Northern Cyprus travel guide

EU annexation has left Northern Cyprus like a time capsule, especially in the ancient cities of Famagusta and Salamis where archaeological excavations have been placed on hold. The mountain village of Bellapais continues to offer serene peace from within ruined abbey walls, as sea turtles nest on the secluded sand of the Karpas Peninsula and wild donkeys bray at walkers on dusty tracks.
Whether you're into wild orchids, crusader castles or migratory birds, Northern Cyprus ticks some pretty significant boxes. This is a side to Cyprus that many seeking sunshine down south will miss.
The horseshoe-shaped harbour town of Kyrenia makes for a great base outside of summer and presents a chance to meander through a meze of modern marinas and Old Town alleyways. Turkish-Cypriots are incredibly hospitable and don't deserve to be cut off any longer, but so far, reunification negotiations have always failed. Find out more in our Northern Cyprus holidays travel guide.


Follow the 260km Besparmak Trail from Cape Kormakitis on the western tip to Cape Apostolos Andreas on the furthest reaches of the Karpas Peninsula, in the east, and you'll never lose sight of the Med. Ancient castles: St Hilarion, Buffavento and Kantara are easily accessible from the horseshoe-shaped harbour of Kyrenia whilst further afield, in the southeast, the walled city of Famagusta and the Roman colonnades at Salamis offer even greater historic highlights. Fly into Ercan and it will take you six hours from the UK via Turkey; fly into Larnaca, in south Cyprus, however, and you're looking at a 90-minute road transfer to Kyrenia as part of an organised trip.


Seek out the abandoned Antiphonitis Monastery or simply tiptoe through the rows of spring orchids and wild herbs; a trip to Alevkaya Forest, on the northern slopes of the Kyrenia Mountains is a must for travellers wishing to stretch their legs in Northern Cyprus. The Forestry Station serves as a good starting point to explore accompanied by lizards, butterflies and handsome hoopoes.


There's a great sense of stillness and seclusion to the village of Bellapais. In spring, bougainvillea tumbles from almost every eave on every crumbling street corner. Although ruined, the 13th century Bellapais Abbey still provides solace for those seeking peace with jasmine and citrus trees offering shade, and far reaching views out to sea.


Explore in the northeast of Cyprus and you'll find yourself on one of the island's most untouched and wildest stretches of sandy coastline. Nesting turtles, farming villages and hundreds of feral donkeys make the Karpas Peninsula an exciting prospect. Take the pilgrimage to the Apostolos Andreas Monastery, in Rizokarpaso, and seek out views to Turkey and Syria from Cape Apostolos Andreas


Considered to be the cultural capital of Northern Cyprus, Kyrenia is about as busy as this side of the island tends to get, with a horseshoe-shaped harbour overlooked by a Venetian castle giving way to narrow alleys lined with ancient stone architecture. Explore the Old Town and climb castle staircases before settling in to watch the sunset over the Med with a kebab and cool bottle of Efes.


The Turkish side of the walled city of Nicosia is a mix of minarets, mosques and medieval sites. Ledra Street marks the boundary between north and south, and a walking tour (passports are required) will take you over the Green Line, and back again, to see the cultural and architectural contrasts as you go Greek for a few hours.


Just a short distance from Famagusta a twin tour is easily achievable the ancient city of Salamis, on the east coast of Northern Cyprus, is renowned for its Greco-Roman ruins, despite the British Museum acquiring many of its ancient antiquities. Salamis was once a recreational hub for rampaging Romans with a gymnasium, theatre, baths and stadia all unearthed in excavations pre-annexation.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Northern Cyprus or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
Written by Chris Owen
Photo credits: [Page banner: George M. Groutas] [Buffavento view: Muffinn] [Alevkaya Forest: Muffinn] [Bellapais: George M. Groutas] [Karpas peninsula: Muffinn] [Kyrenia: A. Savin] [Nicosia: Yeowatzup] [Salamis: Mick McBey]