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Mediterranean Resort Town To Open For First Time In 50 Years – But Should You Visit?

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Could you imagine if Cancun went lights out for 50 years?!

That's what happened to a popular Mediterranean resort town back in its heyday. It's true.

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past century, surely you're aware of certain destinations you're unable to visit easily.

Ghost town of Varosha

North Korea comes to mind, among others, but did you know there is a former booming vacation hotspot that's been completely closed off to the public?

In 1974, Varosha of Northern Cyprus was invaded by the Turkish military forces, pushing locals and beachgoers alike to flee.

No one could predict that the once bustling resort town home to pristine beaches, lively nightlife, and ritzy resorts would be off-limits for half a century.

That's why it's huge news to report Varosha is re-opening after a decades-long hiatus as these type of situations just don't happen.

Not Your Average Ghost Town

Northern Cyprus flags flying over abandoned building in Varosha

Popular vacation destinations making a comeback isn't unheard of. Just look at once iconic Acapulco.

That being said, sitting idle for 50 years brings up a lot of questions that we'll get to – don't worry.

First and foremost, though, Cyprus has placed itself high on travelers' radars in recent years, but some may not know there are 2 sides to this gorgeous island.

Cyprus itself is open with welcoming arms to the public.

However, there is another side beyond the wonderful resorts of Paphos. The Northeastern side is recognized by Turkey as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

However, the UN considers it a territory of the Republic of Cyprus under Turkish occupation.

Aerial view of Varosha

This is where things have become tricky, and it seems it will be that way going forward, even after re-opening.

So much so the United Nations has been involved and you know the saying – “three is a crowd”.

Cyprus' capital, Nicosia, is the last European capital to be walled off. That speaks volumes of the entirety of the situation and it doesn't seem like that will change.

Not A Soft Opening

Northern Cyprus is going full bore.

Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Unal Ustel stated, “They told us not to reopen Varosha, [but] we opened it… After the elections, we will proceed with the reopening of the entire town.

Overgrown lot among abandoned buildings in Varosha

Ummm…is there a magic switch that just skips 50 years to present day? Nope, there's definitely not.

One would think certain portions would open in increments. You know, like a first-time restauranteur running a soft opening to knock out the kins before the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

But this is a much larger scale and begs the question of the safety of such an endeavor.

Asbestos anyone?

While apples and oranges in comparison, the closest might be Chernobyl. Yes, I know – entirely different reasons for being closed off.

But, like Chernobyl, Varosha has become a ‘dark tourism‘ hotspot for tours of dilapidated buildings reclaimed by nature and neglected infrastructure wasting away in a city of abrupt abandonment.

Warning sign in front of dilapidated building in Varosha

Is Varosha Ready For Tourists?

Right now, a majority of tourists are Turkish. Makes sense given how Northern Cyprus hasn't exactly laid down a welcome mat to the outside world for, you know, 50 years.

Jumping right into an eery yet beautiful ghost town comes with a lot of questions.

First being safety and making sure it's ready for tourists.

Well, the whole city is definitely not ready. However, reports indicate $10 billion is available in funds for a massive makeover of the city.

That's a start, right? With hopes of becoming the ‘Las Vegas of the Mediterranean', there's a long way to go.

Pristine waters of Northern Cyrpus

In fact, you may find it to be more like the ‘Cuba of the Mediterranean'. Classic 1970s cars are still displayed for sale as if time has stood still.

Should you visit now, you would see 4,649 homes, 3,000 shops 105 hotels, 3,000 shops, 99 entertainment venues, 24 theaters and 21 banks, which sounds great.

The problem is, they are all empty! Varosha may be in the beginning stages of an epic comeback, but it's nowhere near ready for the dreamy Mediterranean we all envision.

On the flipside, if you're seeking a Chernobyl-esque experience you're not alone.

Varosha has seen over 1.8 million visitors since 2020 strictly for tours, which can be booked here for $38 from Famagusta.

People walking empty streets of Varosha

So, would you visit Varosha now? It's a complex question with no easy answer. If you're seeking a traditional beach vacation, it's not the place for you.

But if you're intrigued by history, abandoned places, and the complexities of political conflict, Varosha offers a unique and thought-provoking experience.

Just be prepared for a glimpse into a city frozen in time, slowly awakening from its slumber.

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