Walking in North Cyprus: A Typical Walk
If you choose to stay in the Kyrenia (Girne) area, you will be best placed to access the best walks, apart that is from those on the Karpaz Peninsula or ‘the pan handle’ as it’s known, which is quite remote and too far for one day’s travel.
When walking in North Cyprus, the best routes centre around the ridge that runs for 62 miles from east to west parallel to the coast along the wonderful Besparmak (Five Finger) mountain range of craggy limestone. Here you can enjoy circular walks or, if you have a backup vehicle as we do on our guided trips, you can follow linear routes, the bus picking you up either at the end of the day’s walking or earlier if you get tired.
Here’s a typical walk. Following a delicious breakfast in the sunshine looking down at the coast below through the restaurant’s large picture windows, we saunter out to meet Sabri, our delightful bus driver. He’s waiting for us in the car park next to Ballapais’s famous abbey. He greets us with his usual wide smile: ‘Gunaydyn’ we chorus, practising our Turkish. Soon we’re climbing the mountain road, fully confident in Sabri’s skills on narrow metalled roads barely wider than the bus. He drops all 14 of us at a forest picnic site and we set off on the south side of the ridge, encountering our first impressive views over the Meseora Plain as far as Lefkosa (Nicosia).
Our morning walk through the forest is punctuated by stops to admire the flowers at our feet. Orchis Anatolica (Anatolian Orchid) abounds in the spring along with many other varieties Aubrey can never resist asking the ladies whether they would like to see a naked man. Christina, our knowledgeable botanist, can be relied upon to point out the Orchis Italica or ‘Naked Man’! The morning’s walk includes a delightful mix of stunning views, scented pine woods and carpets of colourful flowers. We have the forest all to ourselves, encountering no-one else on these hidden paths. A descent takes us down to a ruined monastery hidden deep in a south-facing valley. Here we find ourselves a comfortable patch of grass amongst the ruins, taking care not to sit on the flowers, as we tuck into our picnic.
Some doze in the sunshine, enjoying the warmth of the sun as they stretch out on the grass; others photograph the flowers while the more energetic take up a challenge. Who can find the ancient spring head which once supplied Salamis with water via an aqueduct back in the 6th century AD? Gleeful shouts of triumph break the silence – they’ve found it! Eventually we tear ourselves away from this delightful spot to seek out ‘Lover’s Leap’. We had fun finding the way when we first recced this walk but nothing beats the sense of triumph when finally we’ve got it all sussed and we see the looks of pleasure and delight on people’s faces.
Lover’s Leap is on the north side of the ridge and from there the views extend across the Mediterranean to the Turkish coast and the Taurus Mountains beyond. We continue along twisting woodland paths, encountering some mysterious mosaic flooring, obviously part of what was once some form of habitation here amongst the trees. We join a high-level mountainside path through a forest of strawberry trees before, finally, we reach the ruins of Sourp Magar monastery, cradled in a secluded bowl at the head of a ravine. Everyone’s interested in the story of the Coptic Christians who founded the monastery in 1000 AD and its subsequent history.
Finally, we leave the beauty and silence of the mountains to rejoin our bus. Two or three of our party had a lovely time reading and relaxing, having opted out of the afternoon walk, safe in the knowledge that Sabri would be there to pick them up. He has been patiently waiting our arrival, even picking me a small bunch of everlasting flowers which I still have, a token of remembrance of the wonderful friendliness and hospitality of the Turkish Cypriot people.
More blog posts on the walking will follow in subsequent blog posts. If you are interested in reading more about the next guided holiday to Bellapais in March 2016, please visit: https://www.country-walks.com/guided-walking-in-holiday-north-cyprus/.