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Summary

North Cyprus walking holiday exploring authentic villages and crusader castles

No of Nights: 5

Stay: Hotel

Grade: Easy-Moderate

Information

North Cyprus is a walker’s paradise with splendid ridge walks and stunning panoramic views. Visit authentic villages, crusader castles, ancient monasteries and an unspoilt turtle beach. From your 4-star boutique hotel in Bellapais just above Kyrenia, you'll explore a variety of picturesque landscapes, in spring awash with colourful wild flowers, including 43 species of orchid.

Enjoy

  • relaxed walking in the most stunning landscapes in North Cyprus
  • soaking up the sun as you walk along mountain ridges. Enjoy views stretching as far as The Troodos mountains in the south, the Turkish coastline to the north
  • exploring spectacular crusader castles, ancient monasteries and byzantine churches
  • discovering the historical and cultural legacy of North Cyprus, from authentic villages to the divided city of Lefkosa (Nicosia)
  • indulging in all the creature comforts of a small, elegant, award-winning boutique hotel. Dining at the hotel’s renowned ‘slow food’ restaurant
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Itinerary

Day One

Taxi transfer (included) to Bellapais, near Kyrenia, and your hotel (approximately 1.5 hours).

Day Two

Bellapais & Ozankoy  (Easy-Moderate, 2.5-4.2 miles/4.4-7km )

A scenic circuit around the impressive remains of Bellapais Abbey, one of the treasures of North Cyprus, with views throughout. This short walk allows you time at the end to explore the Abbey and the village of Laurence Durrell fame and to walk some of the paths Durrell explored in Bitter Lemons. There is an optional extra loop to the neighbouring village of Ozankoy. This involves an overall height gain of 800 ft/245m. Omitting the Ozankoy circuit, you will reduce the length by around 1 mile and also omit the steep but atmospheric climb back up the crusader path. The views from the crusader path are breathtaking, more so as you look back at your route and see on the skyline the distant sea and, depending on the weather conditions, the Turkish coast

Day Three

The ‘Five Finger’ Mountain and its Monasteries  (Easy-Moderate with shorter option, 5-8 miles/8-12.8 km)

A walk in the Five Finger mountains on broad forest tracks and ridges with panoramic views to the south and north of the Besparmak mountain range. Loverʼs Leapʼ provides the ultimate panorama across the north coast while, to the south, the views over the Meseora Plain are equally impressive. Wandering through scented pine forests, a wealth of flowers at your feet, youʼll find the tiny pink Anatolian Orchid (Orchis anatolica) which abounds in these woods in March and April. The ruined monastery, Viran Kilisie (Panayia Plataniotissa), hidden deep in a south-facing valley, provides a superb setting for your picnic. After contouring the hillside, gently descend to the gutted ruins and isolation of Sourp Magar Monastery which nestles in the beauty and silence of the mountains.

Day Four

Buffavento Castle & Kyrenia  (Easy-Moderate, 4-9 miles/6.4-14.4 km)

A half day walk starting on the south side of the mountains at the wonderfully-sited Panayia Absinthiotissa monastery. Continue to Buffavento Crusader Castle where you can climb to the summit. This is the highest of the three Crusader Castles of North Cyprus. There follows a stunning walk along the ridge road, a ‘there and back’ walk as far as you wish before returning to your car. We recommend the Turkish Buffavento restaurant for a late lunch. Back to Kyrenia for a tour of its beautiful port. Visit the fine 9C Byzantine castle with its subsequent Lusignan and Venetian additions; also well worth visiting is the excellent Shipwreck Museum exhibiting a cargo ship wrecked in the 4C BC (complete with its cargo of almonds and wine amphorae).

Day Five

Kantara : (Easy-Moderate, 4-5.5 miles/5.4-8.5 km)

Today you journey to the edge of the Karpaz Peninsula to Kantara, the most easterly of the Crusader Castles, a bastion which appears to be growing out of the rock. Enjoy a morning’s walking along wide flower-lined tracks to this medieval mountain fortress with its unforgettable panoramas over the surrounding countryside. Views extend westwards across serrated limestone mountain ranges
while in the south the gulf of Farmagusta glistens. Rising up beyond the Mesarya Plain is the elongated mountain ridge of the Troodos in the centre of the island, and to the north views extend to the ‘panhandle’ and to the southern coast of Turkey, even the snows of Lebanon on a clear day. Following your exploration of the castle, return along a panoramic ridge road to Kantara village for lunch.

Day Six

St Hilarion Castle & North Nicosia

Visit St. Hilarion Castle spectacularly situated above Kyrenia, the best preserved of the mountain castles. Explore the ruins on various levels including the 10th century chapel dedicated to St. Hilarion. Depending on your level of interest, we would suggest allowing around 2 hours for your visit. Following a refreshment break, drive to Nicosia to visit the highlights, including the Selimye Mosque, Buyuk Han, the Ottoman caravanserary of the 16th century, now converted into atmospheric cafes and craft shops. The city of Lefkosia (still widely called Nicosia, on signposts and on maps) is by far the largest settlement on Cyprus with a total population of little more than 250,000. Until 1974 Nicosia was the capital of the unified island. The northern half of the city, known as Lefkoşa, is the capital of the Turkish occupied, self-styled TRNC (the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus). When the Berlin Wall fell, Nicosia became the last divided capital in the world. NOTE: If you would like a free guided tour of Nicosia, we suggest visiting Nicosia on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday for the 10 am tour.

Extra Walks

Cape Kormakiti & Sadrazamkoy Walk  (Easy-Moderate, 6 miles/9.6 km).

Starting from the small village of Sadrazamkoy with its Greek origins depart on a circular coastal walk at Cape Kormakiti with sweeping views across Guzelyurt Bay. Today you’ll follow the coast southwards behind beaches and wild landscapes of sand. You’ll pass rocky headlands and skirt the edge of Akdeniz forest on pretty footpaths. In spring, the low dunes exhibit colourful floral displays and you may well meet a goatherd with vast flocks providing an unusual photo opportunity. You’ll encounter Strawberry trees, Calabrian Pine, Sea Broom, Acacia, Phoenician Juniper and many other species which thrive on this part of the island. Enjoy a picnic lunch today and, back at Sadrazamkoy a welcome drink before a scenic return drive to Bellapais.

Antiphonitis Monastery & Alagadi Beach  (Easy-Moderate: 4–6 miles/6.4-9.6 km)

Today starts with a beautiful level forest walk to the 12th century church of Antiphonitis, picturesquely and peacefully secreted amongst the folds of the mountains. Although damaged over the years dazzling paintings mainly from the 15th century remain. After refreshments at the little café which may or may not be open, walk on a delightful panoramic balcony forest track. As you snake around the contours, take in distant views, breathe pure forest air, discover a variety of wild flowers and enjoy the tranquillity of it all. Follow with a visit to Alagadi beach, an important turtle nesting site. There’s a beach café for lunch gazing out to sea. If you have energy to spare, there’s another walk, quite different in character, along the beach famed for its turtles between June and September.

Alsancak & Ilgaz  (Easy-Moderate: 6.9 miles/11km)

The walk is moderate with a number of ups and downs. Outward timing for the long walk: approximately 2 hours; return 1 hour 30 minutes. Sweeping panoramic views and sleepy mountain villages are the features of this delightful walk in the foothills of the Kyrenia mountains. Ilgaz was once a Greek village and the abandoned church is still the dominant landmark for the walk’s ultimate destination. In Ilgaz, Hoots restaurant is open all year except Mondays from 1100. They offer very good English and Cypriot dishes, light lunches and snacks or just stop for a drink. In the winter it’s a cosy place to stop or in summer there is a lovely courtyard and roof terrace

Departure Day

At leisure before departure for Larnaca airport and flight back to London. Stroll around Bellapais, relaxing under the ‘Tree of Idleness’. Or drive to Kyrenia to lunch beside the yacht-filled harbour or shop for ceramics, kilims, silks and locally woven baskets

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Hotels

Stay at the Bellapais Gardens Hotel, a small family-owned award-winning 4-star boutique hotel renowned for its fine dining and outstanding service. The hotel is beautifully situated beside the 13th century Bellapais Abbey. Set in lush Cypriot gardens scented with jasmine and orange blossom, bedecked with colourful Mediterranean flowers, the hotel is surrounded by 200-year-old palm trees.

The Bellapais Gardens Hotel has a choice of large, comfortable en-suite double rooms in cottages with balconies or terraces, most with distant sea views. There are also well-appointed studio rooms.

Other accommodation options are available, at another small boutique hotel or at a larger 'resort' style hotel. a 'budget option' with all facilities. Please enquire.

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Grade of the walks

The walks are graded ‘easy to moderate’, and there are options on most walks to suit individual requirements. They are thus suitable for anyone of average fitness who can walk between 4 and 8 miles. The walks are not technically difficult, the only steep gradients being the ascents and descents to the crusader castles but these are always optional and undoubtedly worth the effort!

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Tour price and costs

Price:

£599 per person for 2 people sharing a ground floor studio room

£640 per person for 2 people sharing a first floor studio room

£683 per person for 2 people sharing a split-level cottage with balcony or terrace

Included in your holiday:

  • Transfers to and from Larnaca Airport
  • Car hire for 7 days (car delivered to your hotel)
  • Welcome drink
  • 6 walks
  • Self-guided tour of Nicosia and Kyrenia
  • Hotel accommodation as described
  • 7 Buffet breakfasts
  • All the information you are likely to need
  • Optional guiding, subject to availability, by Christina Hessenberg (80 euros per day)
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Flights

Taxi transfers are included to and from Larnaca airport. Note that there is a time difference of 2 hours and that the flight time from London for example is 4.5 hours, not 6.5 hours as it may at first appear! Flights can be found on the Skyscanner website at www.skyscanner.net.

A hire car is also included in the price, delivered to you at your hotel. It is not possible to hire a car from Larnaca since this is in the Greek part of this divided island and crossing the border in a private car is not recommended.

If you wish to visit the south of the island as well as the north, we can advise you and make the necessary arrangements.

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