A Week of Wonders in the Karpas Peninsula
The Karpas peninsula is one of the most prominent and unusual geographical features of North Cyprus. Created by a continuation of the limestone ridge of the Kyrenia mountain range, this long panhandle strip of land stretches from the easternmost tip of the island out towards the Turkish coast.
Home to Karpas Peninsula National Park, much of this sparsely populated region has been declared a conservation area. Thanks to underground water sources, the peninsula stays green long after the rest of the countryside has baked brown. The rugged green landscape, forest-rich hillsides and white sandy beaches offer sanctuary to a wide variety of plant and animal life, and the geographical diversity makes it a natural habitat to many endemic, protected and rare species of flora and fauna.
It is also home to many picturesque villages, with a scattering of early Christian churches and archaeological sites where visitors can immerse themselves in the beauty, history and tranquility of this unspoilt region.
The combination of unparalleled natural beauty and fascinating ancient history make the peninsula one of the few places in the world where man and mother-nature truly compliment one another. From the well-preserved ruins of a mountainous castle stronghold to deserted golden beaches playing host to turtle hatchlings, this is a region to behold.
To make the most of a week’s trip to the stunning Karpas Peninsula we have set out a must-see, must-do guide for getting the most from your stay here.
Day 1 – Bear witness to the turtle-nesting season. Golden Sands and Alagadi beach provide major nesting grounds for endangered Loggerhead and Green Sea turtles. You can witness clutches of ping-pong sized eggs being laid in their hundreds, then return several weeks later to watch the turtle hatchlings dig their way out of the sand and embark on a frenzied moonlit race to the surf.
Day 2 – Wander the trails with wild donkeys. The Karpas Peninsula is a safe haven to hundreds of feral donkeys, descendants of domesticated donkeys liberated by fleeing farmers during the political upheaval of the 1970s. These creatures roam freely across the wild scrubland and along the winding trails, symbolic of the independence enjoyed in the north. Be warned, despite their domesticated roots they are notoriously bad-tempered although they still make for an adorable photo opportunity.
Day 3 – Bird-watch without binoculars. The region is an important migratory crossroads for over 300 species of birds flying between breeding grounds during Spring and Autumn. Here you will not need binoculars to spot breathtaking views of thousands of birds soaring through the clear blue skies. For the more adventurous of you, head for the mountains where birds of prey majestically swoop and squawk high above pine-scented hillsides.
Day 4 – Discover tales of old. Perched in the Kyrenia mountain range is Kantara castle, the ruins of one of three Byzantine defences where Governor Isaac took refuge from Richard the Lionheart during the 12th century. With a name translating to ‘bridge’, Kantara literally bridges the Kyrenian mountain range offering an excellent vantage point and unsurpassed coastal views of both sides of the Karpas Peninsula.
Day 5 – Sunbathe on a deserted beach. Winding roads snake amongst olive groves and tiny dirt tracks lead to secluded sandy coves and hidden beaches. There are in excess of 40 beaches in the peninsula, some with basic tourist facilities and the odd cafe, but many that are entirely wild and secluded. Perhaps the most magnificent beach of all is Golden Sands, which stretches for miles along the south coast, backed by high dunes and looking out over the sweep of Famagusta Bay.
Day 6 – Fish for your supper. Almost entirely free from industry, except for local fishing, the Karpas region is one of the least polluted areas of the Mediterranean. Head for Bogaz, a picturesque and sleepy fishing village on the southern edge of the peninsula. Here fishing boats sail in and out of the harbour all day. You can join in on a fishing trip or simply watch the fishermen return with their catch. If you fail to hook your own fish there are several good tavernas offering a fresh catch of the day.
Day 7 – Light a candle at the Apostolos Andreas Monastery. The farthest extent of the Karpas Peninsula is Cape Andreas where the monastery here is considered to be sacred both by Turkish and Greek Cypriots. According to legend Saint Andrew (Andreas) caused a miraculous spring to appear and whose water cured blindness. In the crypt beneath the church the holy well, famed for its healing properties, still gushes the miraculous water, and continues to be a site of mass pilgrimage.
For anyone willing to make the pilgrimage to the Karpas Peninsula, just 3 hours east of Kyrenia, this region can offer you seven days of unspoilt bliss, with our without its miraculous well. Whilst you will not find luxurious five star resorts here, what it lacks in luxury is more than compensated for by its beauty, history and tranquility. As you travel through the peninsula, stop-off at one of the quaint cafes and coffee shops dotted along the way, many with breathtaking views. From here you can savour North Cyprus at its best.