An A to Z of Northern Cyprus (Part 2)

An A to Z of Northern Cyprus part 2. From ancient kingdoms to fairytale castles in Part 1 of our A to Z of Northern Cyprus, Part 2 is full of more fascinating things to see and do in the North:

Ghost town of Famagusta –  get a taste of the turbulent history of Famagusta…

Once a playground for the rich and famous, the empty beachfront hotels of Varosha are the most enduring symbol of the island’s division. The political upheaval dates back almost 40 years when a Greek-inspired military coup in 1974 led to Turkish intervention.

Now desolate and under the control of Turkish and United Nations troops, Varosha is closed to all but the military.

From behind the barbed wire witness, the abandoned high rise towers casting long shadows over the Mediterranean before heading off to wander around the old walled city. The walls are one of the finest surviving examples of medieval military architecture in existence and set the scene for the political conundrum that remains today.

Herbarium at Alevkaya –  get free tickets to the best botanical show in the Med…

The botanical beauty enjoyed in the North lies not just in the spectrum of colour but in over 1,250 endemic and indigenous plant species. By way of a snapshot, picture the yellow of the sun rose bursting from rocky crags, the red of the crown anemone swaying on the open plains and the rare black tulip hiding in the cornfields in clusters of hidden gems. But the real jewel in the North’s botanical crown is the wild orchid with over thirty different types growing wild. A visit to the Herbarium located at the Alevkaya Forestry station will help you to identify the rare varieties. Founded in the late eighties by British botanist Dr Deryck Viney, the Herbarium provides a wonderful warm-up to a wildflower bonanza.
Idyllic unspoilt landscapes – soak up the Cypriot sun in spectacular and diverse surroundings…

Northern Cyprus boasts countless areas of outstanding natural beauty, from breathtaking mountainous backdrops and pine-covered foothills to luscious green valleys, wide-open plains and secluded sandy coves. And it is this level of geological diversity that provides a range of natural habitats and home to a multitude of endemic and indigenous species of both plant and wildlife. With almost 400 kilometres of coastline and forest-rich hillsides, the North is indeed one of the Mediterranean’s last remaining sanctuaries where fauna and flora are free to thrive.

Jeep safaris across the country – indulge in some off-road adventure in an open back 4×4…

Whether you are being driven about courtesy of a guided jeep safari tour or driving yourself about in your very own 4×4 for the day, open top jeeps are a fabulous and fun way of getting from one fascinating place to another. Take the picturesque village roads out of Kyrenia and head into and up the mountains for a panoramic view from the top of every vista. Alternatively, take the coastal roads and head east into the Karpaz pan-handle peninsula for your own fairytale adventure around the three crusader castles.

Kyrenia old harbour – enjoy a refreshing Efes beer looking out over the picturesque harbour…

Kyrenia (or Girne) is the tourist hub of the North and its historic harbour is undoubtedly one of the most enchanting sites of the region.  The marina is home to colourful fishing boats and elegant yachts and is surrounded by old Venetian houses and warehouses, now converted into charming cafes and restaurants.

Against the backdrop of the majestic Kyrenia mountains and host to the magnificent Kyrenia castle, this ancient harbour bridges the gap between the natural and historic beauty of the North. It is a place where you can soak up the local culture by day, immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere by night or relax with an evening walk along the moonlit promenade.

Lefkara lace & traditional crafts – treat yourself to some local handmade souvenirs…

The roots of Lefkara lace date back to the Venetian rule where local women would copy the fine embroidery from Venetian clothing. Lefkara is in fact located in the south of the island although lacework is practised all over. Of old, Lefkara lacework made it into every bride’s dowry and girls would practice this delicate handicraft from childhood, the patterns being passed down through the generations.

Nowadays there is a cooperative for handicrafts which assist locals in carrying on traditional lace and other craft work such as brightly weaved wicker baskets; blue-eye beads, to ward off evil; reed seated chairs; silk cocoon decoration; date leaf bag weaving; and handwoven patterned kilim rugs. To see the best examples of these crafts visit the Folk Arts Institute or shops in the Buyukhan in North Nicosia. Look out for the El Sanatlari Kooperatifi sign which authenticates the work as local.

Mouthwatering mezes & traditional cuisine – savour the rich and varied food in the North…

Historically the North’s cuisine has been influenced by many different cultures although some dishes are now regarded as typically Turkish-Cypriot.

A traditional delicacy and must-eat treat is suckling lamb roasted whole, and it is virtually impossible to leave this side of the island without trying a street charcoaled lamb and liver Qeftali kebab with aromatic fresh parsley and a squeeze of lemon.

To really whet your appetite the meze, a combination of tasty tit-bit style dishes can be found on most menus. A traditional meze selection will include stuffed vine leaves, hummus, halloumi, tzatziki, falafel, fish, spicy meats, salads and the princely aubergine, a true North Cypriot favourite.

And what better place to enjoy a mouthwatering meze than in one of the fantastic Turkish or Greek bistros in the island’s split capital – all will be revealed in Part 3 of our A to Z of the North!