Travel websites and agencies show you only information related to south Cyprus. Unless you know about the situation of the country, you might miss the many hidden gems in the less discovered North. The official Cyprus lies in the south Greek-speaking part. The unofficial Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey, is called Northern Cyprus or “Turkish-occupied territory.”
I bet many of you dream of vacationing in Turkey and Greece. But if you have little time, why not try Cyprus? You’ll get the best of both worlds.
This itinerary assumes you fly into Larnaca airport with a rental car.
Day 1: Sleep in Larnaca or Limasol
- Drive to the Salt lake (right by the airport) and catch the flamingos.
- Visit Hala Sultan Teke mosque (at the lake), said to be the fourth most important moques after the Masjid Al-Haram in Mecca (Saudi Arabia) , Prophet’s mosque in Medina (Syria) and Masjid Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem (Isarel).
- Walk along the promenade.
- Quick visit Limasol or Agia Napa for night life.
- Have Kebab at small restaurant. (End of the promenade, turn right and walk down a couple of block).
Day 2: Sleep in Larnaca or Limasol
- Pato Leftkara and buy traditional lace as souvenir.
- Visit monastery of St. Minas. Buy homemade marmalade, honey, pickles from the nuns or Orthodox icons from a small souvenir shop.
- Stroll the quiet streets of Kato Drys. Visit the Museum Garden Kamara House to see their own collections of items depicting life in the past. There is a small room showcasing traditional Lefkara lace made by their grandmothers and mothers. Ask to speak with owners Jartovos and his wife. Maybe you can have tea with them. Buy their homemade Cyprus traditional sweet wine Commandaria, honey, olive oil, dried fig, syrup.
Day 3: Sleep in north or south Nicosia
- Walk along the border divider on the south side and observe the abandoned buildings, wall graffiti and men working in their metal workshops.
- Eat Armenian pizza (fresh, healthy and filling) at Ledra street.
- Experience the amusing border crossing on foot.
- Ask Greek-Cypriot soldiers and random men on how to get to the ‘other’ side and notice their responses.
- Enter the serene Selimiye Mosque to enjoy a moment of peace.
- Sit at the Great Inn (Büyük Han) to have wine and listen to music.
- In the evening, have a drink at Nargile shisha bar.
Day 4: Sleep in north Nicosia. In the winter, St. Hilarion castle and the Bellapais abbey closed at 4, so plan your time accordingly.
- Make your way up the steep slope to St. Hilarion castle (10 km from Nicosia on the way to Kyrenia). It is said to be an inspiration for Walt Disney’s castle in Sleeping Beauty. You will drive through meandering, mountainous road to the car park, passing ‘secret’ Turkish military quarter. Get fit and walk 700 steps up to the top of the castle and enjoy the amazing view from above, watching down to the road you have come up and the Kyrenia harbor you will soon arrive.
- Walk along the Kyrenia harbor, visit the castle and an icon museum.
- Have lunch at the harbor.
- Bellapais Abbey (Beylerbeyi in Turkish), monastery of peace, a Gothic structure with beautiful Gothic arches and palm-vaulting and Gothic carvings. A friend says it is the most romantic spot in the evening.
Day 5: Sleep in north or south Nicosia.
- Start early, drive along the unbeaten (tourist) path along the north coast to Karpas peninsula, passing through miles of unspoiled landscape of villages, fishing harbors, old churches, deserted and filthy beaches and a colony of protected wild donkeys. You might find yourself accidentally go through the really unbeaten path on a new road, still under construction and not opened to vehicle. You find yourself led by a Turkish driver, waving hello to every construction workers you met, bouncing on dirt road and glimpses of the water just right next to you.
- Have lunch at Turtle beach.
- On the way back to Nicosia, see Famagusta old cities.
Day 6: Sleep in Troodos mountain or Polis-Chrysochous
- Make a brief stop at Kakopetria village and walk the cobblestone streets, see Orthodox monk socializing with village men and learn about wine making in a tiny village museum.
- Continue to Pato Platres and hike the Caledonia water fall or others in the village.
- Have lunch at Psilo Dentro trout farm in Platres (closed in winter)
- If the day is still young, make your way to Omodhos, the wine region, church with piece of crosses.
- Drive to Polis via Kykko Monastery (50 km) -> Starvos tis Psokas (26)-> Lyssos village (20km) -> Pentahousa (3 km) -> Polis. (Orange trees lined up the last leg of the drive. Get a good doze of vitamin C for the trip.)
Day 7 (sleep in Paphos, Limasol or Larnaca)
- Have an easy day Polis. Stroll the quite simple square and have fish meze for lunch.
- Visit Aphrodite bath (9 km).
- Arrive in Kato Paphos.
* Bring a Turkish map when driving in the North. Greek and Roman alphabet map won’t help. This drive to Karpas penisula should take only 3 hours, but we did it for 5 because we got lost with the Greek map.
* The breath-taking landscape from Troodos mountain to Polis is one of the highlights of the trip. However, you should dedicate half a day for this activity. In the winter, start early to stop and visit many interesting villages and sites along the route. Avoid starting the route during the evening. The road becomes quite steep, narrow and curvy (sometimes almost 180 degrees) allows you to do only 25 km/hour.
- Low cost flights from easyJet, Ryanair, Blueair, Flypgs operate from Larnaca and Paphos international airports, the latter caters mostly to UK flights.
- Cyprus Intercity buses connecting Nicosia, Larnaca, Limasol, Paphos, Lamagusta for only €1.5 to 2.5 per single ride. (The site is in Greek only. Use Google translate to read it in English.)
- Cyprus is one of the rare European countries left where you can experience the Mediterranean rubber time. Forget to check for timetable as buses usually don’t go on schedule. There are buses going from the city center to the airport in Larnaca, but they are very unreliable; don’t depend on it. the manager at a hotel told me that he called the bus company and asked for schedule to make available for guests, and the company told him ‘we don’t know.’
- Most tourist sites are scattered outside of the city center, and public transportation isn’t good, you’ll see more of the country if you have a car or hitchhike.
- Cyprus probably has the cheapest car rental rate in Europe. If you travel in pairs or in a group of 3, 4, you should definitely make use of it. (Thanks to Cyprus, I came home and swore from now on I would never criticize the people who drive, ever again. This is the first country where I traveled with a car and ended up visiting many more places then originally planned. It was awesome.)
- Yes, you can bring a rental car from the south to the north and only need to buy the extra insurance at the border.
- No, you can not bring a rental car from the north to the south.
Once you eat grilled Kebabs here, you wouldn’t want to eat the Donner kebabs when you return to your home town.
- Hostel: from €8.5 / $12 per bed. Hostels are not popular in Cyprus, perhaps due to the country’s resort oriented tourism. Kyrenia is the only city with hostels.
- Budget hotel (vary from cities): €20 per room (double) in Larnaca, €16 per person (double) in Kyrenia. Prices go up in Pafos and Nicosia.
- Single bus ride between major cities in Southern Cyprus : €1.5 to 2.5
- 7-day car rental: €10/day + € 64 for gas + €20 (credit card fee) at Avis. (You pay € 64 even if you bring a full tank back. So fill up as little as possible during the last days)
- Car insurance when bring in a rental car from South Cyprus to Northern Cyprus: €20 (3 day), € 35 (one month)
- Grilled Kebab (mixed, chicken, pork,…): € 5-6 (It’s so big and with so much meat, even men are full. Ladies on diet, watch out!)
- Beer: €2.5
- Fish meze: from €10
- Carefour supermarket has decent prices for own catering.