Excellent customer service and lots of information from Leanne at Anatolian Sky Holidays, and the cost, well within budget, made the decision easy to go to North Cyprus. She recommended the family owned Pia Bella Hotel, because of its reputation and location.
First morning after a good breakfast and a look around its lovely gardens and pool areas, we knew it was the right choice.
We took a pleasant stroll to Kyrenia harbour where the imposing Girne Castle guards its entrance. Moored are local craft ranging from fishing boats to masted sailing vessels. Old warehouses converted into restaurants retain the character and charm of yesteryear.
Behind it is a labyrinth of cobbled streets offering keen prices from local shops.
An early morning 25 minute drive in a dolmus (mini bus) costing only £1 took us to Lapta, which is a typical Turkish Cypriot village, where bougainvillea cascades down walls, and plants and bushes give off exotic aromas.
Back at the harbour for lunch, we had feta cheese salad plus tasty side dishes at under £5 including local beer.
Conveniently located in the harbour is the North Cyprus tourist office, whose staff helped us enormously with information.
We then visited Girne Castle which proved most interesting particularly the incredible 2,300 year old shipwreck that when discovered, revealed a cargo of 92,000 almonds and hundreds of vessels of wine, all intact.
After two days on land, we put to sea, joining Skipper Mahir on Sabrina 11 a sleek sailing boat, and headed for Merit Chrystal Bay, this lived up to its name as swimming off the boat provided under water views that were breathtaking. Lunch onboard was fresh fish, potatoes in mustard sauce accompanied with an array of salads – delicious. This six hour trip was a sheer delight and great value for money.
Next morning we took an excursion to the 12th century Bellapais Abbey and surrounding village. Situated nestling into the Five Finger Mountains, you are at once captivated by its serenity and Gothic architecture.
In the evenings we were spoilt for choice, enjoying meals at restaurants around the harbour costing an average of just £7pp, we watched the sun set behind the masts, and when lit up at night, the harbour became enchanting.
Karpaz is the region on the peninsula which we decided to explore. First stop Bogaz, a picturesque fishing village, where we sampled Turkish coffee. Then to an old olive mill where we watched the original process of pressing olives before sampling their range.
Lunch at a farm in the mountains with traditional mezes served, (Turkish Cypriot hors’doeuvres) then lamb dishes, simply scrumptious.
Journeying on to the pristine Golden Beach, home to the nesting turtles.
A short drive to the National Park where we were greeted by the protected wild donkeys, who enthusiastically ate the apples and the cucumber we brought them.
Final stop, St. Andrews Monastery located on the peninsula’s most eastern part, a multi faith place of pilgrimage where it is said the Saint brought healing waters which you can still sample from the well. Karpaz with its characteristic unspoilt villages and natural beauty, leaves indelible memories, a delight to visit.
The following morning we travelled to Nicosia by local bus, a pleasant journey costing just over £1. Inside the old walls is the area of Buyuk- Han with small streets that are quietly vibrant, and shop prices that don’t dent your spending money. Churches, Mosques, Bazaars and The Great Inn, a 16TH century watering hole add to the quaintness.
Sightseeing in North Cyprus, does not take up full days, allowing time to relax and enjoy the sunshine in the hotel’s garden or nearby beaches.
That evening we visited Niazi’s Restaurant, owner Ahmet Aydeniz told us that his father had started the business 65years ago and created a speciality, - ‘the full kebab’ First the mezes kept coming, then it was the kebabs, what a feast, absolutely delicious.
We joined our holiday rep Kerem again, for an excursion to Famagusta. After a scenic mountain drive we arrived at St. Barnabas Church and Icon Museum where we gazed in awe at the art in display.
Lunch at the edge of the nearby beach was followed by free time spent in Famagusta, enjoying its sights and delights.
That evening back in Kyrenia harbour we dined at the Sandal Fish Restaurant where we ate sea bream and sea bass at a very reasonable price.
The final tour was to St. Hilarion Castle, built into the mountain and around 2200 ft above sea level. This is the place where Richard the Lion Heart got engaged in 1191 AD.
North Cyprus is steeped in history; its cultures and traditions are very much in existence, and hospitality is second nature to its people. Beaches are beautiful, food delicious and all value for money.