in Northern Cyprus
The town Girne/Kyrenia (in Turkish Girne, in Greek Kyrenia) is the touristic centre of Northern Cyprus. Relaxing in the medieval harbour, strolling through the narrow streets of the Old Town, visiting the cultural highlights (Bellapais, St Hilarion, the Castle, etc), shopping in the little stores on the side streets, visiting Girne is a must for every guest on the island.
With walls and towers that appear to sprout out of the rocks almost randomly, it is a fairly-tale sight living up to Rose Macaulay's much-quoted description a picture-book castle for elf-kings and the rumour that Walt Disney used it as a model for the castle in Snow White and Seven Dwarfs. The legend that was spread locally says that St Hilarion housed 101 rooms, of which 100 could easily be found; the last, an enchanted garden with a magnificent treasure belonging to an elusive queen of Cypriot folklore, most probably a holdover of Aphrodite worship.
Located in the majestic Five Finger Mountains in Kyrenia, the Bellapais Monastery is a fine example of Gothic architecture, and is thought to have been started between 1198 and 1205, with more sections being added after 1267 and after 1324.
Do not miss the refectory where you can admire a nice sample of Gothic art. Explore the priests rooms that are located to the east of the courtyard. You will find the dormitories and chamber of accounts on the upper level. Explore the marble tombs in the courtyard, and take in the insignias of the Jerusalem, Lusignans, and the Cyprus Kingdoms, which can be found on the door behind the tombs.
In addition to enjoying the historical value and architectural beauty of the Bellapais Monastery, you can also enjoy spending time in a beautiful part of Kyrenia, and enjoying stunning views and surroundings.
Kyrenia castle lies to the north east of Kyrenia town and stands at the entrance to the harbour at Kyrenia. The original castle which is thought to have been built in the 7th century A.D. by the Byzantines for the purpose of defending Kyrenia against Arab raiders and pirates in the early 7th century. The castle has had various additions made to it during the reign of the Lusignans and was given its present form by the Venetians.
The castle also houses a Shipwreck Museum, which displays the remains of a 2,300 year old Greek ship and its cargo, recovered from the sea bed in the 1960s. The sailors apparently lived on almonds: thousands of them were recovered from the wreck.
The Folk Arts Museum is a truly fascinating historical attraction, where you can spend time exploring fascinating architecture, textiles, and more. You will find traditional Cypriot buildings when you come to the Folk Arts Museum, and there is plenty to explore here.
You can enjoy taking in the traditional Cypriot houses that can be found here, and you will find a wide range of Cypriot items within the house on both the lower and upper levels. The houses are two level properties, and are an example of pre XVII architecture. The museum itself opened up in 1974.
The Antiphonitis Church is a beautiful and unusual structure about 20 km away from Kyrenia. This church formed part of the old monastery, and many of the frescoes as well as the entrance date back to the 12th 15th Century. We combine the visit with a light, about 4 km long walking tour in the spring, where we can observe orchids, rockrose and other botanical items of the Mediterranean Maquis.
A visit to this market gives you the opportunity to test and buy diverse culinary specialities of the island like traditional bread, Halloumi cheese, Olives, Olive oil, Turkish delights, etc.
Enjoy a relaxing free time at one of the most romantic harbours of the Mediterranean Sea.
Learn how to bake Zeytinli and Helimli: two typical Cypriot bread sorts filled with olives and Halloumi and topped with sesame seeds.
Famagusta is the centre of the Famagusta golf in the East of the island and has the nicest sandy beaches in Northern Cyprus. Famagusta has a unique medieval old town inside its Venetian walls, has one of the most best kept Byzantine ruins (Salamis) and is also hometown for the biggest university in Northern Cyprus with more than 14.000 students (EMU).
St Barnabas is credited with introducing Christianity to Cyprus together with Apostle Paul. His activities displeased the powerful Jewish community in Salamis and their reaction was to stone him to death. His body was buried in a secret location by his cousin Mark. The story might have ended there but, 400 years later, Barnabas appeared in a dream to the Archbishop of Salamis and revealed the location of his tomb. A monastery was founded on the site of the tomb in the 5th century but the present build dates from 1756. The former monks cells around the inner courtyard now house an archaeological collection arranged clockwise from the Bronze Age to the Venetian period. The church is now an icon museum although the best ones were stolen many years ago.
We visit the excavations of the antique town Salamis, which used to have 150.000 inhabitants and was became the capital of Cyprus as far back as 1.100 BC. The Gymnasium, the baths and the amphitheatre with a capacity of 15.000 are preserved from its golden times. The extended excavation area covers the ruins of the St Epiphanus basilica with its wonderful mosaics, the temple of Zeus and the Forum.
The Royal Tombs are a small part of the necropolis of Salamis, which has been excavated and open for public visits. The museum exhibits samples of the grave mounds, which can be viewed outdoor. The tombs, constructed in the 7th and 8th centuries BC were actually built over 500 years after the events of the Trojan War. Many fascinating finds were made such as an ivory-inland throne and bed, plus numerous objects in precious metals and ivory.
The Othello Tower was the last defence post on the town walls and was originally built as a moated citadel in order to protect Famagusta's harbour. The name was given later by the English in connection with Shakespeare's "Othello" theatre play.
In the Old Town of Famagusta you visit the gothic formerly Nicklauss Cathedral, which serves nowadays as Lala Musafa Pascha Mosque. Beside you have the opportunity for nice shopping and tasting the nice sweets of the renowned pastry shop Petek.
Being the biggest weekly market in Northern Cyprus, you find fresh vegetables and fruits, as well as typical Cypriot agricultural products like bread, cheese, honey, carob, etc
The fine sandy beach and the turquoise water directly next to the excavation site of Salamis is a nice opportunity to relax and take in the deep impressions of the historical sightseeing of the ruins.
Petek is a renowned popular pastry for tourists and locals in the heart of Famagusta with a lot of Cypriot specialities like ekmek kadayifi. Do not miss it!
The west coast of Northern Cyprus in the Güzelyurt region is in a touristic development phase. Translated from Turkish Güzelyurt means beautiful country and is the most irrigated region in Northern Cyprus. It is the main growing area for citrus fruits and used to be an important centre of copper mining. The ruins of the loading platforms are still shaping parts of the landscape in this area.
The house of Paola Pavlidis, the allegedly advocate of Archbishop Makarios and more renowned for his weapon smuggle activities, is one of the most curious and interesting sightseeing in Northern Cyprus. The nicely decorated in the 50s built property was visited by renowned celebrities such as Sofia Loren. It exhibits some peculiar architectural features worth seeing. Today it lies inside a military area and can only be visited with advanced notification and upon presentation of ID / passport.
St Mamas is believed to be the protector of tax evaders!... and also an ear, nose and throat specialist under the Cypriot Orthodox saints. We visit the icon museum (formerly church) and the adjacent archaeological museum with its newest discoveries such as The Golden Leaves of Soli.
The mosaics of the huge St Auxibius basilica exhibit the evolution of mosaics in the 4th and 5th century AD. The Theatre of Soli with a capacity of 5.000 visitors offers marvellous views of the Güzelyurt Bay.
The Vouni Palace was a Persian military estate with stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea and the Troodos mountains.
Here we see, smell and taste how the Halloumi cheese (Hellim in Turkish) is produced in a traditional way. Opportunity for guided tasting and shopping.
Weekly markets in the center of Güzelyurt, next to St Mamas with typical Cypriot products like bread, Halloumi, Sucuk, etc
Opportunity to taste fresh pressed orange and pomegranate juices and have an insight in the techniques of citriculture.
On the way from Kyrenia to Güzelyurt we visit one of the locations, where we can see the huge orchid (Barlia Robertiana) and the endemic Ophrys Kotschii among other botanical peculiarities.
The Town Lefke was in the English occupation era an important residential area for miners. In the 10th century BC the Phoenicians started planting date palms, which are still the emblem of the town. A coffee shop on the edge of the valley offers fresh juices and the opportunity to taste and buy different kinds of candy sweets.
The spoken languages in Kormacit are Greek and Aramaic (original language of Jesus Christ). The inhabitants are members of the Maronite Church, which is a Catholic Church with its quarter heads in Lebanon. Many Greek Cypriots and Maronites from the South come on weekends and especially for Eastern Holidays to assist the Holy Mass. Afterwards they eat Kleftiko (oven baked lamb) at the renowned restaurant Yorgos.
The coast road from Karsiyaka to Sadrazamköy offers stunning views of the Besparmak cliffs and is a beautiful end of a day for the way back from Kormacit.
The Karpaz peninsula offers mainly: untouched nature and landscape, where interesting villages and a couple of cultural sightseeing are embedded. The eastern noseof Cyprus is dominated by the pilgrim monastery of St Andreas at the very far end of the island, which is managed by the orthodox priest.
We visit the Kantara castle to enjoy the amazing panoramic views of the Besparmak Mountains, the Mesaria fields and Famagusta. By good weather we can even see the Taurus Mountains on the Turkish mainland.
The ruins of the early Christian basilica in the near of the village Sipahi (one of the last spots of Northern Cyprus, where Greek Cypriots are still living) gain their importance from the remarkable floor mosaics.
The Panagia Theotokus Church built in the 12th Century was dedicated to St Mary and is a chief masterwork of byzantine architecture and fresco painting art.
A tiny village on the Famagusta Bay, offering a nice coffee break opportunity on the way to Karpaz.
In this Bio village all agricultural products come from organic farms and are processed to get organic bread, olive oil, cheese, handmade pasta, etc, which we get the opportunity to taste.
The Olive oil factory Karpaz offers us an insight in the olive oil production and invites us to taste its high qualitative products.
Dipkarpaz is one of the rare places, where Greek Cypriots did not leave after the events of 1974 (division of the island) and are still living there in peace, together with North Cypriots and Turks.
Here we visit the ruins of the antique town Karpasia, with a fine sandy beach and a nice Restaurant.
The church has been built on the spot, where - according to the legend- St Andreas found a water source having healing properties for ophthalmic and cutaneous diseases. The place is an important pilgrim destination for orthodox Christians, especially from Southern Cyprus.
The long untouched fine sandy beach on the southern coast is not only a nesting location for Caretta turtles, but offers also a matchless swimming experience in its crystal clear turquoise water.
The road along the northern shore has been renewed almost until the Dipkarpaz village, offering stunning panoramic views, as it winds between the Besparmak Mountains and the sea.
Kaleburnu is a little village on the southern shore of the Karpaz peninsula away of the main roads. In 2004 surprising funds from the bronze era have been made in the Kings hill. The public beach of the village is a very good alternative for the Golden Beach.
In the stone museum we can admire the vestiges of the state palace of the Lusignans built in gothic style.
An ethnographic museum in the house of Derwisch Pascha, who was the editor of the first newspaper in Cyprus.
The monastery of whirling dervishes was closed in 1953 and serves today as a museum for Sufi culture.
Panoramic view on both parts of the town (North and South) from the 11th floor of the Debenhams mall
A stunning collection of byzantine art
The archaeological museum exhibits the history of 10.000 years. Reserve a half day for it!
Dragoman was the mediator between the Greek speaking population in Cyprus and the ottoman government.
The Northern gate out of three entrances to the town
This is the first inner-city project in Cyprus dating back to the 30s. The houses are built with straw-clay bricks.
Power symbol of the Venetian era in the centre of the town
The Checkpoint in the centre of the Old Town was opened in 2008 and links both parts of the town for pedestrians.
The Great Inn is a masterpiece of ottoman architecture and is a popular meeting point in the Old Town of Nicosia. It offers also a nice shopping opportunity for different kinds of souvenirs.
This quarter is renowned for its bazaar (traditional market) and still offers great choices.
In the Western part of Nicosia, all around the Arabahmet mosque are typical ottoman houses, recently renovated as part of a big EU-project.
The Turkish bath of Nicosia was recently renovated and is a welcomed opportunity for bathing and massages in a typical ottoman Hamam.
The formerly Sophia Cathedral is a masterpiece of gothic architecture in Northern Cyprus and serves since the 16th century as a mosque.
Here you can see how typical artefacts of the Cypriot folk art are designed such as chairs, embroideries, coffers, etc. Shopping here is for fair prices and helps preserving this folk art.
In the market hall built in the English era we find vegetables, fruits, but also souvenirs and sweets.
The Levantis museum exhibits the development of Cyprus in the middle age and byzantine era.
The church is abundantly decorated with frescos and counts as one of the oldest byzantine artworks in Nicosia.