Kyrenia was founded in the 10th century B.C., by Achaean settlers and was for many centuries one of the ten kingdoms of Cyprus. In the 7th century it was fortified by the Byzantines who built the original Kyrenia castle - later expanded by the Lusignans and then by the Venetians. The town remained a minor port under Ottoman rule. Under British rule, the harbour and quay were built, as the town was used as a resting place for officers, captains and their families due to its beautiful harbour and leisurely, romantic atmosphere.
The town retains its original character, with many small restaurants and bars surrounding the typical Mediterranean harbour. The entire region is now an attractive holiday resort, boasting many hotels and holiday villages. The area provides mountain and sea views, amongst the many historic sites worth visiting. These include the Kyrenia Castle, Shipwreck Museum, St. Hilarion Castle believed to have been the inspiration for Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty Caslte, and the Village and Abbey at Bellapais immortalised in Laurence Durrell's book Bitter Lemons.
The horseshoe shaped harbour is the focal point of the town, with its colourful fishing boats and yachts, and lively tavernas serving both locals and tourists. The impressive Kyrenia Castle, at the eastern end of the harbour, was built in the 7th century by the Byzantines in order to protect the city against Arab raids, with additional fortification and enlargement carried out later during the Lusignan and Venetian periods. Now hosting plays and concerts, the castle is also the home to the Shipwreck museum, which displays the oldest shipwreck ever discovered believed to date from 300 B.C.
Just behind the harbour, you can find the Agha Cafer Pasha mosque, constructed in 1580 during the Ottoman period. The mosque, named after the Turkish landowner who funded its construction, has a rectangular main building housing a three roomed main hall, and has a single minaret. Beside the mosque lies the Hasan Kavizade Huseyin Efendi fountain, built in 1841. The three arched design is typical of fountains from that era.