An A to Z of Northern Cyprus (Part 4)

An A to Z of Northern Cyprus part 4. IN OUR fourth and final part of our A to Z of Northern Cyprus, we have lots of fun in the Cyprus sun from water sports to folky festivals – we even get festive in the winter months:

Trekking across mountains & plains – take the high road, literally…

North Cyprus is a heaven for hikers and its walking credentials still relatively unknown. The 143-mile trail that runs the length of the Kyrenia mountain range includes breathtaking views of the three magnificent Crusader castles; Kantara, Buffavento and St Hilarion, the latter inspiration for the castle in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.

And whilst this ten-day hike is no easy ramble, the pine-scented air and wildlife surprises more than makeup for any aching feet. Needless to say there are rest houses and modern day comforts along the way where you can swap accounts with fellow hikers of the predatory swoops of birds of prey, the confetti of brightly coloured butterflies and the scuttle of the odd scorpion.

Underwater & other water sports – have a splash-tastic time with a different water sport each day…

With the long hot summers, beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters North Cyprus is the perfect place for water sports enthusiasts.

Many of the main beaches offer a host of water sports from jet skiing to parasailing, with water skiing, wind-surfing, banana boat and doughnut rides in between.

There are also many qualified dive schools where you can try a beginners scuba diving course or for experienced divers arrange a deep-sea dive to explore the amazing marine life here.

Or for those who prefer to stay dry, boat trips are the ideal way of exploring the waters, setting sail from Kyrenia harbour and cruising along the coast making stops for refreshments or a quick dip if you change your mind about getting wet.

Vouni palace at Lefke – …

Built in the 5th century BC at over 250m above sea level, the view from Vouni is breathtaking.

Located in Lefke, this site is somewhat of a mystery – the site originally housed a palace although it’s origins or original name are not known with any certainty.

Its modern-day name, Vouni, translates as ‘mountain’. It is thought that the palace was built during the Persian occupation to keep watch over the activities of the Greek in the nearby ancient kingdom of Soli (see Part 1 of our A to Z). Despite its defences, its reign was limited and Vouni palace was burnt down between 400-300 BC.

Today the site sits forlornly on its hilltop albeit commanding some of the best views of the region.

Wild & indigenous donkeys – take a walk on the wild side with the Karpaz donkeys…

The donkeys that can be found wandering across the Karpaz Peninsula are not so much wild as liberated.

They are in fact descendants of domesticated donkeys abandoned during the political upheaval and hostility during the 1970s when Greek Cypriot villagers and farmers fled to settle in the South.

These animals were once crucial to the island’s agriculture, carrying olives from the groves and cereals to the mills.

The cultural significance of the donkey no longer lies in its physical strength but in the strength of its symbolism of Cypriot life of old.

They are a truly heart-warming sight although donkey rides are out the question as these beasts can be, let’s say, a little temperamental.

Xmas & more traditional celebrations – bring in the New Year with a bang…

Whilst the Turkish Cypriots do not traditionally celebrate Christmas this does not mean they don’t make the most of the holiday period.

With a relaxed approach toward religion, many families participate in present giving and you will find Christmas trees and festive decorations in abundance in the run-up to New Year. New Year’s Eve is a major event in the North’s festive diary and it is celebrated in style with spectacular firework displays and partying into the early hours. It’s also a fantastic time to visit for those wanting to enjoy the holiday period in warmer climes. The calendar of public holidays in North Cyprus starts with New Year’s Day and is a mixture of official patriotic commemorations and Muslim religious festival holidays. But for a real taste of traditional Cypriot celebrations try one of the fabulous harvest festivals between March and November that mark the end of the agricultural seasons (see the Zeytlinik olive festival below).

Yeni Iskele & other picturesque villages  – take a whistle-stop tour of the picturesque North…

The North is not only blessed with beautiful scenery from deserted sandy beaches to forest-covered mountains but with an abundance of picturesque towns and villages, particularly in and around the Karpaz peninsula. Yeni Iskele, on the way to Karpaz from Famagusta, is possibly the biggest settlement in this region. It is inhabited by Turkish Cypriot refugees who once lived in the district of Iskele on the southern coast prior to the island’s division. It translates to new Iskele. During late summer the hedges are heavy with pomegranates ripe for the picking and if you wander into the centre you will find one of the quaintest examples of Byzantine architecture by way of the Ayios Lakovos 15th century church. Also add to your whistle-stop tour the fishing village of Bogaz, a few kilometres north, with its pretty harbour and appetising choice of fresh-fish restaurants.

Zeytlinik olive & other festivals –  sample some delightful wares and Turkish hospitality…

The village festival is a cultural staple in North Cyprus. There are barely enough months in the folk festival calendar to cram them all into, and the Turkish Cypriots certainly know how to celebrate. Between March and November, you can expect a meze of market stalls, music, folk dancing and delicious food, not to mention activities, exhibitions and shows which can span an entire week. Each festival celebrates something different, with thanksgiving for the local agricultural harvests featuring heavily. There is the Güzelyurt orange festival, the Mehmetcik grape festival and of course the famous Zeytinlik olive festival to name but a few. On a much grander scale, the Bellapais music festival or the Culture & Arts festival are well worth a visit. Whether provincial or on an international scale, the festival offers a real snapshot into North Cypriot life.
So from A to Z, that’s all folks…. although we suspect our guide of North Cyprus will keep you busy for a few fabulous, fun and sunny seasons yet to come. And we suggest you start in true festival style (no need to bring your wellies).