Karpaz National Park is a green needle sticking out from the northern part of the island of Cyprus. While Google Maps doesn’t show much when it comes to hiking trails in Karpaz (shame on you, google!), you can definitely hike there with success.
I had no idea about how are the hiking paths in Karpaz (also called Carpasia or Karpass), but based on my experience with hiking the Lycian trail, I figured there must be some in the NP – and I was right.
While most people do the visit to Karpaz NP within one or two days, I took one day getting to and three days hiking in Karpaz. The reason for taking it slow was partly that I was suffering from Lyme disease which made me more weary than usually, but also because Karpaz in spring is covered in magnificently beautiful flowers (yes, I am also proud of this chunk of words) and I simply wanted to take my time calming down, be alone, camp and enjoy nature. Besides, I am a slow hiker from Slow-vakia, what did you expect?
Hiking in Karpaz – Content:
If you wish, you can jump to the section you are interested in from here:
- How to get to Karpaz?
- What to do and see in Karpaz?
- Where to stay in Karpaz?
- Camping in Karpaz NP: Things you need to know
- The roads in Karpaz NP + hitchhiking
- The best time to visit Karpaz
- My experience hiking in Karpaz
- Map with my highlights of Northern Cyprus:
- Pin this article to read it later
How to get to Karpaz?
Karpaz is a part of Northern Cyprus that covers the National Park on top of it, but also quite a few towns that lay north of Iskele. The population density here is very low (Wikipedia says it is 26 people per km2 in 2010) and the region is delightfully green and partly covered with forest.
If you want to go to the national park, you first have to get to Dipkarpaz and start hiking, hitchhiking, driving or riding your bicycle (or monocycle, I´m not prejudiced) from there.
Many people opt for a tour which you can take even from Lefkoşa, the capital of Turkish Cyprus, others rent a car – that one might be practical – but you can also take a bus or hitchhike up to Karpaz.
However, buses are scarce in Northern Cyprus, so it might come as a surprise to you that hitchhiking is often the easiest way.
If you decide to hitchhike to Karpaz, I advice you to take the road from Famagusta (Mağusa) or Girne (Kyrenia) as the seemingly faster Yeni Iskele road is not very frequented and you might risk getting stuck. Then again, I am sure someone will eventually pick you up in spite of little traffic.
Read more: What I loved in Kyrenia – and what I hated
What to do and see in Karpaz?
The biggest attraction in the Karpaz NP is on its south-eastern side; there are two beautiful beaches where turtles hatch when it´s the season – the Golden Beach and the Big Sand Beach (how original!). These two beaches are connected and the locals say the Golden Beach is the most beautiful beach in Cyprus therefore it is a must for every dedicated beach bum.
Further up lies the Apostol Andreas Monastery, surrounded by elderly German tourists on a bus tour as a honeycomb with bees. I didn’t expect much people here and was a bit taken aback with the overpriced stands, selling a small plastic cup of pomegranate juice for 8TL (the normal price in Istanbul is 2TL!) along with trinkets, scarves with donkeys and some local products.
Pro advice: don´t drink freshly pressed pomegranate juice unless it is autumn. It won´t be fresh as it is out of season.
The monastery, however, offers a beautiful view of the sea and has an impressively decorated interior with carved wood and everything you´d expect in an orthodox church. I was happy to see it is currently being reconstructed by a team of international experts, as opposed to other churches in Northern Cyprus that mostly lie in ruins.
The Apostol Andreas Cape, adorned with a red and white lighthouse, a few tiny islands and many birds, also has a magnificent view, albeit windy. Many people (but not the big buses) drive up here to admire the narrow land of the peninsula from above.
Aphendrika is a town in ruins lying on the opposite side of the green finger of Karpaz. Abandoned, overgrown with weeds and silent, this was my favorite place in Karpaz. Not much people find their way up here and so it remains a wild, peaceful spot, perfect for relaxing or camping.
The Ayios Philon church, built in 10th century on top of an earlier basilica, is the last reminder of the Phoenician port that once stood on the shore. While you can scour the rocks for the remaining walls of the port, Ayios Philon is a fascinating place to explore, especially because of its ancient mosaics covering the ground. Following the Arab raids in 802 when Ay. Philon was destroyed, the once rich and important town was abandoned and the inhabitants moved inwards, founding Dipkarpaz.
I was gleeful to discover that all these places are free to enter for everyone, without an entrance fee.
Wild donkeys are a popular symbol of Karpaz too – while some people say they will bravely block the road and demand snacks from you, that will only happen in the vicinity of Apostol Andreas Monastery. The donkeys there are tame and have a capitalist approach – they trade their cuteness for an apple or two from tourists who often purchase bags of “donkey food” from the villagers. Elsewhere in the national park wild donkeys are wary, shy and won´t let you touch them. You can watch them graze on the lush greenery, hairy, smaller than ordinary donkeys and curiously watching you from a distance. You will hear them shouting in the night for sure.
Outside of the national park, there are many more small villages dotted with ancient churches, castles and wonderful views, such as the Kantara castle (offering a view of both sides of the coast of Cyprus from above), Sipahi church with an incredibly well preserved mosaic (requires a fee of 5TL I think), Yeni Erenköy church, ruins of Salamis and many more that I didn’t have time to visit. I felt that wherever I stepped, I could see interesting places and pieces of history – Turkish Cyprus has a lot to offer!
Where to stay in Karpaz?
Along with Dipkarpaz, you can rent a room near the Ay. Philon church around 6 km from the village – watch for the signs with “Oasis” written on them. There are bungalows near both the Golden and Big Sand beaches and also above the Apostol Andreas monastery. You can easily find accommodation in villages too.
Further in and up the peninsula, there are few buildings to find, mostly used by shepherds.
Camping in Karpaz NP: Things you need to know
In my opinion, you can get the most out of your visit to Karpaz if you hike and camp within the national park. While the south-east side is rather frequented and easy to get a ride from other visitors (I hitchhiked with a restaurant owner, a British couple and a group of Iraqi students who took me all the way to the cape), there is literally nobody on the northern side.
There is a marked hiking trail, signaled with a white B on green, or with green and yellow for alternative paths. While the signs are not as abundant as you might expect, it is hard to get lost here since you only have to follow the coastline. If you bring a GPS, you won´t have any problem following your direction.
The trail is actually a normal sand road where a suited car can pass too, unless it is rainy. It is rather easy to hike – there are small hills, but a big part of the trail is flat.
There is no water source further up from Oasis and Apostol Andreas Monastery! Be sure to bring enough water – I brought more than 5 liters, expecting to walk for three – four days and it was about enough for me, although I went thirsty by the end of the third day of hiking. There are some rivers on the map, but they were all dry when I passed by.
There are several great spots for camping – as you get closer to the cape, the land gets flatter, but also more windy and rocky. I enjoyed camping in the ruins of an abandoned house that protected me and my fire from wind and provided epic atmosphere.
The roads in Karpaz NP + hitchhiking
There is a good tarmac road leading to the Apostol Andreas Monastery on one side, and to Aphendrika on the other, on the other hand, the roads that continue further from there are mostly sandy dirt roads. Driving slowly, you can pass in a normal car, and a pickup truck won´t face any problem.
As I mentioned, the Monastery side is rather popular and you can manage to get a ride up or back down to Dipkarpaz. However, don´t count too much on seeing cars on the other side – I haven´t met or seen anyone except for goats on my first two days of walking along the coast and have only met three people on the third – one of them a donkey-riding Greek surrounded by a pack of dogs (there is a sound Greek community living in Dipkarpaz) and the other two a Ukrainian couple on bicycles in Aphendrika.
There is one pick up car going to the goat herds in the morning and back by sunset – perhaps you could get a ride from them, but by the time they were passing, I had already pitched my tent both times and didn’t look for a lift. Then there was one car I assumed was abandoned in Aphendrika – I even shortly considered sleeping in it, but it was too dirty. That was a smart choice because an adolescent-looking guy passed me driving it later. He stopped by my side, asked me where I was going, but when I inquired if he can drive me to Dipkarpaz, he said no.
Onward from Dipkarpaz to the center of Cyprus, hitchhiking is easy and enjoyable, especially when the golden light of the late afternoon colors the green fields.
The best time to visit Karpaz
I was lucky to have traveled to Cyprus in spring and I think that is the most beautiful season to visit. In march, all the flowers were blooming like crazy and the woods smelled lovely. The weather was nice, warm enough in the day, but not excruciatingly hot. The nights were a little chilly, but with a fire, I could sit on a stone and look into the night until late with only a cotton shirt on.
I admit I was a tiny bit cold at night in our summer tent, but I solved that by putting a layer of plastic over my legs in the sleeping bag. (I´m so smart, I know.)
My experience hiking in Karpaz
I loved my time in Karpaz and if I were healthy, I would have liked to stay longer. On my way there, my sixth and last ride that day was from a retired police officer who was only going to Yeni Erenköy, but decided to drive me all the way to Dipkarpaz.
He took me to a lahmacun shop run by his friends from old times where he invited me for dinner and arranged with the family so that I could sleep over at their house for the night. The couple and their daughter were lovely and generous and were trying to convince me to leave my stuff there, visit the sights in the day and come back for the night.
However, I was looking for a different experience – I was excited to go hiking and camping absolutely on my own for the first time and didn’t want to miss the chance, although the offer was tempting and lahmacuns delicious.
If you pass by their house, do stop for a snack – one lahmacun (“Turkish pizza”) only costs 3,50TL, they bake it freshly in a fire oven and also offer other dishes. Their restaurant is right at the turn of the road where it leads up to the beach.
The Karpaz National Park is charming, mostly frequented only by shepherds and although there is no water source on the way, it is absolutely worth hiking around. A skilled hiker in a good shape can easily make her way around the peninsula in two days as the trail counts something between 40 – 50 km. Three days made for a comfy hike for me and my heavy backpack.
There was only one thing that made me sad about Karpaz (no, not my blisters!) was this: up around the cape, there is an awful lot of plastic waste everywhere. Bottles, bags, cans, shoes (?!) and other stuff lie all around; at first I thought people throw out so much rubbish, but then I realized it´s probably the sea that brings it. When I hike, I usually collect as much plastics as I can carry, but this was just extreme. Please, be mindful about the environment and talk to people about ecology and recycling. We clearly need to spread the knowledge more if we don´t want to drown in waste soon.
Map with my highlights of Northern Cyprus:
If you have no idea about the location of the wonderful places I was telling you about, I´ve got you covered! Here is my map of places I think are worthy of your attention:
Have you visited Northern Cyprus and ventured to Karpaz? What did you like the most? Have any more tips to share? Leave a note in the comments!
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