It is impossible to see and do everything that North Cyprus has to offer in one trip, but there are some you should not miss. Here is a short list for you
Fifteen Things to see and do in Northern Cyprus
CLIMB TO THE TOP OF ST. HILARION CASTLE
Rumoured to be the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, Saint Hilarion Castle occupies a mighty position on top of the Kyrenia mountain rage and provides stunning vistas over Kyrenia and the coast. In amazing condition, the climb is hard work, but the views make it worthwhile.
VISIT THE LALA MUSTAFA PASA MOSQUE
Literally and figuratively ‘over the top’, the façade of the Lala Mustafa Pasa Mosque, once the Cathedral of St. Nicholas, is the pride of Famagusta and dominates the eastern side of the city’s main square. It was completed between 1298 and 1326 in imitation of Rheims cathedral and outshines its sister church in Nicosia.
ENJOY GOLDEN BEACH
One of the best beaches in all of Europe, not just Cyprus. Marine turtles and people visit Nangomi or Golden beach as it is known, because of its remote beauty and size. For much of the year, you are indeed far more likely to meet a turtle here than another person.
TRY SCUBA DIVING
With plentiful marine life, crystal-clear water and PADI 5-star dive centres, Northern Cyprus is an ideal place to try scuba for the first time. For more experienced divers there is also plenty to see. The wreck of Zenobia is one of the best dives in the Mediterranean and is a car ferry 1400m outside Larnaca port, sunk in the 1980s. There are still intact commercial vehicles and their cargos here.
SEE THE BUYUK HAN
Literally the ‘Big Inn’, the Buyuk Han is a former tradesmen's inn in North Nicosia, the restoration of which was completed in 2002. Buyuk Han became the first city prison under British administration, but reverted to a hostel for destitute families in 1893. It has now reinvented itself as a successful crafts mall and café venue and offers welcome shade and relaxation in the heat of summer.
TRY SOME REAL TURKISH DELIGHT
Turkish delight is undoubtedly the most popular sweet sold to tourists in Northern Cyprus. Made from nuts, fruit essences, sugar, rosewater and pectin, there is no need for things like preservatives. However, though those on a diet should take care as it is all but addictive!
Salamis is the island’s prime archaeological site. The widely scattered monuments are mainly Roman and Byzantine. To even just see the highlights of the place you will need to spend at least a couple of hours there, as the scale of the site is enormous. Once you have walked around the site, you can relax on the beautiful beach adjacent and wonder over the skill of those who built Salamis.
CRUISE ALONG THE COAST
Few things offer more relaxation than a gentle boat trip and a number of companies offer full or part-day trips from Kyrenia harbour along the cost. Stop in a few sandy coves to snorkel and swim, enjoy freshly-cooked lunch on board and soak up the sun for a few quiet hours. Truly the ultimate in self-indulgence.
WATCH SEA TURTLES HATCH
The main turtle to that lays its eggs in North Cyprus is the green turtle, although the rare loggerhead is also a visitor. The Society for the Protection of Turtles (SPOT) was founded in North Cyprus and a group of volunteers protect the turtle nests and watch the hatchings, to make sure that the young have the best start to their life. If you holiday in July and August, then night-time visits can be arranged to see the hatchings.
GO WEST – TO SOLI AND VUNI
Lying to the west of Cyprus, the superb swan mosaic is the main attraction of Soli, one of the ten ancient city-kingdoms of Cyprus. Its amphitheatre is also excellent. Nearby Vuni was built by the Persians on top of the cliffs some 250 metres above the sea. The views from here, both over the sea and inland, are truly remarkable.
VISIT BELLAPAIS ABBEY
In the heart of Bellapais village, the Abbey is a former Augustinian settlement and was founded just after 1200. The abbey was handed over to the Orthodox Church in 1570 and various groups have made it their home over the centuries. Truly monumental, the abbey is floodlit at night and makes an incredible backdrop to an evening meal.
EAT IN KYRENIA HARBOUR
Kyrenia harbour has been called one of the most beautiful places in the world and is a delightful place for a meal or a relaxing drink. Long since abandoned as a working port, the surrounding warehouses are now delightful shops and restaurants and the harbour is home to excursion cruise boats and yachts from around the globe.
HAVE A FULL MEZE
A true Cypriot speciality, meze consists of a seemingly never-ending number of small cold and hot dishes such as dips, grilled hellim cheese, savoury pastries, stuffed vine leaves, salads, meats and much more. A meal to savour and enjoy over an extended period, the choice is dazzling and enough to satisfy the heartiest appetite.
VISIT THE KARPAZ PENINSULA
Commonly known as ‘the panhandle’ due to its shape, the Karpaz is the ultimate place for peace and serenity. There are ancient churches and ruins, as well as wildlife and unspoilt beaches. Rare species of orchid bloom here and it is the home for many animals and birds, together with wild donkeys, whose number probably exceeds human habitation of the region.
EXPLORE KYRENIA CASTLE
Standing guard over the ancient harbour, Kyrenia Castle is remarkably well preserved and bears testament to the many races who have occupied it over the centuries. The castle also houses the shipwreck museum, where the remains and cargo of a 4th century BC vessel are displayed. The air conditioning in the museum makes it a good place in the summer heat!