North Cyprus in One, Two, or Three Days: Itinerary, Must-See Places

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Car route in Northern Cyprus, main landmarks to see, reasons to visit Northern Cyprus, tourist reviews. Is it possible to vacation in Northern Cyprus?

How to Get to North Cyprus

  • From Istanbul: Direct flight to Ercan Airport (Nicosia).
  • From the Republic of Cyprus by car: Free entry, but you need to purchase car insurance at one of the checkpoints between North Cyprus and the Republic of Cyprus.

I recommend the second option. No need for tests, as the pandemic is over.

KYRENIA, CYPRUS
KYRENIA, CYPRUS – MAY 05, 2017: Boats, yachts and sailing boats in the port of Kyrenia.

North Cyprus Road Trip

  • Agia Napa – Salamis – Famagusta – Hillarion Castle – Kyrenia – Nicosia

North Cyprus left a good impression on me, but I can’t sum it up in one word. It’s worth visiting for at least a day, better yet, stay in Kyrenia overnight, or you won’t see everything. Here, I’ll list the most significant places you shouldn’t miss.

Compared to the Greek part of Cyprus, the Republic of Cyprus is designed for leisure – beaches, food, and sea excursions. North Cyprus appeals to history and nature lovers. The scenery changes every hour.

The main attractions of North Cyprus are in Famagusta and its surroundings, Kyrenia (Girne), and the nearby mountains. Make sure to read about the Cyprus route and trip organization specifics from Cyprus to North Cyprus by car.

Famagusta

Many call it a “dead city,” but it’s only the Varosha district that’s truly deserted.

After the Turkish invasion and the division of Cyprus, most of Famagusta went to Turkish Cypriots, except for Varosha. Previously inhabited by Greek Cypriots, they left the area at the start of the conflict, which has now been over forty years.

Today, UN forces jointly control the district with the Turkish army, and Varosha is completely fenced off from the rest of the city with barbed wire and “NO PHOTO” signs. It’s eerie, especially since Varosha is by the sea on one of Cyprus’s best beaches.

Varosha and the Turkish-Cypriot conflict will be discussed in a separate post. But here, let’s focus on Famagusta’s real main attraction.

Famagusta medina
Famagusta medina

Famagusta’s Old Town (Medina)

Many consider it a place of power. We didn’t feel that, but the fact remains that about twenty historical sites are concentrated here – fortresses and churches, some centuries old.

There’s no need to list all the old town churches – you simply drive past an obelisk, which is hard to miss, and behind it is the fortress wall. Get a map-scheme of the historic area, which they provide with your ticket, and explore all the sights.

You can leave your car nearby for free or park inside the old town. We left ours outside the wall near a school next to a monument like this and didn’t pay anything. In the peak season, parking spots inside will likely be scarce.

Famagusta, Cyprus
Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque, Famagusta, Cyprus.

I recommend spending some time by St. Nicholas Church (pictured above), which used to be a cathedral but is now Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque. The conversion involves adding a minaret outside and removing all holy images inside. The thorough restoration work outside makes it hard to tell it was once an Orthodox church.

For most tourists, the “center of power” in Famagusta is Petek Café with a panoramic terrace overlooking the old town.

You can also get a view from the fortress wall – you can walk a couple of hundred meters along it for free. There are many ruins from the Greek period, and the roads are noticeably worse than in southern Cyprus – a clear sign of financial difficulties.

Salamis

These are ruins from the Roman period, entrance costs 3 euros, payable in either lira or euros. It’s a place for enthusiasts, though we enjoyed it despite not being experts. It’s picturesque, especially during the spring bloom in late March to early April.

You can get some great shots here, especially if you have a beautiful model with you. It’s a textured place, and photographers should definitely visit.

North Cyprus - Salamis
North Cyprus – Salamis

Of all the ruins in Cyprus, and we’ve been to almost all the famous ones, Salamis has the most beautiful ancient ruins.

Ancient Salamis is located by the Mediterranean Sea, not far from Famagusta, about a 30-40-minute drive. Don’t miss the turnoff from the main road. If you don’t have a GPS or mobile app, there are several signs pointing the way to Salamis before the turn.

We didn’t plan to visit Salamis initially; we found the ruins following the signs. The territory of Salamis is quite extensive – a whole city. Only the central part is interesting, but many European tourists wander around with maps and diagrams, searching for various architectural pieces. Well, we mostly took photos and looked for beautiful scenes with wildflowers.

You can park your car at the entrance, just before going in, also for free. We didn’t spend a single cent on parking in North Cyprus.

North Cyprus - Salamis
North Cyprus – Salamis

Exploring Salamis

A couple of hours should suffice for a visit, but you can probably do it in an hour if you rush. Plan accordingly.

Hillarion Castle

Located in the mountains between the capital of Cyprus, Nicosia (Lefkoşa), and the historic port city of Kyrenia (Girne). The distances are as follows: 26 km from Nicosia, and the same distance, accounting for the descent from the mountain, to Kyrenia. Strictly speaking, the castle falls under the municipality of Kyrenia, but it sits high up in the mountains. If you plan to relax in Kyrenia for a few days, make sure to schedule a trip here.

North Cyprus - Hilarion
North Cyprus – Hilarion

In North Cyprus, near Kyrenia, there are two more castles in the mountains – Buffavento and Kantara, but Saint Hilarion Castle seems to be the most interesting. It seems that people were really bothering this monk in the 6th century since he built such a refuge.

In the 12th century, the castle became what we see today, or rather what remains of it. However, there is still quite a bit to see. Besides enduring medieval wars with the Genoese and crusades, the castle survived the Turkish-Cypriot conflict in the 1960s, and after the annexation of North Cyprus in 1974, it was hardly restored.

There are many soldiers along the routes to the castle, so keep that in mind if you want to take photos. Photography is prohibited almost all the way up to the castle, and the soldiers seem to appear out of nowhere when you attempt to take out your camera. They give you stern looks and shout “no photo.” It’s a shame because the landscapes there are beautiful. Besides the Turkish soldiers, the low clouds were also a hindrance during our visit.

North Cyprus - Hilarion
North Cyprus – Hilarion

Kyrenia (Girne)

A real gem of Cyprus, a city worthy of a separate visit and a stay of two to three days. Many come here without even visiting the southern part of Cyprus. Most visitors are Europeans and those who flew to North Cyprus from Istanbul.

You can arrive in North Cyprus at Ercan Airport, not far from Nicosia. From there, it’s easy to get to Kyrenia by renting a car. However, I recommend arriving in North Cyprus from the southern part, i.e., from the Republic of Cyprus.

When in Kyrenia, park your car wherever you find space, as there are both free and paid parking lots. The city is small, and you can walk everywhere.

North Cyprus - Kirenia
North Cyprus – Kirenia

Main Attractions in Kyrenia

The Old Town: With its narrow streets, historic buildings, cozy cafes, and bars.

The Old Harbor: A favorite spot and starting point for seaside walks. It’s where Kyrenia was initially built, and it’s very charming; you won’t want to leave.

Kyrenia Castle: The city’s dominant feature, located on the promenade where it was originally built to protect the city from the sea. It replaced the declining Saint Hilarion Castle in the mountains. We didn’t go inside, but many people like it. Entrance costs 12 lira or 4 euros.

North Cyprus, Kyrenia
North Cyprus, Kyrenia

Kyrenia Marina: A mooring place for boats, yachts, and sailboats, with a view of the historic castle and old town, creating a luxurious ambiance.

Kyrenia Beaches:

  • Escape Beach: Considered the best in Kyrenia.
  • Denizkızı Beach (Denizkızı):
  • Shayna Beach (Shayna):
  • Acapulco Beach (Acapulco):
  • To reach Escape and Denizkızı beaches, you can take minibuses (dolmuş) located to the left of Kyrenia’s center when facing the sea. To get to Shayna and Acapulco beaches, you can only drive there; they are to the right of Kyrenia when facing the sea.
  • Ziya Rızkı Touristic Street: Not far from the Old Harbor, use maps.me on your smartphone and explore.
  • Alagadi Turtle Beach: Located 15 km east of Kyrenia (Girne), known for sea turtles nesting here in the peak season, July. The nesting area is protected by the government and fenced off, with volunteers ensuring the turtles’ rights to reproduction are respected. You can only reach this beach by car. There’s parking, showers, and changing cabins. The sand is golden-yellow, like in most of this part of the island.

Karpas Peninsula and Golden Sand Beach

This is a remote corner of the world and, by extension, a branch of Cypriot paradise. The Karpas Peninsula is the easternmost point of the island. Golden Sand Beach boasts the whitest sand and pristine, deserted beaches. It’s a must-visit place.

Golden Beach, Karpas Peninsula, North Cyprus
Golden Beach the best beach of Cyprus, Karpas Peninsula, North Cyprus

Golden Sand Beach is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and sea turtles also nest here during the peak summer season. There are no hotel facilities here, but you can set up a tent or simply come for half a day to wander and enjoy the azure beauty.

You can walk to the very edge of the peninsula, where you can see both the northern and southern parts of Cyprus and admire the landscapes. Part of the peninsula is a nature reserve, so watch out for signs.

Golden Beach
Golden Beach the best beach of Cyprus, Karpas Peninsula, North Cyprus

Nicosia (Lefkoşa)

It’s believed that there isn’t much of interest left in the capital of Cyprus. I would recommend visiting Nicosia only after you’ve seen the attractions of the Cypriot coast and the Troodos mountain range. Then, you can head to Nicosia.

Most of Nicosia’s main attractions are concentrated in the Old Town, which is surrounded by a fortress wall. This wall also marks the dividing line between Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. To this day, it’s the only capital in the world divided by a fortress wall.

Nicosia city, Cyprus
Top view at old part of Nicosia city. Cyprus

Walk up to the dividing line and lean against the wall that separates the capital into two parts. Take photos with the United Nations (UN) barrels in the background and explore the historic center.

Ledra Street, a pedestrian street in the historic center of Nicosia, runs through both parts of Cyprus. This street is also where the checkpoint between the two parts is located.

Highlights of Nicosia

  • The Old Town with its narrow streets, historic buildings, cozy cafes, and bars.
  • The Famagusta Gate, Konstantia Tower, Paphos Gate, Kyrenia Gate, and Shakolas Tower, which you could previously visit.
  • On the Greek side of Nicosia, you can explore the Church of Panagia Faneromeni, Church of Panagia Chrysaliniotissa, and the Cathedral of St. John. Behind the cathedral, you’ll find the Byzantine Museum and the Art Galleries.
  • In the Buyuk Han, a historic caravanserai, you can buy souvenirs and take photos from the upper floors.

For a more detailed guide on what to see in Nicosia, check out our website’s dedicated article on Cyprus – Nicosia. The Old Town, What to See.

Where to Find Affordable Hotels or Apartments in Cyprus

We use Booking.com – North Cyprus, a familiar and convenient website with extensive coverage of hotels and apartments.

How to Buy Cheap Air Tickets to Cyprus

I search, book, and purchase tickets on the Aviasales website. Here, I find the cheapest tickets and use the low fare calendar, which helps me plan my trips. It’s an overall convenient and reliable international website that has been operating in the market for a long time. To search for tickets, you can use the low fare calendar – enter your departure and arrival points and click on a date with a suitable price; it’s all very simple and straightforward.

How to Reserve a Car in Cyprus

I’ve been vacationing in Cyprus for over 10 years and have been using the LocalRent website for several years, which gathers the best local car rental companies in Cyprus. It’s reliable, offers a great selection of cars, clear pricing without hidden fees, and provides round-the-clock support via Viber or WhatsApp. The prepayment is only 15%, and there’s an option to cancel your reservation.

I also recommend reading an article about How to Rent a Car in Cyprus – it’s quite simple and straightforward.

Airport Transfer in Cyprus

Cyprus is a top summer destination, and often, taxi drivers at the airport overcharge for their services. Moreover, most of them do not provide child car seats because it takes up a passenger’s seat. This can be problematic for travelers with children, as they may have to search for a taxi with a child car seat at the airport.

Both of these problems can be easily solved. You can book airport transfers online, both individual and group transfers, with the option of reserving a child car seat. You won’t have to overpay for taxi services, and there will be no safety issues for your children.

The process is straightforward. After making your reservation, a driver will meet you with a sign displaying your name. Right after exiting the arrival hall, you’ll get into the car and head to your hotel.

Useful Links for Travel Planning

  • Aviasales: For budget airline tickets worldwide
  • Booking.com: A familiar and user-friendly website for searching and booking accommodations worldwide
  • LocalRent: A website for searching and renting cars with the option of free reservation cancellation.
  • Hotline Finance: For travel insurance for Ukrainian citizens, green cards for traveling abroad by car, and round-the-clock online support

Remember that planning in advance and comparing offers can help you save money and make your trip to Cyprus unforgettable. Good luck with your travels!

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