North Cyprus, as far as places go, continues to be a wonder to many people. It has a fascinating history, but it has been off-limits for so long that many people now are unaware of how much more accessible it is. Following a conflict in the 1970s, the island was divided in two, with tensions between the Greek and Turkish parts that still exist today. However, in the last decade, the border between the two countries has been opened to regular traffic. There is even talk of reunion these days. The entire history of the battles, on the other hand, would be considered beyond the scope of this blog post.
Traveling between the sides for tourism is rather uneventful and easy for those who can visit both sides. Walking would probably take longer than passing through the checks. With the normalization of tourism, more individuals will be able to visit the north, rather than just those that travel there via Turkey. So, where would you go if you had some free time in North Cyprus? This post assists you in making some of those decisions.
You can as well read our previous blog post to find out the best places to visit in North Cyprus!
Nicosia, one of Europe’s last divided cities, is a fascinating site to visit. It is unusual that you can visit the North without actually spending time there, but it is definitely worth it to see and comprehend the complicated nature of the two sections’ relationships. Nowadays, however, crossing the border is possible (though only within the city limits) and the process is generally simple. With military and barricades on both sides of the border, it doesn’t take long to see that the situation is far from usual. Nicosia stands as the capital of North Cyprus and the Republic of Cyprus.
On the northern side of Nicosia, there are numerous sights to see. Make sure to see the Buyuk Han, Hamam, and Selimiye Mosque, among other places. There are a few places to stay in the region, and it is obvious that it is less developed than the southern (Greek) section of the city. Getting lost in the streets and bazaars is another fun way to spend time exploring this section of town.
Certainly one of my favorite places in North Cyprus, the ancient town of Famagusta is a treasure trove of beautiful ruins and architecture. The old walled city is a great spot to wander around visiting historical spots such as the Sinan Pasha Mosque (Church of St. Peter), Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque (Cathedral of St. Nicholas), the Royal Palace, Othello Castle, and many more.
You can read more about the charming city of Famagusta!
Even just taking the time to wander the walls of the city which has several accessible points was worth the time. Especially in some places, there were some lovely views. You would particularly love the views from the walls of Othello Castle.
For those with more time taking a quick drive down to Varosha (Maraş) will give a very different sort of view of the area. Varosha was a beautiful beach resort area in the 70s that was quickly abandoned during the protracted conflict. After years of closure, people can now visit Varosha to take photographs and it is something worth witnessing for yourself. Standing on the beach watching people relaxing with disintegrating infrastructure behind is a bizarre yet important look at the devastation that partition has played on the land. Since its reopening, Varosha continues to attract tourists from across the world to North Cyprus to explore the ghost city.
Kyrenia is one of the oldest cities in North Cyprus and certainly a beautiful one. Walking the old streets and the old port is a highlight of a trip and one of the favorite things to do. Being there later in the day with the reduction in tourists would always be a great experience. The port is also dominated by a large castle that historically used to protect the port but these days simply occupies a place as a tourist destination. This castle, while the views are lovely, if you are pressed for time you are better spending your time and money visiting the other ones elsewhere.
The port is also a perfect place to spend sunset and it would be a highlight of your spending with the beautiful light coloring the port and rocks around there. There are a lot of restaurants around there that clearly cater to tourists only. The food is decent but more expensive than equally good restaurants elsewhere.
Karpaz would probably be one of your favorite places in North Cyprus. There is a lot of great stuff to see, but it is more so because of the location’s isolation. The Apostolos Andreas Monastery, a massive monastery towards the peninsula’s end, is one of the places to see in this area. To be able to explore the landscapes and the interior of the Monastery, you would need extra time for your visit.
There are several additional churches and monasteries along the road, some of which you can visit. Most, though, would appear to be closed or not staffed on a regular basis. Many of these were abandoned or otherwise ruins left behind from the island’s split.
The numerous Cypriot donkeys that inhabit the peninsula are one of the favorite elements of the peninsula. Feral donkeys have taken over the nearby area after being abandoned during the partition. They are really curious and will be interested in what you are doing while exploring the region. There is a lot more you can read about Karpaz as a pristine tourist destination in North Cyprus!
You can combine all of the different Mountain castles into a single bullet. They are all distinct but extremely different. St. Hilarion Castle is both the best maintained and the most visited of the group. On the mountain route, there are large tour buses coming from the Republic of Cyprus for visits. But it is understandable given how lovely it is and how spectacular the views are. Buffavento is one of the least well-kept, yet it is famed for the perilous path leading to the castle and the breathtaking views.
Only the most dedicated or those with extra time, should put in the effort. Kantara Castle, located further east, is a pleasant destination that appears to be less touristy than St. Hilarion. The remains are in good but not excellent shape, and the views are breathtaking. Traveling to the castles would necessitate the use of a vehicle. The majority of the guided trips include at least a visit to St. Hilarion. To go to any of the other ones, you can rent a car or use a cab.
There are a lot more castles across North Cyprus such as the Kantara castle that are worth a visit!
Bellapais is a must-see attraction just outside of Kyrenia. The area surrounding it is beautiful, with many restaurants and stores. The route there is a little tight, and driving the left-hand drive car would seem a little difficult because the street is designed for two-way traffic. The 13th-century Abbey has been wonderfully kept and is a lovely location to visit. There is also a restaurant adjacent to the Abbey, albeit it is quite pricey. There are a few tourist attractions near the abbey, and a restaurant that was once a medieval mill which would be a beautiful visit as well.
Salamis, beautifully maintained Greek ruins on North Cyprus’ eastern shore. On the coast, it is roughly one hour north of Famagusta. The ruins are quite amazing, which is saying a lot given the number of beautiful sites in North Cyprus. It is a spot you would like to see again in the future, and it is definitely worth a stop if you are traveling along the coast. Salamis was one of the biggest cities in North Cyprus dating back to the 11th or 12th century BC. It is surrounded by an undeveloped region. Although there are a few hotels and restaurants, you may prefer to spend the night somewhere else.