean to marginalize the other crimes on Cyprus. I’ve updated the text to reflect a better description of the situation.

      Thanks for your comment, and I appreciate your civil contributions to the conversation.

Comment pages
  1. July 8, 2013 at 22:24
  2. August 15, 2013 at 08:23
  3. November 12, 2013 at 14:17
  4. December 12, 2013 at 03:16
  5. February 12, 2014 at 11:19
  6. February 12, 2014 at 11:20

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