The extremely attractive and peaceful village of Karaman, (or Karmi, which is the Greek name for the settlement), sits around 1,000 feet above sea level and is located on the lower slopes of the Kyrenia mountain range. The gothic castle of St. Hilarion sits majestically above it, and is easily viewed from any spot in the village.
To visit Karmi take the coastal main road from Kyrenia until you reach Karaoğlanoğlu, and take a left turn signposted for Edremit and Karaman. You will make your way up the mountain passing through the village of Edremit and its popular little Basket Shop, up past the small and private Hilarion Holiday Village and then Treasure Restaurant, bending round sharply to the right, and then on into the village.
Once an EOKA stronghold, it is now home to a varied foreign population from Europe and North America. The once dilapidated and derelict properties of Karaman were taken under the wing of the Ministry of Interior and Housing in 1979, and were given away for nominal amounts to foreigners on a lease basis, in return for their restoration. Leaseholders were also subject to rules and guidelines to keep the village’s originality when restoring property. In the 1980’s the Ministry of Tourism took over the running of Karaman and the rebuilding of the village as a whole, they also took over the development of infrastructure such as the electric, mains water, street lighting and roads.
There are around 160 houses in the village, mostly now used as holiday homes or part time residences, although there are a few full time residents in Karaman. There are also still some freehold properties in the village, meaning that they had foreign pre-1974 title and as such are not subject to the same lease agreement. You will find that the ground floors of these houses in Karaman are often referred to as ‘donkey rooms,’ and indeed they were just that in times past! Being a mountain village, donkeys were a valuable source of labour, as well as heat, and they were housed on the ground floor overnight meaning their heat rose to keep those sleeping above warm.
The centre of the village houses an old Greek Cypriot Orthodox church, although it appears it was never consecrated as such. It is open to the public at various times of the year, such as at Christmas for carol singing and on some Sundays, but the local village shop may be able to open it for you should you find it closed when you choose to visit Karaman.
You can find local shops such as the village shop which also serves as social meeting place, providing postal services and internet access should the need arise when you are visiting. There is also the local pub, The Crows Nest, where you can view local art for sale whilst having a well-earned pint. A gallery opposite the shop sells locally produced art as well as photography prints by well-known Karaman resident and photographer Jean Clark.
There is also the Spot Bar which is open in the summer months, it has a wonderful view over to St Hilarion in the evenings. The central village restaurant is called Levant and it reopened in the summer of 2008 and has proved very popular with visitors and locals alike. It would also be worthwhile mentioning the Halfway House restaurant which is located on the main road just a short distance before the village, it’s run by a young Turkish Cypriot man, Mehmet and his mother, Yaşın. The Halfway House is a small but very popular eatery serving delicious mezes along with meat and fish dishes, all freshly prepared and very more-ish!
Karaman is an extremely popular place for those who wish to be away from the hustle and bustle of the main coastal towns, and it’s also a great place to stay for those who wish to be as close to nature as possible. There are plenty of walks to be had up into the mountains and across to the village of Ilgaz further west, but a stroll around the village, with its pretty individual houses, back streets and cobbled paths may be enough for some. The local pond, lovingly cared for by local residents, has its own colony of terrapins which are a delight to see if you can spot them sunbathing on the water lilies!
Needless to say that Karaman and its surrounds are a place where you can find a wide variety of flora, and its also a great place from which to see many of the migratory birds as they cross the Kyrenia mountain range as they head southwards in autumn.
Karaman is sadly however being slowly encroached upon by the inevitable property development, together with a new and rather unsightly restaurant, with developers keen to play on the village and its idyllic location to encourage property buyers to purchase nearby. However, the village itself will hopefully be allowed to retain its rustic charm and continue to attract visitors for years to come.