Varosha, Famagusta

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Varosha in 2006
Varosha in 2006
Varosha is located in Cyprus
Coordinates: 35°06′39″N 33°57′13″E / 35.11083°N 33.95361°E / 35.11083; 33.95361Coordinates: 35°06′39″N 33°57′13″E / 35.11083°N 33.95361°E / 35.11083; 33.95361
Country (de jure) Cyprus
 • DistrictFamagusta District
Country Northern Cyprus[1]
 • DistrictGazimağusa District
 • Total0
Varosha, as seen from outside the military fence
Abandoned hotels in Varosha
Varosha viewed from Paralimni in 2017.

Varosha (Greek: Βαρώσια [locally [vaˈɾoʃa]]; Turkish: Maraş [maˈɾaʃ] or Kapalı Maraş[3][4]) is an abandoned southern quarter of the Cypriot city of Famagusta. Before 1974, it was the modern tourist area of the city. Its inhabitants fled during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, when the city of Famagusta came under Turkish control, and it has remained abandoned ever since. As of 2019, the quarter continues to be uninhabited; buildings have decayed, and, in some cases, their contents have been looted over the years; some streets have been overgrown with vegetation; and the quarter is generally described as a ghost town. Entry is forbidden to the public.


In the early 1970s, Famagusta was the number-one tourist destination in Cyprus. To cater to the increasing number of tourists, many new high-rise buildings and hotels were constructed. During its heyday, Varosha was not only the number-one tourist destination in Cyprus, but between 1970 and 1974, it was one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world,[citation needed] and was a favourite destination of celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Raquel Welch, and Brigitte Bardot.[citation needed]


The main features of Varosha included John F. Kennedy Avenue, a street which ran from close to the port of Famagusta, through Varosha and parallel to Glossa beach. Along JFK Avenue, there were many well known high rise hotels including the King George Hotel, The Asterias Hotel, The Grecian Hotel, The Florida Hotel, and The Argo Hotel which was the favourite hotel of Elizabeth Taylor. The Argo Hotel is located near the end of JFK Avenue, looking towards Protaras and Fig Tree Bay. Another major street in Varosha was Leonidas (Greek: Λεωνίδας), a major street that came off JFK Avenue and headed west towards Vienna Corner. Leonidas was a major shopping and leisure street in Varosha, consisting of bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and a Toyota car dealership.

1974 to present day[edit]

Before the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, the city of Varosha had a population of 39,000.[2] Following the invasion of Cyprus on July 20, 1974, the Greek Cypriot army withdrew its forces to Larnaca. The Turkish army advanced as far as the Green Line, which is the present day border between the two communities. Just hours before the Greek Cypriot and Turkish armies met in combat on the streets of Famagusta, the entire population fled, fearing a massacre. The evacuation was aided and orchestrated by the nearby British military base. Many refugees fled south to Paralimni, Dherynia, and Larnaca. Paralimni has since become the modern day capital of the Famagusta province.

When the Turkish Army gained control of the area during the invasion, they fenced it off and have since refused entry to anyone except Turkish military and United Nations personnel. The people living in Varosha hoped to return to their home when the situation calmed down, but the resort remained closed.

The UN Security Council Resolution 550 of 1984 ordered for Varosha to be handed over to the administration of the United Nations, and was to be resettled by no other people than the inhabitants who were forced out. The Turkish state did not comply but has held Varosha as a "bargaining chip" ever since[5] in the hope of persuading the people of Cyprus into accepting a settlement of the Cyprus issue on their terms.

One such settlement plan was the Annan Plan to reunify the island that provided for the return of Varosha to the original residents. But this was rejected by Greek Cypriots in a 2004 referendum. The UN Security Council Resolution 550 states that it "considers attempts to settle any part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants as inadmissible and calls for the transfer of this area to the administration of the United Nations".[6] Since 1974, Turkey has forbidden entry to the district with the exception of the TSK personnel.

The European Court of Human Rights awarded between €100,000 and €8,000,000 to eight Greek Cypriots for being deprived of their homes and properties as a result of the 1974 invasion.[citation needed] The case was filed jointly by businessman Constantinos Lordos and others, with the principal judgement in the Lordos case dating back to November 2010. The court ruled that, in the case of eight of the applicants, Turkey had violated Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human rights on the right of peaceful enjoyment of one's possessions, and in the case of seven of the applicants, Turkey had violated Article 8 on the right to respect for private and family life.

In the absence of human habitation and maintenance, buildings continue to decay. Nature is reclaiming the area, as metal corrodes, windows break, and plants work their roots into the walls and pavement. Sea turtles have been seen[by whom?] nesting on the deserted beaches.

During the Cyprus Missile Crisis (1997–1998), the Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktaş, threatened to take over Varosha if the Cypriot government didn't back down.[7]


  1. ^ In 1983, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus unilaterally declared independence from the Republic of Cyprus. The de facto state is not recognised by any UN state except Turkey.
  2. ^ a b Barnets, Nick (13 August 2014). "There Is a Ghost Town in Cyprus That's Been Held Hostage for 40 Years". VICE. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  3. ^ Uğur Dağlı, Şehir Plancısı Naciye Doratlı, Şebnem Önal (1998). "Gazimağusa Şehrinin Kentsel Gelişiminin Sürdürülebilirliğine Yönelik Çözüm Önerileri" (in Turkish). Doğu Akdeniz Üniversitesi, Mimarlık Fakültesi. Retrieved 21 November 2012. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Doratlı, Naciye; İbrahim Numan; Özgür Dinçyürek (2002). "GAZİMAĞUSA'NIN FARKLI SENARYOLARA GÖRE DEĞİŞİMİNİN MORFOLOJİK AÇIDAN İRDELENMESİ" (in Turkish). DAÜ Mimarlık Fakültesi, KKTC. Retrieved 21 November 2012. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ Abandoned Places by Kieron Connolly. London: Amber Books, 2016, pp. 110-111
  6. ^ "United Nations Security Council Resolution 550" (PDF). United Nations. 11 May 1984. Retrieved 14 July 2012.
  7. ^ "Turkey hints at strike on Cypriot missiles". independent.

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