The Saint Hilarion Castle is situated high-up in the Kyreniamountain range, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The exact location of the castle sits near the pass from Nicosia to Kyrenia, just off the main road that now connects the capital with the port city on the north shore of the island.
The castle provides a spectacular view of the city and the narrow strip of land between the mountains and the Mediterranean. On a clear day you can see across the ocean to mainland Turkey.
Saint Hilarion Castle was built by the Byzantines in the 10th Century. The castle is named after Saint Hilarion, a hermit monk who fled from persecution in the Holy Land and lived and died in a cave in the mountains. The castle was purposely built as a watch tower to warn of approaching pirate raids on Cyprus and the coasts of Anatolia. For some time, it remained of strategic importance, but later the castle became the summer resort of the Lusignan nobility. Ownership of the castle changed hands once again, when the Venetians ruled Cyprus. During this time parts of the castle were dismantled.
The Saint Hilarion Castle that remains is comprised of three parts. In the 11th Century, the parapets were built for the defense of the main entrance. The lower section of the castle was used to house soldiers and their horses. The middle section contained the royal palace, the kitchen, church and a big cistern. At the entrance to the castle (in the upper section) there is a Lusignan gate with a courtyard in the middle. On the second floor there is a marvellous gothic style, window which was a part of the Queen’s apartment.
The architecture of the castle and breathtaking views from the top, are worth the steep walk to reach the castle. It’s important to wear proper walking shoes as you will occasionally walk on rocks with centuries of wear and tear. The castle is also at a high altitude so make sure to bring sun protection and plenty of water as there are many sections without shade.