Tucked away in its own corner of the Mediterranean, Cyprus has always been a special place for a holiday and few places are more special than the north of the island. The first human settlements on Cyprus date back to the stone age and its strategically important position on many shipping routes mean that it has been occupied by numerous races ever since. From the Hittites, the ancient Romans, the Byzantines, the Lusignans, the Venetians and on to the modern age, all these people have left their influences.
Thanks to all these cultures, North Cyprus enjoys an amazing treasure trove of architectural heritage. Here, visitors will find three true Crusader castles. Two are in a reasonable state, but the third, St Hilarion Castle, is in a truly remarkable state of preservation and many of the original features remain. The ancient port town of Kyrenia has its own castle, built by the Venetians, which overlooks the town’s stunningly beautiful old harbour. Nearby is the mountainside village of Bellapais, where the 13th century abbey is a breath-taking structure which is still in use today as a venue for music concerts. In virtually every town and village you will discover ancient reminders of Cyprus’s past.
On the eastern cost stands the town of Famagusta. The city still has its massive walls, surrounding the most ancient part of the city and here there are many delights to be discovered too, including a number of churches and mosques and Othello’s Tower, part of the original citadel. A few miles northwards along the coast bring you to the ruins of Salamis, a site that will amaze you with its sheer size alone. Once the capital of Cyprus in Roman times, the city was abandoned to the shifting sands after a series of earthquakes. Today, still only a part of the city has been excavated, but the amphitheatre and some other buildings have been restored and their scale is incredible.
These are just a handful of the treasures that await you on a holiday to Cyprus, but do not get the idea that North Cyprus is all about the past. Although there is a relaxed atmosphere, the country is certainly part of the 21st century. Modern technology is carefully integrated into an old-fashioned way of life. In terms of activities, holidays to Cyprus offer everything you could desire. Though many simply choose to linger over a coffee in Kyrenia Harbour, or laze by a pool or on a beach, there is plenty for the more active. From mountain walks to jeep or quad-bike safaris, from paragliding to go-karting or horse riding, all sorts of land based sports can be indulged in. For water lovers, either above or below the waves there is more than enough to keep you busy for weeks.
There truly are two different sides to North Cyprus. One day you may choose to spend hours exploring deserted forests or wandering along miles of sandy beaches where you are more likely to encounter a family of turtles than a family of tourists. The next day you might decide to spend some time investigating the bustling streets and alleyways of one of the towns, browsing through the shops and trying to decide what to fill your suitcase with! Either way, the day is most likely to end with a perfect meal, because in North Cyprus, superb cuisine and traditional hospitality seem to always be combined to provide some lasting happy memories. A meal by the harbour one night, or the next, dinner under the spot-lit walls of Bellapais Abbey to the background of some opera. Or just a simple kebab in a cafe. Always, the ingredients are fresh and the welcome is warm.
In terms of places to stay, there is something to suit just about every taste. From small, family-run properties with a handful of rooms, through boutique hotels with standards that will amaze, and on to substantial international resort hotels with every conceivable facility. With holidays to Cyprus you are sure to return with a wonderful tan and some wonderful memories – and the desire to get back there as soon as possible!