The island of Cyprus, located in the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea, is a nation divided. While the Republic of Cyprus has legal dominion over the entire island (at least insofar as the United Nations is concerned), the Turkish government (and only the Turkish government) recognizes a second sovereign — the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. In 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus, and set up this de facto state in the areas where Turkish (as opposed to Greek) Cypriots lived. Since then, Northern Cyprus has had a consistent stable of Turkish troops occupying the area.
The city of Famagusta is in Northern Cyprus, and part of it — the Varosha quarter — is notable for a simple reason: lots of hotels, but no guests. Ever.
In the early 1970s, Varosha was one of the world’s top tourist destinations, attracting A-list Hollywood types such as Elizabeth Taylor and Raquel Welch. The booming tourism industry resulted, as one would expect, in rampant construction, as seen in the image above. But when Turkish forces invaded the island in August of 1974, Famagusta became a focal point of war. The Turkish and Greek Cypriot armies clashed in Famagusta and residents, fearing a massacre, fled the area. Turkey gained control of Famagusta and fenced off Varosha. The buildings remain, but tourism is no longer welcome. The area has remained off-limits, save for Turkish military members and United Nations personnel, for the 35-plus years since Turkish occupation began.
Varosha has turned into a modern-day ghost town. Cranes erected to build new hotels and high-rises still stand where they did when the city’s denizens evacuated, as seen in this photograph (look left). Car distributorships still have cars on site — cars from 1974. The hotels remain, dormant. Buildings are crumbling due to disuse. And plant and wildlife have made a home where the rich and famous once vacationed.
Bonus fact: While Varosha has a lot of unoccupied tall buildings, the state of Vermont has few. That’s because Vermont has few tall buildings at all. Vermont’s tallest (per Wikipedia) is Decker Towers, an apartment building in the city of Burlington. It is a mere 11 stories and 124 feet high. Every other state has a building taller than 125 feet high.
From the Archives: If You Build It…: An enormous mall in China — which is almost entirely empty.
Related: The History and Politics of the Cyprus Conflict by Clement Dodd.