Mobile phones
Getting around

Cyprus, Northern Cyprus

24.12: Munich -> Larnaca -> Paphos
25.12: Paphos

26.12: Paphos -> Kykkos monastery -> Paphos
27.12: Paphos -> Akamas peninsula -> Paphos
28.12: Paphos -> Larnaka
29.12: Larnaca -> Tamassos -> Nicosia -> Larnaca
 30.12: Larnaka -> Amathus -> Kourion -> Limassol -> Larnaka
31.12: Larnaca -> Kolossi -> Limassol -> Larnaca
1.1: Larnaka -> Kyrenia
2.1: Kyrenia -> Famagusta -> Salamis -> Kyrenia
3.1: Kyrenia -> Buffavento castle -> Bellapais -> St Hilarion castle -> Kyrenia
 4.1: Kyrenia -> Kantara -> Kyrenia
5.1: Kyrenia -> Byron Pavlides villa -> Koruçam Burnu -> Soli -> Vouni -> Kyrenia
6.1: Kyrenia -> Nicosia -> St Barnabas monastery -> Kyrenia
7.1: Kyrenia -> St Margas monastery -> Antifonitis church -> Larnaca -> Munich

Planning and overall impression

When planning for a winter trip we chose Cyprus for a number of reasons: reasonably good weather in December, plenty of historical places to visit and interesting status due to its political situation. We ended up spending one week in the south and one week in the north, which was about right for a place like Cyprus.
The south made a good impression due to its good infrastructure and development status. The north impressed due to its wealth of historical sites and culture. The beaches we saw were relatively unimpressive, if compared to other beaches in the Mediterranean and elsewhere. Nature and sceneries were ok, but not terribly interesting. December January is low season and the weather is not at its best. It's probably better to visit Cyprus in spring or, even better, after the summer when the seawater is still warm enough for swimming, but the summer season is already over. During the winter many restaurants and cafes are closed.
The north of the island is far less developed than the south and looks like it has been left behind. When crossing the border from the south to the north, it feels like travelling back in time, like entering an east block country during the cold war period.


Generally speaking costs are lower in the north than in the south. Costs for accomodation are moderate when staying in apartments. We got a very good deal with the Olive Tree hotel in Kyrenia, where we were staying on half-board, enjoying very good breakfasts and buffet dinners. Price levels are in line with those of other beach locations along the Mediterranean.


Food portions were huge in restaurants in the south - big dishes, actually sufficient for two people.The taste ws ok, but not too great. Heavy on fried stuff (lots of French fries for instance).


In the south we stayed in apartments, while in the north we booked a four star hotel with half-board. In all places there was no heating, only an A/C unit which could be used to heat the room. The first apartment in Paphos was poorly serviced (no staff available over Xmas when we arrived). The standard of the places where we stayed was good (except for the problems in Paphos).

Money  / Exchange rate (End of December 2016)

1 Euro = 3.7 TRY (Turkish Lira in use in the north, Euro in use in the south)
1 Euro ~ USD 1.05
For current exchange rates check the Universal Currency Converter.
ATMs are everywhere, both in the south and the north of Cyprus.

Mobile phones and prepaid cards

We roamed with our German SIM cards in the south, because the phone costs were low and roaming surcharges minimal. In the north I bought a local SIM card, which could only be used in Northern Cyprus and for calls within Northern Cyprus and to Turkey. 55 TL for a package with 5GB of mobile data and 100 minutes of calls. No need to show a passport or other identification document when buying the SIM card. Good, high speed mobile Internet.

Internet access

Good WLAN in the apartments in the south, very slow WLAN in the hotel room in the north (almost unusable, had to rely on the mobile phone for Internet access).


A mix of sunny and rainy days in the south, with top temperatures around 15-16°C. Similar situation in the north, but the days were a bit more sunny, especially south of the coastal mountain range.

Health / Vaccinations

None required for Cyprus.

VISA / Entry requirements

No visa needed for us for south Cyprus, as southern Cyprus is part of the EU. To get to the north we needed passports, but didn't have to apply for a visa in advance.


We experienced no problems of any kind.

Recommended things

Things to avoid

Getting around

We rented cars both in the south and in the north. Driving, even if it was on the left side of the road), was simple and uncomplicated, once you got used to driving on the other side of the road. The roads are mostly in a good shape, except for some mountain roads in the north. There are some motorways, but with a maximum speed limit of 100 km/h or less.

(some of the thumbnails are clickable and lead to larger images)

24.12: Munich -> Larnaca -> Paphos
Oracle Exclusive Resort, Paphos. One of the worst places I've seen over the past years. In the pictures and on paper it looks nice, but the reality is quite different. First of all it's not easy to find, because there is no board with its name outside. We spend ten minutes in the car circling around it, until by using the satellite view of Google Maps we realise that indeed the place must be this one. Then we spend another ten minutes looking for the reception, which is very well hidden and at 11pm not so easy to find. Finally we knock at the door of some tourist and this fellow tells us where the reception is.
Then: the rooms are quite cold and it takes some time to switch on the A/C units to generate some heat. But there are not enough blankets in the rooms and despite over half an hour of discussion and phone calls the receptionist is unable to give us additional blankets. He claims that he doesn't have the keys to open other empty rooms. Then, in one of the toilets the light is broken and because it has no windows it is totally dark. Also in one of the rooms the light is broken. Then, in the cupboards there are no clothes hangers.
On the positive side the apartment is spacious, has a fridge, microwave, toaster, complete kitchen with water boiler, washing machine for clothes. Free WLAN included in the room price. Very little hot water in the toilets however. Shirley can't take a shower because the water is cold.
Weather: overcast in Munich, about 5°C. Some rain every now and then on Cyprus. Quite fresh in the evening (temperatures well below 10°C).

We manage to leave home at 9:15am and drive to Freising, where we will park the car. The motorway this morning is quite empty and we reach the parking by 9:51am. There we park the car, pay the parking fee for two weeks (42€) and wait for the next shuttle bus to the airport. This leaves at 10:15am. It takes about 10-15 minutes to reach the airport. First they drop off some travellers at the terminal 1, then they drive us to the terminal 2.
Unbelievable situation, the small one (Natasha) managed to tie together the shoelaces of her shoes. She must have thought it's fun, but how to walk like that and the knot is really tight now. Some effort to untie the shoelaces.

Then we drop the luggage at the baggage drop in. Totally automated device, you show your boarding pass and get the adhesive tape to attach to the suitcase.

We proceed through security and passport control. Lots of careful checks today at security, especially checks for explosives.

Around 11am we are at the gate. Quite crowded, not enough seats available where to sit down. And we wait, wait, wait because the 12:05pm Lufthansa flight is delayed. Due to a broken plane they change the plane and instead of entering from the gate we have to take a bus. A bit uncomfortable.

The plane finally takes off after 1pm, with almost an hour of delay. The LH1760 flight is fully booked, seems a lot of people are going to Larnaca today.

We land in Larnaca at 5:15pm and proceed through passport control, then go to the baggage claim. There we have to wait a long time for the luggage. Finally we go to the arrivals hall and look for the counter of the Hertz car rental.

There is none. After some searching and a call to Hertz we are directed to a woman in the reception hall who tells us to go to the second floor, then out and walk to a bus stop where there is a shuttle bus which will bring us to the office of Hertz.
Because Hertz wants to save some money by not having an office in the airport we lose about 20 minutes.

Once at the Hertz counter I sign the papers. Some discussion and I finally get a renault Trafic. This is big enough but is also a very old car and very poorly equipped. There is no rear camera with LCD screen and there are no front or rear distance sensors, which makes parking or reversing such a bit car quite a challenge. On top of that the rear window is steamed initially so I can't see behind. And people drive on the left side of the road, it's dark etc.

I start driving and end up in a military sector of the airport, then reverse and finally manage to start driving towards Larnaca. For some reason I cannot enter the address of the hotel of Albert into the Sygic navigation system. And Google Maps refuses to start navigating, even if I saved the offline maps of Cyprus to the phone. So I'm forced to quickly purchase a data package (300MB for 15 Euro valid for seven days) just to be able to drive to Larnaca.

According to Google Maps there should be only 6 km to the centre of Larnaca, but for some mysterious reason Google Maps sends me on a big round and we drive 19km to reach Larnaca. There finally I manage to the Golden Bay Beach hotel where Albert is waiting for us. We are there around 7:30pm.

Since I cannot find Albert in the reception hall of the hotel, I call him and he finally gets to the car. Now in theory we could drive to the hotel in Paphos, but we are tired and hungry. So we first look for a restaurant. Albert directs me to one near the hotel.

When I park the car I notice that it is not possible to lock the big rear door. Some trying but no success. Finally I call the Hertz car rental. It turns out that there is an issue with the button in the door - you have to play with it a bit to be able to close the door. Crappy rental car of Hertz.

We have a nice dinner in the restaurant and a bit after 9pm we start driving towards Paphos. The roads are mostly empty and we manage to reach Paphos around 10:35pm. Then we lose some time looking for the hotel and arrive there shortly before 11pm. I end up sleeping after 1am due to all the issues with the room.


25.12: Paphos
Oracle Exclusive Resort, Paphos.
Weather: fresh in the morning, during the day the temperatures climb to well above 10°C and in the sun you can sit in a restaurant without jacket and sweater, if the wind is blocked. A bit windy along the coast. Mostly sunny, but with some clouds.

In the morning there is no hot water in the toilets, even if we kept the hot water system switched on the whole night. The flat is quite cold, so taking a cold shower is not an option. I call the reception, but nobody answers. So I walk to the reception, and find a notice that today, on 25.12, the reception is closed and in case of emergencies you have to call 'Dominique'.

I call this person and inform her about the situation. She promises to come in one hour. But it's already 10:30am and we need to leave the hotel at the latest by 11:30am because my mom wants to attend the catholic mass at 12pm.

When we are all set up to check out of this place today, around 11:15am Dominique rings our bell. She comes in and explains that in this place the hot water is obtained from a solar system and you need to switch on the system one hour before the shower. You can't leave the system on the whole night and on cloudy days in the winter there may not be enough hot water. Then Dominique gives us the keys of another apartment, from which we can take the blankets.

 Around 11:40am we leave the hotel and drive to the Agia Kyriaki church. Google Maps fails to find this place. I'm in the middle of nowhere when the navigation ends. We ask somebody on the street but nobody knows how to get to Agia Kyriaki. Some more investigation in the Internet and I key in a different destination into the Google Maps navigation system.

This time I end up at a Greek Orthodox church which today is closed. More searching and finally we are in the Agia Kyriaki church about 10 minutes late. The service is in English and initially we are not sure if this is an Anglican service or a Catholic one.

Anyway, while my mom attends this mass, the rest of us explore the area around the church. This is a quite interesting archaeological park with excavations and beautiful mosaics. Lots of ruins of 6th century churches and palaces.

It's then 1:30pm when we are back in the car in order to drive to the restaurant. I'm planning to eat along the waterfront. It turns out that we could just have walked, because it's only a few hundred metres between the church and the waterfront. By the way, easy to find a parking free of charge.

Lots of restaurants and cafes in this very picturesque area, but a large number of places is closed because of the winter season. Since the food is a bit pricey along the waterfront, we walk a bit away from the waterfront and have dinner in a place in a side street (in sort of a cafe-restaurant).

The food ends up being very plentiful. Large portions, which we can't finish. The only problem is that the taste is a bit so-so. Very stomach-filling, but not that delicious.

It's 3pm when we get out of the restaurant. I bring everybody to the car and we drive to the Paphos archaeological park. Only 700m distance, but given that we are a large group of people with ages ranging from 8 to 80, it's simpler to move around in a car. And it's late anyway.

When we are there it's about 3:20pm. Turns out that the archaeological park is closed today. So I drive to the next interesting place, the graves in Nea Paphos.

This also turns out to be closed, so we just drive to the Lighthouse beach. There we walk along the promenade until after sunset (around 5pm at this time of the year).

Now the question is what to do with the evening and with the dinner, because we had a heavy lunch between 2 and 3pm and we're not in the mode of having a heavy dinner.

We drive around town a bit, checking if there are open supermarkets where we can buy something to eat in the hotel for dinner. It turns out that all supermarkets are closed today and there are only some kiosks where you can buy simple things and drinks.

We buy some food and drinks in a kiosk, then drive towards the beach area where the McDonalds and KFC fast food restaurants are, in order to buy some take-away stuff for the kids. Along the way we stop at a bakery where we buy some cookies.

Then we check out a Chinese restaurant which we saw earlier today. Lots of dishes in the 9 Euro price range, perhaps not bad. Finally we buy some fried chicken for the kids in a KFC and drive back to the hotel.

We spend the rest of the evening in the hotel. There is still no hot water, so we boil water and use it to fill up a bathtub where to take a bath. After 8pm Albert goes out again for dinner and is back at 10pm.

26.12: Paphos -> Kykkos monastery -> Paphos
Oracle Exclusive Resort, Paphos. In the morning again there is no hot water, and I again wash my hair with freezing cold water. I don't mind doing this in the summer, but in the winter some warm water would be appreciated. In the evening when we are back, the light in the toilet is fixed and there is finally some hot water with which to take a shower.
Weather: not good today unfortunately. Overcast in the morning, cold in the mountains with some rain starting at 2pm and quite windy. Relatively mild in Paphos in the evening and no rain

In the morning since the weather forecast for Kykkos is not too bad I decide to do the daytrip to the monastery today. Tomorrow the weather should be better, but I need the day of good weather for the Akamas peninsula trekking.

So we leave the hotel around 10:40am and start driving towards the Troodos mountains where the monastery is located. The road initially is relatively straight with few curves, so you could drive fast, but there are countless 50km/h speed limits everywhere. And the road passes through a lot of small towns and villages. Then, once we reach the mountains the road consists of countless very narrow curves and 30km/h speed limits.

 With the big Renault Traffic van and six people on board I can't drive that fast. And at one point the van gives 'brake fault' error messages and even tells me to stop driving. I'm guessing there must be some issue with the brakes, for instance some lose contact. But the brakes seem to work, so there shouldn't be this error message.

I call twice the Hertz car rental and talk to a lady who obviously has no clue. Basically it's Hertz Cyprus who maintain their cars very poorly and don't fix problems when they arise.

With stops it takes over two hours to reach the Kykkos monastery. At 12:50pm we stop at a parking area where there is a restaurant and some shops. Pretty freezing right now, so we walk into the restaurant for some food. The food is, well, eatable but quite overpriced. And this restaurant has no heating, so we have to eat quickly and with the jackets on.

About 45 minutes later we get out of the restaurant. Immediately my ladies walk to the shops and check what there is to buy. Some shopping and we end up spending a total of 20 Euro on dried fruits and nuts. Not bad stuff by the way, actually quite delicious.

Then we proceed to the entrance of the monastery. It's a relatively new building, maybe 100-200 years old and in a pretty good shape. Kind of nice, with many mosaics on the walls, but nothing really ancient. We have a look at the place, then get into the museum (entrance: 5 Euro). In the meantime it has started raining and is really freezing. Even inside the museum it's quite freezing. It's a small museum with a room with stone age stuff (about 2000 BC) and some larger halls with Christian art (paintings, some from the 13th century, religious clothes etc.).

The small church in the lower part of the monastery is really beautiful but photography is prohibited there. Lots of murals, paintings, golden chandeliers, candle sticks etc.

 When we are done with the monastery it's already 3pm. It has stopped raining, but everybody is freezing, the soil is wet and it's late anyway. So there is no option to have a walk in the forest and we just get back on the car, where at least it's dry and warm.

Getting back to Paphos takes about two hours with stops. Once there we buy some groceries in a kiosk and get back to the hotel. There we take a rest and after 7pm go out again for dinner.

Dinner is in the same restaurant (a 'taverna') where Albert had dinner yesterday. The food is not bad, but not that inexpensive either. We are back in the hotel at 9pm.

27.12: Paphos -> Akamas peninsula -> Paphos
Oracle Exclusive Resort, Paphos. This morning there is hot water in the shower and in the evening, when we are back, all rooms are heated. Looks like the staff are making an effort to improve their rating.
Weather: rainy in the morning, then overcast and sunny after about 11am-12pm. Clear sky in the evening, not cold.

In the morning it is raining, so I don't know exactly what to do today. Because if it rains, the trip to the Akamas peninsula is not really doable. On the other hand, postponing it to tomorrow is not really an option because I would be driving too much in one day (need to drive to Larnaca on the 28th).

On the other hand the weather forecasts contradict each other. One is predicting rain the whole week, another one is predicting good weather for tomorrow.

In the end I decide to drive to the Akamas peninsula, have a look there and in case it rains, simply drive back to Paphos. I tell everybody to bring umbrellas and be prepared for rain.

So we leave the hotel at 10:20am and start driving towards the Aphrodite baths in the Akamas peninsula. It's 47km and Google Maps gives a bit under one hour of driving time. The road is easier than yesterday, but still relatively slow. Lots of 50km/h and 30km/h speed limits.

With a couple of stops along the way, we reach the parking of the Aphrodite Baths at 11:30am. The scenery along the way is beautiful, if the sun is shining. The parking is again free (we haven't yet had to pay for parking here in Cyprus).

We park the car and start walking on the trail to the Baths of Aphrodite. I have a half idea to do a loop along the northern coast of the Akamas peninsula, then go inland and return to the parking.

Stunning, stunning scenery along the coast, great views. Really beautiful when the sun is shining. There are a number of good trails which criss-cross the peninsula and I guess you could spend the whole day trekking on it without getting bored. The Akamas peninsula is void of people or settlements, pretty wild and unspoilt.

Because we are a largish group of six people, with ages from 8 to 80, we move very, very slowly, because there are countless stops and people walk slowly. We'll end up doing the Aphrodite trail loop in reverse, first walking along the northern coast, then climbing the cliffs and going inland, and finally returning to the parking.

 At one point we have to stop and send back my mom, with due to her age is not really able to do so much walking and in any case is hungry because it's lunch time and she hasn't had lunch. She will walk back with Albert to the parking and wait for us there in the restaurant. Later we realise that it was a good idea to send her back, because at one point the trail becomes very, very tough and it would have been very difficult, had she been with us.

Essentially, after moving inland and climbing to about 250m-300m above sea level, the trail becomes flat and wide and we walk in the sunshine in a beautiful area. Winter is actually a good time to do this trekking because it is fresh (in the summer it must be very hot, perhaps too hot to do this trail).

It also becomes obvious that the distances are quite big, i.e. we can't make it to reach the southern coast and instead take the way back to the parking. At one point the trail becomes very bad, because it is very muddy and slippery and you have to walk down on rocks. Shoe soles totally covered with mud and this mud is what makes it so difficult to walk down, because it is so easy to slip on the rocks. It must have rained here until a day or just hours ago and therefore everything is so muddy.

Natasha manages to fall three times when walking down (twice into the mud), while Alissia doesn't fall at all. But overall the kids are not tired and easily walk the 7.5km of the trek. Lots of people today on this trail.

We're back at the parking at 3:25pm and walk to the restaurant where we join again with Albert and my mom, who have been enjoying a long lunch. Since it's quite late, we only have some small emals and some drinks (quite pricey restaurant, considering what we take).

After 4pm we start driving back towards Paphos. Short photo stop at 5:25pm in Paphos, then we drive to the Kings Avenue mall. This is a nice, modern mall with many shops, a Carrefour supermarket, a cinema and a food court. We spend some time in this mall, having some dinner in the food court and buying some stuff in the supermarket. We're back in the hotel at 7:30pm.


28.12: Paphos -> Larnaka
Eleonora hotel apartments, Larnaka. A small apartment consisting of a living room (TV, phone, A/C which doubles as heater) with kitchen area (fridge, cooking plates, microwave, water boiler, cooking utensils, plates glases etc.), toilet with shower and a sleeping room. This time the toilets have hot water and the room has no issues. Free WLAN in the room and parking for the car. The hotel is centrally located in Larnaca, in the shopping area a couple of hundred metres behind the beach. A bit noisy at nice, as there is music from the pubs below the hotel.
Weather: a mix of sunny and overcast, no rain. Temperatures peaking at 14°-15°C.

 In the morning we pack our stuff and check out at 11am. We then drive to the harbour area, park the car and walk to to the harbour. From there it's a short walk along the waterfront towards the medieval castle, passing in front of (heavily overpriced) restaurants and cafes and many souvenir shops. The castle (2.50€ ticket) is relatively well preserved (or perhaps has been reconstructed) and is directly facing the sea. It's really small however.

Shortly after 12pm we leave the castle and slowly walk along the waterfront towards the car. Some brief stops here and there to buy things. It's a great sunny day right now and the colours and the light are perfect.

At 12:30pm we enter the archaeological park (ticket: 4.50€). This is a large area, immediately west of the harbour with ruins from the Roman period. The park is still under excavation and it's highlights are not so much the buildings and temples. It's more the well preserved mosaics, which depict various scenes and patterns. The site is moderately interesting: the Greek ruins in Sicily are more impressive. Behind the theatre there is a white lighthouse.

At 2:30pm we leave the archaeological park, get into the car and drive to the Tomb of the Kings avenue, where plenty of restaurants are located. It's now 3pm and Shirley, the kids and myself will have a late lunch in a Tea for Two restaurant, while Albert and my mom have a lunch in a nearby tavern.

 Around 4pm we are done with the lunch and start driving towards Larnaka. Some traffic jam initially in Paphos, but as soon as we reach the motorway the traffic becomes very fluid. Speed limit of 100km/h (or less) everywhere. Around Limassol there is some more traffic (probably rush hour traffic). Then I manage to miss an exit and end up on the motorway to Nicosia, which basically makes me lose some time.

We reach the hotel the first time around 6:30pm. Then we lose some time looking for a parking until we realise that we can just drive into the hotel gate. Then we lose more time parking the huge Renault Trafic in the parking of the hotel (not an easy task and I almost hit another car).

In the evening we go out for dinner at 7:45pm. We find a place along the beach, the Tuck Inn, where we have some light dinner. At 9:30pm we walk back to the hotel.

29.12: Larnaca -> Tamassos -> Nicosia -> Larnaca
Eleonora hotel apartments, Larnaka. When we come back in the evening the heating doesn't work properly in one of the rooms - it keeps going on and off.
Weather: rain in the morning, until about 11am. After that it's sunny with some clouds in the sky until the evening.

We only manage to leave the hotel after 11am. Then we lose a lot of time to drive with the large car out of the hotel, because somebody parked a car and narrowed the exit. It's 20 minutes of manouvering the car until we finally manage to get out. Probably the last time I rent such a big car.

We then drive towards Tamassos, which is an archaeological site listed in the Rough Guides guidebook. It takes some time to get out of the Larnaka urban area, because this extends for some km into the hinterland. Overall the road is good and leads to the motorway to Nicosia.

At 12:45pm we stop at a beautiful Greek Orthodox church, and a few minutes later at a construction site where they are building what looks like a very photogenic Russian Orthodox church which lies next to a wooden church, also this very beautiful. We are at the Tamassos site shortly after 1pm.

The entry ticket costs 2.50 Euro (senior people 1.25 Euro). The site is quite small and surprisingly underwhelming. There are just some pieces of columns under a roof and two tombs reachable via staircases. Inside, the tombs are rather simple, the walls are almost void of decorations (here and there are some patterns) and the sarcophagi are simple rectangular structures with no decorations at all.
But the area around the site is beautiful and the kids enjoy playing around. It takes some effort to get Natasha back to the car after the 20 minutes we spent here. She is busy playing with a grasshopper.

We need a bit over half an hour to reach Nicosia, driving on secondary roads and a stretch of motorway, then ending up in some traffic jam in Nicosia.

Once in Nicosia, the parking I was targetting turns out to be full. I continue driving and get stuck for some time in the narrow streets of the old town with our huge minibus.

Finally I manage to drive out of the historic core and run into a parking. I drive into this parking and place the car somewhere. Soon the owner of this place arrives. It's 6 Euro for the parking, but he doesn't want us to place the car in this spot and points to another place. This other place is quite narrow and not suitable for my car. Some discussion and lots of shouting. The guy doesn't speak English and is not that polite either. Finally he tells us something which probably means that we should get lost.

So we drive out of this place and luckily quickly find another parking. This is even cheaper than the first one (only 3.50 Euro) and we manage to park the car in a good place. Later, when exploring Nicosia, we realise that there are parkings all over Nicosia where you can leave the car.

It's now 2:20pm and we haven't had lunch yet. On the other hand, if we look for a restaurant and have lunch, by the time we finish it's 4pm and it will get dark soon. So I tell the people to skip the lunch now, do the sightseeing instead and eat something after 5pm when it gets dark. The kids will have some drink and food along the way (bubble tea and sandwiches).

So we walk into the old town and pretty quickly run into Ledra street, the main shopping street of Nicosia (or Lefkosia, as the Greek Cypriots call the southern part of Nicosia). This is a very nice street with many elegant shops and restaurants. Not that many sights actually, but very nice pedestrian area.

We walk along Ledra street until we reach the border crossing into northern Cyprus. There we queue up to cross the border. There are two checkpoints, the Cyprus and Northern Cyprus one. The formalities are minimal: all you need to do is to show your passport, they register your name, and you are allowed to go through. No stamp is placed into the passport - they just keep track that you are crossing the border.

As soon as we enter North Nicosia, the environment changes dramatically. Lots of shops selling cheap or counterfeit goods (and it's prohibited to bring them back to south Nicosia). Prices are a bit lower (for instance 1 Euro for a scoop of ice cream vs. 1.50 Euro in south Nicosia). Everything looks less developed and backward. Less clean and flashy.

We walk until the St Sophia cathedral, which is a Christian church which has been converted to a mosque. Basically the upper part has somehow been chopped off and minarets have been added. No entrance fee.

We spend about half an hour in the northern part, then walk back to the southern part of Nicosia. Albert has in the meantime already gone to a restaurant with my mom and is having some food.

With Shirley and the kids I walk to Archbishop's palace and St John's cathedral. Walking around the streets I realise that the historic core is actually not that big and it's easy to cross from one end to another. There are not too many nice sights of historical places inside the wall. Very few palaces or churches for instance. The capitals of the Baltic countries which I visited earlier this year had many more sights to make an example.

We reach the Archbishop's palace ahortly after 4pm. By now the sun is already very low in the sky and is no longer illuminating directly most buildings. At 4:20pm we start walking back to Ledra street, arriving there at 4:45pm. Now the street and shop lights are already on and the evening is going to start soon.

We look for an Asian restaurant with Google Maps and find one in Ledra street, the Bamboo restaurant. This is quite clean and modern and serves a variety of Asian dishes (Chinese and Indian). Food is not terribly authentic, but is quite eatable and not too expensive. We spend a bit over an hour in this restaurant having a meal. Albert and my mom join us towards the end. Around 6pm we start walking back to the car.

Overally Nicosia is a quite nice and pleasant capital, with nice shopping and a few sights. But it's not too terribly interesting from a tourist perspective.

We walk back to the car, pay the parking fee and drive to The Mall of Cyprus, a shopping mall outside of Nicosia, arriving there shortly after 7pm. Parking in the parking of the mall is free of charge.

This mall is adjacent to an IKEA centre and some other shopping outlets. Quite flashy and modern, but the food court is relatively unimpressive, or let's say is smaller than the food court of the Kings Avenue mall in Paphos. I was thinking of having a dessert in this mall, but cancel my plan as there is no outlet offering nice desserts. We just walk to the Carrefour supermarket and buy some food there.

Then we drive back to Larnaca, arriving around 8:30pm in the hotel. Again some effort to park the car in the hotel parking. Hopefully tomorrow we are able to drive out with less effort.

30.12: Larnaka -> Amathus -> Kourion -> Limassol -> Larnaka
Eleonora hotel apartments, Larnaka.
Weather: overcast and sunny in the morning, sunny and rainy after that. Heavy rain after 3pm in Limassol and quite wet for the rest of the day.

We leave the hotel quite late after 11am and initially drive to Amathus, arriving there at 12:15pm. Amathus is an ancient historical site dating back to 1000 BC, and was ruled by Greeks, Phoenicians and Romans. The entry costs 2.50 Euro (1.25 Euro for elderly, free for children). The site lies along the coast and is relatively small. There are not too many intact structures, in fact only a few columns are still standing, while the rest lie in pieces on the ground. The site is nevertheless kind of interesting and well worth a visit.

We leave Amathus at 12:45pm and drive towards Kourion, an archaeological site west of Limassol. This dates back to Dorian and Mycenean times around 1200 BC, although the current structures are all from the Roman period. The ticket costs 4.50 Euro (2.25 Euro for elderly). Initially we end up on the Kourion beach, a quite interesting pebble stone beach, where some people are kitesurfing (strong wind today). Google Maps has directed us here but after some time we find the right entrance to the Kourion site. We are there shortly before 2pm.

We see an ancient theatre and some ruins under a timber protective roof with mosaics. After a few minutes it starts raining heavily for some time. In total we spend about 40 minutes in this place, which is a bit hard to visit due to the bad weather and the fact that the ruins are split into two clusters. Also this site is not too terribly interesting, if I compare it to other archaeological sites in the Mediterranean.

We walk back to the car and start driving towards Limassol. I key in the Limassol castle as a destination and we arrive there at 3:15pm. Everybody is hungry because we haven't had lunch so far and it is about to start raining soon, so we walk into the pedestrian area and enter into one restaurant on the square facing the castle.

There we have a long lunch (or perhaps let's say meal), until 5pm. Outside it is raining and the restaurant despite the covered (tent) roof and the heating is actually quite fresh (there are no tables inside the building).

After the meal, while the ladies walk back to the car, Albert and I briefly walk through the historic centre. It's kind of nice and with better weather it would be pleasant to stroll through the alleys. We run into the Ayia Napa cathedral, then walk back to the car.

Around 5:25pm we drive to the My Mall shopping mall, a few km out of Limassol. With a stop at a petrol station along the way to refuel the car, we arrive at the mall at 5:50pm. The My Mall is one of the better malls I have seen so far in Cyprus. Flashy and modern, with many elegant stores. There is a rink and a food court, but no supermarket.

We have some ice cream and snacks in this mall and leave it after 7pm. Then we drive back to Larnaka, reaching the hotel after 8:15pm. Again some effort to park the big minibus in the parking of the hotel.

31.12: Larnaca -> Kolossi -> Limassol -> Larnaca
Eleonora hotel apartments, Larnaka.
Weather: after yesterday's rain we are indemnified with a sunny day. It's mostly sunny the whole day, with some clouds every now and then. No rain, but quite fresh. In Larnaca I see some tough woman walking in the sea with a swimsuit.

We sleep until 10am (!) and leave the hotel quite late after 11am. We spend the first part of the day having a look at Larnaka. The street on which the hotel is located, Ermou, and the subsequent streets (Kleanthi Kalogera and Pavlou Valsamaki) until the beach are all full of fashion shops (lots of Italian chains) and watches shops. Quite elegant and high end.
Between the Larnaca pier and the Marina there is a stretch of sandy beach with some sun-loungers. Today the beach is almost empty. Along the beach there is a promenade with hotels, restarants and cafes. Lots of boats anchored in the marina.

Around 12:30pm we walk south towards the medieval fort (entrance: 2.50 Euro). This is a kind of cute seaside fort, with a rectagular outline. Behind the fort there is the Djami Kebir mosque, which today is closed. I get into the fort and have a quick look. Some cannons in the inner court and a small museum on the first floor. You can walk on the ramparts.

At 12:50pm I'm done with the fort and together with the ladies I walk to the church of St Lazarus, which is about 100-200m from the beach. This is a small, but very gorgeous Greek Orthodox church. It lies adjacent to the Byzantine museum and dates back to the 9th century AD. Right now (1pm) the church is closed and reopens at 3:30pm.

Because the ladies are quite hungry, we walk back along the beach to the Tuck Inn where we have a lunch. Then at 2:15pm we walk back to the hotel, fetch the car and drive to the Kolossi castle west of Limassol.

It takes about an hour to get there and in fact we arrive at 3:40pm. The Kolossi castle is a 13th century castle in the shape of a cuboid, very well preserved and quite photogenic (entry: 2.50 Euro, children free and elderly 1.25 Euro). The castle is surrounded by the ruins of some buildings. Inside there are some rooms and a staircase which connects the various levels and leads to the roof with merlons and crenels. Nice view of the surrounding area from the castle roof.

We leave the castle at 4:20pm, then take the car and drive to Limassol. It's basically the same road as yesterday and we arrive at 4:50pm. After leaving the car in a parking we walk to the Ayia Napa cathedral and the Limassol town hall. The town hall is unimpressive, but the cathedral is quite nice.

At 5:15pm we drive back towards the airport in Larnaca. Near the airport we refill the tank, then we drive to the Hertz car rental and return the car. It's really a relief to return this huge car without having had any accidents or damages.

After the formalities are concluded, the Hertz staff brings us to the airport and from there we take a taxi (20 Euro) back to Larnaca. These 20 Euro are a bit a lot considering that the distance is only 8km.

Once in Larnaca we have a dinner in a restaurant. The Tuck Inn is closed now and so are several restaurants along the beach. After the dinner we walk back to the hotel.

1.1: Larnaka -> Kyrenia
The Olive Tree hotel, Kyrenia. This is a four star establishment located about 8km east of the centre of Kyrenia, somewhere in the hills. To get there and from there into town or anywhere else you need a car (not sure if the hotel has a shuttle service). Nice room with a carpeted floor, phone, heating/aircon unit, flat screen TV, fridge, cupboard with electronic safe, toilet with hot shower. Good water basin. WLAN available in the room, but unusable because too slow. And it requires you to login with a browser (unusable on certain tablets). Excellent buffet dinner.
Weather: nice and sunny in Larnaka. Still sunny when we arrive in Kyrenia, but then it starts raining around sunset and gets quite fresh.

At 11:30am the taxi I booked through the Internet is here. The driver will bring us to Kyrenia for 65 Euro. I realise later that the driver is from Northern Cyprus.

Around 12:30pm we are at the border. They just check our passports without placing stamps inside. Quick procedure lasting only a few minutes. At the border, the driver places a magnetic taxi sign on the car roof.

Then we continue driving and around 1pm we are at the car rental in Kyrenia. Later I realise that we actually arrived at 2pm, because Northern Cyprus has the same time zone as Turkey.

Northern Cyprus is overall less developed and flashy than southern Cyprus. Every now and then there are monuments with flags of Northern Cyprus and people in enthusiastic poses. Kind of makes me think of propaganda monuments à la dear leader. Somehow Northern Cyprus feels sort of left behind, something like the German Democratic republic was before the reunification with West Germany.

Anyway, at the car rental they let us wait a bit (actually we lose half an hour waiting for the car to get ready - when I arrive it's totally dirty). Finally I get the car, a Kia Carens which is much smaller than the Renault Traffic we had before. We load our stuff in the boot, drive to the hotel and check in. Because only one room is ready, we place all luggage inside there, then drive into town.

Driving in Northern Cyprus is more chaotic than driving in Southern Cyprus. The roads are less well marked and there are fewer street signs. On the other hand, speed limits seem to be enforced here. While in southern Cyprus there are a lot of radar camera warning signs everywhere I haven't seen a single speed camera, while in northern Cyprus behind many radar camera signs there are actual speed cameras. Discipline levels on the street seem to be similar in north and south Cyprus.

So we drive into Kyrenia. Quite narrow streets, lots of traffic. At one point I turn left and follow the street signs for a parking. We reach a parking and leave the car there. It would be 5 TL, but because we only have Euro, it's 2 Euro. Then we walk towards the harbour.

The harbour is gorgeous and would be even more beautiful if the sun was shining. Typical medieval city harbour with a fortress overlooking the bay, the bay filled with fishing boats and yachts, restaurants and shops along the waterfront, lots of people.

We have some lunch between 3pm and 4pm in a restaurant overlooking the bay. Pricing level lower than in south Cyprus, taste not bad, portions not as giant as in the south. They have cherry juice and this is not bad.

After the lunch (it's actually already 5pm local time) we walk briefly around the harbour area (on the wavebreaker). It soon starts raining, so we don't stay long and walk back to the old town. By now the evening lights are on and everything looks more scenic.

In a shop I buy a local SIM card. I'm told it can be used only in Northern Cyprus and for calls within Northern Cyprus and to Turkey. 55 TL for a package with 5GB of mobile data and 100 minutes of calls. No need to show a passport or other identification document. Then we walk back to the car and drive to the hotel. Along the way, I refuel the car (the tank they gave me is almost empty) with 100 TL (which here buys 27.5 litres of petrol).

In the hotel the receptionist informs us about the local time in Northern Cyprus. One hour ahead meaning that the sun sets at 6pm instead of 5pm.

Then at 7pm we have a dinner in the hotel. Quite good buffet dinner, lots of choice, delicious desserts.

2.1: Kyrenia -> Famagusta -> Salamis -> Kyrenia
The Olive Tree hotel, Kyrenia.
Weather: overcast in the morning in Kyrenia, with the sun shining through every now and then. Sunny with clouds in Famagusta and Salamis. Some rain in the mountains on the way back to Kyrenia; when we are back in Kyrenia we realise that it has rained today in Kyrenia. Quite windy in Famagusta and Salamis.

 In the morning I'm a bit undecided about what to do today because it's not so clear how the weather will evolve. It's overcast but there are some signs that the sky might open up. On the other hand the weather forecast for Kyrenia is bad.

So, a bit after 10:30am we leave by car for Famagusta. I'm speculating that the weather south of the coastal mountain range might be better.

The road which from Kyrenia crosses the mountain range is not smooth. Seems to be either a very old road or a road poorly done. And there are no roadside parkings with entry lanes. You could park the car along the road every now and then, but you'd have to slow down the car considerably before leaving the road surface. In addition, this car I'm driving seems not to have good tyres and suspensions. Overall the tyres have a poor grip on the road, which forces me to drive quite slowly on this mountain road.

While crossing the mountain range the scenery along the road is quite nice. After the mountain range, there is a large plain where very few people live. It's quite green, probably because now it's the rainy season. The last section of the road to Famagusta is sort of a motorway. Not a real motorway, but it's a road with two lanes for each side and a speed limit of 100km/h. At every junction there is a speed limit of 65km/h or 75km/h. Lots of speed cameras.

Suddenly the police stops me at a chackpoint and tells me I was driving at 104km/h in the 75km/h speed limit. That's actually not correct, what happened is that I braked a bit late and reached the 75km/h a bit after the speed limit sign. But then they don't fine me because they say I'm a tourist.

We reach the city walls of Famagusta at 11:50am and park the car in a free parking outside the city walls. Later I see that I could have parked the car for free also inside the city. Then we start exploring Famagusta.

The historic core of Famagusta could be very cute and in fact there are many impressive ruins of medieval structures (mostly churches). But they totally messed up the harbour by placing a modern harbour with a container terminal. Famagusta could be a replica of Kyrenia with the cute harbour bay with the castle, instead it's a mixed bag. The Othello tower (or castle) has been restored in some sections with modern structures which don't fit with the rest.

Around 2pm we stop in a cafe for a brief lunch, then around 3pm take the car and drive to Salamis, which is only 8km north of Famagusta. Salamis is an archaeological site next to the beach and is supposed to be one of the most significant historical sites in the Mediterranean. There are parkings both outside the site and inside the site. The entrance ticket costs 9 TL per person (children free).

Inside the compound there are a number of structures spread over a few hundred metres, of which the theater is the one which is best preserved. The scenery and overall setting are quite nice. We spend a bit over an hour in this place, then get back to the car since it's almost 5pm and the site is closing. The sun hasn't set yet, but has already disappeared behind some low clouds.

Driving back to the hotel takes a bit over an hour. Some rain in the coastal mountain range on the way back. We reach the hotel a bit after 6pm.


3.1: Kyrenia -> Buffavento castle -> Bellapais -> St Hilarion castle -> Kyrenia
The Olive Tree hotel, Kyrenia. Lots of cats in this place. The kids enjoy playing with them, buy food for them and even bring them into the room.
Weather: sunny, blue sky with some clouds the whole day. Very little wind.

After the breakfast, at 10:30am we drive to the Buffavento castle. Initially the road goes up the mountain as yesterday. At the pass instead of going down we turn right and start driving on a narrow mountain road for about 7km. This road is paved, but not smooth and it's basically one lane only. If two cars meet it's a problem.

To avoid damaging the car I drive quite slowly on this road. Essentially the road climbs up the mountain and leads to a parking at about 720m of altitude on the southern slope of the mountain range. We arrive there around 11am. From this parking you can see the Buffavento castle in the distance on top of the mountain.

It takes some effort to motivate the ladies to walk up to the castle, because initially they think that the climb to the castle is too challenging. But then, once on the path we immediately see that the path is very easy. It's a plain path with staircases, very easy to walk. It's just the environment of rough rock and the steep slope which is a bit scary.

Beautiful scenery and stunning setting by the way. Steep rough rocks, every now and then some pine tree, great view of the plains.

Dragging up (sort of) the two girls I manage to reach the lower part of the castle at 11:45am. Here are the lower structures of the castle. Then the two girls refuse to continue climbing up and instead will wait here for Shirley and my mom, who are walking up a bit more slowly.

I continue walking up the last section and reach the upper part of the castle at 950m of altitude at 12pm. The upper part of the Buffavento castle lies on the exact top of the mountain. From here there is a diret view of the coast of northern Cyprus and the plains on the southern side of the mountains. Basically this castle could be used as an early warning system against pirate raids. It offered good views of the sea and was very hard to attack due to its position on top of the mountain.

There are only some ruins left of this castle: some walls, and a few rooms. It's actually a relatively small castle, basically only suitable for inspecting the sea and the plains.

After about 20 minutes on the summit I walk down and join the ladies, with whom then I walk down to the parking.

Around 12-40pm we start driving to the next place, the Bellapais monastery. Google Maps suggests to drive back on the same road on which we came and then take the speedy coastal road. To avoid driving again on the same road I instead choose to take the mountain road.

This is basically again a narrow and not so good road running parallel on the mountain slopes. At one point this road becomes very, very bad. It's no longer paved, just a dirt track with big stones in it. So I do a U-turn and choose a different route. Basically we drive down to the valley and use a much better road (paved, smooth). Then, where the highway from Nicosia crosses the coastal mountains, we take another road which runs parallel to the highway. On the way, we stop in a supermarket and buy some drinks and food.

At one point we run into a military checkpoint. The route which Google Maps is suggesting apparently goes through a military area. Great. Another U-turn and this time I get on the motorway and drive down to the coast.

Then we are stuck a bit in the traffic jam. Finally, after lots of driving we reach the side road which leads up to Bellapais. Close to the Bellapais monastery there is a big parking. I continue driving a bit to check out the area, and later manage to miss the parking which lies right behind the monastery. Instead I continue driving on very narrow roads and in the end just manage to make a very big loop, losing a lot of time.

It's 2:40pm when we finally park the car in the parking of the Bellapais monastery (5 TL parking fee). Bellapais is a quite nice area: small cute villages, houses, orange trees, nice vegetation, great view of the coast, very scenic ruins of the monastery. Lots of tourist shops.

The cute Bellapais abbey ruins date back to the 13th century. Entry costs 9 TL. None of the ladies want to get into the abbey, so it's just me walking into this place. The ruins are not so big, comprising a church building and some rooms below it, all nicely set up in a well manicured garden with orange and cypress trees.

After about half an hour in the monastery, I join again the others. Then we spend some time buying some dried fruits in a shop.

Finally at 3:25pm we start driving to the last place of today, the St Hilarion castle. To get there we drive down to the coast, then take the motorway to Nicosia for a few km, then turn right onto a mountain road.

Shortly before 4pm we reach the St Hilarion castle and park the car in the parking of the castle. This lies in a nice setting on top of a mountain. It's much larger than the Buffavento castle: there are living quarters, even a Byzantine chapel. Also from this castle there is a good view of the sea. The entrance costs 9 TL.

Since Shirley and the kids don't want to have a look at the castle, I get in with my mother. We slowly walk up the staircase to the upper structures. Great views of the surrounding mountains, valleys and the sea. Very photogenic ruins of the castle on top of the mountain. The castle compound occupies the entire upper part of a mountain peak, with ramparts surrounding the entire peak. From the base to the top it's about 10 minutes of walking.

At 4:50pm we drive back to the hotel. On the way I refuel the car in a petrol station (another 100 TL of petrol). Then Shirley spots a large supermarket, which previously was closed and today is open. So we drive there and do some more shopping. Lots of imported goods (many from Italy).

In the meantime it'a 5:45pm, and there is not enough time to bring back everybody to the hotel and then drive back to Kyrenia for some blue hour photography. So I drive to the harbour area of Kyrenia, take some photos and am back in the hotel at 7pm.


4.1: Kyrenia -> Kantara -> Kyrenia
The Olive Tree hotel, Kyrenia. The sauna is an electric one (electric heater).
Weather: mostly sunny, blue sky, but lots of clouds. No rain, almost no wind.

In the morning, while Shirley is in the hotel taking a sauna and the kids are playing with the cat, I drive with my mom into town. We park the car in the big parking right next to the castle (3 TL parking fee). Later I notice that some cars are parking for free right besides the castle.

We walk down to the harbour. Not much activity at this time of the day (10:45am), but great views of the harbour (very photogenic, good light). Then we walk towards the castle, initially missing the entry point. We walk once around the castle, which from the outside has no windows or doors (sort of a monolithic block of stone).

In the end we find the entrance to the castle (ticket: 12 TL) and walk in. Nice view of the harbour from the western bastion. Interesting Byzantine chapel inside the castle, cool views from the ramparts. Inside the castle, in the inner court there is a cafe.

At 12:25pm we drive back to the hotel and join again Shirley and the kids. With them, at 1pm we start driving to the Kantara castle, which lies about an hour by car east of Kyrenia. 

On the way we make a couple of stops along the coast. This is quite cool, with ragged rocks. We don't see nice sandy beaches. Where we stop, the coast consists of rocks. Several real estate development projects with holiday villas along the coast. Cheapest apartments starting at 35000 GBP. I just wonder who would buy one of these villas or apartments, because in this area, besides the rocky coast there is nothing of interest.

We stop in the village of Kaplica to buy some food and drinks in a shop, then continue driving inland to the castle. Now it's a narrow and winding road, which climbs up the mountain and after 7km brings us up to the 500m of altitude where the Kantara castle is. We reach the castle at 2:50pm.

The Kantara castle ruins are slightly bigger than those of the Buffavento castle, but smaller than those of the St Hilarion castle. Also this castle lies on a mountain top, with views of both the northern and eastern coasts. The entry ticket costs 9 TL. From the parking it's a short easy walk to the castle ruins (and actually the road leads all the way up to the ruins). There is a path with some staircases with which you can reach the upper levels. Some restoration is going on when we visit. Overall there are not many structures left.

Shortly after 4pm we leave the castle and drive back to the hotel. With a short stop along the way, we reach the Olive Tree hotel at 5:24pm. The ladies get out of the car, while I drive into Kyrenia town for some blue hour photography. This evening I get some pretty cool shots of the harbour and the castle. Kyrenia is the most scenic city I've seen so far on Cyprus.

At 6:30pm I drive back to the hotel.

5.1: Kyrenia -> Byron Pavlides villa -> Koruçam Burnu -> Soli -> Vouni -> Kyrenia
The Olive Tree hotel, Kyrenia.
Weather: in the morning overcast, then sunny, then some rain and later sunny with many clouds. The forecast for today was rain in the afternoon, but the rain came at noon (only a little bit) and later the weather was good. Essentially you can't really rely on weather forecasts for Cyprus.

In the morning it's not so clear how the weather for today will evolve. Around 10am it's sunny with some clouds but according the weather forecast it should rain. With rain I would drive to north Nicosia, with good weather I would do the loop along the northwestern coast. In the end I decide to take the loop along the northwestern coast and head to Nicosia if it starts raining.

The problem with the weather in Cyprus is that it is variable and unpredictable.

Anyway, we leave the hotel after breakfast and drive westwards along the coast. At one point we leave the coastal road and drive inland, on a road which climbs up the mountain. After some time we run into a military checkpoint. While I'm about to do a U-turn thinking that Google Maps made again a navigation mistake, the soldier waves us and tells us to continue driving.

We have to leave the passports at the checkpoint and then are allowed to continue driving to the Byron Pavlides villa. Not clear why this building should be in a military area.

At 11:25am we park the car next to the villa (the "Blue house") and walk into it. I happened to find this Byron Pavlides villa as a touristic highlight in Google Maps, but in reality it's a mansion in a nice setting on top of a hill and nothing more than that. Nothing so spectacular.

Anyway, the entry ticket costs 3 TL and includes a guided tour. This is done in English and by somebody who probably is a Turkish soldier. This guy walks us through several rooms and tells us a story of a Paulo Pavlides, half-Italian and half Greek, personal lawyer of Archbishop Makarios, who according to him had connections with the Italian Mafia was an arms dealer. And then he tells us that Archbishop Makarios also had connections with the mafia etc.

Then there are exhibits about the history of Cyprus which seem a bit biased (like when the Turks invaded Cyprus in the 16th century they came to "liberate" the country and with an army of 60000 soldiers they suffered 50000 martyrs).

We end up spending 50 minutes in this place, then drive to the next one, Cape Kormakitis (in Turkish Koruçam Burnu). It's not such a big distance, but the last 3km are on a bad dirt track full of stones. We reach the cape at 1:10pm.

 The setting of this cape is sort of nice, but otherwise there is not much to see here. It's interesting to see how the wawes from one direction come and meet the waves from another direction right at the cape.

We just spend about 20 minutes at Cape Kormakitis, then at 1:30pm continue driving to the next place. This was supposed to be an area of sand dunes west of Koruçam, but because it's already a bit late and probably also here the road won't be good I decide to drive directly to the archaeological site of Soli.

On the way we pass by Güzelyurt and stop to take a picture of the St Mamas Byzantine church. We make several stops along the way to take pictures because the scenery is very photogenic, especially now that the sun is shining. We reach Soli at 3:30pm.

In Soli there are the ruins of a Roman amphitheater. Very well preserved half-circle structure. Surprisingly no entry ticket needed, perhaps because of the road we took (a side road which bypassed the ticket booth, just guessing). This amphiteater is also very photogenic and in addition there are great views of the coast and valleys from here.

At 4pm we start driving to the last stop of the day, the Vouni palace. It's not far from here, but getting there takes about 15 minutes. When we arrive, we are told that the place is closing in 10 minutes, so we rush to take some pictures.

The Vouni palace is just a set of ruins on top of a hill overlooking the bay. To get there you must drive on a narrow, single lane only road for the last few km. Only building foundations are visible, possibly the result of excavations. Good panoramic views of the valleys below and of the coastline.

At 4:30pm we leave Vouni and start driving back to the hotel. It's quite a long drive, about 1:30h, initially on narrow or village roads, later on the higher speed road towards Nicosia and Kyrenia. With a stop along the way to take some pictures of mandarin trees we reach Kyrenia at 6pm. Then we spend some time buying stuff in a supermarket near a mosque and drive back to the hotel.


6.1: Kyrenia -> Nicosia -> St Barnabas monastery -> Kyrenia
The Olive Tree hotel, Kyrenia.
Weather: until the afternoon a mix of sunny and overcast, clouds here and there. After 3pm sunny with almost no clouds. No rain, very little wind. Fresh in the shadows, warm in the sun.

We leave the hotel in the morning after the breakfast. The weather is unimpressive in Kyrenia this morning, but at least it doesn't rain. Some dark clouds over the coastal mountain range, but as soon as we cross the mountain range it gets sunny.

 In north Nicosia we spend a few minutes looking for a parking, then leave the car on a free area along the city walls. Around 11:20-11:30am we start walking.

North Nicosia (the part we are in right now) looks like the German Democratic republic immediately after reunification. Everywhere there are broken, dilapidated and abandoned houses. It's as if there had been a war, some houses had been hit by grenade shells and people left in a hurry. Some sections of North Nicosia feel like a civil war zone. By the way, lots of dirt and mud on the roads (and not only here in Nicosia - all over Cyprus; if you have a car you have to wash it almost every day).

It doesn't take too much time until we are in the area with the touristic highlights. The first building we run into is supreme court building. While there a hot young lady in miniskirt and high heels walks with some papers into the building. Maybe she is a lawyer or some other professional working in the court, but this shows that although North Cyprus is a muslim country, women here like to dress sexy.

The supreme court building is very photogenic, especially when the sun is shining. Some old local people are having a coffee on a cafe table. Near the supreme court lies the Venetian column.

The next thing we run into is the Büyük Han, which is a 16th century caravanserai. This has been restored in the 1990s and is very, very cute. It shows that with some investment into restoration, Nicosia could be a much more pretty city. Anyway, this Büyük Han has now been converted to a cultural centre with shops and cafes. Nice inner court with a square layout.

Around 12:15pm we walk towards the Selimiye mosque and beyond, all the time stopping here and there. We run into a number of places, including the church of St Catherine, a church which was converted into a mosque after the Turk conquest of Cyprus.

Then because the kids want to try out the cone pizza (sort of a pizza shaped like an icecream cone with a filling of tomatoes, mozzarella and oregano) and want to eat in the KFC restaurant, both places being in south Nicosia, we cross the border, getting into Cyprus proper. Some time spent eating the cone pizza and KFC chicken. Back in the "western world" for 40 minutes.

After that we cross again into north Nicosia and explore a bit the western part around the Arabhamet quarter. More damaged, dilapidated houses. My mom saying that people here must be really so poor and because of this they come to western Europe. We pass by the American University in north Nicosia (interesting building), then visit the Armenian church (the Sourp Asdvadzadzin church).

This 14th century church can be visited, but it is necessary to knock at a door so that the caretaker opens it and lets you in. There is no entry ticket and the church has been desecrated since 1964. From the ourside the church is very photogenic and even inside the church looks nice.

After this we are more or less done with Nicosia. We slowly walk along the city walls back to the car. Since it's early (just 3:10pm), we drive to one more place, the St Barnabas monastery near Famagusta.

Along the way we stop briefly at the Hala Sultan mosque outside Nicosia for some photos. Most scenic mosque we've seen so far in Cyprus. The mosque is not fully complete yet and is still being built.

In Tuzla we do another stop to take a photo of another church. It's a former Byzantine Orthodox church which was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Cyprus. The clock tower is very picturesque and old.

We reach the St Barnabas monastery at 4:25pm, just in time for the last visit of the day (the church interior are only open until 5pm). This is an 18th century Greek Orthodox building with an inner court and a museum with paintings inside the church. All in a very scenic setting in the fields near Tuzla.

At 5pm we drive back to Kyrenia and arrive in the hotel at 6:10pm.

7.1: Kyrenia -> St Margas monastery -> Antifonitis church -> Larnaca -> Munich
Home, sweet home.
Weather: quite variable today. Windy in the morning, cloudy, then sunny, some rain etc. Cold in Munich and it snows.

In the morning after packing my stuff I drive with my mom to the St Margas Armenian monastery in the mountains east of Kyrenia. Shirley will spend the time with the kids relaxing in the hotel.

The distance is not so big. Initially we drive on the road to Buffavento, cross the mountains, then after a few km turn left and drive along a small mountain road full of curves. Very narrow, but at least the road is paved.

Around 11:30am we park the car in a parking in a picnic area and then spend a few minutes figuring out where the monastery is. Turns out that you have to walk down the road which is blocked by a bar. It's a very nice walk across the forest, with nice views of the forest, coastal mountain range and of the coast.

With a few photo stops and walking slowly, we reach the monastery at 11:50am. The monastery is in a very poor state. All structures are damaged, many roofs are collapsed. But the setting in the mountains is magic.

We spend 25 minutes in the monastery, then walk back to the car. While we walk, it rains for a few minutes. Then we drive to the next place, the Antifonitis church in the mountains. To get there you drive along a mountain road (again narrow, full of curves but paved) for about half an hour. The church is about 10-15 km to the east.

We reach the Antifonitis church at 1:20pm and park the car in the parking next to the church. Immediately a guy arrives in a car and opens the door for us. Seems he is the caretaker of this place.

The church is quite well preserved and the interior has beautiful frescoes. It is in a courtyard surrounded by a wall.

After about 25 minutes, at 1:45pm, we drive back to the hotel. With a stop along the way, we arrive at 2:30pm.

Then we check out, hand over the keys of the car to the hotel reception (as agreed with the car rental), and at 3pm get into the taxi to Larnaca airport.

The driver of this vehicle (a Mercedes minibus) drives with high speed across Cyprus, much faster than I would dare to drive and doesn't strictly follow the road rules all the time. With this speedy driver we reach the airport in Larnaca around 4:10pm (actually 3:10pm local time).

Then we check in our stuff at the counter, have some food and proceed to the gate.

The Lufthansa flight has over half an hour of delay, but the pilot promises to speed up and arrive in Munich only 10 minutes late. The plane is chocking full.

The plane touches down in Munich at 8:15pm local time, with just five minutes of delay. Then it takes a while to go through passport control and retrieve the luggage. I call the car parking service and ask to be picked up. The guy tells me to go to the bus stop Nr 1 and call again once there.

It takes a few minutes of walking to reach the bus stop Nr 1. Nearby there I see many minibuses of the various car parking services, all picking up people.

It takes a few phone calls and some discussion to finally find the right minibus. It's freezing cold and it is snowing. The driver drives very slowly (30km/h) to the parking in Freising. Once there we leave the bags and my mom in the heated office room, while I (followed by Shirley and the kids who insist to come with me) walk to the car.

It's a 300m walk since the parking is big. Since it's an open air parking, the car is full of snow and ice. I wonder if I shouldn't perhaps have left the car in a covered parking or if I should have paid for some snow removal service. Anyway, I get into the car and try to switch on the engine. No reaction for a few seconds, I already start thinking that the battery is dead.

Suddenly the engine turns on. I switch on all electrical heatings, get out of the car and start removing the ice and snow on it. A few minutes later we drive to the parking office. There we put all baggages into the car boot space, pick up my mom, set up the car navigation system and start driving home.

There is heavy snowfall and all secondary streets are covered with snow. I have winter tyres, but only dare driving very slowly and carefully. The streets are almost void of cars; very few people who dare to drive in this weather. Finally I reach the motorway. This is reasonably free of snow, and here I speed up a bit to 80-90 km/h. We reach home by 11pm.

Copyright 2017 Alfred Molon