Since the troubles of the 1970s, the northern part of Cyprus has become one of those undiscovered holiday destinations...
However, with direct flights opening up and a renewed interest in finding peace between the Turkish north and the Greek south of the island country, many travellers are rediscovering this gem in the Mediterranean.
Nicosia - Lefkosa to residents - is the capital of Northern Cyprus and the only city in the world divided between two states: Turkey to the north and Greece to the south. The medieval old town, with evidence of the Ottoman, Greek and Roman civilisations that have occupied it at various times, is a great location for sightseeing, shopping and sampling the local Mediterranean cuisine in friendly tavernas and cafes.
The coastal resorts of Kyrenia and Famagusta are within easy reach of Nicosia. Kyrenia Harbour is a particularly lovely place to spend the evening; with some fabulous bars and restaurants, it's said to be one of the most idyllic spots in Cyprus. With the stunning pine-clad Kyrenia Mountains as a backdrop and the tranquil azure waters of the Mediterranean glistening in the sunlight, Kyrenia is renowned for its sublime coastline and uncrowded beaches.
East to Famagusta: if crystal clear waters and endless sandy beaches are your idea of heaven, then you will find it here. Historians will also enjoy this city, which has some of the best examples of medieval architecture in the eastern Med.
A must see site in Northern Cyprus is the extraordinary gothic cathedral of Bellapais, dating to 1198. In its shade is the legendary Tree of Idleness, about which it's said that if you sit under it you will become so relaxed and lethargic you will be unable to work.
Worth the drive is the magnificent Karpaz Peninsula, a wild and beautiful spot that lures cyclists, hikers and nature lovers in general. Other island highlights include the remains of a 6th century church, Ayias Trias, in Sipahi, with its incredible mosaic basilica floor; the village of Iskele, famous for its pomegranates and two beautiful historic churches adorned with brightly coloured frescoes; and the charming town of Guzelyurt, renowned for its annual Orange festival and the ever present heady scent of the surrounding citrus groves.
Flights to Cyprus from the UK operate for legal reasons via Turkey and take around six hours...
Flights arrive into Ercan International Airport (ECN), referred to as Lefkosa by some companies. Pegasus and Turkish Airlines fly from the UK via Istanbul, departing from London Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick as well as Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh. Sometimes you will also be able to buy a flight on a charter plane operated by a package holiday company.
Alternatively, you can fly into the airports of Larnaca and Paphos, in the Republic of Cyprus, and make the journey overland across the border. Direct flights from all over the UK take around four hours.
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Flying into Ercan Airport from the Turkish mainland, there are several ways of getting from the airport to your holiday destination...
From the airport, there are regular shuttle bus services to Kyrenia, Nicosia, Famagusta, Guzelyurt and Lefke. Buses are by far the cheapest means of transport on the island, costing around seven to 12 Turkish lira for a single journey (£2-£3.50).
Taxis are also in good supply, a journey from the airport to Nicosia taking about 15 minutes and costing around 25 Turkish lira. Famagusta and Kyrenia are half an hour away and should cost around 30 Turkish lira.
Alternatively, car hire options at the airport are plentiful and allow you flexibility to discover the island at will.
Several unspoiled resorts on the island offer a quiet and relaxing break...
The main resorts in North Cyprus are Famagusta, Kyrenia and Catalkoy, all with excellent beaches and a choice of accommodation from small and friendly local hotels through to large resorts. Kyrenia has a wonderful harbour side setting, while Famagusta stands out for its old town with medieval fortified walls.
You can also stay inland in picturesque villages such as Lapta, with mountain views and access to the beaches for sunbathing and diving.