North Cyprus is a self-declared state whose de facto independence is only recognized by Turkey and a part of Azerbaijan. It is a great holiday destination with plenty of things to do in Nicosia, the capital. The season here is long-lasting, hotels have international standards, cheap accommodation is available, and it is easy to get to from Istanbul.
Tourism in Cyprus holds a dominant position in its economy. The season starts in April and lasts until the end of October.
Turkish invasion of the north in 1974 divided Cyprus into two parts. A buffer zone under the control of the United Nations stretches between North Cyprus and the rest of the island. It also divides Nicosia (a.k.a Kyrenia for Turks), the capital of both states.
Interested in other cities of Cyprus? Check out The Backpack Footprint’s post about Larnaca and flamingos
North Cyprus declared its independence in 1983. However, due to its lack of recognition, the state is heavily dependent on Turkey for economic, political and military support.
You can find a flight via Istanbul with Turkish Airlines, Atlasjet or Pegasus for a reasonable price.
If you have visa-free travel with Turkey, you can travel without a visa here too. You just receive a stamp at passport control with duration of 15 or 30 days. There are also ferries running from the Turkish ports (Istanbul, Antalya, Alanya, Mersin, and Tasucu) Israeli (Haifa) and Syria (Latakia) to the ports of Famagusta and Nicosia.
What to see
North Cyprus is home to the harbor city of Nicosia, which boasts with historic buildings, incredible scenery, and natural sandy beaches.
The old town of the city features whitewashed buildings and the ruins of walls and towers that once protected Nicosia. The city enjoys a Mediterranean climate. On one side it has a sea and on another a five fingers mountain range.
The neighboring villages also have some great sights such as St. Hilarion Castle at Karmi village. Originally a monastery, it was named after a monk who allegedly chose the site for his hermitage.
From the 11th century, Saint Hilarion formed a defense of the island with Buffavento and Kantara castles against Arab pirates raiding the coast. Lusignan family upgraded some sections and used it as a summer residence.
The castle has three divisions or wards. The lower and middle wards were for economic purposes. The royal family used the upper one. There is a breathtaking view of the northern coast along the western wall. With its architecture, the locals believe that it must have inspired the fairy tale Snow White and Seven Dwarfs.
Bellapais village also preserves a monastery from the 12th century – Bellapais Abbey (the Abbey of Peace) overlooking Nicosia and the Mediterranean Sea. The abbey comprises a church, refectory, dormitory and storage rooms grouped around an inner courtyard.
The history of Nicosia harbor dates back to the 10th century BC. However, its shape as we see today came only during Venetian times.
Nicosia castle stands since the 7th century. Throughout the centuries, the castle has undergone many restorations, especially during the Lusignan period. Like any castle built for protection, you can enter it via a bridge built over a moat.
There are a Byzantine church and the tomb of the Ottoman Admiral, Sadik Pasha inside the castle. Additionally, you can find towers, dungeons, an arsenal, a cannon parapet and a museum.
The Shipwreck Museum presents the oldest ship ever recovered from the sea. According to the excavations, it dates back to 288 BC and is 15 meters in length.
Where to stay
Nicosia has a lot to offer regarding accommodation. There are plenty of Airbnb apartment with affortable prices (click here to get 25$ off your booking). However, if you want to find all-inclusive or full-board services, look at The Acapulco Holiday Resort Hotel, Dome Hotel or Cratos Premium Hotel.
North Cyprus is a great holiday destination which offers relaxation and cultural experience on the budget.