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Buffavento Castle

Seated on a hill top 940m above sea level, Buffavento castle is one of the three castles constructed on the Kyrenia Range. Out of the trio defence against the Arab attacks - the other two being St. Hilarion Castle, and Kantara Castle, it is the least well preserved.

Buffavento Castle, CyprusBuffavento Castle, Cyprus

Getting there

To get to the castle take the main road that leads from Kyrenia and climbs via the Besparmak Mountain pass. As the road reaches its highest point and before descending the southern slopes take the turning to the right. The road is accessible by car but the first 800 yards (730m) is rough, drive therefore carefully. It is a 4.2 mile (6.8km) drive along a road which is a military access route. There are red signs that forbid entrance strategically placed along the track. According to the signs you should not deviate from the route, but follow strictly. It is not recommended to go to the castle from the south via Güngör (Koutsovéndis) and monastery of Agios Ioannis Khrysostomos. Beyond the village the route is unmarked and an army camp blocks the way.

Practical info

Being in the hands of the military, castle opening hours change. It used to be open daily, all day. A couple of years ago the castle was open for certain days of the week from 9am to 5pm. For update opening hours the best thing you can do is check with the local guide. Admission to the castle is free. The car parking area is a clearing on the hillside with a solitary olive tree that grows in a stone planter ring across from trilingual marble memorial to the victims of Turkish Airlines aircraft who perished in a crash in 1988. A small aircraft, approaching Ercan in misty conditions failed to clear the ridge above and fell apart nearby.

Buffavento Castle, CyprusBuffavento Castle, Cyprus

Glancing upwards to the mountain top of 940m, Buffavento is plainly recognizable among the rocky peaks. At first glimpse it would seem that climbing to the top requires the skill of mountaineer. However, a gravelled pathway winds on a fairly gentle ascent up the slopes. It is steep but gradual. For visitors scaling its height walking stick, bottle of water, camera or binoculars are recommended. You should also wear proper stout foot ware. To reach to the top takes about 30 or 40 minutes, with stopping from time to time to admire the view and in spring to seek out the wild flowers that make the hillside colourful.

Castle name

If you wonder how the castle got its name, you will find out when climbed on the top. Buffavento means "buffeted or beaten by the wind" and at the altitude 940m it is said to be perfectly positioned for the views on Cyprus. Kyrenia, Nicosia and Famagusta are all visible in the right condition, just alike the Troodos mountains and actually the half of the island. Out of the trio castles on the Kyrenia Range, Buffavento is the highest and most cleverly constructed one.

History of Buffavento

According to the earliest documents Buffavento was probably set as a Byzantine watchtower in the 10th century and surrendered to Guy de Lusignan in 1191. There are references that there existed a fortress of similar type here before Richard the Lionheart seized the island from Isaac Commenus. In medieval times the castle was known as the Lion Castle, but its origins are less prosaic and little is known about its early history. The first definite evidence dates back to 1232 when the wife of Balian of Ibelin took refuge in Buffavento while her husband was campaigning against the attempted occupation of the island by Frederick II.

Buffavento Castle, CyprusBuffavento Castle, Cyprus

Due to the position that is sometimes hard to reach, the castle served as a political prison to keep those found guilty of particular crimes against the state. Among these was naďve John Visconti who had tried his friend King Peter I of the Queen's infidelities only to find himself disbelieved and found guilty of slander. After he was tortured and put into prison in Kyrenia, he was transferred to Buffavento where he was left starving to death. Buffavento was also used as a perfect lookout for coming ships that might have brought danger to the island. Signals of fires on the top indicated instant messages to Nicosia, Kyrenia, St Hilarion and Kantara castle. Buffavento on the whole represents a commanding observation post and a safe place of refuge.

Castle tour

The entrance to the lower ward is made through gatehouse, passing on the way the ruins of what is supposed to be barbican. On the left side, below the level of main buildings is the large cistern, now left in remains.

Lower ward

The rooms in the lower level are both roofed, there is also an under floor cistern in the gatehouse. Another building on this level consists is nearly whole left in the remains of walls, but provides visitors with wonderful views over the Mesaoria Plain. The rooms opposite the entrance were used for storing provisions and as dormitories. The red bricks on the arches of gates and rooms signify the Byzantine style. Once there used to be a church here, but little of it is preserved.

Upper ward

It takes about 70ft (21m) to climb higher and you reach the upper level of the castle, roofless buildings of the highest point. From this position you will have a panoramic view and on a clear day you can spot Famagusta, Nicosia, the length of the panhandle and the Turkish mainland. A bold, daring feat of military engineering is using mostly the limestone rock form the escarpment on which it is built. Comparing to St Hilarion and Kantara, Buffavento castle has no defensive structures as the height of the castle is tremendous. Similarly like at St Hilarion, the Venetians neglected Buffavento, leaving it useless and destroyed the stairways linking lower and upper level. The stone steps have only been rebuilt during the 20th century, making the climb slightly easier.

Buffavento Castle, CyprusBuffavento Castle, Cyprus

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