North Cyprus shares with you its God-given gifts of beauty

Nature begins to stir during winter in North Cyprus, donning its most beautiful colours in spring to present a scene of unparalleled beauty. In high summer, we say farewell to the feast of colours as the Mediterranean sun begins its long reign. In autumn the island enters a period of calm and repose. The spiritual tranquillity and the real taste of life that we are all seeking is here in North Cyprus.

The dazzling natural fabric awaits you from Güzelyurt on the far west to Cape Zafer at the easternmost tips of the Karpas Peninsula. The fertile soils, covered in the Mediterranean flora, are as unspoiled as they were on the day they were created.

Basking and resting on the tranquil beaches to the sound of the cicadas and bathing in the cleanest waters of the Mediterranean are the most precious blessings that North Cyprus had to offer. Enjoying the sea on untouched beaches amounts to a holiday beyond compare. The green Gulf of Guzelyurt in the east awaits you, with the cultural heritage of Soli and Vouni looking on and you can sip your coffee under the shadow of venerable ancient olive trees.

Welcomed by the magic and mystery of Famagusta, you make for the untouched and undisccovered Karpas Peninsula, the virgin country of the island. The island donkeys of Karpas will greet your entry to this landscape, distinguished by its unique ornithology, the home of the Medos tulip.


Karpas Peninsula – Golden Beach & the Apostolos Andreas Monastery

Unmistakable on a map of North Cyprus, the Karpas, or Panhandle as it’s commonly known by, is the long finger of land pointing north-east towards the Turkish eastern mainland, located at the Eastern most tip of Cyprus, near Famagusta.

The peninsula thrusts out from just beyond wherever watchful Kantara castle sits at the end of the Kyrenia range of mountains; a windswept undulating land strip of around 75 km in length. Harboring some of the best beaches on the island, this remote terrain is a mecca for bird watchers. It’s also where to see the ubiquitous Cyprus donkeys, abandoned when the Greek’s left in 1974 and now roaming freely. Wild and almost derelict during the winter months, it becomes wild, in the human sense, when hordes of locals and holidaymakers arrive during the heat of summer to enjoy the beaches. Otherwise, this area attracts nature lovers and walkers who enjoy off season solitude. A scattering of small archaeological sites and early Christian churches lie in wait.

Here you will witness a tranquil and picturesque village where Turkish and Greek Cypriots live together harmoniously. This peninsula is undoubtedly the most beautiful and the least spoilt part of North Cyprus.


Güzelyurt – The beautiful land

Situated in the north-west of Cyprus Island, on the northern skirts of Troodos Mountains, to the east of the blue Mediterranean, on the greenest plateau in Cyprus, is the charming town of Güzelyurt (in Greek: Morphou). You can see the scenic harmony of all tones of green in Güzelyurt and its environment rich with citrus groves and subterranean sources.

Güzelyurt (meaning beautiful land in Turkish) is one of the richest agricultural areas in North Cyprus. Rich in underground water reserves, consequently the leading part of the TRNC in citrus farming, delicious oranges, lemons and limes of Cyprus. Among all the local festivities, Güzelyurt Orange Festival which is organized every year during May and June is the most sought after and mostly renowned one.

Güzelyurt, like other towns in North Cyprus, has been home to many great civilizations throughout history; visit the Soli Ruins (600 BC), ancient theatre, Vouni Palace (5th Century BC), Tumba Tou Skuru residential areas (dates to the early Bronze Period), St. Mamas Monastery and Icon Museum (a Byzantine building), and you will see.


North Cyprus Castles

Explore the ancient and picturesque castles of Northern Cyprus

Over the centuries, invaders have attacked Cyprus from virtually every direction. Its location in the Mediterranean Sea at the cross-roads of three continents has always made it a desirable acquisition. So there are castles, starting from Roman times, but their defensive role is finished. They have a new role now, tourism, so there is no need to breach the walls, the doors are wide open. The picturesque Kyrenia range of mountains hides three of the islands most spectacular castles, St Hilarion, Buffavento and Kantara. All Northern Cyprus castles are regarded as Crusader castles, but they were all built originally as Byzantine fortresses and later heavily fortified in the time of the Crusades. The first and easiest castle to explore is not one of the Crusader castles but the one in Kyrenia town guarding the harbor, Kyrenia castle.

St Hilarion Castle – Spectacularly located on a mountain peak at 732m

St Hilarion Castle is the most impressive of the three castles located in the Kyrenia Mountain Range. A paved road from the Girne to Lefkosa highway climbs all the way to the castle entrance and car park.

The best view of the castle is at the bottom of the hill on the final approach to the castle. From here the thick, castellate walls punctuated with solid square towers appear to cling to and wind the steep hillside right to the very peak. It is often likened to Walk Disney’s fairy tale castle in Snow White and believed it might even be the inspiration.

The accommodation within the castle is built on three distinct and self-contained levels. The lower level housed the horses, the soldiers and the weapons. Steps lead more steeply upwards to the third and final level for the Royal apartments and St John’s tower.


Kyrenia Castle – Built during Roman and Venetians time in Cyprus

Kyrenia Castle started life under the Romans and was further improved through the ages especially by the Lusignan’s, but there remains much to see in the castle, and finally by the Venetians. It was the Venetians who built the heavy defensive walls and the strong towers.

Entering the castle, you cross the moat, dry now but it was not always so. Inside there is much to admire including the cruciform church of St George. One of the rooms off the courtyard houses the Shipwreck Museum which displays a 4th century BC wreck of a Greek merchant ship with its cargo. Kyrenia castle is a must visit landmark in Cyprus.


Buffavento Castle – Located on the top of the Buffavento Pass

Occupying an impregnable position is Buffavento castle. Located east of St Hilarion, it is accessed from the top of the Buffavento Pass.

A narrow-paved road leads to the entrance. From here it is a 30 – 40-minute climb up steps to the peak of the mountain. Only a few rooms remain scattered between peaks but the view from this altitude, 945m, is truly worth the climb.


Kantara Castle – This heavily walled castle stands at around 600m

Kantara castle, further east still, is easily the most accessible. Again, a paved road leads to the entrance from Kantara village.

This heavily walled castle stands at around 600m. Here the buildings, including a large barracks, storerooms and water cisterns, are more complete and can be explored with barely any climbing.

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Beautiful and Untouched – North Cyprus is a beach lover’s paradise

The beaches in Northern Cyprus are one of the best attractions of the island. North Cyprus coastlines are stretched with long sandy beaches offering many activities such as water sports, snorkeling, scuba diving, and ideal for diving holidays. Most of the hotel and public beaches offer facilities such as sun-beds, umbrellas, toilets, parasols and restaurants. If you would like to have your own privacy then you need a rental car to go to one of the deserted beaches of North Cyprus.

Karpas Golden Beach

As you reach to the northern-most tip of the island you will be greeted by the world famous Karpas Golden Beach with miles of golden sands. Golden Beach is known as the island’s most beautiful beach, and is referred to as the birth place of Aphrodite (Venus), the goddess of love and beauty in mythology. According to legend, the calm sea suddenly gets excited by a sparkling white wave, and with this wave, Aphrodite steps to the shore on a shell.

With its beautiful sands and azure sea, Golden Beach deserves the legendary beauty of Aphrodite. Watching the sunrise and going for a morning walk in this sweeping bay stretching for miles is a big pleasure.

Although it is easy to get to the Karpas Golden Beach located on the right on the road from Dipkarpas Village to Zafer Burnu, you have to keep your eyes on the signpost which is very small. There is almost no construction except two small guest houses on the beach. Amongst nature, it is a wonderful opportunity for a unique holiday.

Karpas Golden Beach is getting busier in these days but it is so big! There is a room for everyone. Ideal for those who would like to get away from the crowd, and seeking their own privacy. You need a car hire to go to Karpas Peninsula. Don’t forget to take an umbrella and refreshments if you are planning to spend your day on the Karpas Golden Beach.


Glapsides Beach

Situated 5.5 km north of Famagusta on the eastern coast of the Cyprus Island, the Glapsides Beach is the third best beach in North Cyprus. Because of its convenient location on the bay, local people and students flock to this long sandy beach. The beach is run by local municipality, and the entrance is free of charge. Sun beds and umbrellas can be obtained with a small fee.

The Glapsides’s blue water captivates water sports enthusiasts and scuba divers. Explore the mystery of the underwater world with scuba diving or join beach volleyball tournaments arranged on the beach. The beach also offers camping opportunities. You will be lost in the magical blue waters of the Mediterranean.


Escape Beach Club

The Escape Beach Club (locally know as ‘Yavuz Çıkarma Plajı’) is a very inviting beach situated on the highway as you come from Kyrenia to Alsancak. An entry fee is paid to enjoy every comfort that ESCAPE offers. Once inside, you can sunbathe either on the cushions on the lawn or on the sun loungers on the sands. When you are hungry you can enjoy great selection of food offered in the restaurant.

The Escape offers extensive options for those who seek more than sea, sand and sun. Some of the water sports on the offer are scuba diving, jet skiing and parasailing. The small island just across the bay, serves as a natural wave breaking. Thus, the beach remains smooth all the time. Especially a favorite gathering place for Cypriot youths, it gets very crowded during the weekends. With its alternative leisure facilities to enjoy sea, sun and sand, the Escape is one of the most popular beaches in Kyrenia, Northern Cyprus.


Acapulco Beach

Located a few miles east of Kyrenia, 5 star Acapulco Hotel’s beach is one of the best beaches in the Kyrenia area. One doesn’t necessarily have to be staying at the hotel to take advantage of the 1 mile long sandy beach. With an entrance fee, you will enjoy great selection of facilities under the Mediterranean sun.

Acapulco offers a massive outdoor swimming pool (the largest in North Cyprus) with water slides. There are dozens of animations from belly dancing to water gymnastics for children and adults around the large pool. Beach volleyball, tennis and basketball and so many other sports activities to have fun… It also offers the opportunity to surf the waves growing from time to time. The Acapulco Hotel’s five-star comfort reflects well on its beach with thin sand and endless blues.


Alagadi Beach

One of the best public beach is Alagadi where you can see Sea Turtles nesting during the summer season. There are no facilities so don’t forget to bring your own umbrellas, water, and other refreshments.

Visit SPOT – The Society for the Protection of Turtles and their visitor center located between Alagadi Village and the beach, to learn more about the marine life. From late June until August, we warmly recommend attending one of the turtle hatchings.

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Ancient and historical sites to visit and enjoy

The Turkish Cypriot Culture is a rich and varied one with strong influences from Turkey and the surrounding Mediterranean countries.

Amongst the many delights of North Cyprus are the cultural differences. The northern Cypriots are genuinely very friendly and helpful. Their language, although Turkish, is of the Cypriot variety. Many of their customs are from a mix of the cultures which have swept through the island over the centuries.


The strategic location of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean has had an overwhelming influence on the history of North Cyprus ever since the first Neolithic settlers around 6500 B.C. These arrived from southern Turkey, and the coastal regions of Syria and Palestine and many formed settlements in the northern region at Zafer Burnu, Trulli, just east of Girne, Alsancak, Ambelikou near Lefke and on other locations in Northern Cyprus.

You can get to know the cathedrals of kings decorated with Ottoman minarets and walk the historic, mystical Ottoman and Gothic cloisters of Lefkosa. You can walk in the footsteps of the Lusignans and the Venetians in Kyrenia’s ancient harbour, in the shadow of the Besparmak mountains. Heading south, the golden plain of Maserya will amaze you and you will be beckoned by the Venetian city walls of Famagusta and the Othello Tower, to the accompaniment of Shakespeare’s sonnets.

Kyrenia Harbour
The most visited place in North Cyprus

Guarded by a powerful castle and overlooked by the Kyrenia mountains, this horse-shoe shaped Kyrenia harbour is one of the prettiest to be seen in North Cyprus and the whole of the Mediterranean.

The pages of history might tell a different story but Kyrenia now has willingly surrendered itself to tourism. The harbour now has a relaxed, inviting and calming ambience. Pleasure boats and luxury yatchs crowd around the quay side and diners fill the waterfront tables,.

From its earliest days, Kyrenia has been in the thick of the commerce and maritime trade with its excellent strategic location although it never reached the status of a major port. Ships would ply their trade down the Aegean coast of Turkey taking in some of the Greek islands like Samos and Rhodes before calling in to Kyrenia on the way to Egypt.

Salamis, Famagusta
The ancient Roman City of Salamis

Salamis lies 9 km north of Famagusta and is the most important archaeological site in Cyprus. It is the Ancient Roman city. According to legend, Salamis was founded around the 11th century BC by the Homeric hero Teucer who, on his return from the Trojan wars, was exiled by his father, king of the Greek island of Salamis. The city slowly prospered as an independent Greek city-state to become a major trading center by the 8th century, so much so that it started to mint its own coinage around 560BC, a first for Cyprus.

The Salamis ruins, gymnasium and baths form part of the large complex encountered immediately on entering the site. These date from the 4th century AD. It is interesting to notice that the columns forming the stoas, especially at the eastern end, are a bit of a miss-match. This is the work of the Byzantines who recycled Hellenistic and Roman columns from other buildings without too much regard for authenticity.

The other major feature is the very fine Roman amphitheater built in the reign of Augustus and only discovered in 1959. With 50 rows of seats, it held a capacity audience of around 15,000 people which made it the largest ancient theatre in Cyprus.

Bellapais Abbey
Bellapais Monastery, one of the iconic images of Northern Cyprus

Elegant Gothic arches, impressively tall, shoulder to shoulder, silently invite entrance to the cloisters in Bellapais Abbey, also known as the Bellapais Monastery. This is one of the iconic images of North Cyprus and a must visit place on your Northern Cyprus holidays.

Bellapais village itself, 210m above sea level and is reached from the main road east of Kyrenia (Girne). Take the road signposted Ozanköy and Bellapais (also known as Beylerbey) and turn right at the main roundabout. There is paid parking in the village.

The village is very touristy thanks to the Abbey and to the popularization through Laurence Durrell’s book ‘Bitter Lemons of Cyprus’. He lived in the village here in an old Turkish house between 1953-55. His account of life here is both funny and sad but classic holiday reading. Durrell’s house now aptly called Bitter Lemons, and much enlarged and modernized, lies on Aci Limon Sokak, Bitter Lemon street.

It is not uncommon for Monasteries and abbeys to be built in spectacular locations and this one is no exception. The imposing ruins sit on a rocky projectory overlooking the sea. The abbey started life ca 1200 as the Abbey de la Faye for the Augustine monks forced out of Jerusalem. It grew in size and importance from the late 13th century until the Genoese invasion of 1373. Its power and influence faded but it finally came to grief in 1570 when it was sacked by the Turks although the church inside remained in use for worship until 1974.

There is still much to explore, the church on the south side near where you now enter; the cloisters adjacent to the church; the Common Room and the Chapter House on the east side of the cloisters and the huge Refectory on the south side. Concerts and musical events take place in the abbey from May to October and these are mostly within the refectory.

Apostolos Andreas Monastery
Situated just south of Cape Apostolos Andreas, the north-easternmost point of Cyprus

The traditional story of the monastery’s founding says that, during a journey to the Holy Land, the ship transporting Saint Andrew went off course and struck rocks here. On coming ashore, Andrew hit the rocks with his staff, at which point a spring gushed forth. The waters proved to have healing powers and restored the sight of the ship’s captain who had been blind in one eye.

Thereafter, the site became a place of pilgrimage. A fortified monastery stood here in the 12th century, from which Isaac Comnenus negotiated his surrender to Richard the Lionheart. In the 15th century, a small chapel was built close to the shore. The church of the main monastery dates to the 18th century, while the main buildings are 100 years later.

A bi-communal technical committee was created in 2008 to be responsible for protecting the island’s cultural heritage. The committee has been coordinating the restoration of the Monastery.


North Cyprus Villages
Enjoy the historical villages in Northern Cyprus

The foothills of the Kyrenia range are dotted with many lovely villages in North Cyprus. All have common characteristics and historical antecedents. They were old settlements, original hamlets of the Lusignan period or from an earlier era.

The people of Cyprus refrained from establishing civil facilities next to the sea because of terrorizing pirate raids. North Cyprus villages were located on hills or in fertile valleys in the mountains. It was a wise decision to take shelter on higher ground where the people easily observed approaching vessels. The higher altitude also meant cooler weather, better landscape, proximity to firewood and abundance of potable water. The few mud-brick houses of such villages in North Cyprus have changed into modern residences of today, as in Karmi, Lapta, Çatalköy and Karşıyaka. Please take a look at the map of North Cyprus and you will see these pearls strung along the Kyrenia range.

Karmi Village
Karmi village has one of the oldest Bronze Age settlements in North Cyprus. There are elaborate Bronze Age tomb structures and burial chambers. A unique funerary stele was discovered here which may be the largest of its kind in the island. The excavation was carried out by JR Stewart, in 1960, of the Melbourne Cyprus expedition.

The peak of St Hilarion is visible from anywhere in the village. This might mean that both places were in close contact. An old road from the castle reached the shore via Karmi and Edremit. It would not be mistaken to imagine the knights of the Lusignan dynasty with their colorful costumes riding with their companions through Karmi. The Latin influence is evident in the medieval church of Karmi.

Karmi is one of the most beautiful villages in Cyprus. The landscape is superb, the villas and houses are in aesthetic harmony with Northern Cyprus. A predominantly Mediterranean mood can be seen in the architecture. Such a complete picture of North Cyprus and its nature gives you a striking impression of our island.

You can leave your car in the village square and start your tour. Next to the car park there is a lovely medieval church. The blue gothic door and the belfry are interesting features of this church. The walk around the village is very refreshing; the narrow streets are named after the flowers of Cyprus. You can see these flowers flowing over the fences and walls; geranium, jasmine, bougainvillea and there are water lilies growing in an old cistern. The houses and their gardens are very pretty.

The lovely atmosphere of the village is accompanied with a fresh wind from the mountains. The scenery is wonderful. The flowers, white painted houses, cypress trees, an old door; they all paint an impressive tableau in your mind.

The old cistern was full, and the water lilies were dancing on the surface. Excess water ran into a small waterway which flowed downhill towards the church. If you go down a few steps to the next street, you will find an arched passage which ends near a grocery store. There are interesting restaurants and cafes in Karmi.

Lapta or Ancient Lapithos
6 miles west of Kyrenia you will find Lapta spread to the slopes of Kyrenia Mountain Range.

Lapta, also known as “Lapithos” or “Laphetos” in ancient times, is one of the oldest civilized areas in Cyprus. Lapithos was the centre of one of the 9 kingdoms of Cyprus. The city kept its importance in Roman and Byzantine periods. In the Roman period, Lapithos became one of the four districts of Cyprus and changed its name from Lapithos to Lambousa. Today, you can still see Lambousa ruins situated about 1.5 miles north of the Lapta town. Lapithos was destroyed by Arab raids in the years of 653-654, and then became lively centre in Latin period in the 10th century, as well as in the Ottoman period (1571-1878).

Today, Lapta is one of the largest districts of Northern Cyprus. The town has one of the most beautiful coasts and is developed as an important tourism region in North Cyprus. Nearly 22.000 tourists come to the region every year. It is popular for its beaches, its hotels, its nightlife, its restaurants and its spring waters, and a preferred location for holidays and properties. The town is also a place with amazing scenic beauty. Wandering around the streets of Lapta is a pleasure.

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Cypriot cuisine has been influenced by different cultures

Because of the influences from other cultures over time, there isn’ t any dish, which we would call ‘Cypriot’ only. However with little variations from their originals Cypriots have developed quite tasty dishes. Each dish has a peculiar taste and cooking and presentation reflects the character of the people of Cyprus. ‘ Molehiya ’ Arab in origin, has developed completely, appealing to Cypriot taste both in preparation, taste and presentation. Some dishes even vary from region to region in name, preparation and taste. Northern Cyprus is fascinating and appealing to people who eat well and enjoy eating.

A great variety of vegetable dishes, grills, pastry, fish, soups, kebabs, lahmacun, pides are to name but a few. A big list of mezes, sweets, cakes, eaten either as starters or as afters can be named. In addition to local cuisine Chinese, Italian, French and Indian foods are well represented in various restaurants.

Meze is the Turkish word for hors-d’oeuvres. In many of the village restaurants food nwill start arriving on the table soon after you sit down; this means that there is a set menu and these will be the meze ‘starters’.

Main Dishes
Anyone who visits North Cyprus or has a meal in a Turkish Cypriot home, regardless of the success of the particular cook, is sure to notice how unique the cuisine is. Main courses normally include mixed type of meets or fish.

Meats grilled over charcoal are known as şiş, named after the skewers on which they are prepared. Most common are lamb chops, grilled chicken, seftali kebap, but also grilled helim cheese, and mushrooms, are unique to the Turkish Cypriots.


Desserts and Pastries
An old Turkish saying advises one to “eat sweetly and speak sweetly”. Sweets and desserts have always been an important and distinctive element of Turkish Cypriot cuisine. Altogether there are about 25-30 basic recipes for desserts known but with the addition of local variations the number becomes enormous.

North Cyprus produces wine, brandy sour, and bear. These are both light, fruity, and palatable and are perfect accompaniment to the local dishes. There are also the favorite traditional, nonalcoholic drinks; Ayran and Turkish coffee.

Frequently used ingredients are fresh vegetables such as zucchini, green peppers, okra, green beans, artichokes, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and grape leaves, and pulses such as beans, broad beans, peas, black-eyed beans, chickpeas and lentils. Pears, apples, grapes, oranges, Mandarin oranges, nectarines, blackberries, cherries, strawberries, figs, watermelon, melon, avocado, citrus, lemon, pistachio, almond, chestnut, walnut, hazelnut are some of the commonest of the fruits and nuts.

The best-known spices and herbs include pepper, parsley, arugula, celery, fresh coriander, thyme, and oregano. Traditionally, cumin and coriander seeds make up the main cooking aromas of the island. Mint is a very important herb, and it grows abundantly, and locals use it for everything, particularly in dishes containing ground meat. For example, the North Cypriot version of pastitsio (makarna fırında) contains very little tomato and generous amounts of mint. The same is true of köfte (meatballs), which are sometimes laced with mint to provide a contrast with the meat. For Turkish Cypriots potato is also often used in making köfte. Fresh coriander is another commonly used herb. It is often used in salads, olive breads, spinach pies (ispanak böreği) and other pastries.

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