Varosha – A Ghost Town in Cyprus

The suburb of Varosha in the city of Famagusta was a victim of the 1974 war in Cyprus, leaving it abandoned to this day. A coup supported by Greece led Turkey to invade the north of the island to protect the Turkish minority living there and protect democracy. Since then, the island has been divided and all efforts to reunite the divided community have failed. Many of the buildings in the buffer zone between the two sides were abandoned and have been decaying since the war. Talks continue to try bring the two communities in Cyprus together but even 40 years later, they remain divided and suspicious of each other.

Varosha was an affluent, tourist based suburb of the city of Famagust. A large scale evacuation was ordered when Turkey invaded and since then, has been left pretty much as it was then nearly 40 years later, a ghost town left decaying and off-limits to civilians. The area was popular among travellers from north and west Europe in the late 1960s and early 1970s however following the war, it was completely abandoned and closed off to the public. The fences surrounding it as well as the presence of armed guards means there are few photos and videos, mainly taken by soldiers serving with the United Nations in the area. Some urban explorers however risk arrest and detention for trespassing.

The below video goes right inside the abandoned suburb of Famagusta and shows how eerie it is. Varosha serves as a chilling reminder to the people of Cyprus of what happened in 1974. After nearly 40 years, the buildings are beginning to crumble and nature has reclaimed the area.

The area continues to be an issue of contention between the Greek and Turkish sides of the island and has been the subject of debate in a number of peace plans. The sides continue to talk and the island remains divided. Varosha could prove an important bargaining tool in any agreement.

The following is a personal account of the evacuation of Varosha from The Varosha Blog

Finally, sensing that the moment had arrived, we took a last look around our home, my mother was in tears and so was my father. We had only a small bag each of clothes and a few keepsakes and left our house just as we heard Turkish voices shouting in the distance. We headed away from the noise as fast as we could down towards Paralimni and Agia Napa, trucks and cars formed a long convoy out of Varosha and towards Derynia.

We were noticed by friends who offered us a lift on the back of their truck and sat amongst their belongings we all sobbed. In Agia Napa we saw hundreds, if not thousands, of people not knowing what to do. The police were trying to restore order amidst the chaos but with little success. The friends who had given us a ride said that they were going to continue on to Dhekelia to see if the British Army would help them.

Again, when we arrived at Dhekelia, there was a huge crowd trying to get into the base. The British feared that they would be overrun if everyone was let in at once so they were checking each lorry, car and pedestrian carefully. Inside, we felt safe but it seemed like we were in a prison camp. There were British soldiers guarding us like we were the criminals and we sat, in whatever shade we could find, resigned to our fate.

We stayed there for weeks being looked after by the British. No amount of international persuasion would get Turkey to withdraw and our homes, like the rest of the north of the island, were cut off from us and the world as though it never existed.

Location: Famagusta, Cyprus

Category: Ghost Town

Abandoned: 1974

Abandoned church in Varosha, Cyprus

A sign pointing to Varosha

Barrier in the abandoned suburb of Varosha

Abandoned hotel in Varosha

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