Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean, located 40 miles south of Turkey. Smaller than Sicily or Sardinia and larger than Corsica or Crete. Cyprus has a fascinating history and is of enormous strategic importance - marking the meeting point of three continents: Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It has a total area of 1357 square miles – roughly the size of Wales.
Cyprus, a former British Colony until 1960, has been divided into two separate states since 1974 – the North is called the TRNC (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus) and The Republic of Cyprus (Greek Cypriots) is in the South of the island. This division was overseen by the UN following 11 years of unrest following the departure of the British. For further information on this division, see below (History). A boundary known as the "Green Line" runs through Nicosia (Lefkoşa), the capital of both South and North Cyprus, separating the two states. At present there are five border crossings, offering 24 hour unrestricted access for EU citizens to pass through from North to South. Click the following links for more detailed North Cyprus map and maps of maps of Northern Cyprus.
The varied regions of Northern Cyprus
North Cyprus has five distinct regions offering something for all tastes and activities! The geography ranges from high mountains to flat inland plains.
- Kyrenia area. The famous harbour town of Kyrenia (Girne) with its cobbled streets, gorgeous water-front cafes and superb Venetian castle is backed by the dramatic wooded slopes of the Beşparmak, or the Five Finger Mountains, to the North. Nearby Bellapais Abbey with its fantastically preserved 14th Century Abbey and charming craft shops and cafes is a “must-see” for visitors.
- Güzelyurt (Morphou) area. This area is flatter and more agricultural with its famous citrus groves in the West and the foothills of the Troodos Mountains rising up behind it. Access to the South and skiing are easy from here. The area is a very unspoilt region, rich with ancient archaeological sites (including the ruins of Soli and Vouni Palace) and local culture.
- Karpaz Peninsula. The totally unspoilt Karpaz region (known as the “panhandle” due to its handle shape) - a spectacular finger shaped peninsula in the East, has Iskele as its main town. Here visitors can take day trips to the island’s best beaches – miles of unspoilt sand dunes. Wild donkeys, herds of goats and other wildlife abounds.
- Famagusta. The “outdoor museum” of Famagusta (Gazimağusa) castle and its associated historical sites on the eastern coastline has been listed as an important heritage site by the World Monument Fund. It is surrounded by sandy beaches.
- Nicosia (Lefkoşa), is a fascinating city to explore and the only remaining divided city in the world - with the border crossing providing unrestricted crossings for all EU citizens.
The geography of North Cyprus is characterized by a unique blend of beaches, plains and mountains. The long northern coastline is backed by The Beşparmak (Five Finger) mountain range, which provides a stunning backdrop with its wooded slopes and magnificent jagged limestone peaks, the highest of which is Mount Selvili at 3357 ft. The lower hills and lowlands are alive with lush greenery, rare species of birds and butterflies, and a natural diversity of flowers (including native orchids) which are unmatched in the Mediterranean, with an estimated 19 endemic plant species. Sandy beaches and rocky coves await discovery along the shoreline.
To the east of the island, the Five Finger mountain range loses height as it extends along the narrow peninsula known as Karpaz or “Panhandle”,a spectacular finger-shaped region of rolling hills and unspoilt sandy bays which points to Syria. To the south of the Five Finger range lie the plains of Mesaoria and the capital city Nicosia (Lefkoşa).