A ghost town in Cyprus that was abandoned in the 1970s may soon open to the public again — take a look inside
The Varosha district of Famagusta, Cyprus, was once a booming resort town visited by the rich and famous.
However, after the area was taken over by Turkish forces in 1974, Varosha was blocked off to visitors and quickly fell into disrepair.
Today, Varosha is marked by collapsing hotels and the eerie remnants left behind by those who lived, worked, and vacationed in the town. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is now discussing plans to reopen the resort town, but the area is nothing like it was 40 years ago.
Take a look inside the abandoned ghost town once considered the “French Riviera of Cyprus.”
Varosha was once a resort located in the city of Famagusta, Cyprus.
Before the division of Cyprus in 1974, Varosha was a booming resort town with sky-scraping hotels, glamorous shopping districts, and sandy beaches frequently called the best in Cyprus.
The rich and famous claimed Verosha as the most beautiful spot on the island.
According to the BBC, celebrities including Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, and Brigitte Bardot visited the island in its heyday.
“Anyone who comes from Varosha has a romanticized notion of it,” Vasia Markides, an American Greek-Cypriot whose mother grew up there, told the BBC. “They talk about it being the hub of art and intellectual activity. They describe it as the French Riviera of Cyprus.”
But since 1974, everyone but the Turkish military has been forbidden from entering, and today, the once-booming resort town lies crumbling and abandoned.
According to the BBC, after years of violence, Turkey invaded Cyprus following a Greek-government-backed coup and gained control of the northern third section of the island, which included the district of Varosha.
Tens of thousands of Greek Cypriots quickly left the area, fearing violence but intending to return once tensions settled down.
At its height, Varosha was home to 39,000 residents.
Varosha also attracted around 700,000 annual visitors and tourists.
Former residents have recalled the panicked state they left their homes in as the troops invaded.
Some left their wedding presents in their attics, while others said they still had pots cooking on the stove when they evacuated.
Following the invasion, the resort was fenced and blocked off by the Turkish military, and it has been empty ever since.
What was once a glamorous resort is now a barren wasteland dotted with falling fences and barricades.
While the city of Famagusta is home to thousands of residents, who are mostly Turkish, the Varosha sector is still blocked off.
Decaying buildings and rubble now line the streets of the abandoned district.
Signs label Varosha a “forbidden zone.”
Tourists are banned from entering or taking photos inside the fenced-off areas, but some have managed to slip through and document what has been left behind.
Inside the district, buildings are slowly collapsing, abandoned cars are rusting over, and the streets lie empty.
The Varosha district is still blocked off to most people, except for Turkish military forces, UN officials, and the occasional journalist, according to Atlas Obscura.
Tables are still set for meals and designer clothes can be found hanging inside now-abandoned shops.
According to Atlas Obscura, much of the resort remains largely how its former residents and visitors left it.
In 1984, a UN resolution called for the area to be handed over to UN control, allowing former Cypriots who were forced out to resettle there.
After travel restrictions were eased in 2003, former residents were allowed to return and peer into the forgotten resort through fences and barbed wire.
However, those who ventured back to the island found the once-booming area a crumbling ghost town.
“The picture that I had in my mind was of a kind of paradise,” one Cypriot who returned to look across the fence at her family’s former home told the BBC. “But it felt like some sort of post-apocalyptic nightmare.”
“You’re seeing nature take over. Prickly pear bushes have overrun the entire six square kilometers. There are trees that have sprouted through living rooms. It’s a ghost town,” she said.
The main beach is public and open to visitors, but it lies set against the backdrop of decaying hotels and the rest of the abandoned resort town.
However, tourists may soon be able to visit Varosha again.
Varosha, also known by its Turkish name Maraş, may soon reopen to visitors.
According to CNN, Ersin Tatar, prime minister of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, has plans to start the reopening and potential rebuilding process.
“It’s all ready in my opinion,” Tatar said in August, according to Turkish state broadcaster TRT. “The tide has changed and a new page has been turned … Maraş is within the territory of the TRNC. Nobody can take it from us. We are continuing on our successful path.”
He has not given a timeline for when the resort will open again, but the move is likely to anger Greek Cypriots, Reuters reported.
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