North Cyprus has incredible attractions
North Cyprus is an exceptional tourism destination with historic sites, stunning scenery, intriguing towns and cities, excellent accommodations, and nice people. Many of North Cyprus’ most stunning views are located outside of large towns and cities. While there is a bus system, it operates differently than you may be accustomed to and does not travel everywhere. However, tourists use the buses to travel across the island from different hotels to the cities of Kyrenia, Famagusta, İskele as well as Lefkoşa/Nicosia. It is strongly advised to hire a car to ensure you visit everything you want to see. In our other articles, we offer plenty of tips about renting a car in North Cyprus.
Things to do in Lefkoşa, the capital city
The capital of Cyprus is Lefkoşa, or Nicosia as it is known by Greek Cypriots, is the world’s only divided capital city, with a UN buffer zone running across it. Visiting the city is both safe and worthwhile. There is enough to see and do on both sides of the city, and the buffer zone itself is fascinating. This is one of the major points of attraction in North Cyprus.
Nothing else compares to the Green Line
The UN Buffer Zone, a 180-kilometer-long demilitarized zone known as the ‘Green Line,’ divides Cyprus into two legislative territories. The presence of the Green Line outside of Lefkoşa/Nicosia is only indicated by signage and low-key checkpoints operated by Turkish Cypriot, Greek Cypriot, and British soldiers. However, things are considerably different inside the capital.
Barbed wire and guarded traffic barricades surround a region with abandoned buildings and litter-strewn wasteland that only a few get access to. Walking along the line’s edge is both intriguing and distressing at the same time. Normal life goes on as best it can on both sides of the partition, but it’s difficult not to notice the divide.
If you have your passport, you can easily cross the border in a few locations throughout the city. It will be double-checked by guards representing both opposing parties. The Ledra Street crossing is the most popular tourist destination, however, we believe the less-frequented Markou Drakou bridge is substantially more intriguing. You can freely roam across a stretch of the buffer zone here, and you can even stop for a coffee at the Home For Cooperation (see below).
A unique community center is located within the UN Buffer Zone, directly across from the former Ledra Palace Hotel, which now functions as the UN headquarters. The centre’s primary goal is to provide a safe area where separated people can come together and engage in one another’s culture. It houses a fantastic cafe and multi-functional facilities for events and gatherings.
Drop in for a coffee and a bite to eat if you are going through (and you should), if only to express your support for such a great institution in such a divided area. If you are lucky, one of the many events held there will coincide with your visit.
Self-guided walking tour in Lefkoşa: Follow the blue line
Simply follow the blue line to see all of the major landmarks on the Turkish side of the capital. The city has painted a thick blue line on the ground that passes past several areas of interest throughout the city. Because road resurfacing has caused sections of the line to vanish in certain spots, you will have to use your imagination to find your route.
You can follow up the blue line from the Ledra Palace crossing on Markou Drakou. Once you have crossed the UN Buffer Zone, take the first right onto Sarayönü Sk (with Khora Kitap Cafe across the road on your left) and turn right again. You should see the blue line start from here. The scene at this spot is quite remarkable – a row of well-kept town houses face into a wide dugout, inside which you will see UN watch towers.
Girne’s central attractions
Girne/Kyrenia is a beach city in North Cyprus that is undoubtedly at the center of the tourism industry. Tourism brochures frequently use photos of the city’s harbor and castle. There are a number of excellent hotels both inside and outside the city boundaries, making the city and its environs an excellent base for exploring the remainder of the island region.
Kyrenia Castle is a beautiful Venetian castle from the 16th century
A Venetian fortress from the 16th century stands just east of Kyrenia Harbour. The outside fortifications of Kyrenia Castle (Turkish: Girne Kalesi) are in excellent condition, and appear to have been built relatively recently. Across North Cyprus, you are free to roam pretty much wherever you like at most of the attractions featured on this website.
A stroll along the perimeter walls is enjoyable and provides excellent views of the harbor and city center below. Do not miss the Shipwreck Museum, which houses the remnants of a 4th-century Greek trade ship and its cargo. After you have had your fill of exploration, there is a cute little cafe inside the courtyard that sells modest sandwiches, mezze, and Turkish tea.
Bellapais Monastery is a ruined monastery from the 13th century
In the village of Bellapais, about 5 kilometers southeast of Kyrenia, you can visit the remnants of a 13th century monastery. The location, nestled between mountains and the coast, is really stunning, with palm palms placed among the ruins. The site’s elevation of 220 meters above sea level provides spectacular views of the local area as well as out across the sea to Turkey. Make a point of thoroughly exploring the monastery, particularly the roof top. On site, there is also a museum and a cafe.
Saint Hilarion castle in the mountains: A dramatic 11th century castle
It is simple to see why photos of Saint Hilarion Castle are frequently used in North Cyprus publicity. The castle remains hidden as you weave your way up the mountain pass. The castle is only revealed as you approach the car park, almost impossible to integrate into the slope of the mountain in the most dramatic fashion.
Once you are in North Cyprus, seeing Saint Hilarion is an absolute must. Despite the Venetians’ best attempts, most of the castle has survived and is a truly stunning sight to witness from all angles. The views over the Mediterranean shoreline, Girne/Kyrenia, and beyond are also breathtaking because of its mountainous perch.
Things to do in Güzelyurt
The western part of North Cyprus is distinct from the rest of the island. Because there are fewer foreigners heading this way, you may discover that the natives are considerably more interested in your presence. But do not worry, Cypriots are lovely people who will always welcome you.
So let us dive right in and discover this fantastic corner of North Cyprus. We have divided the sights and attractions into geographic zones to make things a little easier. You can pretty much see everything in each zone in a day, depending on where you stay and how willing you are to zip around.
You can read more from our previous blog post to learn about the best places to visit during your North Cyprus vacation!