Cyprus is the most easterly of the Mediterranean islands and the third largest in the area after Sicily and Sardinia in the Mediterranean. At the nearest coastal points it is 40 miles from Turkey, 60 miles from Syria, and 250 miles from Egypt. North Cyprus is some 100 miles long, 40 miles across at its widest point and has a total area of 1357 square miles, comprising nearly 36% of the island of Cyprus.
The location of Cyprus in the makes it a strategic crossroads between three continents and has been used by travellers in their various journeys throughout history.
Traces of ancient peoples are evident: Assyrians, Phoenicians, Macedonians, Hellenists, Persians, Romans and Egyptians among others. These were followed by Byzantines, Crusaders, French Lusignans, Venetians, Ottomans and the British. There was then an unsettled period following independence in 1960, but this was ended with partition in 1974.
With such a background, Cyprus has developed a unique character which is a blend of all that has gone before. Part of its unique character is the natural beauty of the northern part of the island. The coastline offers fine, uncrowded beaches; you can still arrive at a beach and enjoy being the only one there. The mountains provide a lovely backdrop to the beaches but are very well worth visiting themselves; the track systems (many of which can be driven along) offer good walking. In the spring there are many wild flowers including some endemic to Cyprus. What makes Northern Cyprus special apart from its beaches, mountains and natural beauty? Well, to these you add a super climate, and the hospitality of the Turkish Cypriots.
North Cyprus is characterized by a unique blend of mountains, plains, and beaches. The Kyrenia (Five Finger) mountain range, with its magnificent jagged limestone peaks, the highest of which is Mount Içova at 3,357 ft. runs along most of the northern coastline form a startling backdrop. To the east of the island the mountain range loses height as it extends along the narrow peninsula known as Karpas, or more affectionately, `The Panhandle'. It is here that the best beaches of Cyprus can be found, long wide empty bays of the purest sand that strech for miles.
To the south of the Kyrenia range lies Nicosia (Lefkosa), the capital of North Cyprus, through which runs the boundary, or as it is called `The Green Line' separating the North from South Cyprus. The other major centres are the tourist resorts of Famagusta (Magusa), Kyrenia (Girne), and the citrus centre of Güzelyurt (Morphou).
With its 6,000 year long history, unique remains of countless civilisations, miles of natural beaches, calm sea, and mild climate is an idyllic Mediterranean town. Bounded to the north by the sea and to the south by the greenery of the Besparmak (Fivefinger) Mountain range, it offers the most magnificent scenery on the island.
With the backdrop of the jagged mountains behind and the calm sparkling sea in front, the harbour has an intoxicatingly serene atmosphere. yrenia is an easy place to while away any time of the day... exploring shops, markets and local cafés in late morning, strolling in the narrow cobbled alleys behind the harbour in the afternoon, or stepping out for a brisk walk along the promenade and sea wall in the evening.
Kyrenia Castle Overlooking the entrance to the harbour is Kyrenia Castle. Dating from the time of the Byzantines, its massive defences surround a complex mixture of building styles from centuries before and it is likely that there was a Roman fort here originally.
Subsequently enlarged and strengthened by the Lusignans and then the Venetians, the castle is now home to many historical artefacts and is the current resting-place of the world's oldest shipwreck.
As the sun sets, Kyrenia harbour again becomes the focus of activity as the locals take their evening stroll and the cafés and bistros that face the sea prepare for their nightly trade. Crisp white linen and small vases of local flowers are lovingly arranged on tabletops to welcome the evening's guests to wine and dine in the cooling breeze.
The promenade has been turned into a pedestrian zone, and chic pavement cafes and restaurants conceal their kitchens behind elegant Venetian façades. Memorable evenings can be enjoyed in the restaurants and cafes, with the candlelight reflecting softly on the water and the gentle strumming of guitar music wafting out across the harbour. Why not try Turkish Coffee at a local coffee-house over a chat with the locals. There are several mosques and churches to see in the town, well worth a visit.
Karpas peninsula (or the panhandle) is the easternmost part of the island of Cyprus, where the land tapers into a thin strip which streches out towards Turkey. The Karpas peninsula is also almost totally free from heavy concentration of industry and people, and is one of the least polluted regions in the European periphery. It has been called the nature reserve of Cyprus for birds, wild flowers and sea fossils are to be found everywhere. Moreover, numerous picturesque beaches, both sandy and rocky, are said to be the best in the whole island. With also pine, cypress and maquis covered hills reaching an altitude of about 1,000 metres makes the Karpas region almost a perfect natural reserve site of the whole island.
The present day capital of the island, it has a population of around 150,000 and it is divided into Turkish and Greek sectors by a boundary known as the `green line' which runs in an east-west direction. In the old city of Nicosia, beautiful examples of Gothic and Ottoman architecture abound - the Selimiye Mosque, the Bedestan, the Arab Ahmet Mosque, and the Great Han/ Inn, to name but a few.
Below are brief descriptions of the popular villages and towns on the north coast:
Famous for the turtles that nest each year on the wonderful sandy beach here, Alagadi is a quiet little area with a couple of good restaurants. Approx 20 mins east of Kyrenia, before Esentepe and not far from the new golf course
This village has something to offer everyone with its spectacular views, authentic village atmosphere and easy access to the beaches and restaurants. There are several well-stocked mini markets and supermarkets for all your supplies. It is approximately 6 miles west of Kyrenia / Girne with its pretty old harbour and shops.
Set on a plateau directly underneath the 5 Finger Mountain and approx 20 minutes east of Kyrenia. Several new developments being constructed in this area. Fabulous views down to the sea and up to the mountain range.
Another up and coming area thanks to the new marina that is due to commence by the end of 2007. Several large developers are constructing holiday resorts in this area.
Set high above the village of Lapta is Baspinar, well-known for its mountain spring, breathtaking views, sleepy atmosphere and cooling breeze. The ideal place to spend lazy days enjoying the views or a variety of excellent walks in the Besparmak mountains.
This historic village is set approximately 3 miles east of Kyrenia in an elevated position with wonderful views to Kyrenia and the coast. The village is dominated by the Bellapais Abbey which was originally founded in the 12th century by monks of the Augustinian order and is the most impressive Gothic building in Cyprus. The Abbey is situated on a natural terrace overlooking the village of Ozankoy with a good selection of restaurants offering local and international cuisine.
There are 2 Bogaz villages! One just over the mountain on the south side of the 5 Fingers Mountain range, nestled into the hillside and the other on the sea, approx 25 minute drive from Famagusta as you drive up the panhandle. Bogaz, Famagusta is an up and coming area with many shops, restaurants and properties envisaged for the near future.
Another popular village with its well-maintained, whitewashed streets located approximately 5 miles east of Kyrenia. There are several shops, restaurants , pubs, bars and sandy beaches in the near vicinity.
A sleepy village less than 1 mile east of Kyrenia. The village still retains its original charm with a mixture of old and new properties.
A small village located half way up the hill on the road up to the mountainside village of Karmi / Karaman. Edremit has a small grocery store where daily produce may be bought, plus the popular Hideaway Hotel with pool, bar and restaurant which is open to non-residents. The larger village of Karaoglanoglu is approximately 1 mile down the hill with supermarkets, restaurants and sandy beaches.
This has to be the most up and coming area in the North due to the recently opened international golf course. A new marina is also due to be started by the end of this year. Esentepe is a sprawling village with several restaurants and an expanding expat community purchasing many new properties in the vicinity. A 25 minute drive east of Kyrenia.
A quiet mountainside village with superb scenery and a mixture of Europeans, Turkish and Cypriots. The ideal retreat for those wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle of modern day life, with one restaurant serving the village and many others situated at the bottom of the hill.
A hamlet just before Alsancak with a dozen or so properties. Lovely selection of old and new properties in this sleepy village
Meaning Black Tree is set in an idyllic location in the hills just before Esentepe. If peace and quiet is what you are looking for , this is the place to be! A mainly Turkish village but with more and more expats buying in the area.
A small village located just a mile east of Kyrenia with its own small sandy bay. The village is conveniently located on the bus route and has several restaurants, shops and a large supermarket all within walking distance.
Approximately 3 miles west of Kyrenia is the unpronounceable village of Karaoglanoglu! (Tip - the "g's are not pronounced). There are a few bars, some excellent restaurants and picturesque beaches and coves, in particular, Kervansaray Beach which affords some of the most stunning sunsets due to its westerly outlook.
The picturesque village of Karmi is situated approximately 4 miles west of Kyrenia and is 1,000 ft above sea level giving virtually every house breathtaking views along the coastline. Karmi is undoubtedly the prettiest and most well-kept village in the north as nearly all the houses have been restored in a traditional manner often with flagged floors, beamed ceilings, stone arches and roof terraces set in an array of flowers, plants and trees. The village has a couple of restaurants, bar, pub and village shop.
Located west of Kyrenia and approximately 2 0 minutes by car the area affords stunning views of the highest mountain in the Besparmak mountain range. Karsiyaka has a couple of shops and some good fish restaurants located close to the waters edge. A large sandy bay is a 5 minute drive away and there are many more sandy beaches between Karsiyaka and Kyrenia.
Set amongst stunning scenery is this laidback village of Kayalar meaning "Rocks". The village itself is very undeveloped with many Turkish people living there but more and more ex pats are purchasing properties on the outskirts to benefit from the peace and quiet and beautiful scenery. Approx 25 minutes drive from Kyrenia.
A Turkish village just after the up and coming area of Bafra where several international hotels are being constructed. The 5 star Artemis Hotel has recently opened there. Prices are still considerably lower in this area and the beaches are some of the best. Kumyali is a 15 minute drive from the quaint fishing village of Bogaz.
Renowned for its fresh water springs and laid back way of life, Lapta is a sprawling village approximately9 miles west of Kyrenia. It is backed by the Besparmak Mountains and offers spectacular views of both sea and mountains. The village has much to offer in the way of restaurants and has easy access to some good beaches.
Above the village of Incesu and a few minutes drive from Alsancak is the quiet village of Malatya with super views down to the coast. A mixture of character and new properties are available in this village
A popular village with Europeans and Cypriots alike, conveniently located approximately 2 miles east of Kyrenia, the village has excellent views to Bellapais, the mountains and the Mediterranean and a good selection of restaurants.
Located between Alsancak and Karaoglanoglu on the lower slopes of the mountain range is the area of Yesiltepe. It is conveniently located close to several sandy beaches, restaurants, bars, hotels and shops and is not far from the main coastal road.
Within easy access of Kyrenia yet set in a tranquil, rural position amongst olive groves and overlooked by the spectacular St Hilarion Castle. A small but good selection of restaurants, a couple of shops and a supermarket are close by.