It’s the lesser visited part of Cyprus, often ignored altogether by holiday makers looking for sun and relaxation at the famous Cypriot beach resorts in the south. However North Cyprus is an experience in itself – and is far more like being in Turkey than Europe, and worth visiting in it’s own right. With the political situation calm in the country, crossing the UN buffer zone between South and North Cyprus has never been easier or safer, and all it requires is a few minutes of your time and a passport. It’s so easy to do, and it will open up a whole new part of the island, with a variety of different things to do and see.
1: Experience recent history in a way you’ve never before
With Turkey’s invasion of North Cyprus in the 1970s, thousands of people fled and many villages and towns were effectively shut down as a buffer zone was created between south and north. The result in the 21st century remains the same – abandoned streets, villages, and towns line the border, many of which can be viewed and explored by tourists, although some do remain off-limits. This is still a political quagmire, but it allows an incredible real-life insight in world conflict/international dispute and its ramifications, in a way that you can literally walk through. A good example would be the abandoned ghost town of Varosha. That’s a holiday experience you can get in very few places around the world.
2: North Cyprus has two of the island’s most charming cities
If you don’t go to North Cyprus, then you will miss out on two of the island’s most charming cities – Famagusta and Kyrenia.
Known as Girne in Turkish, Kyrenia’s old town is ancient and lined with cobblestone paths and roads, while Kyrenia Cstle jutting out into the sea is an incredible sight. With museums throughout the city, this is a perfect place to spend a day learning about the country you’re visiting while enjoying the delights of walking a beautiful centuries-old city.
Famagusta, known as Gazimağusa in Turkish, is defined by its 500 year old city walls, and incredible architecture such as the 14th century Mustafa Pasha Mosque, and Orthello Castle. The abandoned ghost town of Varosha is a suburb of Famasgusta and worth a visit in itself.
3: The beaches
While finding a good tanning spot, or some beach space of your own, can be a hard task in tourist-dominated southern Cyprus, in North Cyprus you will find miles upon miles of unspoiled pristine beaches, with hardly a tourist in sight. It’s the perfect Cyprus beach holiday you have always wanted – but without the fight with fellow tourists for limited space.
4: Cute turtles
And on the subject of beaches, Cyprus is home to countless turtles which can be viewed on the sandy shore throughout May to September. While this is true of south Cyprus as well, the northern shores are less touristy and many beaches are unused so there’s plenty where turtles come to lay their eggs.
5: A different culture
I’m not lying when I say North Cyprus feels different from South Cyprus, from lira being used rather than Euros, to Turkish on shopfronts and in conversation. While the religion on this side is predominantly Muslim, compared to the Christian south.
And of course, with the different cultures come different food. Middle East food is the dish of the day in this region of the country, including delicious Turkish sweets and deserts (baklava yummm), as well as the classic kebabs, and assorted meats. A Turkish kebab is the best in the world, and a lot different from that 3am drunken mistake we all like to engorge after a few too many beers. Go on, treat yourself 🙂
6: It’s a good excuse for an “extra” holiday
If you fly from, or fly to, the airport in North Cyprus (Ercan International Airport) you will have to go via Istanbul, due to the fact that Turkey is the only country that recognizes North Cyprus as it’s own republic.
So no direct flight, annoying right? Wrong – here’s the perfect excuse to spend a weekend in Istanbul, a vibrant, exciting metropolitan city where east meets west.
7: Ancient history everywhere you turn
North Cyprus isn’t just home to ruins and abandoned buildings from the 1970s conflict. There’s also numerous ancient ruins, castles, and historical buildings throughout the area that are from Ancient Greece. One example is the ancient Greek city of Salamis – possibly the finest archeological site on the whole island. There’s also three stunning mountain castles on the Kyrenia mountain ridge in North Cyprus, with the 15th century crusader fort, St Hilarion, well worth a visit.