From Beach Resort Paradise to Rotting Ruins: Crumbling Mediterranean Ghost Town

September 13th, 2013 Permalink

Imagine yourself on an island in the Mediterranean with beautiful white sand beaches, warm weather, fantastic places to shop, fine dining, and modern luxurious hotels that are frequented by the vacationing rich and famous. Then boom, the island is invaded and you must flee for your life from that slice of paradise. From tourist hotspot to ghost town, it’s a No Man’s Land with ruins that are rotting away. This happened: the island is Cyprus, the year was 1974, and the area was known as Varosha, a section of Famagusta. The crumbling vacation resort is a “forbidden zone” that has been stuck in time and slowly decaying for nearly 40 years. Sure, you could cross the “Buffer Zone” to see what that moment in time looked like when people fled and Varosha was abandoned, but if caught . . . trespassers will be shot on the spot. [36 Photos]

Varosha is a beach paradise and crumbling vacation resort where trespassers will be shot

Varosha in Cyprus is a both a beautiful beach paradise and a crumbling vacation resort where trespassers will be shot. Wait, what? You read it right. The photographer explained, “Perhaps the most haunting and downright weird tourist attraction on Cyprus, the abandoned Maras district (known in Greek as the ‘Varosia’) really is a sight worth seeing. The Varosia is a lingering reminder of the relatively recent year of 1974, when the Turkish invasion took place and this whole area was barricaded off with barbed wire, becoming something of a no-man’s land. The beach and crumbing high-rise tower blocks remain unused and make the Varosia area of Famagusta appear rather like a ghost town, with just a tiny portion of this former leading beach resort being still occupied.” You can see both in the “postcard” above. Photo #1 by bass_nroll

Varosha, once a popular and modern tourist hotspots in Famagusta, Cyprus, is now a crumbling ghost-city

Varosha, once a popular and modern tourist hotspots in Famagusta, Cyprus, is now a crumbling ghost-city. Photo #2 by Mercury dog


In the foreground is the Barrier which separates Varosha from the accessible area of Famasgusta Bay

In the foreground is the Barrier which separates Varosha from the accessible area of Famasgusta Bay. Photo #3 by Ballantyne108

Gun in hand warning sign for forbidden zone and barbed wire from accessible area of Famagusta

Gun in hand warning sign for forbidden Buffer Zone and barbed wire from accessible area of Famagusta. Photo #4 by Dickelbers & #5 by Dickelbers

Mediterranean island of Cyprus and Famagusta with Syria to the right

Let’s zoom out. You are here. This Bing Map shows Syria to the right of the Mediterranean island of Cyprus and Famagusta. Photo #6 by Nokia / Earthstar Geographics SIO / Microsoft

Varosha decaying upclose and from above

Close up of crumbling Varosha. From above, you can clearly see the line between where life goes on and where life was frozen in time; it’s been uninhabited for 39 years. Photo #7 by Lisbeth Salander & #8 by Google Maps (Cnes/Spot Image, DigitalGlobe, Landsat)

Varosha from above, dark and decaying since the 1970s

Ghost town Varosha from above, dark and decaying since the 1970s. Nature is reclaiming the abandoned holiday resort area, a fact highlighted in Alan Weisman’s book The World Without Us. He used Varosha as one example of the relentless and unstoppable power of nature. Photo #9 by Google Maps, Cnes/Spot Image, DigitalGlobe, Landsat

Decaying Famagusta Varosha

Formerly luxurious, but now crumbling Varosha hotels. Photo #10 by AnechkaSavina

A dilapidated hotel in Varosha, abandoned since 1974

Close up of a dilapidated hotel, abandoned since 1974. Photo #11 by Ballantyne108

Ghost town Varosha beach resorts

Looking down the beach at the ghost town; the Varosha section of Famagusta was fenced off by the Turkish army immediately after capturing it on July 20, 1974. Photo #12 by Christof Autengruber

An abandoned world behind the end of the street, 2012 Varosha

It is estimated that about 39,000 people fled for their lives before the invasion from what was once the “number one” holiday destination on Cyprus. The photographer wrote, “An abandoned world behind the end of the street.” Photo #13 by Kriisi

UN truck and double rainbow over the bufferzone

UN truck and double rainbow over the Buffer Zone. Varosha is still abandoned due to a UN Security Council Resolution, “which in short states that: ‘attempts to settle any part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants is inadmissible’.” The United Nations Buffer Zone in Cyprus is a demilitarized zone patrolled by the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus. The zone runs for more than 112.2 miles (180.5 kilometers) along what is known as the Green Line. The area to the north of this forbidden zone is controlled by the Government of Cyprus, while the area to the south is controlled by the Turkish Republic. Photo #14 by Dickelbers

Mines

Warning sign for land mines. Yikes! Photo #15 by Dickelbers

Taking photos or videos is forbidden

Not only booby-trapped, but it’s forbidden to take photos or videos. Photo #16 by Dickelbers & #17 by Dickelbers

Famagusta

Varosha during its heyday. “In the 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 the Varosha quarter of Famagusta 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, and was a favourite destination of wealthy, rich and famous stars such as Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Raquel Welch and Brigitte Bardot.” Photo #18 by Lisbeth Salander

A view of Varosha from the path going to Palm Beach in Famagusta, Cyprus

A rare glimpse from the inside of no man’s land. “A view of Varosha from the path going to Palm Beach in Famagusta, Cyprus.” When writing about “places you’ll never visit,” Wanderlust painted a vivid picture with words. “Varosha now resembles a modern-day Pompeii, capturing a lost moment of time. Breakfasts sit half-eaten on tables beneath light bulbs that burned for years, no one having turned them off. Car dealerships sit silent, their forecourts filled with what were the latest models back in 1974. Similarly, boutiques are stocked with the dubious fashions of the mid-1970s.” Photo #19 by Julienbzh35

Varosha, Famagusta

Varosha is rotting. Last year, Reuters reported, “Large slabs of concrete walls from hotel blocks have crumbled away to reveal elevator shafts with snapped lines. The towers cast long shadows over the sparkling turquoise waters of the eastern Mediterranean. The port is a collection of dilapidated customs offices and unused depots outside of the 16th-century Venetian walls of Famagusta, the setting for Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’. The sealed-off area includes 100 hotels, 5,000 houses and business, museums, churches and schools.” Photo #20 by Michael Kirian

North and south

Rusty barbwire dividing north and south. Photo #21 by Kriisi

all sorts of signs at tourist spots, advertising all manner of things, but not usually signs warning risk of life and limb

There are signs advertising all manner of things near tourist spots, but not usually signs warning of risk to life and limb. Photo #22 by Dickelbers & #23 by Dickelbers

Varosha looking from Greek side

Varosha looking from Greek side. According to the CIA World Factbook the number of refugees and internally displaced persons are “208,000 (both Turkish and Greek Cypriots; many displaced since 1974) (2012).” Photo #24 by Dickelbers

Varosha - The Ghost Town

It’s been nearly four decades since anyone got a Coke and kicked back to enjoy the beach here. Photo #25 by Sergej Fomin

Varosha empty hotels

Varosha empty hotels. Photo #26 by Dickelbers

No photograph on fence barrier, Varosha in 2010

No photograph on fence barrier, Varosha in 2010. Photo #27 by Dickelbers

Varosha, Famagusta Cyprus in 2010

Varosha, Famagusta Cyprus in 2010. Slate noted, “Just a few feet north of the fenced-off zone is the Arkin Palm Beach Hotel, a newly renovated resort where visitors can sip Caribbean-inspired cocktails beside the lagoon-shaped pool while gazing at the crumbling balconies of the decayed resort next door.” Photo #28 by Pablo F. J.

Famagusta, shots taken from the car - photographing wasn't allowed

Famagusta: “Shots taken from the car – photographing wasn’t allowed.” Photo #30 by Mercury dog

Old Toyota Advertising sign in UN Bufferzone Cyprus

Old Toyota advertising sign in UN Buffer Zone Cyprus. Wikipedia states, “The main features of the Varosha quarter included John F Kennedy Avenue, a street which ran from close to the port of Famagusta, through the Varosha quarter 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 favorite hotel of Dame Elizabeth Taylor. The Argo hotel is located near to the end of JFK Avenue looking towards Protaras and Fig Tree Bay. Another major street in Varosha was Leonidas… that was a major shopping and leisure street, consisting of many bars, restaurants, nightclubs and a Toyota dealership.” Photo #31 by Dickelbers

Abandoned homes in Varosha ghost town

Turkish forces and UN personnel are the only people allowed inside No Man’s Land. Sure, some brave urban explorers have hopped the fence and gone inside, but the urbex risk here isn’t simply a matter of being arrested if caught by Turkish troops patrolling the ghost town. Trespassers, if caught, could be executed on the spot. Photo #32 by Dickelbers

Cyprus, Famagusta Varosha ghost town falling to ruins

One of many churches falling to ruin beyond the fence and concrete-filled rusty barrels. Photo #33 by Dickelbers

Varosha as seen from the beach 4 years ago, 2009

Varosha as seen from the beach 4 years ago, 2009. Photo #34 by Julienbzh35

Famagusta in black and white

Abandoned Famagusta in black and white. Photo #35 by Lisbeth Salander

Sunset over Famagusta

Sunset over the Mediterranean ghost town. Photo #36 by Giia | Guldal Aydinli


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