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Famagusta (Gazimagusa)

Once the richest city in the world, and often mistaken as the setting for Shakespeare's Othello, Famagusta has now gone romantically to seed. The decaying old town is surrounded by a Venetian city wall, while the new town sprawls outside its boundaries. Just north of the Green Line in the country's east, Famagusta sits at the base of the eerie, desolate Karpas Peninsula. Wealthy to the point of vulgarity in the 13th century, levelled by the Ottoman Empire in the 16th, the old city is now mostly notable for its few remaining churches. The Cathedral of St Nicholas, now the Mustafa Pasha Mosque, is a magnificent reminder of the city's Lusignan heyday. Although succesive regimes have either altered or damaged it, it is still an elegant building. Note the minaret perched incongruously on one of its ruined towers.Famagusta's other drawcard is Othello's Tower. According to legend, this is where Christoforo Moro (governor of Cyprus from 1506-08) killed his wife Desdemona. Alternatively, this is where Francesco de Sessa, a dark-skinned soldier, committed some unnamed offence which resulted in his banishment. Another legend holds that all the wealth of Famagusta's Venetian merchants, abandoned during the Ottoman bombardment, is buried in the tower's basement. Even if none of these stories is true, the castle is worth a look just for its great views of the harbour. Famagusta isn't exactly crawling with eating and accommodation possibilities (most tourist digs were in the now-deserted and off-limits Greek part of town), so most travellers day-trip here from the north's beach towns.

 
Kyrenia (Girne)

Kyrenia, in the middle of the north coast, is, despite some nasty developments, the most pleasant coastal resort on the island. As is the norm in Cyprus, the old quarter is the most atmospheric place to be, but most of the hotels are in the newer resort strip. If Mediterranean atmosphere and outdoor cafes aren't enough to keep you entertained, have a look at the Kyrenia Castle. Originally built in Roman times, the building you see today is mostly Venetian. The castle includes a Byzantine chapel and a museum of shipwrecks, featuring the world's oldest shipwreck and its cargo.

 
Lefkosia (Nicosia)

The capital of Cyprus, in the middle of the island, is cut in two by the Green Line, which divides the country. Since the wall came down in Berlin, it's the only divided capital in the world. A visit here might help you understand the problems Cyprus is facing, and should also give you a less touristy view of the country than you'll get if you stick to the coastal towns. The old town, inside the 16th-century Venetian walls, is the most interesting part of Lefkosia, with the city centre and municipal gardens just outside the wall on the south-west side.In Lefkosia, the Leventis Municipal Museum traces the development of the city from prehistoric times and gives a pretty good overview - it's not a bad place to start your Lefkosian experience. Just east of the Leventis you'll find a museum of culture, Dragoman Hadzigeorgakis. The exhibits are nothing special, but the building - a 15th-century mansion - is gorgeous. For some really spectacular museum pieces try the Byzantine Museum in the downright ugly Archbishop's Palace, which has a superb collection of religious icons and mosaics. In the grounds of the museum, St John's Cathedral has some recently restored 18th-century frescoes. Once the main entrance to the city, the Famagusta Gate, on the eastern wall, is beautifully preserved and is now used as a cultural centre.The centre of North Nicosia is Atatürk Square, in the north-west. From the square, the main street runs north to the well-preserved Kyrenia Gate. Near the gate you'll find the Turkish Museum, which lives in a 17th-century monastery and features a display of whirling-dervish memorabilia. The Selimiye Mosque, built in the 13th century, is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in the country. Famous around the world, the Büyük Hammam, in the south of town, is the city's largest Turkish bath.In the southern part of the city most of the places to stay, cheap or otherwise, are clustered around the southern wall, with a youth hostel a bit farther south. Places to eat are in the same sort of area, with a health food shop near the hostel. In the north you'll find most accommodation around Selimiye Mosque, which is also the best area to get a bite to eat. If you're staying in the south and want to visit the north, you can usually get an entry permit which will let you stay the day. It isn't possible to day-trip in the other direction.

 
Pafos

In a country of crassly commercial, poorly planned resort monstrosities, Pafos (on the western coast) seems to be hanging on to its identity while still pulling the tourist dollar. Kato Pafos, the lower town, has committed some nasty developmental sins, but Pafos itself, slightly inland, is much more pleasant. Among the souvenir shops you'll find Saranta Kolones, a Lusignian fortress destroyed by an earthquake in the 13th century. It's a very ruined ruin, mostly fallen columns and sewer tunnels. The Tombs of the Kings, 2km (1.2mi) north of Kato Pafos, are a warren of fascinating tombs carved into the soft rock of the sea-cliff.Pafos' most famous sight is its mosaics, originally laid down in the 3rd century as floors for Roman nobles. The first of these was uncovered in 1962, and continuing excavations have revealed a complex of buildings covering about 300 sq m (about 980 sq ft). Most of the mosaics, considered the best in this part of the world, are dedicated to Dionysus. Many people who come to Pafos come on a package, and the town isn't really set up for the casual visitor, with very few decent places to stay. Have a look in the northern part of town and you might be able to dig something up.

 
Troödos Massif

The mountains of the Troödos region, in the country's south, are unforgettable. And unlike the rest of the Republic, this is one place where you might not be outnumbered by package tourists. Popular with skiers, hikers and the heat-intolerant, Troödos is littered with 15th-century frescoed monasteries, wine-making villages and pleasant walking trails. Kykkos Monastery, in the western Troödos, is the best known but most touristy monastery. Built in the 12th century, it's been completely renovated and contains a museum of religious icons. Asinou is probably the most beautiful of the area's monasteries, but it's a bit of a trek to get to it - head south from Nikitari.Platres is the main resort in the Troödos. In the south of the region, it was a colonial hill station and is still very popular with expats. It's nothing special, but there's lots of places to stay. Pedoulas, in the western Troödos, is another regional centre and home to the Church of Arhangelos Mihail. It's also one of the most convenient bases for visiting Kykkos. The Solea district, in the north, is scattered with picturesque small villages and monasteries, and is ideal if you're keen for a bit of cycling.


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