Started in 2004, the North Cyprus Friends of Karpaz Association is comprised of local residents and other interested parties who wish to protect the much coveted Karpaz region in North Cyprus. For many years now the area has been a valuable home to the traditional rural way of Cypriot life as well as the islands most ecologically diverse landscape. Friends of Karpaz will do its best to keep it just that way.
Firstly we will admit to perhaps using the phrase ‘eco-tourism’ a little too freely – however, there really are many ventures in North Cyprus which do try their utmost to offer the environmentally aware visitor a more eco-friendly type of holiday!
Whilst the rise of the 5 star hotel resort seems to be pretty much the dominant force at present on the island, there are major efforts to boost offerings for visitors who wish to experience a more traditional type of existence whilst on holiday. Projects often funded by the government, grants and aid from the European Union, as well as NGO organisation assistance and expertise, are already forcing the issue with some success.
One such area of North Cyprus that has already benefited is a village called Büyükkonuk that is a real-life example of a sustainable community. Located at the gateway to the Karpaz region, Büyükkonuk has benefited from funding from the European Union to help its fruition as well as some forward thinking individuals who have realised that mass hotel development is perhaps sometimes not be the first choice for everyone.
The local Turkish Cypriot residents of the village are enjoying their success and actually find the attention they receive from visitors quite exciting, and they have stepped up to the task admirably! An annual festival has been proof of the village’s success with many visitors coming to sample the delights crafted there such as the handicrafts made by local people.
You can lodge at simple village accommodation, experience traditional Cypriot life with spontaneous and scheduled activities and tours, and the area has miles of undisturbed walking territory and nature to spend your days exploring. One family business which actively promotes this area and can offer organised holidays and accommodation is Delcraft, run by Ismail and Lois Cemal. They are extremely enthusiastic about what they do and you will also find yourself hopelessly infected by their enthusiasm! They have their own website www.ecotourismcyprus.com where you can find out more about what’s on offer as well as details about accommodation available.
A well known English couple in North Cyprus, Maureen and Tony Hutchinson, who have lived on the island for many years, run a similar type of operation from their base in Hasirköy to the west of the island. Sadly Maureen passed away in 2011 but Tony is hopefully set to continue offering accommodation – although it’s limited to one cottage – but will also offer walking tours including orchid hunting, and promote traditional methods by offering demonstrations on local cooking methods for example. They can be found at www.walksnorchidsnorthcyprus.com and in our walking groups article for more information.
There are certainly other establishments which can fit into the wider Eco-Tourism bracket, such as old buildings which have been restored using traditional techniques to bring them to life again, to be used as pensions and guesthouses which have proved very popular with the alternative holiday seeker. A very good example are the Arch Houses in the village of Dipkarpaz which are 12 traditionally restored houses offering bed & breakfast accommodation, and whilst they feature modern facilities such as air-conditioning, they still give guests a feeling of times past and of traditional living. If you want something even more basic, then there are plenty of small pensions located on the beach areas of the Karpaz too, so if you fancy sleeping in a wooden beach hut close to the lapping seashore then you are well catered for!
Villages in the surrounds of the Lefke region to the west of the island are also set to be part of a government initiative which will include the setting up of pensions and guesthouses in the future; the application process for funds started in late 2008. With the Troodos mountain range, as well as the ruins of Vouni and Soli not a million miles away, this is definitely something which should help to promote the area and the start up of smaller establishments which can be run by local people. Old buildings are to be restored along with new construction offering accommodation of no more than five bedrooms, ensuring the environment is considered throughout the initiative.
Besides the accommodation sector, there are also plenty of tour companies which offer itineraries for a more nature and environmental type of holiday, offering bird watching, walking and cycling options whilst also incorporating some of the other sightseeing activities such as the Crusader castles, museums and the like. Please check our more in-depth article on tour companies to find out more about what’s on offer.
Whilst North Cyprus can’t claim to be a totally eco-friendly island incorporating initiatives rife with environmentally friendly schemes (yet!), there are steps being taken to ensure that at least there is the option available for the growing number of people who respect the need for environmental protection for many years to come, and that is only to be commended.
If you’re looking for a holiday on a budget then there is plenty of choice for you and your family. You can take your pick from self catering to half board, as well as a choice of bed and breakfast accommodation and guesthouses. Unfortunately there is no such thing as the Youth Hostel Association here just yet, but there is plenty on offer for those watching their pennies.
There are a number of bonuses to choosing this type of accommodation, as most budget hotels are small family run establishments – perfect if you prefer peace and quiet. Some suit the more backpacker type of person with plenty of beach hut hostelries dotted around the Karpaz area for example, although there is plenty of slightly higher quality accommodation in this area which suits a smaller budget too.
If you are looking for something different whilst planning a trip to North Cyprus and you enjoy the great outdoors, then there are a growing number of specialist tour operators adding itineraries to accommodate the likes of the walkers, bird watchers and divers amongst us.
North Cyprus has so much to offer those who love an environment orientated holiday, and the world seems to be taking a stand of sorts against mass tourism these days, so it’s nice to see that there are companies who are grasping all that is beautiful about this part of the island and promoting its unique qualities in terms of nature and the environment.
The Karpaz Peninsula is one of the last remaining true sanctuaries of peace and calm, it’s a place littered with historical sites and stunning views where everyone should visit at some point whilst on the island of Cyprus.
To get to the Karpaz you can go either via Famagusta on the south-east coast and turn inland heading north, or you can now take the coastal road via Esentepe and Tatlısu where a new road has been constructed over the last few years.
If you want to see the best of North Cyprus you can get to appreciate the landscape via the healthy option of a good bracing stroll across the mountains and lowlands, and there are a few organisations who have sought to accommodate people’s desire for walking and hiking too.
North Cyprus has a large festival scene, and there are more and more festivals being formed every year it seems! You can attend village festivals that play on the particular speciality that the village lends its name to, or you can feast on the international music and culture festivals at some of the great historical venues in TRNC.
Kalavaç is a neat little village to visit if you are around about the Gecitkale or Ercan area, perhaps you may be on an airport run and fancy taking a detour. It has recently been touted in the local media as one of several villages to undergo renovation and restoration with funds donated in 2006 by the EU Commission and UNDP (United Nations Development Project).