Cyprus, the mythical birthplace of the goddess, Aphrodite, lies just 40 miles off the Southern coast of Turkey, in the midst of clear, warm Mediterranean water.
Its strategic position has meant that Cyprus has been a stepping stone between East and West — prized by conquerors since ancient times. There have been settlements in Cyprus for over 9000 years, leaving a treasure trove of history for today’s visitor to explore — ancient Roman cities, Persian palaces, ruined abbeys and Crusader castles. Cyprus was British for many years, and you will still find many traces of this period remain — most locals speak excellent English, and driving is on the left, as in the UK. Since 1974, Cyprus has been divided, with the North home to the indigenous Turkish population. The language spoken is Turkish and the currency is the Turkish Lira, which means that you can be sure of great value for money.
North Cyprus is still relatively unspoiled — one of the last places in the Mediterranean where you can find pristine, sandy beaches. In fact the sand here is so clean, that it is chosen as a nesting place by the rare green and loggerhead turtles. The rugged Karpaz peninsula is also home to wild donkeys, not to mention a whole host of birds and other wildlife.
The Five Finger mountains provide a magnificent backdrop to the northern coastline, and are the habitat for the rare orchids and other flowers which blossom here in spring. The foothills of the mountains are ideal for rambling and popular with keen walkers. Don’t miss a walk up to the imposing castle of St. Hilarion, which towers above the coast, high in the mountains.
The picturesque harbour town of Kyrenia is the main resort area. The charming, horseshoe-shaped harbour is overlooked by the dramatic Kyrenia castle to one side — the place to take an evening promenade, or simply watch the world go by, as you sip the local tipple, a brandy sour. There are many pretty bays and coves around Kyrenia, which are ideal for swimming and sunbathing. There is a wide range of hotel accommodation on offer — from luxury five star, to friendly and family-run — both in Kyrenia itself and in the coastal and mountain villages which surround the town.
Famagusta, meanwhile, is known for its golden, sandy beaches, and its historic riches. The ancient walled city is well worth a visit, as are the ruins of the Roman city of Salamis, one of the best-preserved in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Eating out in North Cyprus is sure to be a highlight of your holiday. Choose from freshly-caught fish and succulent meat kebabs. Cypriot specialities include the local sausage, seftali, and the grilled cheese, hellim (halloumi). There is no shortage of fresh fruit and vegetables, not to mention sticky pastries such as baklava. Wherever you go, you are sure of a warm welcome, from the friendly local people. North Cyprus is truly a unique destination, one of the last undiscovered corners of the Mediterranean...