Kantara castle is described as the most romantic of all the Byzantine or Crusader trio castles: Kantara, St.Hilarion and Bufavento castles. Set on a rocky summit at the eastern end of the Kyrenia mountaın range, Kantara is the lowest of the castle trio standing at 700m (2068ft). However, it has commanding views up the Karpaz peninsula, all along the northern coastline and down to the plains of Famagusta. From this position it was used as a beacon station to communicate with Buffavento and St. Hilarion to the west. Kantara means a "bridge or arch" in Arabic, probably so named by the Arab invaders. The castle's entrance is from the east where the cliff is less steep. The entrance is approximately in the centre of the eastern outer wall and is protected on both sides by two rectangular towers of which only tile parts survive. Kantara was originally built by Byzantines against the invasion of the Saracens in the 10th Century A.D. The Lusignans, who called it Candare or La Candaire, remodeled and enlarged the fortifications in the 11th century. Kantara is said to be the place where Isaac Komnenos surrended to Richard the Lionheart in 1191, although the same is said to have happened at Bufavento and St. Hilarion castles. From 1228 - 30, it was occupied by troops of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, who was struggling at the time to take over the island. Kantara Castle figured prominently in the war during the Genoese invasion, when the regent John of Antioch was smuggled out of prison in Famagusta disguised as a pottinner. James I added the fortifications to the castle and from this vantage point his garrison was able to keep watch over Famagusta and the surrounding area. After the Venetian invasion in the 16th century, the castle was partially dismantled and its significance faded.
Directions to Kantara Castle
Kantara castle is 42 km north of Famagusta, reached via Iskele, Ardahan or Turnlar villages. The castle is almost three kilometres east of the summer resort, also called Kantara. There is approximately 10 km long dirt road connecting Büyükkonuk and Kantara, along the ridge, which is possible to drive with a 4 x 4 or mountain bike or hike.