Arriving to Cyprus from mainland Turkey means your first touch with the island will happen in Girne, also known as Kyrenia. That is not a bad thing at all as Girne is precisely the kind of village people struggle to describe without using words as cute and quaint!
It sports a compact historical downtown, romantic harbour full of overpriced restaurants (hey, but looking is for free!) and a seemingly unattended tourist office which gives you the perfect opportunity to explore without any hassle.
Dirty backpacker tip: the tourist office has a side door facing the harbour where you can find toilets and hot (solar) showers. It is exclusive to people who live on the boats here, but you know, if you come in the evening and nobody sees you, you can take your chance and get clean(er). The door is usually open and there are no keys so note that a random sailor entering is within the wide range of shower possibilities.
Interesting stuff to do in Girne, Cyprus
If you are coming to Cyprus on a ferry from the Turkish side, it is worth spending an hour or two discovering this village. The downtown is small and absolutely walkable, but full of interesting details. These are just some of the things that caught my eye when visiting:
This goes without saying. I stayed on a boat in the old harbour and was charmed like a snake with the view of evening light shining on the massive castle and reflecting on the soft waves. The ancient houses house elegant restaurants (which is intimidating for my wallet, so don´t expect any grilled fish à la Girne review from me any time soon) with white tablecloths and strong wifi, favored by the many British who live here. I found the old harbour charming in spite of the last point on this list.
It looks like a lighthouse, but this is actually a cool fortification system of the old harbour. Walking along the chain tower (which is for free, yey) shows you dreamy sights of both the castle and the boats from a different angle. It is also the hottest point of selfie taking, statistically speaking.
Read more: A short (but useful!) guide to Istanbul
It is in the Tayfalar Sokak (street). You´re welcome.
Abandoned church (Chrysopolitissa Kilisesi)
I was a bit surprised to see this church with doors ajar but I was happy to have a look inside. I don´t think it is open all the time – there was also a woman measuring some stuff so maybe they are planning some reconstruction (or she was just wondering how wide the entrance is and I am completely wrong, could be). It is from the 12th century, the time when Richard Lionheart captured the island, and according to a tourist information board of Girne, the most interesting detail is the relief of crucified Jesus by the main entrance.
Personally, i have seen way too many crucified JC´s in my life (including a famous one in Burgos whose hair supposedly keeps growing) and was unimpressed. But I took a photo, because I am a good tourist. What I loved were the ornaments of wooden pillars supporting the building structure and the plants growing up to the sky instead of missing roof.
Read more: Kayaköy: The Ghost Village of Turkey
I was a little sorry I am not an old guy because I would just loved to have one of those old guy moments sitting here, drinking tea and looking like the place belongs to me. I am serious – all of the old guys there were pulling an owner face. I couldn´t decide who to ask for wifi password. Nevertheless, there was no wifi so I decided to forgo judging their tea quality and went elsewhere instead.
The old market building is tall, a bit dark and I am not sure why they don´t use it as a marketplace anymore. It still looks grand, albeit a little melancholic, in its emptiness.
Ottoman Baldoken Cemetery
I had my hasty yesterday-leftovers-lunch here. I am not morbid, there are benches to relax and nowadays the ancient graves serve as flowerpots.
If I truly love something, it is a cat that doesn´t run when I point my lens towards her. This fellow was spectacularly licking his balls in the entrance of the Round tower (which is a café today) and was utterly unimpressed by my artsy-fartsy efforts to get a candid of him. I wish I was half as good a model as him.
I am starting to think that this is some Turkish staircase fetish. You can find rainbow staircases in plenty of places in Turkey and I was a little bit happy for my husband not to be with me here because he would have to take those awful photos of me sitting-casually-doing-nothing that I love to post on my Instagram. Now if you want to snap one of those, you can easily find this pretty thing behind the castle.
They are hanging from the walls all across the downtown.
I´m a sucker for a pretty door knob, aren´t you too?
The one thing I didn´t love about Girne
This is not a pretty listicle item to include, but nevertheless, it is part of my experience. I was hosted by a male couchsurfer in Girne and while I loved the location and staying on a boat, I certainly didn´t enjoy the level of sexism, harassment and disrespect for me as a woman I encountered. Before you proceed to tell me I should know better than to stay with male hosts alone, please note that he had about 20 good references from both male and female guests. That didn´t stop him from feeling free to take a peak while I take a shower, trying to take off my clothes all the time and asking utterly rude questions such as how much sex do I have with my husband.
When I find myself in such situations, my naturally high level of decency makes me freeze, but you can be sure that by the time you are reading this, I have already clicked the Report button. As a woman and as a couchsurfer, I urge you to leave honest reviews. It largely helps to improve both your and my safety.
Please, don´t keep silent.
Read more: I said I loved traveling alone – and I lied
Is Girne worth a visit?
Girne is an easy half an hour – forty minutes ride from the capital of North Cyprus, Lefkoşa, and it is unbelievably easy to hitchhike on the island. If you are mainly staying at the Greek side, mayby crossing to North Cyprus just because of Girne isn´t much of a treat, however, I enjoyed its tranquil air and quirky Mediterranean details. Visit for sure if you are coming with the ferry from Taşucu, or if you are up to exploring the Turkish side of the island.
I stayed in Girne for two days (of which I spent one mostly sleeping) and walked around a couple of times, ending up seeing the same streets from all angles. I hope this list helps you figure out what to do in Girne and inspire you to visit. I also hope I convinced you just a little bit about the importance of honest Couchsurfing reviews.
Have you visited Cyprus? What was your favorite spot? Are you from Girne and hate me for talking about sexism? Speak up in the comments!
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Stray story seeker. Hungry hitchhiker. Wannabe polyglot. Aspiring travel writer. Currently bumming around in Georgia.
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