From Beach Resort Paradise to Rotting Ruins: Crumbling Mediterranean Ghost Town (14 pictures)

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.


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 by bass_nroll


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


No Man’s Land. Photo by Michael Kirian


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


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


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 by Lisbeth Salander


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 by Google Maps, Cnes/Spot Image, DigitalGlobe, Landsat


Warning sign for land mines. Yikes! Photo by Dickelbers


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 by Kriisi


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 by Julienbzh35


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


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 by Dickelbers


Gun in hand warning sign for forbidden Buffer Zone and barbed wire from accessible area of Famagusta. Photos by Dickelbers


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 by Michael Kirian

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