If you fancy something different on your next holiday, or are interested in history, then the places below are well worth visiting. Explore abandoned monasteries, derelict buildings, a tank on the hillside, and take in the magnificent views from lover's leap in North Cyprus.
These hidden monastery ruins are secluded amongst the pine tree forests of the Beşparmak Mountain Range. A very peaceful place amongst the surrounding nature, the Sourp Magar Monastery, also known as Ayios Makarios, was built in around the 10th Century and parts are still remarkably well-preserved, although caution should be taken as the buildings are decayed and in states of disrepair. Artifacts from times gone by still remain, from abandoned fridges, coffee cups, candles and beds. The monastery was still being used into the early 20th Century by monks and has also been used by the Turkish Army as a camp. The site is quite large, and there is a church where some people still come to light candles and pray.
The monastery has a very much "undiscovered" feel about it and is well worth either the serene walk through the pine forest or it can be approached by car along a tarmacked road from the east and then walk the mile or so down to the site. To get there, head towards Alevkaya and take the turning on the Kyrenia to Famagusta road by the Buffavento restaurant. Drive along the road, and you can see the monastery through the trees, go past it and you will come to a picnic site where you can park and walk down to the site.
Alternatively, you can park at Lover's Leap and walk through the forest.
On the way there to the Sourp Magar Monastery, a visit to Lover's Leap should definitely be on the cards - the views from here are simply stunning.
Just metres away from both Lover's Leap and the Sourp Magar Monastery, you will find the Alevkaya Forest Station, which houses the Alevkaya Herbarium. If you are a fan of flowers and flora, then this is a must-visit place, as it contains over 1200 plant specimens, collected and pressed by the botanist Dr Deryck Viney. There are also many line drawings and preserved flowers which were not able to be pressed. The surrounding forests are also a good opportunity to have a look at the native wildflowers and beautiful orchids which can be found in North Cyprus, as they grow in the wild here. To get there, follow signs to Alevkaya or Karaagac (depending on your approach road). The herbarium is generally open between 8 am and 4 pm every day.
You can stop for a drink or a spot of lunch at the Alevkaya Restaurant nearby, which has picnic benches nestled amongst the pine trees.
This domed church can be found near the village of Bahçeli, fairly close to Alevaya. It was built in around the 12th Century and is the only surviving church if this kind left in Cyprus. There are lots of mural paintings on the walls, some dating from when the church was built, and some from the 1400's. The church is actually now a museum and you can find it in most guide books. To get to the monastery, you need to drive from Esentepe village centre through the mountains and follow the signs. It is then a short walk to the church. Check the opening times before you visit with the locals, as they can be erratic.
Zafer Burnu is the furthest you can go to the end of the Karpaz Peninsula and is effectively the "end of the island" of Cyprus, and the Klides Islands are the collection of small islands you can see from the tip. Also known as the "Keys, there are various birds which nest on the islands, which are protected areas. Keen birdwatchers will need to take binoculars to see all the different sea birds here. Many ships have been wrecked by these islands, and even now, most ships give this area a very wide berth! Absolutely worth the couple of hours drive from Kyrenia for the deserted beaches, Karpaz donkeys and historical ruins. Don't forget to take some carrot snacks for the friendly wild donkeys!
To get here, follow the road past Golden Sands Beach, past the Apostolos Andreas Monastery and keep going. The road does get more rocky and has lots of potholes, so go carefully. You will eventually come to Zafer Burnu where you can park and take a walk to the end of the island.
The abandoned tank has many rumours about how it got there, as its tracks are still embedded in the road! It has been there since 1974 and some say it was dropped by parachute, some say it was blown off its tracks or simply ran off the narrow road.
To get there, head up the St. Hilarion Road past the castle and along past the Turkish Army base. Be aware that parts of the road up to the tank are military areas and you are not allowed to take photographs. It is a single track road winding up through the mountains, and then a short walk to actually get to the tank. You will see a memorial sign and flags to mark the location and the tank can be found on the hillside. It is listed as "Mucizevi Türk Tankı" on Google Maps.
Everything your holiday heart desires in one destination