Explore the captivating Karpas Peninsula

January 12, 2024
January 7, 2024

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The Karpas (Karpaz in Turkish) Peninsula, also known as Karpass or Karpasia, is one of the most famous areas in Cyprus. The peninsula is well known for its beautiful Mediterranean coastline boasting many crowd-free beaches.

Beyond its beautiful nature, there are also some great cultural spots we recommend when travelling to and from there.

We loved our experience exploring the peninsula! This article provides all the details of the best things to see and do on the Karpas Peninsula.

Grab lunch at the eco village of Buyukkonuk

This village has reportedly preserved the traditional ways of living as a Cypriot. It’s on the way to Karpas Peninsula, which makes it a perfect stop for lunch.

We were hoping to find a market or maybe some local artisan workshops to learn more about the local ways. But when we arrived, the village was kind of dead. We found a windmill house that wasn’t operating anymore, an Orthodox church, and a shop.

The shop was actually quite nice, with local produce such such as olive oil, jams and honey. They also had soaps and some home decorations you can buy as souvenirs.

We decided to have lunch in the family-owned restaurant run by the shop's owners, Kemeraltı Aşevi. As vegans/vegetarians, there weren’t that many options but we opted for manti (Turkish dumplings) and local greens with scrambled eggs. The food was traditional Cypriot and very delicious.

A composite image showing some of the goods for sale and local food to eat at the eco village Buyukkonuk in North Cyprus.

We later discovered that there is another shop in town with local produce and crafts, but after reading some online reviews we concluded that the owners may not be the nicest towards all nationalities. There may be more things going on during weekends, but we couldn’t find any information.

We wouldn’t travel here just to see the village, but this place was perfect as a quick lunch stop.

Discover Panaghia Kanakaria Church

Another place worth stopping on your way to or back from the Karpas Peninsula is this abandoned Orthodox church and monastery from the Byzantine era. There isn't confirmation of the exact date it was constructed, but it was between the end of the 5th and beginning of the 6th century.

It was was later demolished by Arabian pirates in the 8th century before being rebuilt again. In the 12th century, the church was destroyed by an earthquake and restored in the 14th century. The monastery on the grounds was built later around the 18th century.

A composite image of the main entrance outside Panaghia Kanakaria Church and Janna standing in front of its side entrance.

Unfortunately today this historical place is not being maintained by local authorities. With a newly built mosque just across the road, we could tell that the church had lost its authority as the main place of worship in the area. At first when we arrived we thought we couldn't see inside, but when we walked around the corner we were able to enter the church via a main wooden door.

We were surprised how beautiful and mysterious it was inside. We could tell that some locals still visit the church due to burned candles and icons set on the main altar. We can highly recommend to make a stop here and have a look for yourself.

A composite image of Jon walking down the aisle and some of the archways inside Panaghia Kanakaria Church in North Cyprus.

Relax at the beautiful beaches

If you haven't eaten yet, you can visit Karpas Gate Marina for lunch or alternatively just for some drinks. It’s a new marina with a very pleasant boulevard lined with palm trees. There is also a beach club that you can check out.

Keep driving along the peninsula until you arrive at Carpal Kaplumbaga Plaji. We loved this beach. It’s long and wide with white sand and blue water, which is great for swimming and relaxing.

It’s a UNESCO protected area, so the beach here is wild without any infrastructure. Please make sure you take your trash with you and pick up other people's if you see it laying on the beach.

There is also a marine turtle conservation project, so please respect the nesting areas. This beach a is bit tricky to get to and we missed the turn a few times before we found out how to get there. Once you find a parking spot, it's only a 5-minute walk down to the beach.

A composite image showing the landscape and Janna admiring the coast at Carpal Kaplumbaga Plaji in North Cyprus.

If time allows, you can continue your journey further along Karpas Peninsula through yellow hills and olive trees.

There you will find one of the most beautiful golden sand beaches in Cyprus, the suitably named Golden Beach. It’s a beautiful wild beach with blue water and golden sand surrounded by sand dunes.

Note there is no shade anywhere on the beach. So make sure you use reef-safe sunscreen, wear a rashi, and bring an umbrella or other shelter with you.

Looking towards the horizon with the Mediterranean Sea and sand at Golden Beach on the Karpas Peninsula in North Cyprus.

There are only a couple simple cafes near the beach where you can grab something to eat. We didn’t try them though as we had brought our own food with us. Make sure to take any rubbish with you and leave no trace of your visit.

There is also one family-run place where you can stay overnight. It looked very simple, more like wooden bungalows/sheds, but you will enjoy the luxury of waking up in this beautiful place and having breakfast with a private sea view.

If you are planning to eat or stay overnight here, make sure you bring enough Turkish lira with you as they don’t accept cards and there are no ATMs nearby.

We can imagine star gazing would be amazing here too as the closest town is kilometres away. If you are a nature lover, you should definitely visit this beach!

Keep an eye out for wild donkeys

The Karpas Peninsula is home to wild donkeys that you most likely will see if you go there.

We saw the ones in the pictures below while driving to Golden Beach. Once we stopped the car, they came to greet us and probably were expecting some food. As tempting as it can be, remember that these donkeys are wild and should not be fed.

The donkeys were super cute and curious to the point that they pushed their big heads through our car window!

Two wild donkeys approaching our rental car while driving along the Karpas Peninsula in North Cyprus.

My mum was travelling with us and she decided to pet the donkeys with her hands, which resulted in a really bad rash that she had to deal with for months. This is a friendly reminder to not touch wildlife no matter how cute they can appear!

A composite image showing two wild donkeys and a close-up image of one of them located along the Karpas Peninsula in North Cyprus.

Enjoy beautiful views from Kantara Castle

Kantara Castle is further inland from Karpas Peninsula, but it's well worth the visit.

If you drive there, you will be surprised by the beautiful views of the coast from the road. Watch out for the speed cameras though, there are quite a few along the way.

It's widely believed that the castle was built to protect the coastline from Arab raids that took place in the 7th century. But the first time Kantara is mentioned in written records is when Richard the Lionheart conquered Cyprus in 1191.

It was used by the crusaders and remained in use by different rulers until the mid 16th century. The entrance is only 50 Turkish lira, but if you go there for sunrise or sunset you most likely will have free entrance as there was no-one to collect the money when we were there.

It’s just a 5-minute hike up before you reach the first ruins. But make sure you go all the way to the top to witness amazing views of the nearby mountains and valleys of Mesarya Plains and the coastline of the Karpas Peninsula.

Even when it's cloudy, as it was when we visited, it's quite magical. So even if you're not lucky to have a clear sky, we still recommend you to visit. It's possible to visit at any time.

A composite image showing an aerial view and Jon standing on top of one of the walls of Kantara Palace in North Cyprus.

North Cyprus travel guide

If you haven't already, make sure to check out the rest of our experience exploring North Cyprus.

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