Are you looking for a place to call home on the island of Cyprus? Discover the best places to live in North Cyprus (the TRNC – Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus).
The island of Cyprus itself is not small by any measure, it’s the third biggest in the Mediterranean. However, the TRNC (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus) takes up only a third of the whole island, which is 3,355 square kilometres (1,295 sq mi).
In short, it’s a small country that doesn’t have a long list of great places to live. Also, villages and towns are relatively close together, and nowhere feels really remote unless you go camping in the Karpaz peninsula – the long eastern stretch of the island.
You can hire a car and visit every place on our list in a day. You will need longer if you want to wander around places and investigate them properly.
North Cyprus overview
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus boasts a magnificent coastline framed by the Kyrenia Mountains, also known as the Five Finger Mountains.
It is a long, narrow mountain range that runs for about 100 miles along the northern coast of the island, its northern slopes cradling stunning little villages looking down to the splendid Mediterranean beaches.
The mountains catch a great amount of rain and so are quite forested and very green during the winter and spring months. They are also home to the ruins of the three magnificent Crusader castles perched on the tops of the rocky summits.
Those who brave the mountain drive up to the castles are rewarded with a breathtaking view of the entire northern coastline. On certain days, when the weather conditions are right, visitors can see as far as the Turkish coast.
If you venture to the top of the most eastern Kantara castle, you can see all the way along the Karpaz peninsula right towards its pointy end and the sea on both sides of it.
The slopes of the mountain and the delightful coastline offer you plenty of locations to choose from to live there.
1. Kyrenia (Girne)
Kyrenia, or Girne in Turkish, is a major cultural and economic center in Northern Cyprus.
It is vibrant, bright, full of students and tourists, and maybe a bit too noisy for those who seek calmness and quiet.
If you live in North Cyprus, and especially in the Kyrenia District, you will soon discover that the town has its own gravity.
It attracts both residents and visitors, who flock daily in great numbers down to Kyrenia Harbour for a stroll around the marina towards the Kyrenia Castle or a slow and lazy lunch in one of the many little cafes dotted around.
The lovely traditional St. Andrew’s church in Kyrenia welcomes churchgoers to regular Sunday services run by an Episcopal vicar resident at the nearby Hermitage.
If you are a newcomer, look out for regular meetings of the British Residents’ Society, which are held weekly in their Kyrenia office. They welcome new members and are always happy to give advice about getting the very most out of life in the TRNC.
Kyrenia is well connected with most major destinations all over the island. It’s also close to international airports. It takes about half an hour to drive to the capital or to Ercan airport (which is on the Turkish side); Larnaca airport is over an hour’s drive away.
There’s also the New Harbour to the east of the town, from where you can take a ferry to Turkey.
The town sprawls out from the harbor and is home to an ever-growing population of expats from all over the world. It’s growing bigger and feels more like a small city.
All the amenities you need on a daily basis are there: shops, utilities, council offices, banks, communication services, multiple cafes and restaurants, and leisure facilities.
For more sophisticated shopping or entertainment, people usually head to Nicosia, very often to the Greek side. Crossing the border is no problem; for many residents of Cyprus, it’s a daily routine.
Another option is to spoil yourself with occasional weekends in Istanbul and enjoy a great city break with top-class shopping malls and entertainment of all kinds.
If you seek a quieter life, look at the numerous little villages lying outside Kyrenia, which offer just what you’re looking for – peace and calm – while still being in close proximity to the city.
This small village in the mountains, about four miles from Kyrenia, is a true spot of beauty. From this very place, Lawrence Durrell wrote his Bitter Lemons of Cyprus, a sad and heartbreaking story of the conflict between Turkish and Greek Cypriots.
Living there means stepping away from the bustle of Kyrenia into the tranquil retreat of a beautiful village with unprecedented views and a magnificent 13th-century abbey. Bellapais’ pride and joy, the Abbey, is built precariously on a natural terrace with a huge drop.
The whole of the northern coastline can be seen from there, and the building is rightfully considered to be one of the most beautiful Gothic buildings in the Near East.
It is very popular with locals, tourists, and expats. People come there to have a meal or a cup of tea in restaurants that offer an unforgettable view, to enjoy the architecture, or even to pronounce their wedding vows. Local art lovers enjoy performances in the Abbey concert hall.
The Abbey is also home to an annual Bellapais International Music Festival. It usually takes place during May and June and features classical music, choirs, opera singers, and brass-band concerts.
Bellapais is a perfect location if you are relocating with children, as it is close to one of the best international schools on the island – The English School of Kyrenia.
Other villages of the Kyrenia District
Moving east along the coast, you will find a number of beautiful little villages, most of them boasting fantastic views and proximity to the beaches.
The village of Esentepe, for example, is a very popular location with expats who want to buy a property in North Cyprus. It has its own beach, schools, doctor’s surgery, police station, and a number of shops – and an international standard golf course just 10 minutes drive away. There is also the famous medieval domed Antiphonitis Church, which dates back to the 12th century.
Ozankoy village is famous for its olive, carob, and lemon trees, and from it, you get a stunning view of the Bellapais Abbey. The village, with its medieval church and mosque, is very traditional and peaceful.
Up in the mountains, there is the white colonial village of Karmi – a true expatriate shelter situated right under St. Hilarion Castle. With a pub and a restaurant, a little gallery, and a church in the middle, all wrapped up in bougainvillea and guarded by solemn Cypress trees. It is a beautiful place that many would love to call home.
Other villages along the coast, including Alsancak, Lapta, and Karsiyaka, are also loved by expats and have a lot to offer to their residents.
3. Famagusta (Gazimagusa)
Famagusta is a large town on the east coast of Cyprus. It’s just over an hour’s drive from Kyrenia and another popular destination for expats. It is the capital of the Gazimağusa District of Northern Cyprus and a fascinating mix of the ancient walled city and new developments.
Famagusta has the deepest harbor on the island, and so receives the largest ships. It is a bustling town with a walled city at its heart, and it’ll take your breath away. The town offers a wide selection of shops, restaurants, pubs, and cafes.
It is worth remembering that the town houses a campus of the Eastern Mediterranean University and is generally very lively, with all the student population enjoying the place.
The beaches around Famagusta are considered to be the best on the island and are also a good starting point for exploring the Karpaz peninsula – a wild and unpopulated area full of splendid beaches and wild donkeys.
4. Iskele and Bogaz
On the way from Famagusta to Karpaz, you will pass through the village of Yeni Iskele, also known by its Greek name of Trikomo. The village is quite popular with British expats and is an important tourist center.
Iskele is also famous for its annual festival, held during the first two weeks of July, and the Mehmetcik (Galateia) grape festival, normally held during the first week of August. Both these festivals are major regional cultural events, attracting visitors across the island.
About 4 miles northeast of Iskele, there is the beautiful village of Bogaz – a traditional fishing village with the wild Karpaz Peninsula on its doorstep.
It is famous for its harbor that houses a dozen fish restaurants, where they cook and serve fish literally fresh straight from the sea.
There are many expats here, and a few bars in the area are run by expats.
The village is very laid back with some lovely places to eat out. It is conveniently near to Famagusta to travel every day, but far enough away to relax. The beaches around the area are lovely. Bogaz is very quiet in winter but becomes busy and lively in summertime.
5. Nicosia (Lefkosa)
Living on the Turkish side of Nicosia, or Lefkosa, is not the most popular idea with expats. It’s understandable – when you move to Cyprus, you long for sea views from your terrace, and this is something you cannot get in Nicosia.
However, there are certain advantages to living just that bit further inland: there are fewer tourists, and as a result, not as many service industries (such as shops or cafes, and restaurants) inflate prices during the tourist season.
North Nicosia is home to a historic walled city with the pretty Sarayönü Square in the center. The walls are medieval, but there are plenty of modern additions to the place, with its vibrant bars, restaurants, and shops. It’s very compact and is a great place for a city walk.
The whole place is a wonderful mix of different historical ages and architecture. Christianity and Islam are side by side and intermingled with Venetian, British, French, and Genoese details sprouting here and there.
A more modern area in North Nicosia – the Dereboyu region – is where business centers and modern entertainment areas are located.
The region has become a center of entertainment with regular street parties, festivals, and concerts by local bands.
Although part of a divided city, North Nicosia still possesses a capital city vibe when it comes to cultural experiences. A number of festivals are hosted in the city on a regular basis, including international festivals of theatre and music.
An annual spring fest is held by the Near East University, where famous Turkish Cypriot, Turkish, and international singers and bands perform.
The University’s Atatürk Culture and Congress Centre is also home to the annual International Cyprus Theatre Festival.
The big downside to living in Nicosia is the summer heat. Summers are grilling in the city. It’s the hottest place in Cyprus, with summer temperatures over 40 degrees.
The city is also full of students, as it hosts several universities, and the student population is over 34,000.
Another fact to bear in mind is that most of Nicosia’s residents are Turkish, so knowing a bit of the language can come really handy.
Public transport is not efficient, so having a car will take you a long way. The nearest beach is a 50km drive away, so a car is a must.
Final thoughts on North Cyprus’ locations
On the whole, North Cyprus offers a lot to those who like to be active, from mountain walks to boat trips to paragliding. For golf lovers, there are several venues, including the 18-hole Korineum Golf & Beach Resort, which boasts an impeccably maintained course with stunning mountain and sea views.
Yacht lovers can enjoy the services of three marinas: the traditional Kyrenia Harbor, the new Delta Marina at the New Kyrenia Harbor, and the brand-new Karpaz Gate Marina.
There are a number of diving and watersports clubs, too.
Expat life can be quite organized if that’s how you like it! And through the many expat clubs and societies, expats can meet up and socialize. There are expat bookshops, cafes, and even weekend markets.
There is a British Consulate in Nicosia in the northern part of the city, where passports can be renewed, and all the usual official information and advice for expat residents can be obtained. You will find more information here: The Realities Of Retiring To North Cyprus – Your Questions Answered By An Expert
You might find useful:
- Taxes In North Cyprus For Expats
- Buying A Property In North Cyprus
- The Expat Guide to UK Pensions Abroad – detailed information about your state, workplace, and private pensions when you retire abroad; your options, tax implications, and opportunities if you transfer your pension pot abroad or leave it in the UK.
- How To Access Best Quality Affordable Healthcare When You Move Abroad – how to apply for EHIC and S1 form and what you need them for.