The island of Cyprus is located at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, approximately 40 miles south of Turkey, 60 miles west of Syria and 250 miles north of Egypt, and is therefore strategically placed between the Middle East and Europe. It is the third largest of the Mediterranean islands, after Sicily and Sardinia. Its hıstory has been traced back to more than 8,000 years BC and the island has been conquered and ruled by many nationalities over the centuries. In 1974 the Turkish Army intervened (liberated) when the Greek Cypriots and Greek Army terrorised the minority of Turkish Cypriots and since this time the island has been divided in two.
Northern Cyprus, known as the TRNC or more formally as The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was established as a separate entity to Southern Cyprus, known as The Republic of Cyprus, in November 1983. In effect, Northern Cyprus is a relatively ‘new’ country and has much to offer those who wish to come here.
A typical Mediterranean climate with long, hot summers and blue skies, and short, mild winters when rain falls between December and February, these separated by brief Spring and Autumn seasons. With its unspoilt natural beauty, the warmth and generosity of the Turkish Cypriot people, low crime rate and living costs, this is the perfect place to visit or retire to.
Lefkoşa (Nicosia) is the capital of Northern Cyprus with a population of approximately 150,000. The city is fascinating, being steeped in history, and its foundations date back approximately 2,250 years to the original settlement of Ledra, which later became Nicosia in the Lusignan period.
The old city is surrounded by a 3½ mile wall built by the Venetians in the 16th Century and the city is rich in both architecture, especially Ottoman architecture, and places of historic interest. After 1974 the city was divided in two by a boundary known as the ‘green lıne’, which runs across the city in an east to west direction, leaving the southern part of the city in Greek Cypriot control and the northern part of the city in Turkish Cypriot control. However, previously closed border points have now been opened and it is now a straightforward matter to cross from one side to another.
Lefkoşa is the business and commercial area of Northern Cyprus and the emergence of new construction and businesses are evident. Places to visit include:
- Arabhamet District and Mosque
- Atatürk Square
- Büyük Han
- Dervish Paşa Mansion (Ethnographical Museum)
- Eaved House
- Kyrenia Gate
- Lapidary Museum
- Saray Hotel
- Selimiye Mosque (St Sophia Cathedral)
Girne (Kyrenia) has a large British community and the British Residents’ Society is based here. The scenery and sea views are stunning, the blue of the Mediterranean Sea to the north with views across to the Taurus Mountains in Turkey and a backdrop of the Beşparmak mountain range topped by Crusader Castles. The area is prosperous with many shops, hotels, restaurants, casinos and, of course, historical sites and places of interest. To the east of Girne, at Esentepe, a championship golf course has been constructed and plans are underway to construct a marina further along the east coast.
Places of interest include:
- Bellapaıs and Bellapaıs Abbey
- The Folk Arts Museum
- The Icon Museum
- Karaoğlanoğlu – Chapel of St Fanurios and the Statue of the Unknown Soldier
- Kyrenia Castle, The Shipwreck Museum and Kyrenia Harbour
- St Hilarian and Buffavento Castles
The main port of Northern Cyprus is at Gazi Mağusa (Famagusta), which is also home to the main cultural area. The landscape in Gazi Mağusa is relatively flat in comparison with Girne but its golden sandy beaches are superb. This area is likely to suit families with children, as is Girne, and property prices here are slightly less expensive.
The city itself is like an outdoor museum with many historical sites and places of interest, too many to mention, but some of these are:
- Aya Trias Bazilica
- The City Walls
- Kantara Castle
- Many churches, including St George’s Church, St Nicholas Cathedral and St Barnabas Monastery
- The Ruins of Salamis
Guzelyurt (Morphou) is located 30 miles west of Girne and this area is particularly famous for its citrus and olive orchards. Apples, pears, grapefruit, melons and all manner of tasty fruits and vegetables are grown there due to its underground water springs. In fact, Guzelyurt hosts an annual Orange Festival, which is a major event lasting 2 weeks.
Historical places of interest are to be found here, as in all other areas of Northern Cyprus and those of note are:
- The Archaeological Museum
- Guzelyurt Museum
- St Mama’s Monastery
- Vouni Palace
Indeed, Northern Cyprus has a huge amount to offer and apart from the aforementioned areas of interest there are others that warrant a visit, particularly The Karpaz Peninsula and Lefke.