How much do you know about North Cyprus?
North Cyprus is popularly referred to as the “Island of Love”, intrigued by the notion that Aphrodite, the goddess of love, had selected this location for her birth.
The weather in North Cyprus is as well quite amazing. In June, the sea temperature varies between 220c and 270c, and it remains that way until December. The greatest time to come and enjoy your holiday is in June or September when there are still enough tourists and the sea and air temperatures are at their most pleasant. After Sicily and Sardinia, North Cyprus is the Mediterranean’s easternmost island (with about 340 sunny days per year) and the third largest island. North Cyprus features some of the most beautiful sandy beaches.
Those miles of beautiful beach and blue sea are just wonderful. The water off the coast has been named the cleanest in the Mediterranean. North Cyprus has an average temperature of 300c to 350c, with highs of 400c. The sea temperature can reach 28°c. However, there is a continual moderate wind throughout this stretch of shore, which is really nice since it decreases the sense of heat.
Although North Cyprus is governed by Turkey and certain nations require visas to enter the country, this does not apply to North Cyprus. To enter the country, you simply need a passport that is valid for at least six months. North Cyprus has recently become considerably more open to tourism, as seen by the steady increase of charter flights and passengers.
There are currently a large number of newly settled Turks, as well as Russians, Ukrainians, and a variety of other nationalities seeking a place to call home in the sun. The island’s official currency is the Turkish lira, however, the Euro is often accepted as well, albeit the exchange rate will be less advantageous than when purchasing in the lira. Despite the fact that Turkish is the official language of North Cyprus, English is widely spoken.
What historical landmarks does North Cyprus feature?
The oldest archeological sites in North Cyprus date from the Neolithic period, and the island was dominated by the Phoenicians, Assyrians, Egyptians, and Persians during ancient times. North Cyprus was once at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa, and it still has the imprints of the several civilizations that ruled over it – Roman, Byzantine, and Venetian. The Ottoman Empire gave Cyprus to the United Kingdom at the Congress of Berlin in 1878 in exchange for their assistance in the Russian-Turkish conflict. Until 1914, the island was governed by the English. As a result, we drive on the left.
It is interesting that in antiquity, copper used to come practically only from Cyprus, so it was known as aes cyprium (Cypriot ore) or cyprium for short, and from that word originates the Latin word cuprum, after which copper was given the symbol Cu in the periodic table.
Famagusta/Gazimagusa (all of the city names are bilingual), is a city the name of which translates to A City Hidden in the Sand. The old part is enclosed by Venetian walls. Traces of life from that era are present at every step. One of the most beautiful edifices is Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque.
Originally a cathedral built in Gothic style, it was turned into a mosque after the Turkish conquest. Within the city is what used to be the largest resort on the island of Cyprus – Varosha. Now it’s a fenced in area guarded by about 5000 Turkish soldiers, while huge hotels and previously magnificent manors have been falling into disrepair in plain sight for years. After the Turkish occupation in 1974, 45,000 Cypriot Greeks were exiled from their homes, and the area closed.
Famagusta used to be the main tourist city on the island, with 36 hotels. The city that never slept. They used to call it New York of the Mediterranean. Famagusta was visited by the biggest celebrities of the time, like Sophia Loren, Brigitte Bardot, Paul Newman… Now it’s a ghost town. Despite the fact that the majority of the population has fled the city, Famagusta is one of the three biggest cities in this part of Cyprus.
Kyrenia/Girne is a charming harbor city dominated by a large medieval castle with walls as a reminder of the period of Byzantine rule over Cyprus. The castle was erected by the Byzantines on Roman foundations, while the Venetians built an entire fort from it.
The fort is home to an interesting museum with remnants of a ship from the times of Alexander the Great, but also interesting images of life from that era. Arm yourselves with a hat and water because the tour of the fort is quite exhausting, and the sun relentless. Looking down from the hill above Kyrenia is the Bellapais Abbey, a wonderful place with a great restaurant and view. You should definitely visit it if you get the chance.
Nicosia/Lefkosa is the main political, administrative, banking, business and commercial center of Northern Cyprus. About half of the total population lives here. The majority of historical buildings are located within the Venetian walls. Frequently, right next to ugly residential buildings. An indispensable spot for tourists is definitely Buyuk Han – a former hotel from 1572 now holding a plethora of small souvenir shops, cafés and galleries, and located on the Turkish side.
The obvious difference between the two parts of the city is visible as soon as you cross the border. Nicosia is also the only divided capital in the world. It is interesting to see this demarcation line in the middle of the city. The Turkish part of Cyprus actually seemed a bit terrifying without stores, tourists or women in the streets.
It was Sunday, but I had felt safer in the streets of Istanbul than here. The small groups of men seen occasionally in the city that’s half empty seemed kind of spooky. On the Greek side, however, the situation is quite different, and you can see right away that you have entered the EU.
Multinational fast food restaurant chains, stores and tourists put me at ease as soon as I crossed the border. Crossing is very simple, a stamp in your passport and you’re already there. The city has 5 border crossings in total. Some are only for pedestrians, and some for cars as well.
Besides the two different flags (of Greece and of the Republic of Cyprus which is a part of the EU) fluttering in the Greek part of the city, you’ll immediately notice all of the popular clothing brands and supermarket chains. You don’t see that in the Turkish part. The streets in the Greek part are also broader and cleaner. The city looks livelier.
If your accommodation is near Famagusta, you’ll also be very near the biggest Roman settlement on the island – Salamis. For over a thousand years, Salamis had been the island’s capital and harbor until it was destroyed by the Arabs in 648. For archeology aficionados, this is an ideal site with very well preserved remnants of a theater. Built 2000 years ago, it could receive about 15,000 spectators. Nowadays it’s renovated and hosts summer plays.
Karpaz is the northernmost part of the island from the edge of which in clear weather you can see the Turkish and the Syrian coast. Intact nature with beautiful beaches is characteristic of this part of the island. As you drive around, the peninsula is dominated by olive and eucalyptus trees. In the past, eucalyptus was brought to the island on purpose, in order to dry out the marshland and prevent a malaria epidemic.
In this part of the island you can also find 60 different types of orchids. One part of Karpaz is a nature reserve for birds and wild donkeys, which are a tourist attraction. They do not belong to anyone and are quite tame. They come up to people and eat from their hands whatever is offered to them. There are countless donkeys all over Karpaz.
Another favorite spot on the island is the Golden or Aphrodite’s Beach. Legend has it that this is where Aphrodite was created from the sea foam. It’s no wonder, since the beach is amazing. The sea is turquoise and so clean that sea turtles have decided to lay their eggs precisely there.
For that reason, the area has been declared a reserve, construction on the beach is prohibited, and this guarantees that the intact natural beauty of the landscape will be preserved. Swimming on this beach is truly a unique experience. Miles of sand with only a few swimmers guarantee pure enjoyment in this true pearl.
Cypriot cuisine is Mediterranean cuisine dominated by Turkish influence in this part. Indispensable elements are cold meze and sheftalio (a dish made of beef, onions, tomatoes and vegetables). You’ll also be able to enjoy kebab and other fine meat specialties with their traditional spices. If you like brandy, you should also try home-made brandy called zivania. Zivania is made of grapes and is very strong.
Northern Cyprus is a still undiscovered tourist destination which can offer beautiful solitary beaches with turquoise sea, excellent Cypriot/Turkish cuisine and hospitable hosts, and is definitely to be recommended when all the other destinations are still cold and the sea not suitable for swimming. Here you can experience bad weather for only 25 days a year. Can you think of a better recommendation than that?
Click here to learn about the economic and political history of Cyprus.