Cyprus, an idyllic Mediterranean island with stretches of beautiful sandy beaches and a fascinating history, is fast becoming a favourite holiday destination for travellers seeking some of its 300-plus days of sunshine, or perhaps something of a more unique cultural experience in a traditional Cypriot village. The Turkish Republic of North Cyprus is a real gem and one of the few Mediterranean destinations to have escaped the ravages of mass tourism.
The town of Kyrenia is the ideal jumping-off point for visits to the rest of North Cyprus. Clustered around the remains of a colossal Crusader castle – home to one of the world’s oldest shipwrecks – this peaceful little town offers many sights for history buffs, but also has options for anyone looking to relax: its charming harbour, with classy yachts berthed amongst local fishing boats, provides the perfect setting for an evening stroll past the many cafés and restaurants.
If you’re keen to be a bit more active, grab your walking shoes and a bottle of water and then set out to discovering the Old City of Famagusta, practically an outdoor museum. Incredible history lessons can be learned by meandering through the streets of this ancient settlement, site of monuments such as Othello’s Tower, built as a central feature of the Citadel Castle and an excellent example of the fusion of cultures that have historically influenced the island’s development. While you’ve got your boots on, trek to Kantara Castle, a crusader stronghold located in the nearby Kyrenia mountains. Alternatively, experience part of a day in the life of a contemporary Cypriot, complete with visits to a village and assistance offered to local woman making Helim cheese, a regional delicacy.
The natural beauty of North Cyprus is full of surprises. For example, this tiny island nation has an orchid season, between February and April, when a wide range of species blooms in the lush Alevkaya Forest and make for a truly spectacular scene. North Cyprus is also a great destination for quality turtle watching. The turtles have become local celebrities, visiting the beaches around May and digging pits up to 40 centimetres deep to lay their eggs. Watching the little hatchlings go scrambling down the beach is quite breathtaking!
The wide range of North Cyprus accommodation suits all budgets and tastes, from the many all-inclusive Famagusta resorts to the more boutique-style Kyrenia hotels. To get off the beaten track, try a night in the stunning untouched wilderness of the Karpaz Peninsula.
www.north-cyprus.travel, operated by Irene, Marina and the team of Kaleidoskop Turizm, the latest partner to join the growing whl.travel network, is now able to offer all this as well as a wide range of North Cyprus tours.