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Northern Cyprus

Photo © JacChalky

Travel Guide Europe Cyprus Northern Cyprus

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Introduction

Kyrenia - Girne

Kyrenia - Girne

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The Turkish Republic Of Northern Cyprus, also known as Northern Cyprus declared independence in 1983 from the Republic of Cyprus. This movement is supported by Turkey and currently the only country recognize its independence is Turkey. Turkey supports Northern Cyprus militarily and financially. Roughly 400,000 tourists come very year to see ancient mosques and ruins. There area also stunning beaches and mountains to explore.

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History

In recent years, the politics of reunification has dominated the island's affairs. The European Union decided in 2000 to accept Cyprus as a member, even if it was divided. This was due to their view of Rauf Denktaş, the pro-independence Turkish Cypriot President, as the main stumbling block, but also due to Greece threatening to block eastern EU expansion. It was hoped that Cyprus's planned accession into the European Union would act as a catalyst towards a settlement. In the time leading up to Cyprus becoming a member, a new government was elected in Turkey and Rauf Denktaş lost political power in Cyprus. In 2004, a United Nations–brokered peace settlement was presented in a referendum to both sides. The proposed settlement was opposed by both the president of Cyprus, Tassos Papadopoulos, and Turkish Cypriot president Rauf Denktaş; in the referendum, while 65% of Turkish Cypriots accepted the proposal, 76% of Greek Cypriots rejected it. As a result, Cyprus entered the European Union divided, with the effects of membership suspended for Northern Cyprus.

Denktaş resigned in the wake of the vote, ushering in the pro-settlement Mehmet Ali Talat as his successor. However, the pro-settlement side and Mehmet Ali Talat lost momentum due to the ongoing embargo and isolation, despite promises from the European Union that these would be eased. As a result, the Turkish Cypriot electorate became frustrated. This led ultimately to the pro-independence side winning the general elections in 2009 and its candidate, former Prime Minister Derviş Eroğlu, winning the presidential elections in 2010. Although Eroğlu and his National Unity Party favours the independence of Northern Cyprus rather than reunification with the Republic of Cyprus, he is negotiating with the Greek Cypriot side towards a settlement for reunification.

In 2011, Turkish Cypriots protested against economic reforms made by the Northern Cyprus and Turkish governments.

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Geography

Northern Cyprus has an area of 8,689 km2, which amounts to around a third of the island. 75 kilometres to the north of Northern Cyprus lies Turkey with Syria lying 97 kilometres to the east. It lies between latitudes 34° and 36° N, and longitudes 32° and 35° E. The coastline of Northern Cyprus features two bays: the Morphou Bay and the Famagusta Bay, and there are four capes: Cape Apostolos Andreas, Cape Kormakitis, Cape Zeytin and Cape Kasa, with Cape Apostolos Andreas being the endpoint of the Karpaz Peninsula. The narrow Kyrenia mountain range lies along the northern coastline, and the highest point in Northern Cyprus, Mount Selvili, lies in this mountain range with an altitude of 1,024 metres. The Mesaoria plain, extending from the Güzelyurt district to the eastern coastline is another defining landscape. The Mesaoria plains consist of plain fields and small hills, and is crossed by several seasonal streams. The eastern part of the plain is used for dry agriculture, such as the cultivation of wheat and barley, and are therefore predominantly green in the winter and spring, while it turns yellow and brown in the summer. 56.7% of the land in Northern Cyprus is agriculturally viable

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Regions

Northern Cyprus is divided into five districts. Lefkoşa, Gazimağusa, Girne, Güzelyurt and Iskele. In addition there are further twelve sub-districts divided between the five larger districts and twenty-eight municipalities.

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Cities

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Sights and Activities

Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque

Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque was originally built as Saint Nicolas Cathedral in 1298. It was consecrated as a Christian cathedral in 1328. When the Ottoman Empire captured Famagusta they turned the cathedral into a mosque. Although converted into a mosque this structure still has a medieval gothic flare to it that only belongs to Christian churches of that era, even though a Minaret was added. The interior of the mosque is devoid of any of the original Christian art although some tombs can still be spotted on the north aisle

Other Sights and Activities

  • Kyrenia Harbor and Castle
  • Castles - the Beşparmak Mountains are home to three picturesque and well-preserved castles, the St. Hilarion Castle, Buffavento Castle and Kantara Castle. St. Hilarion is just above Kyrenia, and Kantara is closer to the Karpaz Peninsula. All of them offer breathtaking scenery of the coastline and the mountains, and also some refreshing clean air and hikes.
  • Walled City of Nicosia - this is the destination of the tourists who cross the Ledra Street into the north, even though they miss much more of Northern Cyprus! Nicosia is home to perhaps the most well-preserved city walls that belong to a capital in the world - they have even made their way to the municipal emblem as the symbol of the city.
  • Salamis ruins near Famagusta
  • Walled City of Famagusta - Just like the walled city of Nicosia, historical buildings pop out everywhere in this walled city centre.
  • Bellapais village near Kyrenia - known for its ancient monastery
  • Apostolos Andreas Monastery, Karpaz National Park and Cape Apostolos Andreas - located at the tip of the Karpaz Peninsula, farther north than Dipkarpaz, this well-preserved monastery is an ancient site of pilgrimage.

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Weather

The winter in Northern Cyprus is cool and rainy, particularly between December and February, with 60% of annual rainfall. These rains produce winter torrents that fill most of the rivers, which typically dry up as the year progresses. Snow has been known to fall on the Kyrenia Range, but seldom elsewhere in spite of low night temperatures. The short spring is characterized by unstable weather, occasional heavy storms and the "meltem", or westerly wind. Summer is hot and dry enough to turn low-lying lands on the island brown. Parts of the island experience the "Poyraz", a north-westerly wind, or the sirocco, a wind from Africa, which is dry and dusty. Summer is followed by a short, turbulent autumn.

Climate conditions on the island vary by geographical factors. The Mesaoria Plain, cut off from the summer breezes and from much of the humidity of the sea, may reach temperature peaks of 40 to 45 °C. Humidity rises at the Karpaz Peninsula. Humidity and water temperature, 16 to 28 °C, combine to stabilize coastal weather, which does not experience inland extremes. The Southern Range blocks air currents that bring rain and atmospheric humidity from the south-west, diminishing both on its eastern side.

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Getting There

By Plane

The main airport in Northern Cyprus is Ercan International Airport, which is only recognised as a legal entry point by Turkey and Azerbaijan (as well as Northern Cyprus itself of course). The following airlines fly there:

  • Atlasjet (Adana, Ankara, Istanbul-Atatürk, Izmir)
  • Cyprus Turkish Airlines (UK: London Stansted/Heathrow/Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, TR: Adana, Ankara, Antalya, Dalaman, Gaziantep, Istanbul-Atatürk, İzmir, Trabzon, DE: Frankfurt)
  • Onur Air (Istanbul-Atatürk)
  • Pegasus Airlines (UK: London Stansted, TR: Adana, Ankara, Antalya, Istanbul-Sabiha Gökçen)
  • SunExpress (Antalya, Izmir)
  • Turkish Airlines (UK: London Stansted, TR: Istanbul-Atatürk)
  • World Focus Airlines (Istanbul-Atatürk)

By Car

You can enter northern Cyprus (TRNC) with a rental car from the South at six of the eight(see below) border crossing points. However, you will need to purchase car insurance for the North at the border (€20 for three days €35 for one month); this is due to the fact that the insurance companies and police departments of both sides do not co-operate.
It should be noted, though, a few of the Cypriot (south) car rental companies can refuse to hire a car if they know that it will be driven to the north.

By Boat

Fergün Shipping Company has ferries travelling between the southern coast of Turkey and the Turkish part of Cyprus. Connections include Alanya-Girne, Tasucu-Girne and Gazimagusa-Mersin.

By Foot

You can cross by foot at Ledra Street in the old town, and at the Ledra Palace crossing point to the west of the old town. Both crossings are for pedestrians only, so if you are travelling by car, you will need to use one of the other crossing points. See below for details on crossing the Green Line.

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Getting Around

By Car

Renting a car is by far the most effective way to travel around Northern Cyprus. There are several rent-a-car services in Nicosia, Kyrenia and Famagusta.

There are many taxi stations in Northern Cyprus, but you won't able to see many taxis around to wave them down, so make sure to get some numbers. There are taxi services in the Ledra Palace and Kermiya crossings, and at the Ercan Airport. Taxis are rather expensive though, with a journey from Nicosia to Kyrenia costing around 70-90 TL.

By Bus

Public transport is in a pathetic state in Northern Cyprus. The main cities (Nicosia, Famagusta and Kyrenia) are connected by buses run by the İtimat company, but these services stop after 6:00pm. You can check the bus terminals of these cites for other buses, and there are usually buses that run once a day to and from rural areas (though these tend to bring commuters to Nicosia in the morning and leave at night). Bus services within cities are in a better condition, though these stop at late hours as well. Ercan Airport is rather well-connected to the main cities with buses.

"Dolmus" or "kombos" are excellent options for budget travellers. These are shared taxis that stop for people who wave them down. The price of travelling between major cities and towns via dolmus (around 4-5 TL) are much lower than taxis, however, there are no schedules. Dolmus run often, and backpackers should be able to locate them in a few minutes. In city centres, there are usually plenty of dolmus options going to many cities, though late hours are still problematic.

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Red Tape

As Northern Cyprus is not an internationally recognized state, the rules for entry are a little confusing, but far more relaxed than they were just a few years ago, and entry is certainly not difficult.

All visitors to Northern Cyprus will need to pass through TRNC immigration, which is fairly painless. Citizens of the European Union, the US, Japan and most other industrialized countries get a visitor visa issued free of charge at the border or green line crossing point.

When passing a Green Line checkpoint between the Republic and TRNC or entering via air or sea, TRNC immigration will stamp either a piece of paper (which seems to be the norm at the Green Line) or your passport (which seems to be the norm at air and seaports). You can usually get the officer to stamp the other document if you so wish. As TRNC stamps are no longer a problem for later visits to Greece or Cyprus, at least for EU citizens, you may choose whether to have that souvenir stamp in your passport or not.

Beware that if you are not a European citizen and you enter the island at the north, the officials in the south may deny you the entry, though there have been reports that this rule is not strictly implemented, especially for Canadian and US citizens. For European citizens, entry to both sides constitutes no problem.

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Money

See also Money Matters

The unit of currency in North Cyprus is Turkish Lira (TL). The approximate exchange rate fluctuates daily, so it's best to check the rate at the many banks, exchange bureaus or at your hotel before you change your money. Most businesses will also happily accept payments in main foreign currencies such as Euro, Sterling Pound, US Dollars, and Cyprus Pounds.

Most major international credit and charge cards are accepted by hotels, restaurants, and shops.

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Language

The official language in north Cyprus is Turkish although a distinct Turkish Cypriot dialect is used in conversation. English is also widely used, especially in the resort town of Kyrenia. However, the entire island is somewhat of a cultural melting pot and in villages off the beaten track, some elderly locals who lived among Greek Cypriots before 1974 still use the Greek Cypriot dialect as their first language, even though they are Turkish Cypriots.

Learning a few Turkish words and phrases, and especially those indigenous to the Turkish Cypriot dialect, will be very much appreciated by these warm people who are proud of their culture.

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Eat

Turkish-Cypriot cuisine is a fine blend of Turkish, Greek and Middle Eastern cuisines featuring mouth watering seafood to kebabs, numerous mezes to delicious home made fruit preserves called macun (pronounced ma-joon). Go to any traditional restaurant and ask the local foods they serve.

Some of the key foods featured in the Turkish-Cypriot cuisine, and some of whom do not exist in mainland Turkish and Greek cuisines, include Molehiya, Enginar Dolması, Kolokas, Bullez, Çiçek Dolması, Magarina-Bulli, Pilav, Bulgur Köftesi, Mucendra, Hummus Çorbası, Hellimli and Pirohu.

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Drink

  • Zivania - one of the most important local drinks, made from grape. Unlike the Republic of Cyprus, as Northern Cyprus is not bound by European regulations, there are zivania varieties with up to 95% alcohol by volume, so take care! There is a saying among Turkish Cypriots which goes like "the best of zivania is the one that burns well when you set it on fire". Do learn how much alcohol the zivania you're buying contains. Note that zivania is not easily found anywhere.
  • Brandy - popular because of its taste, the Cypriot brandy is well worth a try. What is more spectacular, though, is the local cocktail, the Brandy Sour, a mixture of brandy and the lemon squash, made from the lemons of the Morphou region.
  • Wine - Northern Cyprus is not an important wine producer, but there are two notable local brands: Aphrodite and Kantara. Even though the official travel guide describes it as "light, fruity and palatable", some travellers have reported that it is better to avoid it. It is still worth a try, though. Wines from the Turkish mainland are generally good and the average cost is about TL12 per bottle. However imported wines from South Africa, Chile, Australia and Argentina are widely available and are fairly reliable and good value.
  • Locally produced Rakı, which is the national drink of the Turks (similar to Ouzo which is the national drink of the Greeks, as they both have a strong aniseed flavor, but with different proportions) and all internationally imported varieties.
  • Beer - The lager brand named Efes from Turkey is ubiquitous and well worth a try (and costs less than half of what it does in Turkey, due to the lower taxes in North Cyprus) as are some bland European brands such as Carling and Heineken. English ales and Guinness are rare but can sometimes be found.

As for non-alcoholic drinks,

  • Ayran - the Turkish classic
  • Orange juice - Northern Cyprus is famous for its great oranges, so why not try their juice?

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Learn

All universities in Northern Cyprus are private.

There are five Northern Cypriot universities holding over 40,000 students:

  • Near East University (Yakın Doğu Üniversitesi)
  • Eastern Mediterranean University (Doğu Akdeniz Üniversitesi)
  • Cyprus International University (Uluslararası Kıbrıs Üniversitesi)
  • European University of Lefke (Lefke Avrupa Üniversitesi)
  • Girne American University (Girne Amerikan Üniversitesi)

There is also a campus of Middle East Technical University. Istanbul Technical University is also planning to open a campus in Northern Cyprus. Atatürk Teacher Academy and Police Academy provide vocational education in related subjects.

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Work

Working is forbidden to anybody not in possession of a permit, which is not easily obtainable for visitors.

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Health

Only drink bottled water. The tap water is ok if boiled.

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Sleep

Accommodation in Northern Cyprus is plentiful. Rooms are typically of lower standard than in the rest of Cyprus and are correspondingly lower priced. The Northern Cyprus Hoteliers Association maintains a list of virtually all accommodation. In all parts of Cyprus, it is customary (and recommended) to make a thorough inspection of the room you are considering prior to checking in.

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Safety

Northern Cyprus is a relatively safe place, as tourists do not have to worry much about crime. In Kyrenia, British retirees often speak of how safe they feel there, and that they can walk down dark streets at any time of night and feel safe. Crimes such as pickpocketing are unheard of, even in the bigger cities and lively areas, such as the Dereboyu quarter of Nicosia.

However, there are a few exceptions to this. The walled town of Nicosia, inhabited mostly by Turkish mainlanders, is known as an unsafe place among locals and most refrain from going there apart from the main streets at night. While during daytime it is as safe as anywhere in Northern Cyprus, be careful during the night, especially if going through dark streets, and exercise common sense. Catcalling for female travellers is sometimes encountered when the Turkish mainlanders are involved, though this by no means should cause limitations. Violent crime is very rare, and even though Kyrenia has the highest rate of violent crime in Northern Cyprus, it is still rare and it is safer than most cities in Europe and America.

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Keep Connected

Internet

The better hotels all offer internet connections of some sort, and there are numerous internet cafes. However you connect though, the connection speed will be slow and the service erratic. Most cafes also offer free Wi-Fi spots, some even don't have a password.

Northern Cyprus has a 3G mobile data network, do check the prices if you are planning to purchase an SIM card.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

Dial 112 for medical emergencies 155 for police, 199 for fires and 177 for forest fires. All these numbers are free of charge and can be called from a telephone booth without inserting a calling card, or any phone including cell phones.

International calls are routed to Northern Cyprus via the Turkish area code 392. When dialing from Turkey, the usual domestic format of 0 + 392 + 7-digit local number is used. When calling from other countries +90 + 392 + 7-digit local number is used.

On the other hand, calls from the Republic of Cyprus can be made by dialing the 0 + 139 + 7-digit local number format which charges at local rates as well as the international +90 + 392 + 7-digit local number format which charges at international rates.

The two local mobile phone networks will allow you to make and accept international and local calls on your mobile phones, however the connections are expensive. Far better to buy a local pay-as-you-go SIM-card from either TelSim (Vodafone) or Turkcell which offer the usual facilities at much cheaper rates. Be aware that mobile phones with SIM cards from the Republic of Cyprus will not work in Northern Cyprus as there is no agreement between the companies (CYTA and MTN) and the Turkish operator but there is only one operator from the Republic of Cyprus (Primetel) which is the only operator which allows you to roam in the northern cyprus by sending message to 8133 with the text T ON.Similarly, your SIM card purchased for use in Northern Cyprus will not work south of the border.

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This is version 17. Last edited at 8:36 on Apr 21, 17 by Utrecht. 9 articles link to this page.

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