© North Cyprus Tourism Centre
Avoiding the crowds, the early morning visitor can stroll the harbour area or the narrow alleys around the Djafer Paşa Mosque, stopping to savour a freshly squeezed orange juice or sip tentatively at a darkly foreboding Turkish coffee.
Although the economic ebb and flow has taken its toll in recent years, Girne still remains the prettiest town on the island by virtue of an imposing Crusader castle and a picturesque, atmospheric harbour flanked by alfresco restaurants and bars. Hotels and villa developments may have sprouted up in the outskirts to the east and west, but Girne’s old town and harbour nevertheless stand resolute against modernisation, whilst still managing to offer their many visitors all the pleasures of a well-equipped resort. To the south, the jagged Kyrenia Mountains provide the town with a spectacular backdrop and an irresistible invitation to visit both the towering hilltop castle of St Hilarion and the tranquillity of nearby Bellapais Abbey.
Avoiding the crowds, the early morning visitor can stroll the harbour area or the narrow alleys around the Djafer Paşa Mosque, stopping to savour a freshly squeezed orange juice or sip tentatively at a darkly foreboding Turkish coffee. Eventually the town stirs into action and sets about its business with considerable bustle. From the frantic roundabout of the Ramadan Çemil Meydani – commonly known as the ‘Belediye’ – to the small, diverse shops along Ziya Rizki Caddesi and Atatürk Caddesi, Girne generates a buzz worthy of any self-respecting Mediterranean resort. In the evening, would-be diners ponder the choices offered by the many fish and meze eateries clustered around the calm waters of the horseshoe-shaped harbour. Food is generally of a high standard, though recent price increases mean that reasonable, rather than excellent, value can be expected. After dinner, many visitors, especially those from mainland Turkey, take their chances at the flash casinos that attach themselves to the more upmarket hotels, while non-gamblers can peoplewatch from the outdoor cafés.
Those arriving in Girne in search of a peaceful fishing village may be disappointed – they’re in the right place, just at the wrong time. But while the tranquillity of yesteryear may have gone, the frenzied investment that has brought endless hotels and holiday apartments to the surrounding municipality has also improved the infrastructure. A recently constructed bypass detours westbound-traffic from Lefkoşa around the southern fringe of Girne, avoiding the city centre and reducing the previous congestion; new pavements have smartened up the town’s main shopping arteries; and chic bars and restaurants present a more spruced-up appearance to the returning visitor.