In this comprehensive guide, you'll find all the information you will need about North Cyprus holidays. However, this beautiful island in the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea has much more to offer apart from the great climate and golden sandy beaches. So let's get to it!
Overview of North Cyprus
The island of Cyprus can be found on the eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea; it's just 80 Km South of Turkey and about 200 Km West of Syria. Its turbulent history means that the island is divided into two distinct parts. North Cyprus is administered by Turkish rulers, and South Cyprus by the Greeks. This holiday guide concentrates on the north of the island, or the North Cyprus Turkish Republic, as it is officially titled.
Following a Greek Army-sponsored coup d’état in 1974, the island was partitioned. Then in 1983, The Turks declared Independence for the North. However, their independence was never internationally accepted, resulting in the Northern part of the island remaining very dependent on Turkey. The Turks provide economic, political, and military support
This has never been achieved despite many attempts to reconcile the two sides. The north is not recognized internationally, and an uneasy peace has prevailed. Most Cypriots living in the south have never been to the north.
Why Northern Cyprus
In short, there is an abundance of pristine, unspoiled beaches, outstanding Mediterranean cuisine, and fascinating archaeological sites. However, that is only part of the story. There is so much to see and do for people booking North Cyprus holidays.
Northern Cyprus is known for its numerous stunning sandy beaches, bordering dramatic landscapes, and crystal clear azure waters. Most of the beaches in Northern Cyprus have also been awarded the Blue Flag accolade. The area also offers some wonderful beaches and panoramic views of its spectacular coastline from high in the Kyrenia Mountains.
Culture and People
Nicosia has a unique reputation as the only divided capital city in the world. Visiting Cyprus is like visiting two distinct countries. This provides a unique feel to the North of the country. Northern Cyprus has a well-earned reputation for its hospitality.
The whole island has a rich history which is well represented in fascinating archeological sites. Northern Cyprus has much to offer from its days under Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and British rule.
Towns and Cities
There are plenty of towns and cities in which to spend time. With windy streets featuring bars, restaurants, and shops, there is much to see and do. In Northern Cyprus, you are never far from the sea. Many towns have lovely harbors to enjoy. There is a rich variety of town and city life.
Your Guide to North Cyprus Holidays
Climate and Weather for North Cyprus
As usual, for a Mediterranean island, Cyprus enjoys a subtropical climate. The weather is warm all year round and gets plenty of sunshine. Annual temperatures average 17ºC and range between 16ºC and 20ºC. It is hot and dry between mid-May and mid-October, and between November and mid-March, there's rain, but it's still warm, though somewhat changeable. There are also two very short seasons, Spring and Autumn.
The currency In Northern Cyprus is the Turkish Lira. At the time of writing, the following exchange rates apply:
100 Turkish Lira = €5.06
100 Turkish Lira = £4.47
100 Turkish Lira = $5.33
Transportation / getting around
There are no railways in the country, and with no internal waterways either, the highways are used for all transport between cities. Most of the main arterial routes are good-quality dual-carriageways. Northern Cyprus has an estimated 7,000 kilometers of roads in total, though only about 5,000 Km are sealed. The recently constructed Northern Coast Highway is a major economic development incentive.
Arrival in the country can be at Ercan Airport in the north. However, a more popular choice is to fly into Larnaca Airport, which has many more International flights, then hop on a bus over the border. Larnaca Airport handles approximately 5.5 million passengers a year. It is a mere 35 minutes to Famagusta, for example.
Transport systems in the north are not as well developed as in the south. Therefore, for independent travelers, the best option is to rent a car. North Cyprus car rental is very popular with many different operators. In addition, there are options for public buses, taxis, and even cycling.
There are plenty of taxis on the island. However, most do not have a meter, so it's always best to negotiate your fare before traveling. In addition, they are somewhat expensive. A journey from Nicosia to Kyrenia, for example, costs around 750TL. There are also shared buses called "doltish." A group traveling in the same direction splits the cost.
Most bus stations have buses leaving for multiple destinations every 15 to 30 minutes. They are inexpensive, with fares costing around 4-5TL. Services after 5 pm there are less frequent, and many stop at 6 pm.
The beauty of holidaying on an island is the option to travel by boat. With so many coastal towns to visit, hopping between them on a group chartered yacht is always a terrific choice. If the budget allows, a privately chartered yacht can see you swimming with seals and dolphins in the morning, lazing on a beautiful beach in the afternoon, and dining at a harborside restaurant in the evening.
Whether you go it alone or book through tour operators in Cyprus, there is a wide variety of available holiday accommodations here. You will be able to find apartments, houses, and villas in Northern Cyprus to suit every budget.
Local Food and Drink
Mediterranean cuisine is known to be one of the healthiest on the planet. Here you'll find a mix of Greek and Turkish dishes. Most restaurants will serve tasty kebabs, moussaka, calamari, stuffed vine leaves, and fantastic dips like tzatziki, hummus, and tahini. Of course, there are plenty of healthy salads and seafood as well. The island is famous for Haloumi cheese.
In general, the private sector is not affected by public holidays. The people celebrate the following important days and public holidays in North Cyprus:
May 1st. Labor Day
July 20th. Labor Day
August 1st. Anniversary of The Turkish Resistance Organization
November 15th. Independence Day
In addition, the religious festivals of Ramadan, Eid-al-Fitr, and Eid-al-Adha are celebrated. Therefore, public holidays are declared for three days during Ramadan Feast and four days for Eid-al-Adha.
Cities (Places to Visit)
Famagusta is a port in the east of North Cyprus. It is famous as a historic city. It dates from 648AD and was built to replace the ancient city of Salamis, which was razed by Arabs. During term time, the local population swells by 15,000 students attending Cyprus's largest university. The famous party resort of Ayia Napa is in this area.
Kyrenia is one of the popular holiday destinations in the Mediterranean and is considered the tourism capital of Cyprus. Situated on the island's northern coast, it offers terrific beaches, outdoor activities, stylish hotels, and fine dining restaurants. In addition, tourists can benefit from cheap package holidays, all-in deals in top hotels, and self-catering holiday apartments.
Lefkosa, as North Nicosia is known locally, is a city of winding streets and alleys. It's like stepping back in time. It's famous for its Arasta Sokak bazaar selling trinkets and souvenirs to tourists. Tourists and locals sit in nice little café areas listening as the call to prayer echoes around the streets.
Morphou in the northwest was at the center of reunification negotiations in 2016. The plan was to return this quaint old town to Greek control. Although most voted in favor, many locals will not leave the place they call Guzelyurt, meaning beautiful land. The city is surrounded by citrus plantations, the scent of which fill the air, especially in the blossom season.
Lefke is famous for the growing of Yafa oranges and soft fruit. The town has a beautiful coastline and a backdrop of the Troodos Mountains. In the center is Ataturk Park, where festivals are held. Close by is the ancient city of Soli which dates back to the 6th century.
Iskele is well known for its long golden beaches, which are some of the most visited in Cyprus. Kilometer after kilometer of soft sand runs along the coast. Tourists flock to stretch out on sunbeds and visit the beach bars.
The Green Line
The Green Line is the buffer zone extending approximately 180 km across the island. It runs from Paralimni in the east to Kato Pyrgos in the west. There is also a separate section surrounding Kokkina. Although some parts of old Nicosia are only a few meters wide, other areas can be a few kilometers in width. Access into its interior is forbidden except for members of the UN peacekeeping force.
The ancient Greek city-state of Salamis sits on the east coast of Cyprus. It is 6 km north of modern Famagusta, at the mouth of the river Pedieos. The remains date back more than 2000 years. Many of the ruins are now under the Mediterranean Sea, making it hugely popular with scuba divers.
Kyrenia Harbour is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in Northern Cyprus. The horseshoe-shaped harbor is overlooked by Kyrenia Castle to one side. The "Jewel of Cyprus," as it is known, is a beautiful place to enjoy seafood or simply sit and enjoy sundowners.
The Karpas Peninsula is the long, finger-like peninsula, prominent when looking at a map of the island of Cyprus. Famous for its wild donkeys, it is about 70 km in length. Easily accessible, it is full of old villages, little harbors, and beaches.
There are plenty of castles to visit here. Most have a small entrance fee. St Hilarion in the Kyrenia Mountains is the finest of the three Byzantine castles. You can drive right to it, but once inside, there's still a good climb to reach the top.
Buffavento Castle is the highest of the Crusader castles. Reaching it means a 30-minute ascent for even fit people. Kantara Castle to the East of Kyrenia is easily accessed. Its imposing walls can be accessed along a gravel path. In addition to the Byzantine Castles, Girne Castle overlooks the picturesque Kyrenia Harbour. There is a shipwreck museum inside.
There are plenty to choose from when looking at North Cyprus tours. The good operators will provide excellent tour itineraries covering all your needs. They provide buses, tour guides and sort lunch or evening meals in amazing restaurants. From castle ruins to picturesque spots and even turtle watching, guided tours are a great way of ensuring that you don't miss out on the main attractions.
The delightful little village boasts the timeless ruins of Bellapais Abbey. The village was immortalized in Lawrence Durrell's best-selling book, "Bitter Lemons of Cyprus." Dining at a Turkish Cypriot restaurant in the evening as the ruins are lit is a fantastic experience.
Things to do in Northern Cyprus
As previously mentioned, Northern Cyprus boasts some truly wonderful beaches. You can laze in the sun, swim in the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea, or for the more adventurous, there's scuba diving and water sports. Some beaches are close to towns, and the beachfronts have nice cafés or restaurants for when the sun gets too hot.
There are two excellent golf courses in northern Cyprus. CMC Golf course is inexpensive and great fun to play, situated right on the coast. The Korineum Golf & Beach Resort is super, offering views of the Beşparmak Mountains. It's a top-class golf resort just 1 km from the nearest beach. It is accessible by ferry from Kyrenia, 20 Km away.
Speed freaks can test their skills at Zet Karting and Leisure. It is situated about 20 km north of Nicosia Airport.
Along the northern coastline, there are a whole bunch of luxury resorts. Add to this the high-class restaurants here, and those searching for a full-on luxury holiday have plenty from which to choose. Add to this the famous North Cyprus nightclub scene, and there's plenty to do. Luxury yachts and speed boats are also available for hire.
North Cyprus has become known as something of a mini Las Vegas. There are more than 20 casinos offering poker, blackjack, roulette, slots, and more. Most of the casinos are located in Kyrenia. However, a couple are on the coast at Bafra and near Famagusta. In addition, there are a few in Nicosia.
Northern Cyprus for a Holiday: Pro Tips
It cannot be ignored that the political situation in Northern Cyprus is complex. The presence of the UN peacekeeping force is a constant reminder. Despite all this, 4 million tourists annually visit the island, with 400,000 visiting the North. If you are crossing from the South, do not be concerned. You will merely have your passport checked, as with any border crossing.
Some people entering for their North Cyprus holiday will be asked to fill in transfer papers, though not all. If you are, there is nothing to worry about; hold on to the papers during your stay. It is worth pointing out that North Cyprus is perfectly safe; you will not experience problems. Pick up a Turkish phrase book and learn a few phrases. Service staff in hotels and restaurants will speak English. But everyone is pleased to hear an attempt at their own language.
Remember that places are known by two names. It can be confusing, but it's all part of the fun. For example, Kyrenia is also known as Girne, and the capital Nicosia is also known as Lefkoşa. The currency is Turkish Lira (TL), but Euros, US Dollars, and Sterling are also widely accepted. However, the best deals will almost certainly be in TL.
For those hiring a car, you will not be able to cross the border between North and South. Remember, they drive on the left. Google Maps and GPS devices work accurately, though some more minor roads can be incredibly steep.
There are just two Mobile phone networks here; Telsim (operated by Vodafone) & KKTC Cell (operated by Turkcell).
Vegans may well struggle outside of Nicosia. Many restaurants have vegetarian food, but in some cases, you will have limited choices. For example, Turkish and Greek cuisines tend to be heavily meat-based.
Photography is not allowed near military bases. So keep a watchful eye for the red signs.
Final thoughts about North Cyprus Holidays
You will enjoy your time here; just relax and enjoy the great food, wonderful beaches, tremendous hospitality, and everything this lovely region offers.
Is North Cyprus good for a holiday?
Answer: Yes, North Cyprus has absolutely everything you could wish for, for a safe, enjoyable holiday.
Can you fly direct to Northern Cyprus from the UK?
Answer: The International airport of Ercan in Tymbou is 13 Km from Nicosia. All International flights must go through Turkey, but destinations include London, Manchester, and Berlin. Unfortunately, direct flights are still part of the international embargo.
Is Northern Cyprus cheap?
Answer: Yes, Northern Cyprus offers excellent value compared to most places in Europe.
Meal for two people mid-range €5.00
Domestic Beer 0.5 Liter €0.80
Cappuccino regular €0.60
Is Northern Cyprus cheaper than southern Cyprus?
Answer: Prices in North Cyprus are about 30% less expensive than in the South.
Is North Cyprus family-friendly?
Answer: North Cyprus is absolutely family friendly! The people are friendly and helpful. In addition, the combination of scenery, great beaches, and good restaurants makes for an outstanding family experience.