Northern Cyprus is a country we know well as our sister company, Pioneer Media, has been offering filming support in that location for quite a while now. It was only natural that we start running a tour there. Particularly now that Cyprus has opened its borders to 65 nationalities who have received a Covid-19 vaccination.
Whilst it is largely known for being a vacation resort for British and European holidaymakers, following the Turkish invasion of 1974, the Mediterranean island of Cyprus was ravaged by war before being cut in half with UN-designated buffer zone in the middle. This zone incorporated towns, cities, airports making them abandoned ghost settlements to this day.
On our divided Cyprus tour we explore the Turkish controlled side of the island that few people see. Ghost cities, military standoffs, mansions owned by gun smugglers, stunning beaches, and world-class ancient sites with next to no other tourists.
Our journey begins on the south side of the
island and is easily reachable with a variety of budget airlines. We then cross
the border into Northern Cyprus and thoroughly explore this section of the
island. We’ll be sleeping in hotels and on the island’s gorgeous beaches as we
explore the dark and fascinating history of this country.
Arrival in Cypriot controlled Cyprus at your own leisure. The Mediterranean island is well served by various budget airlines. You will be checked for evidence of holding a vaccine certificate now that Cyprus has opened its borders to 65 nationalities who have received a Covid-19 vaccination.
Check into our comfortable hotel in Nicosia, the only divided capital city on earth.
Meet up with your YPT guide and the rest of the tour group in the evening before heading out for a welcome meal.
Overnight in Nicosia.
Monday 16th August – Kyrenia
After breakfast at the hotel, we’ll board our private transport and cross into Northern Cyprus via the Metahan road border. On the way, you’ll see many Turkish military outposts in the distance and an enormous Turkish flag on the mountainside that is visible from the opposing Cypriot territory.
Once we’ve cleared passport control we’ll explore the Buyuk Han or the Great Inn. Built by the Ottomans in 1572 after they had seized Cyprus from the Venetians, this historical building is home to a stunning open courtyard with an Ottoman mosque. Under the early days of British rule it was turned into a prison, today it’s a thriving arts center, consisting of several galleries and workshops.
We’ll then drive through the narrow lanes and decaying streets of Lefkosa as we make our way to the historic Saint Hilarion Castle which was built by the Byzantines in the 11th Century to defend the coast from Arab pirate raids. Today it offers stunning views over the Mediterranean and the mountains of Cyprus.
We’ll then check out the training ground used by the Parachute regiment of the Turkish military before heading on to Kyrenia.
We’ll enjoy a relaxing late lunch in the harbor before checking into our hotel for the night.
Free evening with an optional pub crawl around town which is home to a mixture of popular spots and hidden gems.
Overnight in Kyrenia.
Tuesday 17th August – Kyrenia
After breakfast at the hotel and perhaps a stroll and coffee in the harbor, we’ll head West.
Our first stop of the day will be the Mavi Kosk or Blue House, which was previously owned by an infamous arms dealer that fled Cyprus during the war. The house is still the retro-chic villa is still furnished as in 1970s style when the owner, Paulo Paolides, escaped capture by fleeing through a hidden tunnel under hind his bed. The site is still controlled by the Turkish military so we must surrender passports on entry.
Our journey will take us to the 13th century Bellapais Monastery where, after exploring this historical site, we’ll sit down for a traditional kebab lunch overlooking beautiful views.
We’ll pay a brief visit to the small village where Lawrence Durrell wrote Bitter Lemons
Visit to Amaranta. A vast empty housing development that is now a concrete ghost town. This notorious development was started by a Scottish drug dealer and fraudster Gary Robb. He sold the properties off-plan, sometimes several times over, ultimately the customers/investors were left with only concrete foundations they didn’t even own.
Amaranta is perfect for a spot of Urbex!
Return to Kyrenia for some free time before heading out for an evening meal.
Overnight in Kyrenia.
Wednesday 18th August – Kantara
After breakfast, we’ll check out of our hotel and head to our first stop of the day: Kantara Castle which is a Byzantine-era fortress that offers stunning views over Cyprus and the chance to see both coastlines converge into the panhandle.
We’ll then continue North-East along the coast road stopping for lunch with an ocean view on the way.
Arriving at the Karpaz Peninsula we’ll head to the 6km long golden beach which is an eco protected area.
This will be our home for the night and we’ll stay in beach huts with some incredible scenery.
We’ll round off the day at a nearby bar and restaurant run off of generators and you can enjoy some beers on the beach.
There is very little light pollution here, so you’ll be treated to an incredible night sky.
Overnight on the beach.
Thursday 19th August – Larnaca
Start your day with a coffee on the beach followed by a morning swim if you like.
We’ll pack our bags and head further up the panhandle and travel through an area where donkeys roam freely on the roads. We’ll make a quick stop to feed them.
Our next stop will be an active Greek Orthodox Monastery where we may be lucky enough to catch a service in session and meet the bearded Orthodox priests who run the place.
We’ll then hit some rough and off the beaten track roads as we head to the Northernmost tip of Cyprus. Here there is a solitary military outpost and a gigantic flag, you are only 100km from the coast of Syria.
After lunch, we’ll head to the epic ruins of Salamis, an ancient Greek city-state at the mouth of the River Pedieos. According to tradition, the founder of Salamis was Teucer, son of Telamon, who could not return home after the Trojan war because he had failed to avenge his brother Ajax.
There is even a well preserved Roman amphitheater here and you’ll be surprised to find it mostly to yourself due to the small numbers of tourists in Northern Cyprus.
Our next destination is a trip highlight as we head to Palm Beach at Famagusta. From here we can get right next to the infamous ghost city of Varosha that is a complete no go zone and controlled by Turkish forces.
Before 1974, Varosha was the modern tourist area of the city but its inhabitants fled during the Turkish invasion. It has remained bullet-riddled and abandoned ever since with keys still left in the cars and dinner tables still set out as they were in 1974.
As we near the end of our tour, we’ll cross the border back into Cypriot controlled Cyprus via the Akyar border crossing where we will have a treat for country collectors!
After the border, we’ll visit the British Sovereign military base of Dhekelia which is one of two independent British Overseas Territory on the island of Cyprus. Home to British police, fire brigade, fish and chip shops, and other familiar British features, they don’t have checkpoints or passport control to enter but are a must-visit for country collectors!
At the military base area, we’ll finish off our tour a stop at a Traditional British Military run fish and chip shop!
Check into our hotel in Larnaca and enjoy a farewell dinner and drinks with the group.
Overnight in Larnaca.
Friday 20th August
Breakfast at the hotel and the chance to enjoy a morning swim at the pool or the nearby beach.
End of tour, airport transfers, and onward travel can be arranged,