While the west of Kyrenia was busily engaged in occasionally less than thoughtful development, the area to the east just quietly went on its way. Historically, locals were discouraged from building settlements on the shores because of raids by Arab corsairs – hence the villages tend to be built higher up on the more easily defended hills. Yet history has bequeathed this area with some very fine and interesting monuments, beginning only three kilometres outside of Kyrenia with the Abbey of Bellapais, nestling in the mountains overlooking the sea.
On the coast road towards the Karpaz peninsula is the venerated Tomb of Hazreti Ömer;- the Islamic Caliph, Umar. It’s said to be the final resting place of seven holy warriors and curiously was venerated by both communities on the island. It’s magnificently set on a sea-swept spit of rock jutting into the waters.
Not so far away as the crow flies, but a bit of a trek for bipedals, is Buffavento Castle, the rockiest, least well-preserved but highest of the Kyrenia range’s three fortresses. Your car can only take you so far, so be prepared for the final stretch, which is worth the hike for the views alone.
The forest here is dotted with places well worth a visit, not only for their historical merits, but also because of their beautiful settings in the pine forest. The Sourp Magar Monastery can be accessed from the mountain road that leads to Alevkaya. The sad ruins betray rich heritage. Several attempts at repair have been attempted recently but then abandoned due to the cost. It is an extensive complex in need of almost total restoration.
Nearby is the North Cyprus Herbarium set in the Alevkaya picnic grounds. It’s more research facility than tourist attraction but is actually very well stocked with drawings and photos of local plants by the talented founder of the herbarium, botanist Dr. Deryck Viney as well as preserved specimens.
Not far from the now rapidly developing Esentepe, is the Antiphonitis Church, once an important Byzantine monastery. Originally 7th century, it had extensions added by the Lusignans in the 14th century, and was famed for its frescoes. Some still remain including a notable Christ Panokrator in the dome of the church.
For some rest, recreation and swimming the beautiful Alagadi Beach, a twenty minute drive along the coastal highway east, is a fine place to spend some time. It’s a nesting beach of the animal that has come to be the symbol of North Cyprus, the caretta caretta green turtle. There’s a visitors centre here and the turtle protection operation is run locally but in collaboration with the University of Wales in Swansea.