Northern Cyprus travel guide

Northern Cyprus, a captivating Mediterranean gem, awaits with its pristine beaches, ancient ruins, and rich culture. This comprehensive guide provides essential information for planning an unforgettable journey to this enchanting destination.

Planning Your Trip

Embarking on a journey to Northern Cyprus requires meticulous planning to ensure a seamless and enriching travel experience. Begin by identifying the purpose of your visit, whether it’s to bask in the sun-drenched shores, delve into the depths of history amidst ancient ruins, or immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture. Once you have a clear vision, delve into researching the diverse range of attractions and activities that align with your interests. Northern Cyprus offers a plethora of options, from exploring the historical Kyrenia Harbor and Castle to venturing through the ancient city of Salamis or marveling at the architectural splendor of Bellapais Abbey. Consider the duration of your stay and meticulously craft an itinerary that encompasses your desired experiences while allowing for leisure and spontaneity.

Visas and Entry Requirements

Prior to embarking on your journey to Northern Cyprus, it is essential to ensure you possess the necessary travel documents for entry. Citizens of many countries are granted visa-free entry for a specific period, typically up to 90 days. However, it is crucial to verify the specific visa requirements based on your nationality well in advance of your intended travel dates. You can obtain this information from the official website of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus or your local embassy or consulate. To facilitate a smooth entry process, ensure your passport has a minimum validity of six months beyond your intended stay and has sufficient blank pages for entry and exit stamps. Additionally, it is advisable to carry copies of your passport, visa, and any other relevant travel documents separately as a precautionary measure.

Currency and Money Exchange

The official currency of Northern Cyprus is the Turkish Lira (TRY), denoted by the symbol “₺.” It is recommended to exchange your currency for Turkish Lira upon arrival for convenience. Currency exchange services are readily available at Ercan International Airport, banks, and authorized exchange bureaus throughout the country. While major credit cards are widely accepted in larger establishments such as hotels, restaurants, and shops, it is advisable to carry a sufficient amount of local currency for smaller businesses, local markets, and transportation. ATMs are widely available in urban areas, allowing you to withdraw local currency using your debit or credit card. However, it is recommended to inform your bank of your travel plans to avoid any issues with card usage abroad.

Best Time to Visit

Northern Cyprus enjoys a Mediterranean climate characterized by long, hot summers and mild, wet winters. The optimal time to visit for sun-soaked beach holidays and outdoor adventures is during the shoulder seasons, from April to May and September to October. During these months, the weather is pleasantly warm and sunny, with average temperatures ranging from the mid-20s to low 30s Celsius (mid-70s to high 80s Fahrenheit). The sea is also invitingly warm for swimming and water sports. For those seeking cultural exploration and historical immersion, spring and autumn offer pleasant temperatures for sightseeing and exploring ancient ruins without the scorching summer heat. July and August are the peak summer months, attracting a surge of tourists and bringing scorching temperatures, often exceeding 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit). While this period offers ample sunshine for beach lovers, it is advisable to take necessary precautions against the intense heat.

Getting There and Around

The primary gateway to Northern Cyprus is Ercan International Airport (ECN), located near the capital city of Lefkoşa (Nicosia). Numerous airlines operate flights to Ercan from major cities in Turkey, as well as direct flights from select destinations in Europe and the Middle East. Upon arrival at Ercan Airport, you’ll find convenient transportation options to reach your destination. Taxis are readily available outside the terminal, offering a comfortable and efficient mode of transfer, particularly for those with luggage. Car rentals are another popular option, allowing for greater flexibility in exploring the island at your own pace. Reputable car rental agencies have offices at the airport, making it convenient to pick up and drop off your vehicle. If you prefer public transportation, there are regular bus services connecting Ercan Airport with major cities and towns across Northern Cyprus. Buses are a cost-effective way to travel, providing an opportunity to interact with locals and witness the scenic countryside.


Northern Cyprus offers a diverse range of accommodation options to suit every taste and budget, from luxurious resorts to cozy guesthouses.

Hotels and Resorts

Northern Cyprus boasts an impressive selection of hotels and resorts that cater to a wide range of preferences and budgets. Along the pristine coastline, you’ll find an array of luxurious beachfront resorts, many of which feature private beaches, shimmering swimming pools, and world-class amenities, such as spas, fitness centers, and multiple dining options. These resorts offer a haven of relaxation and indulgence, allowing guests to unwind in opulent surroundings while enjoying breathtaking sea views. In the heart of bustling cities like Kyrenia and Famagusta, boutique hotels provide a more intimate and stylish experience. Often housed in beautifully restored historic buildings, these hotels exude charm and character, offering personalized service and unique architectural details. For travelers seeking a more tranquil escape, there are serene hotels nestled in the picturesque countryside, surrounded by rolling hills, olive groves, and vineyards. These hotels offer a peaceful retreat, allowing guests to reconnect with nature and enjoy the tranquility of the Cypriot countryside.

Apartments and Villas

For those seeking a home-away-from-home experience with greater flexibility and independence, Northern Cyprus offers an array of apartments and villas available for rent. Apartments provide a comfortable and convenient option for both short-term and long-term stays, offering fully equipped kitchens, spacious living areas, and often access to communal amenities such as swimming pools and gardens. Located in coastal towns and villages, many apartments boast stunning sea views, allowing you to wake up to the soothing sound of waves crashing on the shore. Villas, on the other hand, offer a more exclusive and private experience, featuring spacious accommodations, private gardens, and often private swimming pools. Ranging from cozy two-bedroom villas to sprawling estates, there are options to accommodate families, groups of friends, or those seeking a romantic getaway. Whether you’re planning a relaxing family holiday, a fun-filled trip with friends, or a romantic escape, apartments and villas in Northern Cyprus provide a comfortable and homely base from which to explore the island at your leisure.

Budget-Friendly Options

Northern Cyprus offers a range of budget-friendly accommodation options for travelers seeking affordability without compromising on comfort or convenience. Guesthouses, often family-run, provide a warm and welcoming atmosphere, offering simple yet comfortable rooms at affordable rates. Many guesthouses serve a traditional Cypriot breakfast, allowing you to start your day with local flavors. Hostels, popular among backpackers and solo travelers, provide a social and budget-conscious option. Dormitory-style rooms offer the opportunity to meet fellow travelers, while private rooms are also available for those seeking more privacy. Many hostels organize social events and excursions, providing opportunities to explore the island and connect with other adventurers. For a more immersive cultural experience, consider staying in a village homestay. This unique form of accommodation allows you to live with a local family, sharing meals, stories, and gaining insights into the authentic Cypriot way of life.

Top Attractions

Northern Cyprus is brimming with captivating attractions that showcase the island’s rich history, natural beauty, and cultural heritage.

Kyrenia Harbor and Castle

Nestled on the northern coast of Cyprus, Kyrenia Harbor is a picturesque blend of ancient history and modern vibrancy. The harbor, with its iconic horseshoe shape, has been a strategic trading port for centuries, attracting seafarers and merchants from across the Mediterranean. Stroll along the harbor’s edge, lined with charming cafes, restaurants, and shops, and soak in the lively atmosphere. Towering above the harbor is the majestic Kyrenia Castle, a formidable fortress that has stood guard over the town for over six centuries. Explore the castle’s ramparts, dungeons, and chambers, and delve into its captivating past, marked by Byzantine emperors, Crusader knights, and Ottoman rulers. Don’t miss the fascinating Shipwreck Museum, housed within the castle walls, which displays the remains of a 4th-century BC Greek trading vessel, offering a glimpse into ancient seafaring. As the sun begins to set, find a table at one of the harborside restaurants and savor a delicious meal while watching the fishing boats bobbing gently on the water, their twinkling lights reflecting on the harbor’s surface.

Ancient Salamis

Journey back in time at the sprawling ruins of Ancient Salamis, once a grand city and a testament to Cyprus’s rich historical tapestry. Located near Famagusta, Salamis was founded in the 11th century BC and rose to become one of the most important cities in the eastern Mediterranean. Wander through the remnants of this once-great metropolis, marveling at the well-preserved ruins of Roman baths, grand basilicas, a colossal amphitheater, and intricate mosaics. Imagine the bustling city that once stood here, as you stroll through the agora, the heart of ancient commerce and social life. Feel the weight of history as you explore the Gymnasium, a vast complex dedicated to physical and intellectual pursuits, and the Theater, which once hosted grand performances and gladiatorial contests. As you wander amidst these ancient stones, you’ll be transported back to a time of emperors and gladiators, philosophers and poets, and gain a profound appreciation for the enduring legacy of Cyprus’s ancient past.

Bellapais Abbey

Perched serenely on a mountainside overlooking the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea, Bellapais Abbey is an architectural masterpiece that evokes a sense of timeless beauty and tranquility. Founded in the 12th century by Augustinian canons fleeing the fall of Jerusalem, the abbey’s name, a derivation of the French “Abbaye de la Belle Paix” (Abbey of Beautiful Peace), perfectly captures its enchanting ambiance. Wander through the abbey’s haunting ruins, marveling at the intricate Gothic arches, soaring pillars, and delicate stained-glass windows that have withstood the test of time. Step inside the abbey’s refectory, where monks once gathered for meals, and imagine the echoes of their chants resonating through the hallowed halls. Ascend the worn stone steps to the abbey’s cloisters, a place of peaceful contemplation, and soak in the panoramic views of the coastline below, where the azure waters meet the sky in a seamless blend of colors.

St. Hilarion Castle

Perched high upon a rugged mountain peak in the Kyrenia Range, St. Hilarion Castle stands as a testament to the strategic brilliance of Byzantine military architecture. This imposing fortress, shrouded in legends and lore, is said to have inspired Walt Disney’s iconic castle in the animated classic “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Ascend the winding pathways that snake their way up the mountainside, passing through fortified gates and crumbling ramparts, each turn revealing breathtaking vistas of the coastline below. Explore the castle’s various levels, from the lower ward, where soldiers were once stationed, to the middle ward, home to the royal apartments, and finally to the upper ward, where you’ll find the ruins of a church dedicated to St. Hilarion, a hermit who sought refuge in these mountains in the 4th century. Stand atop the castle’s highest point, the Queen’s Window, and soak in the panoramic views that stretch as far as the eye can see, encompassing the azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea, the rolling hills of the Kyrenia Range, and the sprawling plains below.

Famagusta (Gazimağusa)

Step back in time in Famagusta, a city steeped in history and renowned for its well-preserved Venetian walls, which encircle a captivating blend of ancient ruins, medieval churches, and Ottoman-era mosques. Begin your exploration at the Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque, formerly the grand Cathedral of St. Nicholas, a stunning example of Gothic architecture that dates back to the 14th century. Wander through the labyrinthine streets of the old city, where time seems to stand still, and discover hidden courtyards, bustling bazaars, and traditional coffeehouses. Visit the Othello Tower, a citadel steeped in Shakespearean lore, and imagine the tragic events that unfolded within its walls. Venture outside the city walls to explore the haunting ghost town of Varosha, a once-thriving resort abandoned during the conflict in 1974, its empty buildings and deserted streets frozen in time. For a change of pace, head to the golden sands of Glapsides Beach, known for its shallow waters and family-friendly atmosphere, or escape to the tranquility of Silver Beach, where you can relax under the warm Mediterranean sun.

Nicosia (Lefkoşa)

Nicosia, the last divided capital city in the world, offers a unique and poignant glimpse into the island’s complex history. Begin your exploration in the southern part of the city, home to the Cyprus Museum, a treasure trove of archaeological artifacts that span millennia, from Neolithic figurines to Roman mosaics. Cross the Green Line, a UN-controlled buffer zone that divides the city, and enter North Nicosia, where you’ll find a blend of Ottoman-era mosques, traditional Turkish coffeehouses, and bustling bazaars. Visit the Selimiye Mosque, formerly the grand Cathedral of St. Sophia, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture that dates back to the 13th century. Its towering minarets, intricate stained-glass windows, and soaring ceilings offer a glimpse into the city’s rich cultural heritage. Stroll along Ledra Street, a pedestrianized shopping street that straddles the Green Line, offering a unique opportunity to experience both sides of the city.

Karpaz Peninsula

Escape to the unspoiled beauty of the Karpaz Peninsula, a pristine stretch of coastline renowned for its rugged cliffs, secluded beaches, and abundant wildlife. Embark on a scenic drive along the peninsula’s winding roads, where the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea meet the rugged coastline in a breathtaking display of natural splendor. Stop at the Apostolos Andreas Monastery, a significant pilgrimage site for both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, and marvel at its Byzantine frescoes and tranquil ambiance. Continue your journey to the Karpaz National Park, a sanctuary for wild donkeys, where you can observe these gentle creatures roaming freely in their natural habitat. Relax on the golden sands of Golden Beach, one of the longest and most pristine beaches in Cyprus, and take a refreshing dip in the crystal-clear waters. As the sun begins to set, find a secluded spot along the coast and witness a spectacular display of colors as the sky transforms into a canvas of vibrant hues.

Beaches and Water Activities

Northern Cyprus is a beach lover’s paradise, boasting a stunning coastline adorned with golden sands, secluded coves, and crystal-clear turquoise waters. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or a blend of both, the island offers a diverse range of beaches and water activities to satisfy every desire. For those seeking tranquil escape, head to the pristine shores of Alagadi Turtle Beach, a protected nesting ground for endangered loggerhead and green turtles. Witness the magic of nature as these magnificent creatures come ashore to lay their eggs under the moonlight. For a more lively atmosphere, Escape Beach Club, nestled along the western coast, offers a vibrant ambiance with music, cocktails, and plenty of opportunities for sunbathing and socializing. Indulge in thrilling water sports, such as jet skiing, windsurfing, and parasailing, or embark on a scenic boat trip to explore hidden coves and secluded beaches. Dive into a world of underwater wonders with a scuba diving or snorkeling adventure.

Food and Drink

Northern Cypriot cuisine is a delightful fusion of Turkish, Greek, and Middle Eastern flavors, offering a tantalizing array of dishes that will tantalize your taste buds. From fresh-caught seafood to succulent kebabs, aromatic stews to delectable pastries, the island’s culinary scene is a testament to its rich history and cultural influences. Begin your culinary journey with a traditional meze, a selection of small hot and cold dishes designed to be shared, offering a delightful sampling of local delicacies. Indulge in the rich flavors of “kleftiko,” a slow-cooked lamb dish traditionally prepared in clay ovens, or savor the melt-in-your-mouth tenderness of “şeftali kebab,” a skewered ground meat dish named for its resemblance to a peach. Seafood lovers will delight in the abundance of fresh catches, from grilled sea bass drizzled with lemon and olive oil to calamari served with a side of tangy tarator sauce. No meal in Northern Cyprus is complete without a taste of the local dessert. Complement your culinary adventure with a glass of locally produced wine. Whether you’re dining at a seaside taverna, a bustling restaurant, or a charming café, the food and drink of Northern Cyprus will leave you with a lasting impression.

Culture and History

Northern Cyprus is an island steeped in history, shaped by a tapestry of civilizations that have left their mark on its culture, architecture, and way of life. From ancient empires to medieval kingdoms, the island’s past is interwoven with tales of conquest, trade, and cultural exchange, creating a unique blend of influences that can be witnessed today. Explore the island’s ancient ruins, such as the sprawling city of Salamis, a testament to Roman grandeur, or the majestic St. Hilarion Castle, a Byzantine fortress perched high upon a mountain peak. Immerse yourself in the island’s rich cultural heritage by attending a traditional Cypriot night, where you can experience the vibrancy of folk dances, music, and cuisine. Engage with the locals, renowned for their warm hospitality, and gain a deeper understanding of their customs and traditions. Northern Cyprus is a land where ancient history and modern life intertwine, offering a captivating journey of discovery for those seeking to delve into the heart of this Mediterranean gem.

Shopping and Nightlife

Northern Cyprus offers a diverse range of shopping experiences, from bustling bazaars to modern shopping malls, where you can find unique souvenirs, local handicrafts, and international brands. For an authentic taste of Cypriot culture, immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of the traditional markets, where you can haggle for spices, textiles, and handcrafted jewelry. Discover unique souvenirs, such as hand-woven carpets, intricately painted ceramics, and traditional Cypriot lace, to remind you of your journey. For a more contemporary shopping experience, head to the modern shopping malls found in the larger cities, where you can browse international brands, designer boutiques, and department stores. As the sun sets, Northern Cyprus comes alive with a vibrant nightlife scene, offering a diverse range of entertainment options to suit every taste. For a taste of local culture, seek out a traditional taverna, where you can enjoy live music and dance along to the rhythm of Cypriot folk songs. Whether you’re seeking a relaxing evening or a night of revelry, Northern Cyprus offers a diverse range of options to make your evenings memorable.

Getting Around

Navigating Northern Cyprus is relatively easy, with various transportation options available to suit your preferences and itinerary. Renting a car is a popular choice for independent travelers, providing the flexibility to explore the island at your own pace and discover hidden gems off the beaten path. However, driving is on the left-hand side of the road, which may take some getting used to for those accustomed to driving on the right. Taxis are widely available, particularly in cities and towns, offering a convenient mode of transport for shorter distances. Be sure to agree on a fare with the driver beforehand to avoid any misunderstandings. For a budget-friendly option, consider utilizing the local bus network, which connects major cities and towns. Buses are generally reliable and offer an opportunity to interact with locals and observe daily life in Northern Cyprus. For a more leisurely way to explore coastal areas, consider renting a bicycle and enjoy the scenery at your own pace. With its well-maintained roads, cycling is a popular activity in Northern Cyprus, particularly during the cooler months.

Health and Safety

Northern Cyprus is generally a safe destination for travelers, with a low crime rate and a welcoming local population. However, it is always advisable to exercise caution and common sense to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. Before you travel, it is recommended to consult with your healthcare provider regarding any necessary vaccinations or health precautions. Ensure you have comprehensive travel insurance that covers medical expenses, repatriation, and any potential unforeseen circumstances. When it comes to personal safety, be mindful of your belongings, especially in crowded areas or tourist hotspots. Avoid displaying large amounts of cash and keep valuables secure. It is always advisable to stay informed about local news and weather conditions, particularly during the summer months when temperatures can soar. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and avoid prolonged exposure to the sun during peak hours. Northern Cyprus has a good standard of healthcare, with both public and private hospitals available. In case of an emergency, dial 112 for the police, ambulance, or fire services. By taking necessary precautions and staying informed, you can enjoy a safe and healthy trip to Northern Cyprus.


The official language of Northern Cyprus is Turkish, spoken by the majority of the population. However, due to the island’s history and the presence of a significant tourist industry, English is widely spoken, particularly in tourist areas, hotels, restaurants, and shops. While it is always appreciated to attempt a few basic Turkish phrases, you will generally find that communication in English is readily available. If you are venturing off the beaten path or interacting with locals in more rural areas, it is helpful to have a translation app or phrasebook handy to facilitate communication. Learning a few basic Turkish greetings, such as “Merhaba” (Hello) and “Teşekkür ederim” (Thank you), can go a long way in establishing rapport with locals. The warmth and hospitality of the Cypriot people will ensure that even with a language barrier, you will feel welcomed and supported throughout your journey.

Useful Tips

To ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip to Northern Cyprus, here are some useful tips to keep in mind:

• Currency: The official currency is the Turkish Lira (TRY). It’s advisable to exchange currency upon arrival or withdraw local currency from ATMs.

• Electrical Outlets: Northern Cyprus uses the European two-pin plug system, with a voltage of 240V.

• Tipping: Tipping is customary in restaurants and cafes, generally around 10% of the bill.

• Dress Code: Northern Cyprus is a predominantly Muslim country, and while casual attire is acceptable in most places, it’s respectful to dress modestly when visiting religious sites.

• Water: It’s generally safe to drink tap water in Northern Cyprus. However, bottled water is readily available.

• Bargaining: Bargaining is common practice in markets and bazaars, so don’t be afraid to haggle for a better price.

• Sun Protection: The sun can be intense, especially during the summer months. Pack sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses for protection.

• Respect Local Customs: As with any destination, it’s essential to respect local customs and traditions. Dress modestly when visiting religious sites, and be mindful of noise levels, particularly during prayer times.

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