North Cyprus

north cyprus

A visit to Northern Cyprus really does transport you to a little piece of Mediterranean Heaven. Our unspoilt beaches, rugged mountains and beautiful villages will take you to a place of beauty, calm and give you the chance to meet some of the friendliest, helpful people you’ve ever met – all while dipping into the diverse food and culture that is a feature of this unique and special region.

Whether you want to relax and enjoy local cuisine, watch turtles hatch, go scuba diving at escape beach or take historical tour of the country’s amazing castles that span the island’s history, the island and its people are happy to deliver. Here are just some of the places that you really shouldn’t miss on your trip.

Bellapais Village

bellapais

This little village about four miles from Kyrenia centre offers unique craft shops, pebbled streets, authentic Cypriot restaurants and magnificent views of Kyrenia itself. The village was also the home of Lawrence Durrell and is included in his book Bitter Lemons, it is also where you can find his Tree of Idleness – although be warned that two places now claim to have the original location.

We’ll let you decide which is the authentic one, after you’ve explored the village as you sit the top of the Tree of Idleness restaurant, drinking Turkish coffee and sampling the local brandy as you gaze down on the peaceful splendour that is Bellapais Abbey (which in French means “Abbey of Peace). Originally built in the 13th Century by Monks fleeing Jerusalem, it later came under the control of the Venetians and then the Ottomans who gave it to the Greek Orthodox Church.

Today the remnants of this beautifully constructed building are home to a café, and in early summer the venue for a spectacular music festival. If the view of the Abbey isn’t enough for you, raise your eyes a little further for an astounding view of Kyrenia harbour and the clear, blue Mediterranean.

Kyrenia and Harbour

kyrenia castle

Kyrenia Harbour is called the Jewel of Cyprus and when you see it, you will understand how it got this well-deserved title. Originally built around the 10th Century BC, the fact that it is only 40 miles from the Turkish mainland made it a perfect trade route. In the harbour itself there is a restaurant to meet the needs of even the most discerning palate, most of which are in buildings that were once warehouses of Venetian dwellings. There is an emphasis on locally caught fish and traditional Turkish Cypriot cuisine and the whole area maintains a feel of history and tradition. To walk off your dinner you can stroll past the boats moored in the harbour, be tempted to a moonlight sea tour, fishing trip or simply browse the wide range of local crafts and goods being sold a little further along the harbour – an ideal place to purchase all those holiday souvenirs for your visit! If you don’t find anything at the harbour take a trip to Kyrenia centre where there are traditional shops making personalised wooden and leather gifts and some astounding examples of local glass mosaic lamps in the Ottoman style. There really is something for even the most hardened souvenir hunter!

No visit to Kyrenia is of course complete with a trip to the castle, originally built by the Byzantium’s, remodelled while the Lusignan’s ruled the island, and further added to by the Venetians. The imposing walls that tower over one corner of the harbour are a testament to the defences created for this picturesque but strategically important location for Northern Cyprus. Of course, don’t forget to pay a visit to the Aga Cafer Pasa Mosque, past the cobbled street next to Harbour Club Restaurant. Built in 1580 after the Ottoman Conquest, the Mosque is still in daily use, and still making use of a nearby spring for ritual cleansing.

Alagadi Turtle Beach

turtle protection beach north cyprus

Whether you’re nine or ninety being able to watch turtles hatch is an experience not to be missed. Alagadi beach is about 10 miles from Kyrenia, and there is no entrance fee. Although facilities are limited, being able to see Green Turtles and Loggerhead Turtles emerging from their eggs during August and September is a natural wonder that should not be missed by any visitor to Northern Cyprus. Hatching occurs at night, when the sun has gone down so the hatchlings don’t dry out as they wend their way to the sea. The turtles generally hatch together and head down to the brightest point, which is normally the moon on the water. You can also book tickets with specialist conservation organisations that will allow you to pick up the turtles as they are hatching, so take your little ones (and your big ones) to see a site that is unique to the area.

St Hilarion Castle

st hilarion

If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, St Hilarion castle should not be missed. Originally a Monastery, named after St Hilarion’s choice of the site for his hermitage, the Church was built in the 10th Century and subsequently fortified by the Byzantines. As a defence post, the castle maintained control of the mountain pass between Kyrenia and Lefkosa. Be warned, though, St Hilarion is not for the faint-hearted, there are many, many steps (over 600) to climb to the top but once you reach the summit, not only can you understand why it was a defence stronghold for the Island, but the views of the Island are beyond compare. Well worth the effort.

Karpaz Peninsula

karpaz

This part of the Island is on the pan-handle of the country, and takes a while to reach from the more developed areas of Kyrenia, but your efforts will be rewarded. Not only does the journey to Karpaz take you through stunning mountain passes, and areas that seem so unspoilt it’s as though time has stood still – you might even have to stop to give way to a herd of goats or two and may cross the path of the region’s famous wild donkeys.

Once you reach the Karpaz Peninsula you are rewarded by traditional Cypriot villages, a plethora of ancient ruins including the Apostolos Andreas Monastery, originally built in the 10th Century and currently undergoing major restoration and considered a holy place by both Turks and Greeks. There is also Kantaras Castle, Karpasia and the Avias Trias Basilica to visit. Or you can simply take advantage of the 46 sandy beaches on the Peninsula, and wait for one of the most breath-taking sunsets you will ever see, while you dine on local fish and vegetables and taste the locally grown figs and olives.

If a mountain pass drive isn’t your taste, you can take a boat trip from Kyrenia and see the stunning and dramatic coastline the island has to offer, and on the way, stop for a quick swim in the clear, warm, salty waters that lovingly lap the island before enjoying an on-board lunch that boasts all the best taste sensations that Turkish Cypriot cuisine has to offer.

Salamis Ancient City

salamis antik

Reflecting the ancient origins of Cyprus and the different groups that have all tried to get their own little piece of Mediterranean Heaven, the City of Salamis gives a fascinating glimpse into life in a pre-Christian Port town. Although destroyed by an earthquake in 270 BC, some habitation continued. Tradition has it that the city was founded by Teucer, son of Telamon who was prevented from returning home after the Trojan war because of his failure to avenge his brother Ajax, although bronze age structures have been found at the site, suggesting there was an earlier occupation.

During its history, the city came under the rule of the Greeks, the Persians and the Romans, as well as indications that St Paul visited Salamis as part of his first missions. All these occupiers put their own distinctive styles into the layout and buildings so that today the ruins are a mix of these cultures.

There is a temple to Zeus, a huge Amphitheatre, gymnasium and a Byzantine Church as well as burial chambers and a small museum which showcases the finds from the ongoing excavation.

As a plus, there are clean white sandy beaches and a view of the ocean that stretches forever so you can take a picnic and relax in the Cypriot sunshine for a while before immersing yourself in the history of this unique site once again.

Famagusta

lala mustafa pasa famagusta

This harbour town on the east coast of the Island boasts the deepest harbour in the country. Until very recently the harbour was a major port city, trading with Genoa, Venice and merchants from the silk road. The city was founded after the destruction of Salamis in 270BC, and was run by the various occupying forces of the Island including the Venetians, Ottomans and latterly the British. All of these recognised the strategic position of the town and the value of its unique fortifications. Their legacy is a host of historical buildings such as the Othello Castle, the Palazzo del Provveditore, the Namik Kemal Dungeon and the Twin Churches of the Templars. But don’t think Famagusta is just history – there is a plethora of gift shops, where you can buy locally made produce, especially the lace which is unique to the region and our sources tell us that this is the place to buy the best baklava on the island.

There is every kind of restaurant, selling the fresh fish, meat and fruit which are staples on the Island, so make a day trip to this historic town and stock up on your souvenirs and memories.

These are just some of our favourite highlights of the island, but with so much history you may find some others of your own. Let us know of the treasures you find in our little piece of heaven and we can add them to our list.

Kıbrıs Girne Tüp Bebek