Northern Cyprus is quite a unique country full of contrasts. I don’t want to get political here so excuse me if you’re offended that I call it a country, but having spent a few weeks in the Greek part and then crossing to the Turkish side, it definitely felt like I’d arrived in a different country. The boarders were stricter than any within the European union and the culture was definitely different.
For general information and hiking on the Greek side, check out the article that I wrote about hiking on the Greek side of Cyprus. This article is mostly focused on hiking on the Turkish side of this beautiful island.
How to get around Northern Cyprus
There are quite a lot of buses in Northern Cyprus. Most of them run between cities and only rarely stop in small villages. They can be very reliable and accurate, but sometimes – as we got to know from our own experience – they’re just not.
Speaking of our own experience, when we wanted to go hiking on the Karpaz Peninsula, we took a bus from Famagusta to Yeni Erenköy. Once there, we asked in the tourist information centre for another bus to Dipkarpaz. The guy told us: “Uh, Dipkarpaz? Today? Oh, no no no, it’s raining, no people want to go Dipkarpaz today. Tomorrow is the weekend, no buses during the weekend. Come on Monday, before 6am. Or 6.30, come at 6.30. You can wait on the beach. All beach bars are closed now so you can pitch your tent under their roofed terraces. Perfect, no?” Nah no, not really.
Hitchhiking is relatively easy in Northern Cyprus but you might struggle to get to trail heads in remote areas because there aren’t simply any cars going. Fortunately, there are plenty of hikes are not too far from cities and you can always simply walk to trail heads.
Where to go hiking in Northern Cyprus
If you have a look at the topo map of Northern Cyprus, there is an obvious mountain range going from the West to the East. These are the Kyrenia Mountains and you can actually cross them from one side to the other. There is a 143-miles trail called the Kyrenia Mountain Trail (or Besparmak Trail). It’s a hidden gem of Cyprus and I have to admit I was very tempted to hike it. The weather wasn’t on my side though so maybe next time.
If you’re a day hiker, there are good day hikes around Kyrenia (Girne). One good hike goes up to St. Hilarion castle and you can pretty much go there from the city centre. Just ask for a map in a local tourist information office. It’s well marked.
My favourite hiking destination in Northern Cyprus is the Karpaz Peninsula. It’s the least developed part of Northern Cyprus, famous for its beaches and a donkey reservation. It’s a very special place with a lot of fields and forests, but also an area where poorly managed development is taking its toll, and rubbish, bullet shells (the Cypriots are avid hunters of anything that moves) and plastic pollution is hard to ignore.
Some trails are well marked, some are not that well marked and some trails only exist on your maps. If there are trail marks, they can be difficult to spot at times. In remote areas, they’re often missing at intersections and you need to have a map or a guide to get safely around.
Also, I found some trails so overgrown by prickly plants that following them would be literally impossible without a decent weed-whacker or a machete. Therefore, always have a plan B and even plan C, and carry map on you. If the walking trail is too overgrown, there is often a farm track that takes you around.
Where to sleep
As often, AirBnB is the best way to go. If you’re more into camping, there is an excellent campsite by Golden Beach, Karpaz Peninsula, called Big Sand Beach Camping. From that campsite you can easily reach most of the peninsula including the donkey reservation with many day hikes around.
Wild camping is possible in Northern Cyprus. I’m not exactly sure if it’s 100% legal but considering that locals didn’t even seem to understand the question “Can we pitch a tent here?” and were looking at us as if to say “Of course you can, why would you ask such a stupid question?”, I think you shouldn’t have a problem. Just keep to standard wild camping etiquette.
Eat & drink
There is are decent restaurant and supermarket choices in the cities. In countryside, you might struggle to find a restaurant to eat in or a supermarket to resupply at. Always take enough food and water with you when you go hiking. Even if there is a supermarket or restaurant icon on your map, don’t rely on it. Maps get old very fast here.
Northern Cyprus hiking guides & maps
The Cicerone hiking guide for Cyprus is cool as it contains not only the southern part, but also hiking trails in Northern Cyprus.
If you’re more into digital options, I’d recommend downloading the app Mapy.cz on your smartphone (Android, iPhone). You can download a topo map of Cyprus and use it online while hiking. It’s completely free and even though it’s not 100 % accurate, it was very useful for me when I was hiking around. Apart from the marked trails, it also includes farm tracks and cycle paths that I was using a lot to get around.