What you need to know about Karpaz in North Cyprus
No trip to North Cyprus is complete without a visit to the Karpaz Peninsula; this is the Cyprus of old, a land almost unspoiled by modern development, where Mother Nature still reigns supreme; where donkeys, trees, flowers, and cereal crops dot the landscape as far as the eye can see, before tapering off into the Mediterranean’s blue waters.
There is also a wealth of history, with old city sites, Byzantine period basilicas with elaborate mosaics, conglomerations of weathered churches, and rural typical Cypriot villages whose residents continue to live as they have for hundreds of years. The tale of Cyprus over millennia is told here in an agricultural scene.
Karpaz has a lot to offer…
The Karpaz region of North Cyprus is virtually completely devoid of any concentrations of industry or people, and it is one of the least polluted areas in the Mediterranean. The Karpaz is also North Cyprus’ nature reserve, with pine, cypress, and maquis trees covering slopes that reach an altitude of roughly 1,000 meters. The island of Cyprus has managed to retain a significant amount of biological diversity since escaping the previous ice age, and the Karpaz is home to much of it.
Northern Cyprus features a large number of endemic species, with around 1,600 flora species (22 of which are unique) and 26 reptile and amphibian species, the majority of which call the Karpaz home. Not to mention a plethora of insects, including numerous butterfly species.
Although it is feasible to see the Karpaz in a single day, we do not encourage it. To see this section of Cyprus, where time seems to stand still, you will need a few days. Rushing through this serene, quiet land means missing out on a lot. There are so many locations to see once Boğaz on the south coast is left behind. Buyukkonuk Eco Village is a short drive off the main road, Kantara Castle beckons from high on the mountain top, and Bafra Beach, with its white sand, is a good swimming stop and is steadily becoming one of the area’s most popular beaches.
You can read our previous blog post for more information about other Remarkable tourist attractions in the İskele region which is also located along the way to Kapraz.
On the main road continuing into the peninsula, the next settlement is Yesilkoy (Green village), where oranges, pomegranates, potatoes, and kolokas (a root vegetable similar to a sweet potato) are grown in large quantities. A café on stilts stands in the village’s center, alongside a unique tree known as the Osage Orange. Maclura pomifera is the botanical name for this Mulberry family member, and the enormous, inedible orange-shaped, segmented greenish yellow fruit arrives in October.
Continue on to Yeni Erenkoy, a former center of the tobacco industry, where remnants of the now-defunct business can be seen throughout the village. The tobacco warehouses have been converted into garage workshops and carpenters studios, and smoke rooms that were used to impart specific flavors to the tobacco can be found down a long rough route leading to the northern shore. There is also a lovely carob storehouse, but it is in ruins.
The 6th century AD basilica floor of Ayias Trias in the nearby town of Sipahi features some of the most exquisite mosaics in North Cyprus and is well worth the short trip.
The road from Yenierenkoy is being extended and straightened to make it easier for traffic to reach the village of Dipkarpaz and the area’s growing tourism industry. Traffic is being redirected between Yenierenkoy and Dipkarpaz via the highways that run along the south shore at the time of writing this blog post. The path is beautiful, but it will take a little longer.
Dipkarpaz is a mixed community with residents who are both Turkish and Greek Cypriots. As a result, it has a mosque as well as an Orthodox church. It has both Greek and Turkish coffee shops. Several emporia sell everything a home requires, including pots and pans, paint, brushes, shampoo, veggies, and so on.
Dipkarpaz has highways leading to both the north and south beaches. The city of Karpasia is to the north, and the basilica of Ayios Philon is below it on the shoreline. The partially domed edifice, which dates from the 12th century AD, was built on the site of an earlier Byzantine church dating from the 4th century AD. The church’s foundations and floor mosaics can be seen to the south of the main structure.
The Roman harbour is a wonderful swimming spot, and turtles can be seen feasting in the turquoise waters during the mating and nesting season. The Oasis cafe serves decent food on a shady terrace and offers minimal lodging.
The jointly titled site of Aphendrika, some six kilometers east of Ayios Philon along a tarmac road, contains three damaged Byzantine churches. The first is dedicated to Ayios Yeoryios, the second is the largest and dedicated to the Panayia Chrysiotissa, and the third is named for the Panayia Asomatos and is located on a little incline to the right. The Arab incursions of the 7th century AD destroyed all of them, while Panayia Chrysiotissa was reconstructed in the 16th century.
Continuing east down a dirt road, still in the Aphendrika area, is a large city site dating from the 2nd century BC. Among the dense undergrowth are the ruins of rock cut tombs and traces of buildings constructed partly into the rock. The ruins of the ancient harbour can also be seen.
The road south from Dipkarpaz travels close to the island’s southern shore all the way to the tip. Until you reach the Apostolos Andreas Monastery, this route is mostly agricultural with a few sandy beaches, donkeys, colorful birds perched on telephone wires, and a few local restaurants thrown in for good measure. This church was never a true monastic establishment, but it is one of the island’s most prominent pilgrimage sites. According to legend, it was here that St. Andrew landed and struck the rock with his staff, causing fresh water to flow.
There is a modest church erected over the spring’s source that is kept locked, but there are taps from which the healing waters can be poured. Both Muslim and Orthodox Cypriots believe in the healing properties of this water, and bottles of it are shipped back to Europe to help sick relatives.
The Karpaz donkeys can be seen roaming freely along the roads, pathways, and among the juniper bushes in this location, which is the heart of the Karpaz donkey conservation area. Please keep in mind that they have the right-of-way. The track continues beyond the monastery and passes the Sea Bird Motel. Basic lodging is available in wooden huts and repurposed British Customs and Excise houses. The meal is delicious, and there is a lovely sandy cove where you can swim.
Zafer Burnu/Cape Andreas is at the far end, and it is the furthest east you can get. The wind is continually blowing there, and the crashing currents whirl dangerously as they combine among the small offshore islands. There is a police station where a cop can be found on occasion, keeping a drowsy eye out for illegal immigration. He has company in the form of marine birds flying in the thermals above him and grazing donkeys. It is an enviable job, to be sure.
The Theresa Hotel, east of Yeni Erenkoy, has modest accommodations, but the quality of the rustic rural mezze with salad, wonderful deep-fried fish, and possibly the greatest fries on the island pushes this institution to a higher level.
Balci Plaza, located two kilometers east of the Theresa Hotel, offers bed and breakfast as well as self-catering options for families. The apartments are well-equipped and have twin-bedded rooms that can accommodate two or four people. There are cot beds in some of the two-bedroom flats, as well as a sofa bed. A little sandy cove a short walk away offers an honesty bar with a well-stocked fridge, and the main dining area is likewise a short walk from the main accommodation structure. With only twelve units, this is a particularly popular spot in the summer, thus reservations are required.
Villa Lembos is a group of tiny isolated and semi-detached houses in Dipkarpaz, near Ayios Philon. There are twin and double beds, good bathroom rooms, a refrigerator, and everything is completed to an exceptionally high standard. There is a good a la carte menu with Turkish food for lunch and dinner, as well as a filling breakfast. The gardens are well-designed, colorful, and well-maintained.
You can read more about other incredible things to see in North Cyprus!