The Natural Treasures of Northern Cyprus

The natural treasures of Northern Cyprus. FOR MANY decades Northern Cyprus was a forgotten frontier but its doors have finally crept open to reveal a fascinating world full of natural treasures, not least its geological and botanical beauty with a wildlife kingdom fit to lay claim the abundance of natural wealth.

And while the North has embraced the prosperity of tourism recently, its economic progress has thankfully been without compromise to the unspoilt beauty that provides the region’s greatest tourist attraction.

Northern Cyprus boasts so many 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 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.

Perhaps the most symbolic place to start our whistle-stop tour of the North’s natural treasures is with the donkeys that wander wild across the Karpas Peninsula. As descendants of domesticated donkeys, abandoned following the island’s political upheaval and hostility during the 1970s, the donkeys have been left to roam free – a fitting symbol for a side of the island that enjoys a prosperity and tranquillity attributable to its independence.

In evolutionary terms, however, it is the sea turtles breeding on the North’s deserted beaches that boast the best survival story. With a marine heritage that has endured over one hundred million years, both the Loggerhead and Green Turtle are two of the seven remaining species of sea turtle in the world. And it is possible to witness the nesting and hatching season of these magnificent creatures that takes place annually on the wild sands.

And from the sands to the skies, rich with avifauna – the predatory swoop of birds of prey and the lively chatter of the resident Cyprus Warbler bring the North’s spring skyline to life. Northern Cyprus is, in fact, an important migratory crossroads, staging post and host to nearly 350 species of birds, including almost 50 native birds, not to mention bird-watchers and ornithologists from all over the world.

The region is also no less a treasure trove for botanists, teeming with over 1,250 different endemic and indigenous plant types – from the yellow sun rose bursting from rocky crags and the red of the crown anemone swaying on the open plains, to 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 species growing wild, from the aptly named and impressive ‘giant’ to the small and rare indigenous ‘bee’, the orchid enjoys greater diversity in North Cyprus than in any other part of the Mediterranean.

And with such diverse and rare natural riches, it is no wonder the Turkish Cypriots are keen to preserve this magnificent legacy from Mother Nature. In fact, it is thanks to the huge conservation efforts in the North to protect the donkeys, turtles, birds and botanical life that these natural treasures will be there for us all to enjoy for generations to come.