Ghost Town in Paradise

Varosha in North Cyprus was once the hottest tourist spot in the region. It had all the makings of a Mediterranean paradise. Blue waters, soft beaches, warm sunshine. And for the past four decades, it’s had the added bonus of no crowds. Because it’s a fenced-off ghost town. Here’s a picture of abandoned buildings all along the shore.

photograph by TomasNY; CC

I know … not the most impressive fence in the world. Looks like the sort of thing a child could hop across. But you run a very real risk of getting shot if you try to cross it. Which complicates things.

The residents of Varosha left the city in the summer of 1974, just ahead of the Turkish invasion (which you can read about at more length here and here). When they fled, they left behind most of their belongings, fully expecting to return soon enough, once the danger had passed. But Turkish forces put up the fence, set up armed patrols, and refused to allow inhabitants to return. And that was that for Varosha.

The city–minus all its residents–still stands there today, fenced off and empty. This New York Times article and this BBC article (which has great pictures) both describe the eerie, frozen-in-time quality of Varosha now. The food slowly rotting in bowls, pots, and cupboards; the mannequins wearing bell-bottoms in shop windows; the 1970s cars on display (for no one) in dealerships.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the fence, modern life continues apace. 21st century resorts and hotels dot the coastline directly north of Varosha, offering great vacation deals. Here’s a google map showing just how close one hotel is to the no-go zone.

This particular hotel’s website offers lots of information about its gourmet dining options, its spa and wellness options, but rather less about the crumbling ghost city lost in time that sits right next door.

On the plus side, nature seems to have scored a victory here. Trees are growing in forgotten living rooms, snakes have free rein of the abandoned streets and alleys, and rare sea turtles have started to nest on deserted beaches. Paradise regained, I guess.