Summary List Placement
Varosha was once a resort located in the city of Famagusta, Cyprus.
Before the division of Cyprus in 1974, Varosha was a booming resort town with sky-scraping hotels, glamorous shopping districts, and sandy beaches frequently called the best in Cyprus.
The rich and famous claimed Verosha as the most beautiful spot on the island.
According to the BBC, celebrities including Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, and Brigitte Bardot visited the island in its heyday.
“Anyone who comes from Varosha has a romanticized notion of it,” Vasia Markides, an American Greek-Cypriot whose mother grew up there, told the BBC. “They talk about it being the hub of art and intellectual activity. They describe it as the French Riviera of Cyprus.”
But since 1974, everyone but the Turkish military was forbidden from entering, and today, the once-booming resort town lies crumbling and abandoned.
According to the BBC, after years of violence, Turkey invaded Cyprus following a Greek-government-backed coup and gained control of the northern third section of the island, which included the district of Varosha.
Tens of thousands of Greek Cypriots quickly left the area, fearing violence but intending to return once tensions settled down.
At its height, Varosha was home to 39,000 residents.
Varosha also attracted around 700,000 annual visitors and tourists.
Former residents have recalled the panicked state they left their homes in as the troops invaded.
Some left their wedding presents in their attics, while others said they still had pots cooking on the stove when they evacuated.
Following the invasion, the resort was fenced and blocked off by the Turkish military. It has been abandoned for decades.
What was once a glamorous resort became a barren wasteland dotted with falling fences and barricades. It is now part of the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, or TRNC.
While the city of Famagusta is home to thousands of residents, who are mostly Turkish, the Varosha sector was blocked off until recently.
Decaying buildings and rubble line the streets of the abandoned district.
Signs label Varosha a “forbidden zone.”
Tourists are banned from entering or taking photos inside the fenced-off areas, but some have managed to slip through over the years and document what has been left behind.
After the town was reopened, Turkish Cypriots were allowed through the fences to explore what remained.
Inside the district, buildings are slowly collapsing, abandoned cars are rusting over, and the streets lie empty.
The Varosha district is still blocked off for most people, according to BBC.
In 1984, a UN resolution called for the area to be handed over to UN control, allowing former Cypriots who were forced out to resettle there.
According to Atlas Obscura, much of the resort remains largely how its former residents and visitors left it. Tables are still set for meals and designer clothes can be found hanging inside now-abandoned shops.
After travel restrictions were eased in 2003, former residents were allowed to return and peer into the forgotten resort through fences and barbed wire.
However, those who ventured back to the island found the once-booming area a crumbling ghost town and have not been permitted to permanently inhabit the town.
“The picture that I had in my mind was of a kind of paradise,” one Cypriot who returned to look across the fence at her family’s former home told the BBC. “But it felt like some sort of post-apocalyptic nightmare.”
“You’re seeing nature take over. Prickly pear bushes have overrun the entire six square kilometers. There are trees that have sprouted through living rooms. It’s a ghost town,” she said.
The main beach opened to visitors in October, but it lies set against the backdrop of decaying hotels and the rest of the abandoned resort town.
However, tourists and residents may soon be able to inhabit Varosha again.
The reopening of Varosha, also known by its Turkish name Maraş, has become a subject of controversy between the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities.
According to CNN, Ersin Tatar, prime minister of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, planned to start the reopening and potential rebuilding process in 2020.
“It’s all ready in my opinion,” Tatar said in August, according to Turkish state broadcaster TRT. “The tide has changed and a new page has been turned … Maraş is within the territory of the TRNC. Nobody can take it from us. We are continuing on our successful path.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also said he wants to reopen the resort town, but the move has received backlash from Greek Cypriots.
When the beach reopened and the fences surrounding Varosha were removed, the government only allowed for Turkish and TRNC citizens to visit.
Ahead of Varosha’s reopening, the European Union’s foreign policy chief warned the reopening would “cause greater tensions” between Turkish and Greek Cypriots, who disagree on who rightfully should inhabit and profit off of the northern section of the island.
According to BBC, the UN security council has been asked to step in to evaluate the situation. A decision still has not been reached on the future of Varosha so, for now, it will remain largely abandoned and decaying.