With a rich and intriguing history, North Cyprus is a land of contrasts. Vibrant business centres and tranquil villages; traditional values and cosmopolitan lifestyle; sun-kissed beaches, fertile valleys and snowy mountains all await discovery. In a region that remains largely untouched by the usual Mediterranean over-development, friendly locals and a community spirit provide visitors with a unique experience and memorable welcome.
Credit to Ali Yilmaz DRONEBOOK
Fringed by long golden beaches, the region features ancient castles and abbeys, vibrant culture and enticing cuisine. The natural landscape includes mountainous peaks as well as an abundance of flora and fauna and notable wildlife, including the region’s rare turtles and wild donkeys on the island’s Karpaz peninsula. Visit Famagusta, Nicosia and Kyrenia for an abundance of shops and restaurants, or enjoy sites such as Saint Hilarion Castle, Bellapais Abbey and the famous Apostolos Andreas Monastery.
Güzelyurt, which means ‘beautiful country’ in Turkish, is especially known for its abundance of fruit and is famous for its annual Orange Festival.
The town is surrounded by citrus groves, while underwater springs nourish the apples, vegetables, grapefruit and melons for which the area is also famous.
The Güzelyurt Museum of Archaeology and Nature is situated in the former ecclesiastical residence adjacent to the Church of St Mamas. The Natural History section is on the ground floor and it contains specimens including rock samples, through to snakes and stuffed birds. The upper floor contains the archaeological museum.
Situated about 10 miles from Kyrenia, Alagadi Turtle Beach is the main site for the region’s Loggerhead and Green Turtles to come and lay their eggs during the summer. During the egg-laying season, the beach area for visitors is marked out and littering should be avoided. The facilities are limited, but the Green Turtles Beach Bar is open during the summer and there are toilets. Alagadi is a sandy beach in a large, sweeping double bay and the water is shallow along the coast. To access the beach, follow the sign for Vogue Beach and Acapulco Holiday Resort and then head for the Alagadi Turtle Beach Project.
Running parallel to the north coast, the Five Finger Mountain Range is about 175km in length with a relatively low altitude of just over 1,000metres.
One particular part of the range looks like a clenched fist, hence its name – ‘five finger’.
It is generally made of limestone, including dolomite and marble dating back to the Mesozoic period. Featuring limestone peaks and covered in a diverse flora, pine and cypress forests, the range creates a beautiful scene. Providing a barrier between the Mesaoria Plain and the northern coastline, the mountain range provides the water for nearly all the towns and villages in North Cyprus.
There are three main passes in the mountain range through which most traffic is routed, though there are other more circuitous tracks.
The historic town of Long Beach on the east coast of North Cyprus features idyllic sandy beaches and blue waters. The town is famous for its pomegranates which are abundant in August and September. There are two churches of historical importance in the village. Panayia Theotokos is also a museum displaying icons, while in the centre of the village is the tiny cruciform church of Ayios Iakovos which was built in the 15th century.
The Gazimağusa Bay area contains some of the best beaches in North Cyprus, featuring uninterrupted stretches of golden sand. Located about 200m away from the Bediz Beach, the long and sandy Glapsides Beach is one of the busiest in the area. It features shallow water up to 150m from the shore and good facilities, including Glapsides Restaurant, bar, mini-market, showers and sun loungers. It is popular with young people and often has dance and club music playing from the bar area.
Following the main road to Gazimağusa from Nicosia, turn left at the roundabout in Gazimağusa and drive for about 4km before a sign for Glapsides Beach on the right.
A long and clean sandy beach just before the turn-off to Kaplıca and Kantara Castle, Kaplıca Bay is a lovely spot to visit by land and one of the most beautiful places to anchor in the region. Within the local area of the bay is a mountain range as well as an interesting coastline, while the sandy beach provides a great base for swimming and snorkelling. There is a beach club, bar, restaurant, and hotel, as well as shower and WC facilities, plus the bay is very close to the Kaplıca Village for provisions.
Güzelyurt is a beautiful market town located in the west of North Cyprus. One of the richest agricultural areas of North Cyprus, it is particularly famous for its abundance of citrus (orange, lemon and grapefruit) and strawberries. There is also an abundance of tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, lettuces, cabbages, cauliflower, broccoli, aubergine, okra, courgettes, melons, marrows, apricots, peaches, bananas and dates.
Every June it hosts the annual Orange Festival, which is a major event lasting for two weeks. There are several good restaurants serving local food of kebabs and pide (Cypriot style pizza), as well as a busy market on Saturday.
The idyllic town of Kyrenia is rich in history, spanning 6,000 years. Enjoying a Mediterranean climate, it is situated between the sparkling blue sea and the jagged Five Finger mountain range. The scenic harbour in the old quarter is framed by the backdrop of the crusader Kyrenia Castle. It is easy to understand why many identify Kyrenia as the most attractive town in North Cyprus, with miles of natural sandy beaches and a wide range of flora and fauna, including many different varieties of orchids.
Nicosia has been the capital of Cyprus since 7 AD and is the largest city on the island. In the old city, there are stunning examples of Gothic and Ottoman architecture and, in recent years, a renewed interest in urban regeneration has seen many buildings being sympathetically restored. This evolving city is a major centre for arts, culture, diplomacy and business, whilst retaining its historic and charming roots.
Lying on the east coast, Famagusta is a lively medieval walled city with plenty to discover and explore. It is believed to have been founded in 300 BC and remained a small fishing village for a long period of time before becoming one of the wealthiest trading ports in the Mediterranean prior to the Ottoman bombardment, which has evidently left its mark on the old city. Despite this, it is still one of the finest examples of medieval architecture in the eastern Mediterranean and today it is a bustling city and home to Cyprus’ oldest and biggest university, Eastern Mediterranean University.
Formerly called Trikomo, the village is inhabited by Turkish Cypriots who brought the name of their district with them when they moved to the north of the Island.
Iskele, meaning jetty, is famous for its pomegranates which are particularly abundant in August and September. An important tourist and cultural centre, Iskele is famous for its annual festival in July and the Mehmetcik (Galateia) grape festival in August. The Boğaz region of Iskele contains many hotels and fish restaurants, including Kıyı Restaurant which serves fresh fish and mezes and Iskele Fish Restaurant. Two additional popular restaurants are Iskele Balık Restaurant and Kemal’in Yeri. Please check with the restaurants for details and up-to-date information before visiting.
Bafra, or Vokolida (old name), is located in the Karpaz region. Covering 1.5km of sandy beach, the Bafra region boasts sparkling clean seas and a number of fish restaurants. Several new hotels were built in the region during recent years: Kaya Artemis, Noah Arc, Concord and Limak. All include Las Vegas style giant casinos, convention centres , elaborate water parks and extensive wellness & Spa centres.
Set in an area of outstanding natural beauty, Kumyalı is 40km away from Famagusta City and about 20km from the fishing harbour at Boğaz. Kumyalı is off the beaten track, surrounded by olive groves and orchards and boasting a sea-side promenade, sandy beach and small shelter for fishing boats. It is peaceful and quiet, with an abundance of wildlife and birds. Fresh fish can be purchased at the harbour. Offering authentic Cypriot cuisine, Nitovikla Garden Hotel and Restaurant has an extensive menu of dishes, including mezzes, oven kebabs and traditional foods. At nearby Yeşilköy is Kadı Restaurant which serves the Turkish Cypriot specialty Küp Kebab of lamb roasted slowly in the outside clay oven with potatoes, which can be enjoyed with some amazing views across the area. Please check with the restaurants for details and up-to-date information before visiting.
This unique complex of winery, boutique hotel, restaurant and wine spa, is located at the outskirts of the beautiful village of Ilgaz, south west of Kyrenia. Gillham Winery and wine culture centre provides guests with a complete insight and experience of wine culture. Visitors can choose from a wide selection of tours to discover the magic of the complete wine making process, from the planting of the vines to the final production of the wines, tastings visit and more. Please check their web site for details and up-to-date information before visiting.
Every year, the small village of Tepebaşı welcomes visitors to celebrate the annual Tulip Festival. An array of stalls sells local produce and handicrafts and there are also plenty of traditional Cypriot foods on offer to try and purchase. Just a short walk away from the village are the stunning tulip fields, consisting of several varieties of rare flowers which are unique to Cyprus.
Hosted in the historical abbey of the beautiful village of Bellapais, the International Bellapais Music Festival takes place every year in May and June. Musicians travel from around the world to perform impressive concerts and recitals which are watched and attended by many local people and foreign tourists.
The ancient village of Büyükkonuk in Karpaz is the first eco-village to be created in North Cyprus. The initiative was devised to restrict the evolution of mass tourism and to preserve the village’s local culture and traditions, by encouraging the local community to take care of their surrounding countryside. Twice a year, in May and October, the village hosts two ‘eco-days’ which allow both residents and visitors to partake in various activities and to experience first-hand a traditional Cypriot lifestyle.
Karpaz Gate Marina is located in the Yeni Erenköy municipality, and Yeni Erenköy village center is the closest commercial area to the Marina. The village of Yeni (which means ‘new’ in Turkish) Erenköy was previously the centre of the tobacco industry which started during the middle ages. Evidence of the factories, packing houses and smokeries still remain in the village today. It has been administered since 1974 by Turkish Cypriots from Erenköy (Kokkina), which is a village on the west coast of the island. The village hosts a market every Monday.
Located to the east of Kyrenia in the lower slopes of the mountain range above Ozanköy, Bellapais grew up around the abbey. It has provided inspiration for artists and writers through the centuries. A sketch by Alexander Drummond is included in his ‘Travels through different cities of Germany, Italy, Greece etc.’, published in 1754, and Louis Francois Cassas painted some water colours of the abbey in 1785. Writer Lawrence Durrell’s retrospective memoir, ‘Bitter Lemons’, published in 1957, tells of his time in Cyprus and mentions the Tree of Idleness, a Japanese Pagoda tree which remains the same today. Superb views of the plains of Kyrenia and the Mediterranean can be seen from the village. One can enjoy various charming restaurants in the main street and the highly recommended Bellapais Gardens restaurant, knowns as one of the best restaurants in North Cyprus, or the Kybele restaurant located in the abbey grounds. Please check with the restaurants for details and up-to-date information before visiting.
Saint Hilarion Castle lies on the Kyrenia mountain range and is the best preserved ruin of the three castles in Kyrenia. It was originally built as a monastery until the Byzantines began fortification in the 11th century in order to provide defence against Arab attacks. With its rich history for visitors to explore and picturesque location with stunning views over the town of Kyrenia and the coast, it is easy to understand why this impressive ‘fairy-tale’ castle is one of the most-visited sites in Northern Cyprus.
The idyllic town of Kyrenia is rich in history, spanning 6,000 years. Enjoying a Mediterranean climate, it is situated between the sparkling blue sea and the jagged Five Finger mountain range. The scenic harbour in the old quarter is framed by the backdrop of the crusader Kyrenia Castle, with a unique museum home to the Kyrenia shipwreck of a 4th-century BC ancient Greek. With its history and its natural beaches, flora and fauna, it is easy to understand why many identify Kyrenia as the most attractive town in North Cyprus.
Once known as the ‘Lion Castle’ in medieval times, the Buffavento Castle has had many different customs in its long history. Located on a hill top forming a distinctive landmark in the area, it was one of the three castles to be constructed as a form of defence against Arab Attacks. The highest of the three castles in Kyrenia, the pathway leading to the castle offers some spectacular views and is an ideal place for photo opportunities to appreciate the beautiful scenery as well as historical exploration.
Nicosia has been the capital of Cyprus since 7 AD and is the largest city on the island. With a dense population of around 150,000, it is divided into Turkish and Greek sectors by the ‘Green Line’. In the old city, there are stunning examples of Gothic and Ottoman architecture and in recent years, a renewed interest in urban regeneration has seen many buildings being sympathetically restored. This evolving city is a major centre for arts, culture, diplomacy and business, whilst retaining its historic and charming roots.
Hidden away approximately 6.5km from the village of Esentepe, the 12th century church of Antiphonitis (Christ of the Echo) can be found settled between the pine trees and wild flowers. With magnificent views over the coastline, the quaint church has a beautiful interior and its noteworthy dome is the only existing example of this particular style of architecture in Cyprus.
The ancient Greek city-state of Salamis lies on the east coast of Cyprus, just 5 miles north of the modern town Famagusta. Visitors can enjoy the sandy beaches which stretch the entire length of the site and, although only partially excavated, the impressive city ruins give a real sense of the scale of an ancient Roman city.
Famagusta is a lively medieval walled city with plenty to discover and explore. It is believed to have been founded in 300 BC and remained a small fishing village for a long period of time before becoming one of the wealthiest trading ports in the Mediterranean prior to the Ottoman bombardment, which has evidently left its mark on the old city. Despite this, it is still one of the finest examples of medieval architecture in the eastern Mediterranean with the Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque (ex – Cathedral of Saint Nicholas) and St Barnabas Monastery and Icon Museum. You can also take a walk on ancient city walls.
One of the three crusader castles, Kantara lies the furthest to the east and the lowest, at 630m above sea level. The main attraction of the castle is its magnificent panoramic views of the surrounding landscape; you can see both coasts of the Karpaz Peninsula to the east and the mountains of mainland Turkey on a clear day. It is believed that Kantara Castle was built in the 10th century as a lookout post against raiding Arabs and there are many local legends and myths surrounding its history since the castle was abandoned 500 years ago.
In the midst of stunning countryside, close to the village of Sipahi, the ruins of the Basillica of Ayios Trias are well worth a visit when taking a tour of the Karpaz Peninsula. Discovered by chance in 1957, the basilica was excavated and has been dated to the end of the 5th or the beginning of the 6th century AD. Despite their fading colours, the stunning mosaics depict striking geometric, leaf and cross patterns, as well as Christian imagery and Greek characters.
North Cyprus is a fantastic destination for diving, with many good diving spots. Kyrenia is home to many dive sites at a range of depths. It is not unusual to see turtles, various types of groupers, and rays as well as other marine life. At the ‘Zeyko’ site there is an underwater mountain. Dive centres for the Kyrenia area include Amphora Diving Centre and Scuba Cyprus. The North Cyprus Tourism Office provides a good source of information about diving in North Cyprus.
One of the most spectacular ways to view the natural beauty of North Cyprus is from thousands of feet in the air on a paragliding flight. Flights are available from the St Hilarion Castle region, where a drive up a mountain road takes participants to a take-off spot. Following a few steps down a gentle slope, views of the castle and Kyrenia unfold before the landing on a strip near the coast. Flights are usually tandem and can be tailored to suit personal preference.
The prestigious Korineum Golf & Beach Resort is the first 18-hole golf course in North Cyprus and features views of the Mediterranean Sea on one side and the famous Five Finger Mountain range on the other. Special discounted rates are currently available for boat owners and crew berthing at Karpaz Gate Marina to book hotel rooms and use the resort’s outstanding facilities, including the international standard golf course, four clay tennis courts and the Spa and Wellness Centre, with international massage menu, sauna and Jacuzzi. The 72-par golf course is 6,232 metres and designed for golfers of all standards and ages. There are also practice facilities and a driving range available at the Golf Academy, and a Club House with large terraces. For full details on the packages at Korineum Golf & Beach Resort, please contact marina reception or visit www.korineumgolf.com
The warm climate, clear water, beautiful beaches and varied coastline makes North Cyprus an ideal location for water sports. Swimming can be enjoyed for about eight months in a year, with other activities such as sailing, scuba diving, snorkelling, windsurfing, water skiing, jet skiing, parasailing, banana boat rides, kayaking and power boating also popular. Many of the main hotels (in Bafra and Kyrenia area) offer water sports on their beaches, while specialist firms can also be contacted. While the north coast of North Cyprus is ideal for windsurfing, there is a golden beach stretching 15 miles on the east coast between Famagusta and Boğaz and large expanses of dunes on the two sides of the Karpaz Peninsula which are perfect for water lovers. Calm, warm seas are ideal for water skiing, while jet skis can be rented through a driving licence is necessary and nesting turtle beaches and military zones must be avoided.