St. Hilarion Castle, Show all 97 places in CYPRUS » CYPRUS97
- Working hours*:
Summer 9.00 – 18.00, last entry: 17.00
Winter 9.00 – 16.30, last entry: 15.30
app. YTL 5.00
- * - opening and closing times as well as entrance prices, are subject to alterations without notice. Visitors are advised to check before visiting.
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Located west of the main Kyrenia-Nicosia highway, in the Kyrenia Mountain range, St Hilarion castle is the westernmost and best preserved of the three redoubts built by the Byzantines and Crusaders.
The legend of St Hilarion
Although there is not adequately evidence, the castle is said to be called after the saint of the name. St Hilarion, a little-known hermit and monk fled persecution from Palestine during the 7 th century to dwell and die up in the castle. According to legend he was extremely deaf and resilient to the shrieks of pagan demons that had been lurking and wandering about in the mountain peak. Disgusted at their inability to make him go, they left mountain in peace. During the 10 th century a Byzantine chapel, monastery and later a fort grew around his tomb.
It is known that the Byzantine fort was called Didymos , the Greek name for the twin peaks overhead. The Lusignans corrupted this to Dieu d'Amour , maybe confusing a mixture of legends and believing that this was the castle of Aphrodite .
With walls and towers that appear to sprout out of the rocks almost randomly, it is a fairly-tale sight living up to Rose Macaulay's much-quoted description ”a picture-book castle for elf-kings” and the rumour that Walt Disney used it as a model for the castle in Snow White and Seven Dwarfs. The legend that was spread locally says that St Hilarion housed 101 rooms, of which 100 could easily be found; the last, an enchanted garden with a magnificent treasure belonging to an elusive “queen” of Cypriot folklore, most probably a holdover of Aphrodite worship.
How to get there
If you are going from Kyrenia, take the main road out of town, directed south for Nicosia (Lefkosia). The dual carriageway leading off the roundabout climbs the Kyrenia mountain range, passing the silhouette of Atatürk high on the right. At the top of this climb, about 50 yards (45 m) before the mountain pass turn right at the sign saying St Hilarion Castle. After turning right follow the route as directed by the army signs. This is a controlled road and stopping and taking photographs are signed as forbidden. The road is narrow and twisty that is why careful driving is essential. On the right you will pass the Turkish military camp and the route continues to wind up. You can view Kyrenia harbour to the right and the route reaches its highest point with the vista towards the twin peaks of Didymos ahead. The road continues to the base of the castle walls where a car park is located with a small snack bar.