North Cyprus has a rich and varied countryside interwoven with charming rural villages and stretches of fields, orchards and groves, many of which are still farmed using traditional methods and some of which are open for travellers to experience.
The Fruits of North Cyprus
The Karpaz Peninsula and the Güzelyurt Bay region in the west are the two main agricultural areas in North Cyprus. The Karpaz Peninsula is primarily arable farmland planted with cereal crops, potatoes, chickpeas, carobs, olives, grapes and also a variety of vegetables within tunnels and greenhouses. Pastoral farming also occurs in the area and visitors are likely to come across the odd herd of cattle and sheep – in addition to lots of wild donkeys – whilst travelling through the Karpaz. Honey, particularly oregano/thyme honey, is also produced in the region and is a hugely popular commodity in North Cyprus.
The Güzelyurt region is famous for its citrus fruits, including oranges, lemons and grapefruits, but also other products including deliciously juicy strawberries, apples, melons and an assortment of vegetables. As you drive into Güzelyurt from the mountain road during the early summer, you can stop off next to the citrus groves and enjoy fresh orange juice courtesy of one of the roadside market stalls that pop up at that time of year – it’s very refreshing!
Harvest Festivals in North Cyprus
As a place where agriculture is an important part of the economy and community, North Cyprus boasts numerous festivals and events throughout the year to celebrate each harvest. If you are on holiday in North Cyprus whilst there is a festival happening, you’ll want to add it to your ‘must do’ list.
All of the festivals are great fun and include traditional dance shows, live music acts, market stalls, opportunities to learn how to make traditional handicrafts, soaps and of course the chance to enjoy traditional Turkish-Cypriot hospitality with plenty of local food and drink.
Some of the best harvest festivals to visit are:
– Tepebaşı Tulip (Tulipa Cypria) Lapta Festival – every March
– Bellapais Silk Cocoon Festival – every May
– Güzelyurt Orange Festival – 14-day festival toward the end of June
– Mehmetcik Grape Festival – during August
– Geçitkale Hellim Cheese Festival – usually during August or September
– Tatlısu Carob Festival – every September
– Zeytinlik Olive Festival – seven-day festival in October
– Lefke Date Festival – every November
Rural-Based Activities in North Cyprus
There are many great ways to explore and experience the Mediterranean countryside in North Cyprus, whether it be cycling through fields in the Karpaz, making hellim cheese, crushing olives and learning how olive oil is made, or tasting organic vegetables and picking carobs in Tatlısu. One very popular activity in the Karpaz Peninsula is the Tractor Safari. Organised by a local Turkish Cypriot family, who also run a nearby restaurant, the Tractor Safari is one of the best ways to experience rural Karpaz in a mode of transport very suited to the region.
The safari takes visitors up to the top of the ridge that runs between Dipkarpaz and the tip of the Karpaz Peninsula at Zafer Burnu, where there are beautiful views of both coastlines and the entire Karpaz region.
This part of the safari includes a stop at Yellow Rock and other sites of interest such as the ruins of the Ayios Philon church. Lunch then takes place on a secret little beach, which has three beautiful sandy bays and clear blue water. At the beach, travellers have time for a swim before savouring a delicious spread of traditional Turkish foods, including Kofte (meatballs). After lunch, the safari continues on to Afrendrika and the ruins of three Byzantine churches before turning back toward Dipkarpaz.
Each and every agri- and ecotourism activity in the rural areas of North Cyprus offers a very unique experience and can be one of the most memorable moments during any visit to the island. What’s more, these type of activities are very much for those who like to explore, experience traditional ways of living, enjoy beautiful nature and really get off the beaten track.
Rural-based Accommodations in North Cyprus
The Karpaz Peninsula offers several quality rural guesthouses in the heart of Dipkarpaz village, including the Karpaz Arch Houses, the Glaro Gardens Guesthouse, the Karpaz Ciftlik (Farmhouse) Pansiyon and the Stone House Guesthouse, all of which are either family-run or have staff who are originally from the Karpaz region. This helps to maintain the traditional culture of the area and encourages younger generations to remain in the region to make a living.
Many of the guesthouses are decorated in a traditional Cypriot farmhouse style, but with a modern twist, and have their own organic gardens from which vegetables and fruits are used in visitors’ breakfasts and dinners. In addition to gardens, some of the guesthouses also have chickens, which produce fresh, organic eggs on a daily basis, and even herds of sheep, which are milked in order to produce homemade hellim cheese – which is absolutely delicious served grilled with fresh salad from the garden.
Whether you are interested in a full-blown agritourism holiday or would like to experience a few days of the rural Mediterranean in between relaxing on the beach or by the pool, North Cyprus can provide a holiday perfectly suited to your needs. As one of the most untouched destinations in the Mediterranean, North Cyprus has so much to offer, and responsible travel is actively encouraged in order to help maintain the beautiful natural and cultural heritage of the island for many generations to come.