Cyprus 2018: Road Trip in Northern Cyprus / Μία Εκδρομή στη Βόρεια Κύπρο

Yesterday morning after breakfast I packed the car, but before leaving the Nicosia/Lefkosia area I walked in to the City Centre to visit the Shacolas Tower, the third tallest building in the city, where the 11th floor serves as an ‘observatory’ giving views across the city and over the Green Line in to North Nicosia.

The rest of the day was spent going on a bit of a road trip: Northern Cyprus, and then to Polis back on the Greek side. It was a bit of a treck but I made it!

My sat nav wouln’t let me set destinations in Northern Cyprus while in the South (and vice versa), so on leaving the hotel I set the sat nav to the general location of the border, and then was following the Turkish Cypriot road signs from North Nicosia to my first destination of the day – Girne (Kyrenia).

Road signs in the North are very similar to those on mainland Turkey but things were not always well signed in advance so it was a bit of guess work to get where I wanted!

Girne lies only 18km North of Nicosia so it was a relatively short journey on a new motorway. The one thing I’d say about Northern Cyprus is that the driving standards are perhaps not as great as I’m used to, but the roads were otherwise fine.

When I arrived in Girne I parked in a car park not far from the harbour. The first thing I needed was money. I had about €60/€70 on me but, with the exception of the border regions, the Turkish Lira is the currency in Northern Cyprus – so I found a cashpoint and took some money out.

I decided that, in order to get to Polis at about the time I’d told the hotel, that I could have up to 2 hours in Girne. This was more than enough to allow time to visit the castle, offering a view over the harbour, and in the harbour itself for a walk about and a light lunch.

I could have had a full meal – tried some new Turkish food – if I wanted to. But I really only wanted something light and which would be quick to ear so I just had a cheese toastie. I’d have a full meal on arrival in Polis.

Girne itself was quite busy, plenty of tourists wandering about. It is the centre for tourism in Northern Cyprus and there were visitors from all over Europe there. Along the harbour front there are a lot of tavernas, restaurants, bars, serving everything from traditional Turkish food to fresh fish, Greek moussaka, and anything else you can think of.

Although in the Greek part of Cyprus you don’t see too many cars from elsewhere (there are no ferry services – you have to ship the car as freight), in Northern Cyprus – which does have a regular ferry service to the Turkish mainland – there were quite a few cars from abroad. Mostly they were on Turkish numberplates, but there were also a couple of cars on GB places – there are a lot of British ex-pats living in Northern Cyprus – and a couple of cars on Dutch and German plates.

When I arrived back at the car, I needed to get back to the South in order to be able to set the sat nav again. (There was also the issue that, while in Northern Cyprus, my phone was connected to a Turkish mobile network so even if I had tried to set the sat nav, I would not have had any data allowance).

It wasn’t difficult to get back to the South – and once there I pulled over while I set my destination. The horrible irony in this is that the sat nav wanted to route me back in to Northern Cyprus to get me to Polis, so I’d have been better off staying in the North, driving out towards Morphou/Güzelyurt, then following the coastal road from there.

My sat nav routed me along the A9 motorway and then back in to the North at the Astromeritis crossing just an hour after leaving it at Nicosia. This is where it got interesting. At the first village I came in to, the sat nav routed me down what seemed to be a dirt farm track. It did however tell me to turn left in half a kilometre: I assumed it was just a shortcut to save going miles around, so I followed it. After half a kilometre I just met another farm track.

According to the map on my screen – I was heading in the right direction – and there was a town and a main road not too far away – I continued for what seemed like an age (in reality it wasn’t very far at all) until I came to what looked like an unfinished motorway.

This motorway wasn’t marked on the sat nav, but I decided it would take me back to an actual road – whether I was meant to be on it or not, I don’t know, but it was millions of times better than farm track so I drove along it until I came to a half finished roundabout (also not marked on sat nav), which led me on to the coast road which was on sat nav.

From there it was just a case of driving in a straight line until I got to Polis. An hour after entering Northern Cyprus for the second time, I came to Yeşilırmak, the last town before the border – soon after I was driving through the mountain roads in the UN buffer zone, and then in to Kato Pyrgos/Κάτω Πύργος on the Greek side.

It was now starting to get dark but I still had another 60-90 minutes to drive. The distance wasn’t massive but along this stretch of road I was going right through the mountainous region of Cyprus. The car was decent enough and had plenty of power for getting round the hairpin bends and up the hills; these types of roads aren’t great in the dark but on my sat nav screen I could see the corners coming up before I could see them in my headlights.

Finally, by the time 7pm arrived, I was in Polis. I’d actually managed to claw back about 15-20 minutes on the ETA given by the sat nav!

My acommodation in Polis was the “Bay View Apartments” and I was impressed with th standard of acommodation. I’m used to basic Greek family apartments. This apartment had a basic kitchen/dining room, living room with TV – downstairs. Upstairs was a bathroom complete with a bath. Greek apartments only have showers and even then it’s just a corner of the room with a shower attached to the wall, and a hole in the ground for the water to drain in to.

In need of some food I went for a walk and found a couple of places open within walking distance – so I picked the nearest. It was pretty much empty so I had the place to myself – pork souvlaki and home made chips was my order. It was very tasty and very welcome after my adventure in the North!

Because of how quiet this area is at this time of year, it was almost like being in someone’s front room. Wood burning stove going in the middle of the room, dog asleep next to it, cat asleep under one of the tables – the owner’s wife sitting and talking to me while she read the paper. Of the four people who actually spoke to me in Greek (most Cypriot Greeks will speak English to me if they think I’m English), two of them were in this restaurant!

After dinner I went back to my apartment, I got the bath running (why not take advantage of it!?) and then before going to bed I sat and watched Graham Norton with Greek subtitles followed by some film I’ve never heard of before, also in English with Greek subtitles. I went to bed around midnight.

Today I am flying back to the UK. I don’t fly until 2o:15 (which is 18:15 UK time) so I’ve got time to kill today and I will probably drive in to Paphos itself – only about 30km away from here – and have lunch there. It’ll be a good couple of hours drive back to Larnaca Airport from there but at least it is motorway all the way once I get to Paphos. Paphos does have an airport too but the flights there were more expensive and at this time of year not as regular as the flights from Larnaca.

I’m going for my breakfast now.


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