The restaurants and bars surrounding Kyrenia’s horseshoe shaped Old Harbour serve guests in a unique atmosphere and is a rare setting for relaxing on holiday.
The town of Kyrenia was founded probably in the first millennium BC and was one of the early city kingdoms whose rulers governed the island.
Its central position on the northern coastline was perfect for trading with the countries to the east and what is now Turkey to the north. With the southern coast of Anatolia only forty miles away, cargo vessels could make the Mediterranean crossing frequently and an anchorage has existed here from earliest times.
In its heyday, just before the British occupation of the island in 1878, local caïques (traditional fishing boats) conducted a thriving trade from Kyrenia Harbour. Depending on the season, they exported wheat and olives, carobs, donkeys and goats and more. The caiques brought in wood, earthenware, legumes, dairies and small luxuries items such as silk and cotton cloth, buttons and odd pieces of furniture.
Larger boats, mostly from Europe, arrived in the late fall and early winter to take in the crop of carobs, the main export item of the area also known as “Cyprus Black Gold” for the abundance of wealth it brought to the island.
Slowly, two storied buildings emerged around the harbour as the owners used the lower floor as warehouses and the second floor as their residences.
Today Kyrenia Harbour is full of yachts and fishing boats and framed by the colossal hulk of its Crusader castle. With the backdrop of the jagged mountains behind and the calm sparkling sea in front, the harbour has an intoxicatingly serene atmosphere.
The graceful arc of the harbourside is filled with the tables of restaurants and cafés, ideal for sitting back and simply watching the world go by. The former carob warehouses or Venetian dwellings have been converted into restaurants and shops, giving the harbour a bustling lively feel without feeling rushed or crowded.
Hardly changed over the last four and a half centuries, the carefully thought out modernisation has effectively preserved the architectural integrity of the buildings and there are no large flashing neon signs or loud music. The restaurants serve for the most part, delicious Turkish Cypriot cuisine with the emphasis being on locally caught fresh fish and seafood.
Where trading vessels once moored there are now pleasure craft and boats offering coastal cruises – some unique places of accommodation are also situated within the harbour vicinity.
At night when the lights twinkle on the water this is a magical place to sit and enjoy a leisurely mezze feasting accompanied by a Rakı or traditional Brandy Sour.