you travel in North Cyprus, the history comes alive; For nine
thousand years, Cyprus has been a melting pot of great civilisations;
from the Neolithic settlements on the northern coast to the Egyptian,
Persian, Roman, Venetian, Ottoman and British Empires. It's strategic
location at the cross-roads of East and West has bestowed on the
island with a rich and colourful history spanning for centuries.
the course of its vibrant past, the island has been visited by the
Romans, Alexander the Great and Richard the Lion Heart, to name
a few, each leaving its own unique footprint.
a good sense of how it all began, the island’s museums are well
worth a visit for their fascinating array of artifacts discovered
in cave dwellings dating from 7000BC, when the first inhabitants
of Cyprus are said to have settled.
3000-700 BC, Cyprus
began to emerge as a trading centre, with copper mines drawing merchants
from all across the Mediterranean.
Attracted to the growing opportunities, settlers arrived
from Anatolia and Phoenicians from Syria,
bringing new Levantine architecture, ceramics and metal working
to the island.
the 6th Century BC, the Persians adopted Cyprus as a base for their wars with Greece
until 333 BC, when Alexander the Great brought the Persian
Empire to a sudden end. This was followed by
rule of the Ptolemies of Egypt which lasted for 250 years until
48 BC, when Rome
was able to annex the island. But it was merely a few years
later that Julius Caesar gave the island back to his lover, Cleopatra,
the last of the Ptolemies, and only upon her death was Emperor Augustus
finally able to add Cyprus
to the lands of the Roman Empire.
the 1st and 10th Centuries, multiple communities continued
to emerge on the island, with Muslim and Byzantine settlers coexisting
in relative harmony. However, all this came to a halt in
965 AD, when the Byzantines took full control of the island upon
defeating the Muslim Caliphate’s Egyptian fleet.
rule lasted until the 12th Century, upon which King Richard
the Lion-Heart prevailed, handing the island to Guy de Lusignan,
a member of French Medieval Royalty, to finance his expeditions.
The Lusignans, inhabited the island for 300 years, from the
12th Century until 1489, when the Venetians captured
the island with the impressive Girne Castle, as well as the celebrated
architecture of Gazimağusa (Famagusta) and Lefkoşa (Nicosia),
which are all well worth a visit.
Ottoman period in Cyprus began in 1571 and lasted for
more than three centuries, during which time the two Cypriot communities,
Turkish and Greek, began to emerge. It was during this time
that the British were granted the right to govern Cyprus for the Sultan in an agreement
dating back to 1869 which lasted until the end of the First World
War. In 1960 the Treaty of London and Zurich were signed
to give independence to Cyprus as a partnership state between
the Turkish and Greek Communities of the island. The guarantors
of the new state were Britain,
Greece, and Turkey.
However, in 1963 relations between the two communities separated
by language, culture and religion, had deteriorated and civil war
began. The United Nations sent in troops in an attempt to
restore peace, creating the Green Line, which effectively divided
the two communities.
In 1974 Greece attempted
a military coup in conjunction with the Greek Cypriot National Guard
in a bid to achieve ENOSIS (Idea of union with Greece), thus Turkey,
after consultation with Britain, intervened militarily to protect
the Turkish Cypriot community, in exercise of the guarantor powers.
Since these events, the
island has remained divided, and in 1974 North
Cyprus began its journey towards independence, with today’s Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC) being formally
established in 1983. It is a fully democratic state and internal
23 April 2003,
the borders between the North and South were opened and it is now
also very easy to get around the whole island, making North Cyprus a truly excellent destination for those who
dream of a holiday steeped in history.
you explore the island, you will enjoy the enduring echoes of its
Located at the cross-roads of three continents, Cyprus is the third
largest island in the Mediterranean, situated 40 miles south of
Turkey at its nearest coastal point. It is smaller than Sicily and
Sardinia and larger than Corsica and Crete. North Cyprus comprises
a total area of 1357 square miles, with over half of the Island’s
240 miles of coastline.
Cyprus has been divided into two autonomous states since 1974. This
came about by virtue of the linguistic and cultural differences,
and as a result of communal friction which lasted for 11 years (See
history). Greek Cypriots occupy the southern and the Turkish Cypriots
occupy the northern part of Cyprus. A boundary known as the `Green
Line` runs through Lefkoşa (Nicosia), the capital of both South
and North Cyprus, separating the two states.
The geography of North Cyprus is characterized by a unique blend
of beaches, plains and mountains. The Kyrenia or Beşparmak
(Five Finger) mountain range, with its magnificent jagged limestone
peaks, the highest of which is Mount Selvili at 3357 ft., runs along
most of the north coastline to form a startling backdrop.
To the east of the island the mountain range loses height as it
extends along the narrow peninsula known as Karpaz or “Panhandle”,
a spectacular region of rolling hills and unspoilt sandy bays. To
the south of the Five Finger range lie the plains of Mesaoria and
the capital city Lefkoşa. Other major centres are Güzelyurt
in the west, the resort town of Girne (Kyrenia) on the northern
coast, and the second resort town of Gazimağusa in the east.
Cyprus enjoys a very pleasant climate, with warm, dry summers and
mild winters, and an average of 300 days of sunshine. In August,
the hottest month, mean temperatures range from 21°C to 36°C and
in the coldest months of January and February, the average temperature
is around 10°C, with a winter average of 6 hours daily sunshine
and only moderate rain, making it an ideal year-round destination.
Cyprus is still relatively undiscovered so wildlife flourishes,
with some 250 species of birds touching down on the island every
year on the passage from East to West. There is also an abundance
of lizards, wild donkeys and butterflies, including species which
are unique to the region, such as the strangely-shaped festoon and
Cleopatra butterflies adorned with the colours of sunshine. They
are all part of a rich natural heritage on an island of contrasts
that spans from the top of Mount Selvili’s 3000 feet to the gentle
slopes of the coastal waters, where the famous loggerhead turtles
come ashore to lay their eggs.
The warm climate in North Cyprus also means visitors can enjoy beautiful
flowers all year-round, making it a veritable botanic haven. In
the autumn and winter golden-yellow oleanders swathe the hills,
whilst multi-coloured anemones and crocuses appear before Christmas.
But it is in late winter and spring that the island blooms into
a rhapsody of colour with the orchid family and cherry-red poppies
taking centre stage.
The official language is Turkish, but English is also widely spoken
as a second language.
The majority of the Turkish Cypriots are Muslim and although very
few regularly attend mosque services or wear religious attire, most
celebrate religious festivals.
For Turkish Cypriots, family life is of ultimate importance and
therefore a great amount of their free time is spent at family gatherings,
barbeques and weddings. All towns and even some villages hold festivals
many of which are in the early summer (see events).
of a place is always reflected in its kitchen, and Northern Cyprus
is no exception. Cypriot cooking, like its people, is unique. Eating
out is popular amongst locals and the choice of cuisine reflects
this, combining many wonderful tastes from the Mediterranean, Turkey
and the Middle East. In larger towns, a range of international restaurants
also offer dishes from around the world.
Turkish Cypriot restaurant meal consists of meze, kebabs (lamb or
chicken) or fish, followed by fruit and coffee. Meze is a selection
of hot and cold appetizers - the Turkish Cypriot equivalent of Tapas
– such as kofte (meatballs), hummus dips, mint yogurt, hellim (goat’s
milk cheese). A Turkish Cypriot speciality is the şeftali kebab
(peach kebab), made with minced meat, chopped onion and spices,
wrapped in lamb fat and grilled. Other mouth-watering dishes include
marinated fish and squid - and for dessert, lokma (small doughnuts
in syrup), Ekmek Kadayif with Cream (Turkish Cypriot bread pudding)
or baklava, as well as freshly-picked fruit such as sweet melon,
oranges and figs. Wash your meal down with a glass of rakı
(alcoholic aniseed drink), or there are also many good wines, beers
and spirits, including the famous brandy sour drink – a cocktail
made with brandy, lemon juice and angostura bitters. If you have
room, you may want to finish off with a fix of thick Turkish coffee
home cooking is quite unique and is only found in a handful of restaurants
in North Cyprus, so do look out for them. Food lovers will delight
at the variety of fresh local produce. Fresh herbs such as wild
thyme, calamint, fennel, oregano and sage flourish in the mountains,
ready for picking in June. Traditional cuisine makes fine use of
the abundant fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices – this includes
a variety of vegetarian dishes such as yalancı dolma (stuffed
vine leaves with rice, onions and tomatoes), stuffed peppers and
tomatoes, melt in the mouth aubergine meals, sigara börek (fried
white-cheese rolled in pastry), bulgur koftesi (cracked wheat balls)
and home made baked beans.
Lefkara embroidery is an old Cypriot tradition dating back to the
Venetian period, where beautiful and intricate items such as bed
covers, table cloths, doilies and head-scarves were weaved using
drawn and counted thread embroidery on lace. It is said that on
a visit to Cyprus, Leonardo da Vinci was so impressed by the Lefkara
adaptation of Venetian embroidery that he took some of the embroidery
bearing the “potamos” design back to Italy to drape on the altar
in the Milan Cathedral. Today, this design is known as the “Leonardo
da Vinci design”.
Carpet weaving is another age-old Cypriot tradition and is mostly
found in the Gazimağusa region. Kilims (small floor rugs) with
colourful designs and patterns make ideal souvenirs or gifts, whilst
wicker basket weaving is another Cypriot art form that is popular
with locals and tourists.