It was such a beautiful morning when I opened the curtains in the master bedroom at the villa this morning, and looked out from the balcony past the pool and down toward the unspoilt views of the inviting deep blue Mediterranean Sea.
It prompted a very spontaneous decision to drive up the coast and take a trip to Karpaz.
The Karpaz peninsula is known as the most unspoilt place of Northern Cyprus, and probably the entire island. Some of the peninsula is a protected natural heritage area, meaning there is little to no new building permitted. Allowing nature to run free in it’s natural environment and creating an area that is one of the least polluted in Europe.
Where the peninsula begins is open to debate but it is considered popular opinion that it begins around Kaplica on the North coast and Bogaz/Iskele on the south, and stretches for around 70km. Known familiarly as the pan handle, due to the shape it creates with the rest of the island (a frying pan), it truly is an area of outstanding natural beauty.
A reasonably recent addition of a bypass road means that travelling up the peninsula is now a lot easier than it used to be. From the villa and apartment the drive takes roughly an hour and a half to travel up to the Apostolos Andreas Monastery which is virtually on the tip of the peninsula.
However it generally takes us a little bit longer as it is nice to have a few stop offs on the way to admire and appreciate the coastline and stop at a few of the many cafe’s or restaurants for a bite to eat and a drink.
Today we started our journey by stopping off at Tempo (the local supermarket which is a 3-4 minute drive from the villa and a 10 minute walk from the apartment) for some snacks and drinks. Although there are plenty of little markets to stop at on the way. We set off up the coast and when we got to Tatlisu decided to have a quick stop off at Minia Kibris. Minia Kibris is an outdoor ‘museum’ at a converted church where miniature models of historical monuments of Cyprus can be found. With 25 monuments in total it is well worth a visit even if just to get some inspiration for places to visit. However this tiny little museum is actually a rather beautiful place in it’s own right. Set in an area with no other buildings in sight, the mountains as a rather stunning backdrop, and at this time of year with the delicate little yellow wildflowers dotted all over the landscape it is a truly charming little place.
I specifically stopped off to get a photo of the Apostolos Andreas Monastery model as this was our main destination later on today, and a place I have not yet visited. The detail that has gone into these models is fascinating and at a cost of 5tl (66p at todays exchange rate) to have a look around these models, with children going free, it’s a very cheap way to kill a bit of a time (or get a photo in my case).
As a bonus there is a little cafe there as well, we didn’t stop for a drink but there were some other tourists there today who all seemed to be enjoying their refreshments.
The other tourists had arrived in two coaches and soon disappeared back to carry on with their day trip, leaving us with the place to ourselves, which Niamh took full advantage of and had a little run around the models- although they are keen that children do not touch them.
When I finally caught Niamh and bundled her back into our little Hyundai hire car we continued our drive up the coast, past Kantara Castle (on our list of places to go) and the beach at Kaplica, what a beautiful drive it is. We sometimes went for miles without meeting another vehicle,despite being on the ‘main road’, and when we did it was often a little tractor with several passengers hanging off the side. It started feeling more and more remote until we reached the little town of Yenierenkoy, just past which you can find the new marina with a selection of nice shops and bar/restaurant.
Just before we reached Dipkarpaz we passed one of the SPOT turtle conservation beaches, where you can book a night watch to see the turtles nesting on the beach/ hatchlings making their way back to the sea.
We continued on to Dipkarpaz itself which is a lovely little village and is home to the largest population of Greek Cypriots in the north of the island. Since the war in the 70’s the island has been segregated with the Turkish population residing in the North of the island and the Greeks in the South, with a fair amount of animosity between the two. However in this little village near to the end of the peninsula the Greeks and Turks live happily as neighbours, with the Orthodox Church and Mosque sitting side by side opposite the main square.
We were getting close to what we had come to see now. Probably two of the things that this furthest point of Karpaz is best known for: The wild donkeys, which there are said to be about 1500 of, and Apostolos Andreas Monastery, which can be traced back to the 12th century with it’s oldest remaining feature a seaside chapel dating back to the 15th century.
We passed the many stretches of golden, sandy and virtually deserted beach and eventually arrived at a cattle grid where a very kind man offered us bags of food for the few donkeys that aren’t too shy to come and say hello, for €1 a bag (6tl).
We continued past the cattle grid and within a minute we had found our first new friend who confidently came over to see if we had anything to offer. Not hesitant about sticking his head in through the open passenger window he had a little root around and was rewarded with Niamh’s giggles and a carrot. He then decided to come around to me to say hello. With a queue of 3-4 cars starting to form behind us all keen to meet him we moved on and soon came across two more well-fed donkeys waiting to see what else they could coax from us. As we were travelling so slowly down this quiet lane I allowed Niamh to come and sit in the front passenger seat next to me, and to say she enjoyed meeting all of the donkeys that came to say hello on our way to Andreas Monastery is an understatement, they are all I heard about on the way home and she already wants to go back and see them again.
We finally reached the Monastery which wasn’t what I expected but a great place to visit none the less. It is clearly a popular tourist destination which has led the locals to put on a small market right next to the monastery itself, selling all sorts from local honey, to toys. We came away with some raw honey, handmade wooden spoons, a magnet (Niamh’s choice, which can now be found on the fridge in the villa) and some delicious bars made of nuts (1 x almond and 1 x hazelnut) and covered in carob syrup and sesame seeds.
We very briefly went into one of the rooms of the monastery but there was quite a queue to get into the main part so we gave it a miss and had a little wander around the market with the donkeys, and stopped for a freshly pressed cup of pomegranate juice.
Although I can’t tell you what much of the inside is like the outside is rather lovely when you take away the market, the cars parked right next to the monastery and the scaffolding that has popped up on the building next to it. Although it is not the most spectacular display of architecture I have ever seen it is in such a beautiful location right on the coast so close to the Mediterranean that I’m sure on a windy day the building is gently kissed with a salty sea spray. You can see why it is a popular place for tourists.
Despite being so popular it didn’t feel too busy today, with 3 coaches of tourists on a day trip and a handful of cars, there was plenty of space for us all without it feeling too crowded and spoilt.
After a little walk around the monastery and immediate surrounding area, we carried on slightly further along the peninsula which we were now slowly running out of, to an absolutely exquisite bay. This is when coming in March and having good weather is a real bonus. The large beach we came to had maybe a maximum of 15 other people on it, some with tents who were obviously camping out for a night or two.
We set ourselves up with towels as beach mats in the shade of a Little Rock, and I sat and watched Niamh contentedly playing in the crystal clear sea water and building sandcastles, without a bucket or spade, for a few hours, and of course took a million photos of her doing so.
We did stop for a dinner of kebabs and a little meze on the way home at Dek’s pub (not a pub in the British sense at all) which was just after Dipkarpaz on the way home and right next to the sea. Niamh sat and delightedly reviewed the videos of her feeding the donkeys and I enjoyed watching her reliving it over and over again. We carried on home and were treated to a beautiful sunset where the few clouds that had drifted across blazed bright red. The rest of the sky was so clear that as we came back over the mountains to the North coast we could clearly see the mountains of the South coast of Turkey some 50 miles away topped with snow.
All in all this day out cost us
€1 for donkey food (will be prepared and take our own next time)
5TL entrance to Minia
The cost of Dinner (119TL: £16.50 at today’s exchange rate)
Bits from the market
We left the villa at 9:30am and were back for 6:15pm and do you know what I think it will be a day that we both remember for a long time. I know I am going to hear about the donkeys for the next few days at least.
To get to the Apostolos monastery passing Minia Kibris on the way from either the villa or apartment;
-first head tot he main road and turn right onto it heading east.
-Continue for 10-15 minutes until you reach a junction with a supermarket to your left, sign posted left to Tatlisu and right to Famagusta, turn left here.
-Continue along this road going straight over the Tatlisu roundabout.
-Minia Kibris is just after Tatlisu on your right, it has a sign post from the road, and you will travel down a narrow lane until you reach the converted church.
-Continue past Minia Kibris to get keep going on to the monastery.
-Turn left at the next roundabout, signposted to Dipkarpaz
-Stay on this road following signs to Dipkarpaz.
-Once you reach Dipkarpaz, go into the village and past the village square with the mosque and church on your left and square on your right. Immediately after this take a right turn signposted to Apostolos Andreas Monastery.
-Continue on this road until you reach the cattle grid (about 20-30 minute drive)
-Go past the cattle grid and you will reach the monastery in about 5 minutes if you don’t stop for the donkeys.
-To reach the beautiful beach we were at, continue past the monastery, going over another cattle grid, you will reach a restaurant called sea bird motel.