It used to be said that only a poor man walks in Cyprus. Nowadays walking is marketed by holiday companies as an attractive way to see the country- and enthusiastically endorsed by the locals.
There are many ways to enjoy North Cyprus, but if you want to appreciate its history, geology, flowers and wildlife, there’s no better way than to get out there and start walking. All you need is some good footwear, and optionally, a stout stick to help you on your way.
It’s just a short stroll with my two dogs from my front door to the woods where they scamper hither and thither, noses to the ground, all of us enjoying the intoxicating smell of the umbrella pines. Perhaps they remember the momentous occasion when they “sprang” country a large black hare that shot past them leaving them panting in his wake? Grey/brown foxes may also appear, less intimidated than the hare, they pause to give you a disdainful look before dashing off to their darkened den.
It’s cooler now, so the forest flowers have snuggled under the leaf mould and pine cones. Around April, purple-tinged cyclamen, pure white daisies and anemones of cream, pink and lavender blue welcome another sun-drenched summer.
The main attraction for North Cyprus walkers is the 143-mile Kyrenia Mountain Trail, which runs along the top of the rocky spine that divides the country’s extensive coast from its more arid interior. Historical landmarks along the way include the 10th Century Kantara Castle, one of many ancient buildings that reflect the island’s turbulent history.
October to April is the ideal time to step into history and discover old ruined monasteries and churches, some with beautiful frescoes still intact, such as the 12th-century church of Antiphonitis, in the mountains near Esentepe.
The North Cyprus tourism ministry promotes a brochure, “Walking in Nature,” a network of trails specially selected for their visual appeal and environmental interest. Tracks are numbered, with 183 marker pyramids, and graded one to four for difficulty. Some are broad as a road, others just well-trodden footpaths.
Many are round trips that will return you to your starting point, but it is also possible to take on the marathon “Cape to Cape” walk from one end of the country to the other.
Companies such as Cyprus Active and Bellapais Travel will arrange day tours with lunch for small parties. Or you may like to join a “serious” walking group, such as the Mountain Sports Association. Not as gruelling as it sounds, this club charges a small annual membership fee (less than ten pounds Sterling) to organise guided walks through some of the most spectacular North Cyprus scenery.
Last weekend they enjoyed visiting the celebrated ancient olive trees of Kalkanli. Next week, it’s an evening ramble on the beach.