Buffavento

An essential outing for all who love heights, castles and adventure. This is the highest of North Cyprus’s three Crusader fortresses, and the most difficult to reach. However, its setting is the most dramatic of any ruin on the entire island and well worth the trip. Remember to pack your head for heights, as the final 6km of the approach are along a precipitous, though well-surfaced, road. Due to the potential for rockfall, a Buffavento visit is not advisable either during or immediately after heavy rain. The steep climb on foot from where the road ends to the summit takes about 45 minutes, often on a concrete pathway and steps, with very little shade.

The distinctive shape of Buffavento’s rocky crag dominates the northern coastline and hovers ever present, beckoning seductively for most of the approach drive. Its outline bulges upwards, as if an unseen hand has struck the brow of the mountain range, making the terrain come up in an almighty bump. It was previously only approachable from the east, but the road now continues on past the foot of the castle, heading west to Taşkent. A good idea is to approach from the east, visit the castle, and then continue the drive west to see the abandoned Panagia Absinthiotissa Monastery, before reaching Taşkent and linking up with the main road back to Girne.

Disparaging comments are often made about the paltry nature of the ruins at Buffavento, along with jokes about its name ‘buffetted by the wind’ meaning that everything on the summit has been blown away. Yet the ascent to Buffavento, because of the terrain and the stupendous location, means that, if anything, it makes an even deeper impression than the other two Crusader castles, and the wonder is how anything was ever built up here at all. For a time in the early 1970s a guardian was posted up here, but he has since abandoned his lonely job.

You arrive now at the deserted first section of the castle, entered by a fine arched gateway. Inside is a cluster of chambers, one of which is built over a cistern. The red tiles used in the arches around the doorways are reminiscent of the Seljuk style of mainland Turkey.

Right on the summit are the remains of a chapel and a few other buildings, but most memorable are the staggering views, often through wisps of cloud, over the coast and back towards Lefkoşa and the Troodos Mountains beyond.

Like Hilarion and Kantara, Buffavento was constructed as part of a chain of defence against the Arab raids in Byzantine times. The Byzantine despot king of the island, Isaac Comnenus, fled here to escape the clutches of Richard the Lionheart at the time of the Third Crusade. Isaac’s daughter surrendered it and herself to Richard in 1191, and the castle was thereafter fortified by the Lusignan Frankish knights and maintained as a prison called Château du Lion. The Venetians dismantled it fairly thoroughly in the 16th century to deny the islanders any chance of using the inland stronghold in any revolt against them. The Venetians’ own interest was restricted to the coast, and they had no desire to maintain costly garrisons in these inland castles.

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