Northern Cyprus is a historically rich, sun soaked, culturally diverse and stunning part of the world that nestles in the Mediterranean and is at home in both the Middle East and Europe. Northern Cyprus has undergone very fast development from the unexplored backwater of 10 years ago, to become a firm favourite with tourists, retirees and expatriates who are looking for a destination off the beaten track.
Officially Northern Cyprus is the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus that is a self-declared state which is comprised of the north-eastern area of the island of Cyprus. Northern Cyprus is considered by the international community to be part of the Republic of Cyprus. Extending from the tip of the Karpass Peninsula in the northeast to Morphou Bay and Cape Kormaktis to its western point and the Kokkina enclave in the west. The village of Louroujina is the southernmost point. There is a buffer zone that stretches between Northern Cyprus and the rest of the island and divides the islands largest city and capital of both states of Nicosia. This zone is under the control of the United Nations.
In 1974, Greece attempted to annex Northern Cyprus and it was this that led to the Turkish entry of Cyprus. These actions resulted in much of the north’s Greek Cypriot population to flee along with the Turkish Cypriot’s from the south that divided the island, and in 1983, Northern Cyprus declared their independence. As North Cyprus lacks recognition it is very dependent on Turkey for political, economic and military support.
Attempts to find a solution to the dispute in Cyprus have been unsuccessful and the Turkish Army keep a large presence in Northern Cyprus. The presence of the army is supported by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus government and is regarded as an occupational force.
2011, saw the third official census of Northern Cyprus to return a population of just under 250,000. One source suggested the northern population stands at 500,000 with an equal split of Turkish Cypriots and Turkish settlers or Cypriot born children of the settlers. These reports have not been confirmed although there have been ample opportunities to do so by using the electoral rolls and as such there is a continued unconfirmed population numbers to this day.
Although the majority of Northern Cyprus speak Turkish, English is a widely spoken second language.
Winters in Northern Cyprus are cool and rainy specifically between the months of December to February when you can expect up to 60% of the annual rainfall. Spring is short and brings unpredictable weather which can comprise of the occasional storms and westerly winds. Summer is hot and dry with some areas of the island experiencing a north westerly wind from Africa which is dry and dusty. Summer is followed by a short autumn.
The climate in Northern Cyprus is varied and determined by geographical features. The Mesaoria Plain, is cut off from the humidity of the sea and the summer breeze can reach temperatures of up to 45 degrees Celsius. The water temperature and humidity combine to steady coastal weather and stop the area from experiencing weather extremes.
Quality of life
Northern Cyprus does not have the cold climate of Britain; however, it certainly shares some of the better British features. Turkish Cypriots drive on the left, the telecommunications systems are extremely efficient and modern and the electricity supply is almost identical to that of the UK. If this is not enough, the legal system is based on British law, almost everyone speaks English and possibly the best point is that if you transfer your British pension to Northern Cyprus it becomes tax free.
With the fast pace of life in the UK, it is refreshing to find a country where crime levels are extremely low and vandalism is almost unknown, plus there are no air or noise pollution. Traffic queues are unheard of in the countryside, however the towns can experience some traffic build up during the rush hour periods. Children love the outdoors, the sun, the sand and the sea and the Turkish Cypriots love the children in return. There are five universities in North Cyprus which means that the population are well educated and have a genuine pride in their country’s history and culture.
Described as the unspoilt jewel of the Mediterranean, Northern Cyprus exudes a laid back charm that draws in the visitors without even trying. Offering miles of golden sands, the welcome of the Turkish Cypriot people and a vast array of fresh foods, this really is a haven for those that wish to enjoy a serene yet far better quality of life.
It is easy to access English speaking internationally trained and educated dentists and doctors in North Cyprus and fees to see private healthcare providers are very reasonable and affordable. Children can be educated to extremely high standards in the international schools, and whilst these are fee paying they are also incredibly good value for money. You can do all of your shopping in supermarkets that are complete with all manner of international produce and you can make huge savings shopping at the weekly markets. You can soak up the sun for approximately 9 months a year and you will find your Cypriot neighbours most welcoming, these are just a few reasons to make North Cyprus your next home.
Things to do in North Cyprus
There is so much to see and do in Northern Cyprus, the following are just some of the highlights:
1. The Walled City of Nicosia Museum
This stunning museum should feature on everyone’s go to list. The museum is extremely well thought out and outlines the history of the island with a vast array of artefacts dating from the Neolithic period right through to the Byzantine era.
There are 14 rooms in total in the museum each dedicated to different subjects. The first room contains excavated ruins from the Neolithic age. The second room is dedicated to the Bronze Age and room three is full with Mycenaean artefacts from Ancient Kourion. Room four holds the real highlights in the form of a collection of votive figures dating from 7-6 BC, found at Ayia Irini, near Morphou. Rooms number five and six are dedicated to sculptures with artefacts from a number of periods. Room seven has a female statue created from limestone and a large bronze statue of the Emperor Septimus Severus. Room eight is home to assorted weaponry and bronze tools and some statues of Gods. Room nine is home to some representations of (2500 BC - 400 BC) tombs cut from rock along with the things that were found with them. The other rooms are dedicated to inscriptions, marble statues and finally room fourteen contains some terracotta figurines and leads back to the entrance.
2. Buffavento Castle
Buffavento Castle is not as popular as St. Hilarion Castle and is more dilapidated, and is a ruin that sits on top of a mountain summit that is located to the east of Kyrenia. Although the ruins are minimal, this is a particularly picturesque location and is the perfect hike to afford the most spectacular views across the coast. The Buffavento Castle is believed to have been built in the Byzantine era. Strategically, it had a really important role as it guarded the coastline that ran along St Hilarion to the west.
3. Ancient Salamis
Ancient Salamis along with Ancient Kourion, are the most important archaeological sites in Cyprus and have numerous ruins to explore.
Famagusta is awash with Gothic-style buildings, and is the most attractive town on the island. Surrounded by the impressive border of Venetian fortifications, the old town is amassed with the ruins of basilicas and remnants of palaces which sit amongst dilapidated houses. In the center is the Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque that is an exceptional example of Gothic architecture. Nearby stand the ruins of St. George of the Greek Church, and on a ban situated inside the city are the remains of the St. Mary Church and the Carmelite Church.
5. St. Hilarion Castle
St. Hilarion Castle could have come straight from a storybook, with the fortifications climbing up the uneven hill, this castle is synonymous of a fairy tale castle. Many believe that the castle of Disney’s Snow White was based upon this castle. St. Hilarion Castle was built during the 10th century by the Byzantines.
The impressive harbour town of Kyrenia is the vibrant seaside heart of North Cyprus, with the small harbour being overlooked by an exceptional Byzantine era castle with the old town with its maze of alleyways in the backdrop and a number of period houses that are great fun to explore. Start with the Shipwreck museum and then take a stroll to the folk art museum before winding through the narrow lanes to the Church of Archangel Michael where you can see the most amazing collection of religious icons from churches across North Cyprus.
7. Old Town
Wandering round Nicosia's old town is such a pleasure with Ledra Street being the main area through the old town and is home to numerous cafes, restaurants, and shops, and leads right up to the border post of North Nicosia. Just off of the street are a number of alleyways where you should check out the Ottoman mansion architecture which belonged to the island's dragoman in the late 18th century; the Omeriye Mosque on Trikoupi Street, which is home to a Lusignan entrance from the 14th century; and the Panagia Chrysaliniotissa which is considered to be the oldest church in Nicosia built around 1450. Follow over the road into North Nicosia and resume your tour of the old town. Stop to look at the Bedesten, which was used as the Church of St. Nicholas and later became a market, the Mevlevi Museum offering a number of well thought exhibits on the Sufi order; and finally the Dervish Pasha Museum.
8. Selimiye Mosque
The best known landmark in North Nicosia is the Selimiye Mosque which was originally the Church of Agia Sofia and began construction in 1326 and took 78 years to finish. This stunning building has been a mosque since the 16th century when control of the island fell to the Ottomans. The elaborate combination of medieval church and the simplicity of mosque design has culminated in a fascinating space with a superb interior that is typically Gothic, having been whitewashed.
9. The Byzantine Museum
Anyone interested in religious artwork should visit the Byzantine Museum where there is a staggering 220-piece collection of Christian icons that range in age. For many, the highlight is the Kanakaria Mosaics on display. After the Turkish took occupation in 1974, these highly-priced pieces of art were stolen from a church in North Cyprus' Karpaz Peninsula and finally returned to the Republic of Cyprus in 1991.
10. North Cyprus Beaches
North Cyprus boasts a varied coastline complete with luxurious beaches or remote areas that are hidden behind the wild dunes. The northern and eastern shores are lapped by crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean, and there are an abundance of bays and beaches all along the coastline where you can take advantage of the sun all year round.
The Kyrenia coastline offers a number of beaches to choose from, there are the sandy beaches with all amenities close to hand or the more secluded and quieter beaches for those who prefer to be alone. The majority of the beaches are excellent for both swimming and snorkelling.
Famagusta is famous for the miles of sandy beaches, some of the beaches though are owned by the nearby hotels and therefore may charge an entrance fee. The majority of beaches in this area will offer beach bars sunshades and loungers, and are safe with numerous spots idea for swimming and snorkelling.
The beautiful area of Karpaz boasts mile upon miles of empty sandy beaches, with the Malibu beach providing crystal blue water ideal for swimming as well as somewhere to get a snack and there are also parasols to provide shade if required. The beach stretches for approximately 5 miles and is commonly known as the Golden Sands and is complete with unspoilt scenery, and the beach is home to Turtles who nest here in the summer.
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