Varosha, Cyprus is a Mediterranean ghost town that has been deserted for more than forty years. This empty town is now full of decaying hotels and overgrown weeds. But, you’ll never believe it’s once-glamorous history. Think that you might want to visit just see what it is all about? Good luck getting past the military patrols. They have been ordered to shoot anyone brave enough to venture into this ghost town. Here are 15 facts that you must know about Varosha.
#1 Varosha Was One of the Most Exclusive Tourist Destinations in the World
In its heyday, Varosha was a playground for the rich and famous. Celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor and Brigitte Bardot were lured to the town by its beautiful beaches and art. With its golden sands, luxury shopping and high-rise hotels, Varosha was considered the French Riviera of Cyprus.
#2 It’s Decline Began When Turkey Invaded Cyprus in 1974
After years of inter-ethnic violence, Turkey invaded and occupied the northern third of the islands. As the troops entered Varosha, more than 40,000 townspeople fled the city in a panic as battleships approached from the sea.
#3 Residents Escaped Just in the Nick of Time
Most people managed to escape from Varosha just before the troops battled in the streets of the resort town. The townspeople intended to return later once the conflict eased. They were sure that the conflict would be solved. Unfortunately, that never happened.
#4 The Town Was Soon Taken Over by the Military
The resort town was taken over by the Turkish military. The city is still occupied by Turkish troops. A demilitarized UN buffer zone cuts across Cypress. The buffer zone is referred to as the “Green Line”. The Turkish military occupies north of the line, including the city of Varosha. While the south is occupied by the Greek-controlled Independent Republic of Cyprus.
#5 The Townspeople Were Never Allowed to Return
The townspeople had expected to return to Varosha within a week after the conflict first began. But, their hopes of returning to their once glamorous city faded as months and years went by. It’s been over forty years, and they still are not allowed to enter the fenced-off community.
#6 The Once Luxurious City Now Looks Like a Post-Apocalyptic Nightmare
Since Varosha has been abandoned, its restaurants and glamorous hotels have slowly been decaying. Nature has taken over in this once rich town. Trees have sprouted through the living rooms of homes. Bombed buildings appear to be ready to crumble at any moment. Prickly pear cactus bushes have taken over almost every block. In some areas, even the prickly pear cactuses have turned black and are dead.
#7 The City is Literally Frozen in Time
The whole town is frozen in time, just as it was in 1974. Car dealerships are fully stocked with 1974 cars and trucks that were waiting for a buyer. Rust and decay have taken over these never-driven automobiles. Sun loungers still sit on the beach just as they were left when the army came to remove everyone.
#8 In Spite of the Dirt and Decay, There is Beauty
Even though Varosha has been overcome with decay and rot, the clear blue sea looks as inviting as it ever did. If you did not know better, you would think that it would be the perfect place for a cool dip in the ocean.
#9 The Abandoned Town is Now a “Forbidden Zone”
Varosha is off-limits to all but the Turkish military and official visitors. Even former residents are barred from entering Varosha. Countless signs along the fence with verbiage like “STOP” and “No Man’s Land” warn that the area is a forbidden zone.
#10 Trespassers Risk Death
Made of corrugated iron and topped off with barbed wire, along fence extends into the sea and serves as a barrier to warn people against entering the town. Signs warn trespassers that they face the risk of death if they dare to enter the forbidden city.
#11 Do Not Even Think About Taking a Photo or Shooting a Movie Here
Although there are plenty of photos and videos of Varosha on the internet, many photographers deny taking them. it is forbidden to take pictures or movies of the town. Signs warn would-be photographers against snapping a picture of the demolished buildings. If the guards sitting on the tower in the town’s seafront see you try to snap a photo, they will usually blow a whistle warning you to stop. If you don’t, they then threaten to shoot.
#12 The Once-Gorgeous Town Is Now Beyond Repair
Varosha is considered to be beyond repair due to the unstoppable forces of nature. Structures that were not bombed during the conflict have begun to collapse from neglect. Any potential development in the city would require the site to be completely leveled due to the years of neglect and aging infrastructure.
#13 Few People Have Ventured Inside the Town Since the 1970s
Varosha still stands vacant to this day. No one resides there and no one is allowed to visit inside the walls. Turkish troops and official visitors are the only people allowed in the town.
#14 Exiled Residents Pin Love Letters and Flowers to the Barbed Wire
Former residents yearn to return to the Varosha that they once knew. Many of them recall their plight of being forced out with sadness. You can see flowers and letters pinned to the barbed-wire fence by former residents.
#15 There are Talks to Return Varosha to its Glory
Talks between the Turkish and Greek communities are ongoing and former residents have met to talk about returning to the long-forgotten city. Both sides want to see the town restored to what it once was. Unfortunately, the idea of Varosha returning to its roots anytime soon is probably not a reality. Although a plan has been raised to allow residents to return to Varosha, the plan has run into opposition from people in both the Turkey and Cyprus communities. Unfortunately, even though this city could be paradise once again, the two parties cannot agree.