Varosha (Greek: Βαρώσια; Turkish: Maraş) is a quarter in the Cypriot city of Famagusta. Prior to the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, it was the modern tourist area of Famagusta. Its inhabitants fled during the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, and has remained abandoned ever since.
Unlike other parts of the non government controlled areas of Cyprus, the Varosha section of Famagusta was fenced off by the Turkish army immediately after being captured and still remains in that state today. The Greek Cypriots who had fled from Varosha were not allowed to return, and journalists were banned. It has been frozen in time with department stores and hotels empty but still fully equipped. Swedish journalist Jan-Olof Bengtsson, who visited the Swedish UN battalion in Famagusta port and saw the sealed-off part of the town from the battalion’s observation post, called the area a ‘ghost town’. He wrote in Kvällsposten on September 24, 1977:
“The asphalt on the roads has cracked in the warm sun and along the sidewalks bushes are growing [...] Today, September 1977, the breakfast tables are still set, the laundry still hanging and the lamps still burning [...] Famagusta is a ghost-town.”
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.
In response to a Greek-backed coup, Turkey invaded Cyprus on Saturday, 20th July 1974, and the Greek Cypriot Army withdrew its forces to Larnaca. The Turkish Army advanced as far as the “Atilla line”, which is the present day border between the two communities. Just hours before the Turkish Army and the Greek Cypriot Army met in military combat on the streets of Famagusta, the entire population, fearing a massacre, fled. Many refugees fled south to the towns of Paralimni, Deryneia, and Larnaca. Paralimni has since become the modern day capital of the Famagusta province in the Republic of Cyprus.
When the Turkish Army gained control of the area during the intervention, they fenced it off and have since barred admittance to anyone except Turkish military and United Nations personnel. The Annan Plan had provided for the return of Varosha to Greek Cypriot control, but this never happened, as the plan was rejected by Greek Cypriot voters.
As no one has inhabited the area and no repairs have been carried out, all of the buildings are slowly falling apart. Nature is reclaiming the area, as metal corrodes, windows break, and plants work their roots into the walls and pavements. Sea turtles have been seen nesting on the deserted beaches. Car distributorships are stocked with vintage 1974 models, and years following the abandonment, people claimed to have seen lightbulbs still burning in the windows of abandoned buildings.
Text from Wikipedia, Varosha, Famagusta