A set of abandoned “ghost mines” south-west of Nicosia
, in the Republic of Cyprus
. They’re located near the village of Mitsero, hence that umbrella label used here, but they are actually at two separate sites to the west of the village itself, and consist of three types of mines: a horizontal tunnel dug into the mountainside plus a vertical shaft with a head frame above it and some ancillary structures at the one location, and at the other a former open-cast mine, the bottom of which is now filled with a lake of eerie red-coloured water, due to the pollution caused by the mining operations.
These sites are of course quite off the usual tourism tracks and a bit adventurous to visit, but they were a mongst the highlights of my Cyprus
trip in January 2023.
More background info: The two locations near Mitsero are called Kokkinogia (tunnels and shaft) and Kokkinopezoula (open-cast mine), respectively (transliterated spellings vary a bit).
It’s incredibly hard to unearth reliable information about these mines. In fact the longer I searched the more confusing and contradictory it got. To begin with it’s unclear what was actually mined here
. Some sources say copper for all three mines, some say pyrite for the tunnel and shaft, and for the open-cast mine iron and sulphur are offered as alternatives to copper. I’m no mineralogist or mining expert, so I can’t judge which versions are more likely than others (except that I doubt the red lake is from sulphur, as other sulphurous acid lakes I’ve seen – here
– were rather green or bluish). Ultimately, from a dark-tourism point of view it doesn’t matter so much anyway.
Also unclear is when these mines were established and when they closed. Some sources say they go back to the 1940s or 50s and that they were closed in the 1960s, others say the main period of operation was between 1973 and 1979.
What is clear is that mining, and especially copper mining
, has a very long history
in Cyprus, going back thousands of years. It has even been alleged that the name Cyprus comes from an old Cypriot word for ‘copper’ and that the Latin word for copper ‘cuprum’ derives from the expression “aes Cyprium”, ‘metal of Cyprus’. Hence to this day the country also has the epithet “Copper Island
”. After the Roman times, though, mining declined but was revived during the British colonial period (see under Cyprus
) until around WWII
, though some mines continued operating on a smaller scale. What may be the future outlook for mining in Cyprus is, again, less clear. Some sources say deposits are depleted, others say further prospecting discovered new exploitable fields. But what is absolutely certain is that no operations have been going on at these Mitsero mines in a long time. They are most definitely “ghost mines”.
The almost forgotten mines made the headlines suddenly in 2019, after a German tourist discovered a semi-decomposed dead body at the Kokkinogia mine shaft. Apparently the corpse was washed to the surface after heavy rainfall caused flooding. Police investigations revealed that the body was that of a Filipino woman who had gone missing the previous year. Then another body was found, that of the woman’s six-year-old daughter. They were both found tied up, so murder was instantly a suspicion.
Further investigations pointed to a suspect, a Cypriot army officer called Nikos Metaxas (sometimes the alternative name Orestis is given), who had been in contact with the Filipino woman online on some sort of dating app. He was apprehended and subsequently confessed to having murdered five women between 2016 and 2018, plus two of their children. So that makes seven murders in total, hence it became known as a case of a serial killer. All the victims were of foreign nationality, Filipino, Nepalese and Romanian. All but one of their bodies were subsequently found – including some packed into suitcases and submerged in the red lake of the former Kokkinopezoula mine. Collectively the case has become known as the Mitsero murders.
Eventually the serial killer was sentenced to seven life terms in prison, the highest sentence in Cypriot legal history. Yet he could possibly get out of prison on parole after having served 25 years, if his conduct in prison is deemed good enough.
The Mitsero murders brought with them a certain renewed interest in the mines, but they are still way off the regular tourism radar. Yet people do come and visit (you can find plenty of photos and even drone footage online).
I was alerted to the mines by one of my readers, a Russian expat living in Limassol, who proceeded to offer to take me to these locations in his car if I ever visited Cyprus. He fulfilled that promise in January 2023 when I finally made it to Cyprus
. He picked me and my wife up in Nicosia
and together with two of his friends we formed a small group of intrepid explorers. That way I also didn’t have to do any navigation but left that to my hosts (I later reconstructed the route to give you directions – see below
). Sometimes getting such help from locals in the know cannot be valued highly enough!
What there is to see:
on our little group excursion (see above
) we first headed for the Kokkinogia mines location. It was easy to get on to the premises and I didn’t even spot any warning signs.
Heading for the abandoned mine tunnel we passed a large stone monument with a poem on it, in Greek. Apparently it is some kind of ode to miners.
The tunnel entrance has a gate, but it was standing wide open when we got there (when it was locked in the past you could still slip in through a widened part in the metal grate). So we were able to just waltz in.
The first stretch of tunnel, where daylight still reaches, is supported by metal arches and wooden planks and a short stretch of rails is still visible but that cuts out soon.
A bit deeper into the tunnel there’s another gate, a metal “door” with a window in it. It was bent ajar just enough to allow us to squeeze through on one side. By this point it’s pitch-black dark in here. You need to have a powerful enough torch (flashlight) to get here and explore further. Moreover there is lots of debris and rubbish on the ground so you have to watch your step carefully!
At this point the tunnel is stabilized by concrete but this soon gives way first to bare rock then to simple wooden stabilizing logs. I must admit that it felt a bit dicey. I had to fend off nightmarish visions of getting trapped inside a collapsed tunnel.
The most dodgy-looking part of the mine was a side tunnel branching off at one point, where several of the stabilizing logs had already collapsed and accumulated on the ground. We did not venture into that section.
Instead we carried on straight, past various objects left behind, such as rusty old oil drums, and metal hooks driven into the rock.
Then suddenly we came to the end of the tunnel – the dark end that is. At that point the tunnel was blocked by what looked like poured concrete. You could still see stabilizing logs poking out of the concrete. So one has to presume that the tunnel once went deeper into the mountain. But for us it meant we had to turn round and retrace our steps back to the entrance.
Even before we reached the light at the end of the tunnel, I noticed another spot of light shining in – and indeed as we got closer to the entrance I saw that there was a vertical shaft leading up towards daylight. I hadn’t noticed this on the way in. What this rather narrow shaft may have been for I have no idea. There seemed to be some kind of wooden hut at the top and a cable was dangling down.
Anyway, we carried on and soon enough came to the entrance/exit – and I admit I was a bit relieved to see the light of day again. I’m not sure how deep into the tunnel I would have ventured had I been on my own; but “peer pressure” made me go along all the way. In hindsight I’m glad I did it, though. But can I recommend it? Nominally I have to say, no, do not enter! It’s dangerous. And I won’t accept any liability if you follow my example. But use your own risk judgement.
After emerging from the tunnel we turned left towards the head frame
above the vertical mine shaft
. This shaft is where in 2019 the body of the first of the serial killer’s victims, in what became known as the Mitsero murders, was discovered (see above
Around the head frame there are various rail tracks still in situ. These lead out to what seems to be a kind of loading bridge. So the ore extracted from the mine tunnel would arrive here in mining trolleys. These would be turned by the arched apparatus at the top of the bridge, so that the ore fell into the large receptacles below. From there it would presumably have been loaded on to trucks that then took the ore for processing at plants elsewhere.
One of our group ventured out on to the loading bridge, but I did not, as I feared the rotting wooden planks might not support my weight. But I did join in climbing the head frame. At the bottom you have to be careful as there are several deep holes in the ground between metal sheets. But once you start climbing up, it’s actually quite safe. The metal steps are rusty but still fairly stable and there are handrails. Still, if you climb the structure you do so at your own risk. No liability accepted.
At the top you can see the big steel wheels via which cages with miners would have been lowered down the shaft and batches of extracted ore would have been brought to the surface. These days the steel cables are long gone. You can even spin the wheels freely.
The view from the top down to the loading bridge and the land around it reveals evidence of pollution, with yellow tailings heaps and puddles of water dyed psychedelic colours – red and orange mostly.
Behind the head frame is a machine hall where the winches for operating the cables via the head frame are located – today also ropeless. There’s some other industrial debris about and a dark basement below.
After exploring Kokkinogia, we drove off again to get to the other location
, namely Kokkinopezoula
, where there’s a former open-cast mine (for extracting iron or copper). This big brutal hole in the landscape these days has a lake at the bottom. And this lake’s waters are an eerie red colour, hence the epithet “Blood Lake
”. When we visited, the lake really honoured that name, but I’ve been told that the colour of the water can actually change somewhat with the seasons and even over the course of the day (see also Berkeley Pit
). These days the location is better known as Kokkinolimni
– which simply means ‘red lake’ in Greek.
There’s a fence around the perimeter of the mine at the top, and a warning sign says “CAUTION! ROAD CLOSED – NO ENTRY – TRESPASSERS WILL BE EXPOSED TO DANGER”. I liked the honesty of the last bit and the fact that this can almost be interpreted as an invitation by intrepid urbex
ers and makes overlooking the “no entry” bit easier.
The road is indeed closed: there’s a padlocked gate and behind it even a roadblock. So you definitely can’t drive in and must park at the top. However, a fairly short distance from the gate we found a large hole in the fence so it was easy to slip in. From there we followed the winding track down all the way to the lake’s yellow-and-red shore. Along the way many visitors can’t resist the urge to throw blocks of rock into the water to see it splash.
I found the lake quite photogenic, especially the reflections in the water of the mine walls and the trees at the top – at least when the water surface was calm enough for such a mirror effect (i.e. when nobody had thrown big rocks in for a while).
By the shallow end of the lake the shore had several footprints left by previous visitors who must have gone closer to the muddy edge – maybe they had worn wellington boots. I certainly had no inclination to step into the mud and ruin the trainers I was wearing.
My wife, who’s an ardent cold-water swimmer, may have regretted the fact that one shouldn’t get into this red water, but it really cannot be recommended. Who knows what toxic and/or acidic substances are dissolved in there. Along the way you can also see murky swirls of greyish yellow in the shape resembling that of galaxies. Spooky.
After taking in the eerie beauty of the red lake for a while, we retraced our steps and climbed back up to the top and then embarked on our return drive to Nicosia
All in all
, I found that this excursion to the Mitsero mines was one of the highlights of my Cyprus
trip in January 2023! They may not be for everybody, but for intrepid travellers inclined towards industrial urbexing
, and who don’t shy away from a little bit of trespassing, it’s a really great activity with an element of adventure. The mine tunnel also has its dangerous elements, adding a bit of risk-taking adrenalin, as does climbing the head frame. But everybody has to judge for themselves how much of a risk they are willing to take. As I said, I won’t accept any liability for any trouble other visitors might get themselves into when exploring these sites themselves.
ca. one mile (1.6 km) west of the village of Mitsero, which is ca. 16 miles (26 km) south-west of Nicosia
, as the crow flies; by road it’s about twice that distance.
Google Maps locators:
Access and costs: a bit hidden, reachable only by car; free
Details: To get to the Mitsero mines you need to have your own vehicle or hire car. There is no public transport going there.
From Nicosia take the main B9 route leading out of the city in a south-westerly direction. After this has become the A9 motorway, take the exit left at the Anthoupoli junction to get on to the E903 trunk road. Keep going on that road for about ten miles (16 km).
After passing through Arediou, and just after crossing the Serrahis River, take the street turning off on the right; that’s the E905 towards Agrokipia and Mitsero. Bypass Mitsero and continue westwards on the E905 and at [35.04007, 33.11551
], take the track branching off to the right. This will eventually take you to the bottom part of the Kokkinigia mine with its polluted tailings. Carry on along the track though to get closer to the mine entrance and park somewhere there.
Note that the tunnel can only be explored with the help of a powerful torch (flashlight). Still, this is not without some element of danger, and you have to use your own judgement as to how much of a risk you are willing to take. Nominally I have to say: do not enter, and if you do I accept no liability! The same goes for climbing the head frame or exploring the machine hall and loading bridge.
To get to the red lake from there, drive the track back to the E905, turn left on to that road and after just under 300 yards (270m) ( at [35.04035, 33.11838
]) turn sharp right on to another track snaking uphill. Park at the top where the track forks. The track down to the lake is closed and blocked by a gate and barrier. There is a sign stating that nominally there is a “no entry” rule in place and that “trespassers will be exposed to danger”. But a bit to the west there’s a sufficiently big hole in the fence to slip through comfortably. You can walk along the inside of the fence past the gate and then follow the switchback track down to the lake. But do not get into the red water – it’s toxic!
Almost needless to say, as this is a site that is in no way commodified, there’s no admission fee nor opening times (but you want to make sure to get there during the day, not after dark).
Time required: between one and two hours, depending on whether or not you decide to explore the inside of the mine tunnel and climb the head frame at Kokkinogia.
Combinations with other dark destinations: nothing much in the immediate vicinity, though the landscape around the mines shows further signs of mining pollution, yellow tailings and scarred land.
combined the trip to the Mitsero mines with a visit to the site of the former Kokkinotrimithia concentration camp
, which is about ten miles (16 km) to the north-east of Mitsero and ca. 8 miles (13 km) west of Nicosia
Combinations with non-dark destinations:
Mitsero is located within the Troodos Mountains UNESCO Geopark, where geologists get plenty to marvel at. The mountains, however, are also popular for hiking, and in the winter even skiing. Furthermore the southern slopes are home to many of Cyprus
’s vineyards, and you can go on winery tours and tastings.
- Mitsero 01 - open mine entrance
- Mitsero 02 - going in
- Mitsero 03 - a bent-ajar door needs to be negotiated
- Mitsero 04 - deeper inside it is pitch-black dark
- Mitsero 05 - a good torch is required
- Mitsero 06 - dodgy-looking side tunnel
- Mitsero 07 - it goes even deeper
- Mitsero 08 - debris
- Mitsero 09 - hooks
- Mitsero 10 - at the dark end of the tunnel
- Mitsero 11 - vertical shaft up near the entrance
- Mitsero 12 - light at the other end of the tunnel
- Mitsero 13 - headframe and loading bridge
- Mitsero 14 - loading-distribution bridge
- Mitsero 15 -railway system
- Mitsero 16 - gates in the headframe
- Mitsero 17 - wooden planks rotting away
- Mitsero 18 - you can climb the headframe
- Mitsero 19 - fairly stable
- Mitsero 20 - view from the top
- Mitsero 21 - pollution
- Mitsero 22 - chains
- Mitsero 23 - steel wheels
- Mitsero 24 - looking down
- Mitsero 25 - bottom of the wheels
- Mitsero 26 - looking down the shaft
- Mitsero 27 - rails going nowhere
- Mitsero 28 - machine hall
- Mitsero 29 - inside the machine hall
- Mitsero 30 - ropeless
- Mitsero 31 - red lake
- Mitsero 32 - realistic sign
- Mitsero 33 - gate locked, but there is a hole in the fence further up
- Mitsero 34 - red line
- Mitsero 35 - the zig-zagging way down
- Mitsero 36 - toxic
- Mitsero 37 - galaxy-like swirls
- Mitsero 38 - view from the bottom
- Mitsero 39 - toxic mud
- Mitsero 40 - Blood Lake
- Mitsero 41 - reflection