An Eco-Holiday in North Cyprus

An Eco-Holiday in North Cyprus. As one of the last remaining destinations in the Mediterranean devoid of commercialisation, North Cyprus (albeit ironically) lends itself to the latest travel trend:- the “eco-holiday”. This, of course, doesn’t mean that thousands of eco-friendly tourists will be flocking to the North en masse. Whilst the North has embraced the prosperity of tourism, its economic progress has thankfully been without compromise to the unspoilt beauty that provides the region’s greatest tourist attraction. This means that you and I, along with a few carefully selected travel companions, can still enjoy this hidden gem in relative peace – save for a few wild donkeys!

So what is an eco-holiday? Broadly-speaking, it’s a trip that promotes socio-cultural understanding, helps to conserve local heritage and eco-systems, as well as offering tourists health, relaxation and recreational benefits. This can be anything from booking an eco-friendly place to stay to get involved with a local community or conservation project – for the purists, the true eco-holiday is not just about taking a photo of a wild donkey, but actually supporting the campaign to protect them.

In North Cyprus, thanks to the warm welcome tourists receive from its locals, there is no shortage of community life to immerse yourself in, not least the lively annual festivals where everybody gets involved. What’s more, thanks to the geological and biological diversity on this side of the island, there is no shortage of wildlife phenomenon just waiting to be discovered.

The Karpas Peninsula, the eastern tip of North Cyprus, is undoubtedly where the well-travelled eco-tourist will head. In part, a designated national park, this region boasts rugged coastline, secluded sandy coves, pine-covered foothills, lush green valleys and spectacular mountainous views. Providing a range of natural habitats for a multitude of endemic and indigenous species of plant and wildlife, this is most famous for the feral donkeys who roam wild across the peninsula’s unbeaten tracks, not to mention the endangered sea turtles who return here annually to nest on the golden beaches. You can even be part of an organised nightly group on Alagadi beach where visitors can experience turtle nesting and hatching activity first hand.

However, for a fully-fledged eco-experience, Buyukkonuk is the place to go. Nestled on the outskirts of the Karpas region, Buyukkonuk is a working village offering holidaymakers the chance to experience traditional Cypriot village life for the duration of their stay.

The village has a population of around 800, the majority working in agriculture, whether it be tending fields of barley, vineyards and orchards of olive, carob and almond trees, or looking after dairy cows and flocks of sheep and goats. These villagers have opened their doors in traditional Cypriot style to give holidaymakers a unique insight into a way of life that has been preserved for generations.

The accommodation at Buyukkonuk comprises small, family-run guesthouses and woodland cabins, and you will want for nothing here – the village fare is fit for even the most discerning tourist – from the simple crust of sesame bread dipped in home-produced olive oil to slow-cooked meats that fall slowly from the bone.

As for daily activities, take your pick from collecting eggs, milking goats, firing up bread ovens, learning a local handicraft or harvesting olives from ancient groves – not to mention sheep-herding with shepherds, wildflower walks, adventurous cross-country bike rides, and, of course, the more leisurely donkey ride.

Or, if a hands-on experience is not quite for you yet, you can visit the Buyukkonuk village just for the day, with Sunday’s produce market making this the most popular day for visitors. In traditional Cypriot style, Buyukkonuk also hosts a bi-annual festival, an “eco-day” in May and October, featuring food stalls, treasure hunts and folk dancing.

So, for those of you looking for an alternative to the mainstream and predictable package holiday, rest your sunhat at the gates to the Karpas Peninsula. The eco-village of Buyukkonuk will provide you and your travel companions with an experience of a lifetime – it is literally the doorway to one of the most ecologically incredible places on earth.