The following is a guest post: Stephen Bugno of Bohemian Traveler shares photos from northern Cyprus.
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is a self-proclaimed country only recognized by Turkey. Part of the island of Cyprus, the third largest in the Mediterranean Sea, it gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1960.
Despite an initial constitution that guaranteed power sharing, the Greek-Cypriot majority and Turkish-Cypriot minority were not able to make it work, and the sides clashed in 1974. Turkey has since occupied the northern and eastern third of the island. The capital, Lefkoşa (Nicosia), remains the last divided capital in the world.
The peculiar current political geography of Northern Cyprus along with its centuries-old history, beautiful coastline, and proximity to Turkey are what attracted me to the prospects of visiting this unrecognized nation.
Highlights of Northern Cyprus
Considered the prettiest town on the island, Girne is a tranquil seaside resort with an old harbor of yachts and fishing boats. Although it attracts plenty of holiday-makers, Girne still retains its serene atmosphere. It’s got a mammoth crusader castle and a fascinating shipwreck museum containing the world’s oldest ship recovered from a seabed anywhere. It’s a 2,300 year-old trading vessel with hundreds of wine amphorae, stone grain-mills, and even almonds that the crew ate!
The wild and remote Karpas Peninsula is a place rarely visited. There is no public transportation, so it’s difficult to reach the Apostolos Andreas Monastery, all the way at the end, if you don’t have your own wheels. I was lucky enough to catch a ride hitchhiking. My real destination was golden sands beach, to stay at Hasan’s Turtle Beach, a primitive camping area in the nearby dunes. Karpas is known as the nature reserve of Cyprus, and it certainly lives up to expectations: long empty beaches, abundant wildlife and flowers, and much undeveloped land.
Many of the best Greek ruins are outside of today’s Greece. Such is the case with Salamis, an ancient Greek city-state. The ruins of the theater and gymnasium have been extensively restored and there remain a few mosaics to be checked out. The site is located just north of the town of Famagusta on the eastern shore of Cyprus, washed by the blue-green waters of the Mediterranean.
“So is it Lefkoşa or Nicosia?” I ask. It depends who you’re talking too. This is the divided capital of Cyprus, Lefkoşa in Turkish and Nicosia in Greek. It’s a historic walled city that requires a passport stamp to get you through to the other side. Unfortunately, when I visited, my Russian friend was not allowed a visa on arrival, as I could have been offered. So I never made it to the south.
The difference between the North and South of Cyprus
Unlike most tourists and travelers, I never reached the southern part of Cyprus. I can’t tell you much about it except that it’s more popular with visitors, especially with package tourists from Europe. If you want cheap holidays to Larnaca, it’s the south you’re looking for. But if a more off-the-beaten-track adventure is what you’re craving, head to North Cyprus.
Stephen Bugno stopped in Northern Cyprus when he traveled overland from Istanbul to Cairo in 2007. For more than a decade he’s been working, volunteering and traveling his way around the world, and writing about it. He blogs at Bohemian Traveler and publishes the GoMad Nomad Travel Mag.