A trip to North Cyprus offers the experience of a paradise on the Mediterranean sea
The unspoiled beaches, rocky mountains, and charming villages will offer you an atmosphere of peace and tranquility, as well as provide you with the opportunity to meet some of the kindest, most helpful people you have ever met – all while sampling the ısland’s rich cuisine and culture. A vacation trip to North Cyprus absolutely feels like a paradise.
Whether you want to unwind and enjoy local food, watch turtles hatch, go scuba diving at Escape Beach, or take a historical tour of the country’s amazing castles that span the island’s history, the island, and its people will gladly accommodate you. There are some of the places on your vacation that you should not miss.
Unique craft shops, pebbled streets, typical Cypriot eateries, and wonderful views of Kyrenia itself can be found in this small village about four miles from Kyrenia’s center. The village is also where you may discover Lawrence Durrell’s Tree of Idleness, which is mentioned in his book Bitter Lemons. However, be aware that two locations claim to be the actual location.
After you’ve explored the village and sat at the top of the Tree of Idleness restaurant, sipping Turkish coffee and sampling local brandy while gazing down on the tranquil magnificence of Bellapais Abbey (which means “Abbey of Peace” in French), we’ll let you decide which is the true one.
Built by monks fleeing Jerusalem in the 13th century, it was later taken over by the Venetians and then the Ottomans, who gave it to the Greek Orthodox Church. The ruins of this elegantly designed structure now house a café and, in the early summer, a stunning music event. If the Abbey’s vista isn’t enough for you, look up for a breathtaking perspective of Kyrenia harbor and the pure, blue Mediterranean.
Kyrenia Harbour is known as the Jewel of Cyprus, and once you see it, you’ll understand why. The fact that it is only 40 miles from the Turkish mainland made it an ideal trading route when it was built about the 10th century BC. There is a restaurant to suit even the most sophisticated palette in the harbour itself, most of which are housed in buildings that were previously warehouses for Venetian residences. Locally caught fish and traditional Turkish Cypriot food are highlighted, and the entire area exudes a sense of history and tradition.
You can walk off your dinner by strolling past the moored boats in the harbour, being enticed to take a moonlight sea tour or fishing trip, or simply browsing the wide range of local crafts and goods being sold a little further along the harbour – an ideal place to buy all those holiday souvenirs for your visit! If you don’t find anything at the dock, head to Kyrenia center, where you’ll discover traditional shops selling bespoke wooden and leather gifts, as well as some stunning specimens of Ottoman-style glass mosaic lamps. Even the most seasoned souvenir hunter will find something to their liking!
A vacation to Kyrenia would not be complete without a visit to the castle, which was built by the Byzantines, modified by the Lusignans, and further enhanced by the Venetians. The massive walls that stand over one corner of the bay are a tribute to the fortifications built to protect this gorgeous but strategically significant position in Northern Cyprus. Don’t forget to stop by the Aga Cafer Pasa Mosque, which is located across the cobblestone street from the Harbour Club Restaurant. The Mosque, which was built after the Ottoman Conquest in 1580, is still in use today and uses a nearby spring for ritual cleansing.
St Hilarion Castle
St Hilarion Castle should not be missed if you’re feeling a little more daring. The Church, which was once a Monastery and was named after St Hilarion’s choice of location for his hermitage, was established in the 10th Century and afterwards reinforced by the Byzantines. The castle guarded the mountain route between Kyrenia and Lefkosa as a defensive position.
But be warned: St Hilarion is not for the faint of heart; there are over 600 steps to climb to the top, but once there, you’ll understand why it was built as a defense stronghold for the island, and the views over the island are unrivaled. The work was well worth it.
This region of the island lies on the country’s pan-handle, and it takes a while to get there from Kyrenia’s more developed areas, but your efforts will be rewarded. You might even have to stop to give way to a herd of goats or cross the route of the region’s famous wild donkeys on your way to Karpaz, which takes you through breathtaking mountain passes and landscapes that look so unspoiled it’s as if time has stood still.
Traditional Cypriot towns and a plethora of old ruins await you once you reach the Karpaz Peninsula, including the Apostolos Andreas Monastery, which was founded in the 10th century and is currently undergoing substantial restoration and is considered a holy place by both Turks and Greeks. Kantaras Castle, Karpasia, and the Avias Trias Basilica are also worth seeing.
Alternatively, you may simply relax on one of the Peninsula’s 46 sandy beaches and enjoy one of the most breathtaking sunsets you’ll ever see while dining on local seafood and veggies and sampling locally grown figs and olives.
If a mountain pass drive isn’t your thing, take a boat trip from Kyrenia to see the island’s stunning and dramatic coastline, stopping along the way for a quick swim in the clear, warm, salty waters that lovingly lap the island before enjoying an on-board lunch that features all of the best taste sensations that Turkish Cypriot cuisine has to offer.
The City of Salamis provides a unique view into life in a pre-Christian port town, reflecting Cyprus’ ancient history and the various factions that have all tried to gain their own small piece of Mediterranean Heaven. Despite the fact that the city was destroyed by an earthquake in 270 BC, some habitation continued. Although bronze age structures have been discovered at the site, showing there was an earlier settlement, legend has it that the city was established by Teucer, son of Telamon, who was prohibited from returning home after the Trojan war because of his failure to avenge his brother Ajax.
Salamis has been ruled by the Greeks, Persians, and Romans throughout its history, with evidence that St Paul visited the city on one of his earliest missions. All of these occupants incorporated their own individual styles into the layout and construction of the ruins, resulting in a mash-up of civilizations today.
There is a Zeus temple, a massive Amphitheatre, a gymnasium, and a Byzantine Church, as well as burial chambers and a tiny museum showcasing the current excavation’s treasures.
There are also immaculate white sandy beaches and an endless view of the sea, so you can have a picnic and relax in the Cypriot sunlight before returning to immerse yourself in the history of this unique site.
The deepest harbour in the country is found in this port town on the island’s east coast. The harbour was a significant port city until recently, trading with Genoa, Venice, and silk road merchants. After the destruction of Salamis in 270 BC, the city was constructed and governed by the numerous occupying powers of the island, notably the Venetians, Ottomans, and, more recently, the British. All of them recognized the town’s strategic location and the value of its fortifications.
The Othello Castle, the Palazzo del Provveditore, the Namik Kemal Dungeon, and the Templar Twin Churches are only a few examples of their legacy. But don’t assume Famagusta is all about history; there are plenty of gift shops where you can buy locally created goods, particularly the lace that is peculiar to the area, and our sources say this is where you can get the greatest baklava on the island.
Make a day trip to this old town and load up on souvenirs and memories, since there are restaurants of all types serving fresh fish, meat, and fruit, which are staples on the island.
These are just a few of our favorite things to do on the island, but with so much history, you’re bound to find some more. Please let us know about any hidden gems you discover in our small slice of heaven so we can add them to our list.