Spooky 'millionaire's playground' ghost town set to reopen after nearly 50 years

In its heyday, tens of thousands of tourists packed into the idyllic resort of Varosha in Northern Cyprus every year.

The district, in the city of Famagusta, boasted 12,000 hotel rooms and luscious beaches – and was described as a millionaire’s playground.

Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren were among the glamorous A-listers who enjoyed breaks there.

But that all changed when Cyprus was invaded by Turkey in 1974, forcing more than 40,000 residents to flee.

Since then Varosha has laid empty, its buildings decaying and the public forbidden to enter as it acts as a no-man’s-land between Greek and Turkish controlled zones.

An estimated 45,000 residents fled before the area was seized by Turkish troops, and repeated efforts to reopen Varosha over the past 46 years have failed.

Eerie pictures show the once-packed streets derelict, with Turkish military officers and UN officials the only people allowed within the fenced-off area.

But controversial plans have been voiced that could see the district once again open to tourists.

Ersin Tatar, Prime Minister of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), told state broadcaster TRT: “At this point we are close to the point of starting the reopening process.”

And he continued: “The tide has changed and a new page has been turned.”

He has previously said that Varosha “will become Las Vegas again” – but this could fall foul of a UN resolution saying only former residents can repopulate the area.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades has branded the plans to reopen Varosha under Turkish control as “completely unacceptable”.

The TRNC is only recognised by Turkey – for the rest of the world it is considered Turkish-occupied territory within the Republic of Cyprus.

In 1984 the UN called for Varosha to be handed over, but no agreement could be reached.

An attempt to allow former residents to reclaim their homes failed 20 years later, in 2004.

Experts believe that the ghost town will need extensive work in order to make it safe to reopen.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay previously said: “There is unfortunately an abandoned area here as well as rotting buildings.

“Our hope is that Varosha is revived in a way that will revitalise the economic, trade and social life here.”