URBEX | We explored the forbidden ghost town Varosha

URBEX | We explored the forbidden ghost town Varosha

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In this episode we visit one of  the biggest ghost towns in the world which was once one of the most popular destinations in the world.  Varosha in Cyprus. This ghost town  is abandoned and forbidden since 1974 and guarded by soldiers. We take a look inside the  recently opened zone and also in the closed zone. After visiting a shipwreck and a power  station it's time to visit our main goal. Varosha or Maras in Turkish. to get to Varosha we need to cross from south to north Cyprus.  

While driving we see military posts everywhere.  it mostly looks like a war zone. We also see a lot of ghost towns. It's tempting to explore them but armed soldiers make sure nobody crosses this land.   It's a real hassle with all the paperwork & covid stuff to cross multiple borders and we were rejected at  the border. So we followed the rules we found on the internet. Everything had to be uploaded online in a special application and now....

They say everything has to be printed. So I have  a few papers printed but not everything. So we're gonna spend the whole day searching  for print shop oh such a waste of time. We're lucky. Luckily it's fixed within two hours and we managed to cross the border This reminds me of Japan. Route 6. On the left the right side forbidden zone and fences. Just drive. -Crazy right. It's a really long road.

There are fences with military signs everywhere  and you are not allowed to film or photograph.   So what exactly happened here? Well... Cyprus has a complicated history so I keep it as basic as possible.  Cyprus was part of the British empire  from 1914 to 1960.  

In 1960 they became independent but there was no established cooperation between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot populations.  In July 1974 there was a coupe by right-wing Greek  nationalists. The Turkish invasion in Cyprus was just five days later. The United Nations set up a buffer zone through the country to prevent further collision. The south is Greek Cypriot the north is  Turkish Cypriot. The red line is the buffer zone guarded by the United Nations.   and the orange zones are British sovereign territory.

After all these  years there is still no resolution and the country  is still split up in two.    We have visited more abandoned places related to this conflict like the Nicosia airport. During theTurkish invasion the airport was a scene of some of the heaviest fighting between Cypriot and Turkish forces...   which led the United Nations security council  to declare the United Nations protected area during the conflict. 

Nowadays the headquarters of the United Nations is located on this airport which is still in the buffer zone.  Since 1974 this terminal has been frozen in time. Another place we explored was the ghost car park  near Episkopi.  During the Turkish invasion many Turkish Cypriots left cars motorbikes and buses because of the confusing situation.  Around 400 vehicles were collected in a compound  and are waiting for their owners to pick them up. Here you can find dozens of 1960s era Austin's, Dodges  and Vauxhalls but none of them are usable anymore.

This time we visit Varosha which was the  Saint Tropez of Cyprus before the conflict. It was not only the number one tourist destination  in Cyprus but one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world in the beginning of the 70s. Varosha also attracted many celebrities.  

There were at least 110 hotels and new high-rises  were being built due to increasing tourism.   During the invasion the city turned  into a ghost town in just a few hours.   The Turkish army seized control and fenced the  area. Since then no entry has been allowed other than Turkish military and United Nations personnel.   In 2020 the Turks opened a little part of  Varosha to tourists and want to rehabilitate the whole area. We're back in Famagusta. Hopefully more successful this time, last time I ran out of time so I couldn't go into the zone.  

Now it's partly opened and we can see the  first abandoned hotels. -Over there. we arrived at Varosha we just saw the  entrance. So today is gonna be the tourist day.  we're gonna check which roads are open, patrols,  everything and just have a relaxed day. And then we're gonna make a plan, the master plan -'Relax day' Yeah maybe rent a bicycle. Would be fun.  

You have this, nice flowers and then you have this.  -They tried to make a decent fence. First we take a look at palm beach where you  can see a long coast filled with abandoned hotels and guard posts.   The real tourist here. -Too hot here.

So this whole coastline is abandoned...  Or actually was abandoned, a few are in  use again as a resort for soldiers. Crazy right?! After some pictures and a beer it's time to go to the recently opened zone.

First steps into Varosha or Maras in Turkish. It's pretty touristic as you can see. A lot of people. I think there are even vans driving around here. You can rent bikes. Damn, look how many there are...

Quite a lot eh.. it's ready for mass tourism. We're gonna make some shots with the Gopro and then we're gonna see which streets are open. It's gonna be a nice ride. Look at this bike, they're both the same. Brakes work? They made new roads to make it more accessible.  It's pretty surreal to walk here a city that closed 47 years ago and 47 years it was forbidden to come here.  Here's a reminder they fought. Really gigantic bullet holes. Here as well. For an urban explorer these post-apocalyptic scenes are a dream but for many people this was a nightmare.  

Imagine you had to flee, leave everything behind and were not able to come back or pick up some valuable items. This happened to around 40.000 residents. Mostly Greek Cypriots. During the years most valuables were looted and the buildings turned into ruins.   The opening of Varosha complicates the  reunifying of Cyprus. According to the Greek side the opening is illegal and unacceptable but are also unwilling to make any deal with the Turks.  

Varosha is protected by a 1984 United nations  security council decision stating that the empty town can only be resettled by its original residents. Turkey lets former residents claim or sell their houses or hotels but there are two problems. Most residents are elderly or passed away. Another problem is that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is only recognized by Turkey...  and Greek Cypriots don't want to move abroad.  It's a really difficult and sensitive subject.

Walking in the main street. Here's a nice Greek school for girls. This part was the heart of the city with fancy  stores and bars for tourists and locals and it's strange to see it totally deserted. While walking in the street it's nice to see the graphic design, logos and famous brands from a few decades ago    As you can see the interiors have  been almost completely emptied. Cruising around. They made the road around the collapsed building. The signs and military and police force remind you that it's still a military zone Totally flat tire. Great. Day one.

We get to the long street where all former beach resorts are located. Here, a nice villa or something. Crazy. Oh my gosh. You don't realize how big this city is until you come here.   And drive around yourself. It's such a big area man. Even when you see it in Google Earth...it looks way bigger in real life.  -Oh. It's looks like the end. Really, oh no.

We're now at the most eastern point in the open zone.  Further areas will probably  open in the near future. A part of the beach in the middle of the closed  zone is also accessible and here you can have a  break eat and drink. It's strange to see all these abandoned high-rises next to a .beautiful beach.  

Here you can also see some unfinished hotels.  Construction halted after the invasion and the cranes are still there. The buildings suffered a lot. Most windows are gone. There seems to be only  one hotel which is still in a good condition, but it's almost impossible to get there.

flying with the drone doesn't seem like a good idea  because many helicopters fly low around the city. So we've taken a tour around the recently opened  zone of Varosha but how about the part that is still forbidden?   It's a military zone and soldiers are allowed to shoot you. I guess nowadays that won't happen anymore but you're still in  big trouble because it's a sensitive area.  The signs in the open zone look really inviting  compared to the military signs on the outer fence...  and it seems it's not even forbidden to enter  buildings. But reality turned out to be different. 

It's still strictly forbidden to cross any fence or rope. There are many high-tech cameras and there's a big police force in the zone. In cars, electric steps and bicycles.   and when you look closely you can see the most  police in the zone are dressed as civilians. You probably didn't notice but during a little cycling  trip we came across many of them.  When you start to look for them they're easy to spot. So going  into the forbidden zone seems pretty difficult...  

But then without even noticing we're in it. We didn't have to sneak in or jump any fence. We're now in a less busy part. We just followed the open road and suddenly we're here which is a bit strange eh?  But it's nice. So since we're in we decide to do a little tour in the forbidden zone on our bicycles.

From this point we see the non-tourist part. No fences or new roads. First explore on a bike. -Yeah that's right. Not so bad right? -It's relaxed. Nice. Totally closed. Gonna peek through the window.

Most places we came across have been emptied, but some places are frozen in time since 1974... like this church. It's shut tight for intruders  and we can only see its beauty through the windows. We decide to look around the area first and  return another day to explore some buildings.   This never happened unfortunately so we only have some bicycle footage and some beauty shots. At this point it seems we're cycling out of the urban zone so we return and decide to explore taller building to have a view over the city.  

Unfortunately I lost half of the material we  shot including a lot of footage from this area.   A microsd card got lost and some had to be deleted.  Luckily Frederik filmed a little with his phone. Also this building is almost completely empty. Maybe they are preparing the buildings for future use or demolition.

Look at the footprints. Be careful. The view from up here is amazing. Now you really  get the feeling you're inside an abandoned city. On top level we suddenly hear a car. It stops nearby and we hear footsteps in the building.

Only soldiers are allowed here so we decide to leave as quickly as possible.   Frederik already fled and is waiting for me nearby. From this part we feel a little bit more safe and decide to check a few more streets before we return to the tourist zone. Constantly repairing the bike it's terrible.  Look when I sit on it I'll be penetrated.   It's bike repair Bob.

That's my Camaro. My tires are flat so we slowly have to return. but for the first day it was amazing right  a little bit off-road cycling. We're back in the tourist zone but we noticed there  is a tense atmosphere. Undercover police is looking for something or somebody and we are also obviously filmed. While cycling back to the entrance and making some more 360 footage and pictures our adventure suddenly comes to an end...

So this was our first day of exploring Varosha. It was really really amazing.   Never seen such a big time capsule but it ended a  little bit unexpected. So we were just cycling and.....   we didn't even have intentions to go to the  forbidden zone but suddenly we ended up there.   We just cycled and I think at one point you had to  go right or left and then we went straight but it...  was just a regular road. No signs, nobody stopped us  so we could just continue and suddenly we noticed...   there are no tourists anymore so we said okay  well it could be some parts but maybe after 10.....  

15 minutes we realized okay we are in a  forbidden zone but we went back and uh....  I still wanted to make 360 shots in the normal zone.  which just opened and then suddenly we were stopped...  by police and we also noticed there's a lot of  underground police and there are a lot of people   walking and also on bicycle they were filming us  right? -Yeah. They were filming us and yeah in the..  

end we got stopped and they saw on cameras that we  went into the forbidden zone and then we had to   show everything and delete everything so that  was our first day and perhaps the last. So now we're gonna check what we'll do. First we're gonna eat something right? -Yeah. Unfortunately our adventure ended way too soon but we're happy to have seen a part of Varosha.

We hope people will live here again together in peace in the future.

2021-12-15 16:13

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