Cornucopia’s travel guide

Northern Cyprus


The less built-up, Turkish speaking northern part of the island is well described in In a Contested Realm, Allan Langdale’s 2012 guide to its history and archaeology. The comparatively flat, fertile agricultural land extends in a long finger pointing northeastwards above the bay of Famagusta and ancient Salamis, once the island’s principal city. Famagusta (Greek: Ammochostos; Turkish: Gazimağusa) has well preserved Venetian fortifications, and the Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque, like the Selimiye Mosque in Nicosia, is built into a Gothic cathedral, instant evidence of the competing cultures. Kyrenia (Girne) is the tourist capital of the coast with a fine waterfront castle dating from Byzantine times, and there are three other Byzantine castles in the surroundingn hills.  The island’s largest han, today a craft centre, was built in Nicosia immediately after the Ottomans arrived, designed for merchants from Alanya and modelled on the Koza Han in Bursa. As the capital of both northern Cyprus and the Greek-speaking Republic of Cyprus, Nicosia is divided in half.  

As a trading hub and source of copper ore, the eastern Mediteranean's largest island is rich in Byzantine art and has been attracting tourists, traders and invaders since the birth of Aphrodite. It was part of the Byzantine Empire from AD395, and its churches are renowned. After falling under Latin rule following Arab attacks, it was taken by the Ottomans in 1570 who had it until 1870 when the British stepped in, finally annexing it in 1914. Some icons and other church artworks that disappeared after the Turkish arrival in 1974 have recently been found and returned. 

What you will see

Northern Cyprus The less built-up, Turkish speaking northern part of the island is well described in In a Contested Realm, Allan Langdale’s 2012 guide to its history and archaeology. The comparatively flat, fertile agricultural land extends in a long finger pointing northeastwards above the bay of Famagusta and ancient Salamis, once the island’s principal city. Famagusta (Greek: Ammochostos; Turkish: Gazimağusa) has well preserved Venetian fortifications, and the Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque, like the Selimiye Mosque in Nicosia, is built into a Gothic cathedral, instant evidence of the competing cultures. The island’s largest han was built in Nicosia immediately after the Ottomans arrived, designed for merchants from Alanya and modelled on the Koza Han in Bursa. Today it is a craft centre.

Cyprus Around two-thirds of the island remain the de facto Republic of Cyprus, and here can be seen the oldest settlement, at Choirokoitia, dating from around 6,800BC and a Unesco site. The Troodos mountains that dominate the southwest are celebrated for their Byzantine art, which enriches the Kykkos and St John Lampadistis monasteries as well as a number of churches. An archaeological park and the Roman Governor’s Palace at Paphos – European Capital of Culture in 2017 – are signs of the ancient city’s importance. Also in the southwest is Kourion where the classical theatre with sea views makes a spectacular venue for music and theatre. One of Islam’s most important shrines, the Hala Sultan Tekke, is by the Larnaca Salt Lake in the southeast.

Getting there

Airlines from Turkey use Ercan (Lefkosa) Internatiponal Airport east of Nicosia. Ferries run between Girne/Kyrenia and Alanya, and Famagusta/Gazimağusa and Mersin. The main airport in the Republic of Cyprus is just outside Larnaca.