North Cyprus has been spared the worst effects of mass tourism and big beachside building, making it a quiet, slow-paced and relax holiday destination. The Cypriots themselves will welcome you in a very easy fashion. On the list of things you can do for having a real break are slow-paced villages, majestic Crusader castles, historic harbours, great mountain views and some of the Mediterranean best beaches. Here are some keys for a most chilled out time in North Cyprus.
– Laze under the idle tree
Bellapais is the perfect short trip from Kyrenia, and not too far from other resorts. The village’s marvel is the 13th century Bellapais Abbey, standing above a sheer 30m drop. You enter one of the most beautiful Gothic buildings in the region down a promenade of palms, through a fortified gateway. British author Lawrence Durrell lived in this pretty village of narrow streets and renamed the tree on the main square ‘The Tree of Idleness’ in its novel Bitter Lemons. Have a sit in its shade; have a drink and let time pass by…
– Walk around
A coast-to-coast mountain range spans North Cyprus, ending in the Karpaz peninsula. The Kyrenia Mountain Trail runs the 230-km length of the range through hills of cypress and pine, offering tremendous views upon the coastline. It is a ten-day walk in total, but you can pick only a section of it. Spring and autumn are the best times as it is cooler. Yet in summer, when it is hot down on the coast, the mountains are a refreshing retreat.
– Go up
North Cyprus has some of the best Crusader castles in the Mediterranean. St Hilarion castle was taken by Richard the Lionheart on his way to the Third Crusade. Some say it is the inspiration for Disney’s Snow White castle, a mixture of walls and towers. While Buffavento castle is worth it for a stupendous view, perhaps the finest of all is Kantara castle, in the neck of that distinctive narrow finger of land, the Karpaz peninsula. In any of the three castles, you will love exploring the hidden corners, the secret tracks and the remnants of these wonders at your own pace.
– Lay down on the sand
North Cyprus has some of the most beautiful beaches of the Mediterranean. Plus, they are also, for most, desert. While the Eastern coast of the country (Karpaz and Famagusta regions) consists of golden sandy beach over kilometres, the Northern and Western coasts are rockier, yet as stunning. Although their beauty makes the beaches popular, you will never feel like they are busy, and will always find an isolated spot to settle on the sand. With 340 days of sunshine per year on the island, you’ll undoubtedly find a chance to have a warm sunbath and swim in the turquoise waters.
– Eat fish on the seaside
What better time than enjoying a fresh grilled fish while seating right next to the sea? In North Cyprus, the whole coastline is scattered with small fish restaurants, where you will find the most charming service and the best mezes. You’ll hear nothing more than the sound of the waves. Take your time to savour your meal!
– Play backgammon on Kyrenia harbour
You can literally spend a whole day sitting at one of Kyrenia harbour’s cafe, watching life go by. Boats come and go, people walk around, with the maritime fortress as a background. The ‘national’ game of Cyprus is the backgammon (very easy to learn). You’ll find a set in every bar of cafe, and can play while sipping a coffee or local brandy sour.
– Shop in Nicosia old town
The atmosphere of Nicosia old town makes it mellow to wander around its streets and visit the local stores. You’ll find there many small shops that offer local handicrafts (embroidery, copper items, jewellery, souvenirs etc.). The caravansary, particularly, has been restored as to offer Cypriot art crafts and every rooms around the edifice is now a charming little boutique. End up your promenade with a Turkish Coffee and some local sweets, seating in the courtyard’s cafe.
– Pause time in St Barnabas
St Barnabas Monastery is one of the most spiritual places in North Cyprus. Coming to the monastery is like entering a sanctuary. Very quiet most of the time, the place has its walls telling history. After exploring its gorgeous church, its archaeology and icon museums as well as its lovely gardens, take a sit at the small terrace in the courtyard and listen to the silence. The Cypriot man will make you the best Turkish coffee and go back to sit on the shade, leaving you feel alone in the world.
– Roam around Salamis ruins
Although the most touristic part of Salamis is restricted to the theatre and baths, the site actually stretches over kilometres. You can spend a whole day walking around the old city, with few chances to meet anyone on the way, except maybe a gardener. Here and there, you’ll unexpectedly reach an old temple or cistern. There are tracks to follow to discover the hidden places of Salamis. At some point, you’ll probably reach the beach and feel like finishing up your smooth day with a nice swim.
– Hop on a boat
On Kyrenia harbour, many boats are waiting for taking you to sea. Several companies offer cruises along Kyrenia coast and will slowly take you from beach to beach, halt for a swim or just for the view. Depending on the boat, you will benefit from a deck where to lie down and enjoy the sun, a bar or even a lunch served on board. No rush, you just need to register the day before.
– Cheer up on the West Coast
One of the most popular sports these days is the adrenalin-filled Kite Surfing. The West Coast beaches are most suitable for kitesurfers. The perfect winds enable you to practice this exciting sport all year round.
– Warble the Beatles
When going to Yeşilirmak village, you think it should be what inspired the Beatles when they wrote wrote the song “Strawberry Fields forever”. The village is surrounded by strawberry fields, taking you to a red world
“Let me take you down
‘Cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields
Nothing is real
And nothing to get hung about
Strawberry Fields forever”