Tranquility in Northern Cyprus

For those who leave their mobile phone at home before jetting off in search of true isolation, Cyprus may not seem the obvious holiday choice. Its proximity to the UK makes it a popular tourist destination, with many holidaymakers finding the mix between Greek and Turkish cultures simply too tempting to resist. It can look as though it is impossible to find a quiet moment, amid the foreign party-goers and sightseers. Even the cliffs and rural areas are dotted with ramblers in search of references to Greek mythology.

However, like many holiday destinations, Cyprus has its secret quiet parts. If you're lucky, we'll impart them to you - the areas that are mercifully left off the map when the Lonely Planet team visit.

Holidaymakers often overlook this little-known harbour town due to the mistaken belief that there is little to do there. On the contrary - with a vibrant shopping scene, plenty of restaurants and tavernas, as well as more than its fair share of history, this is the place to be if you want a tourist experience without the irritation of other tourists.

Sites to visit include the town's open market, which is a treat to explore, and also the ancient castle which houses a museum on ship building. But more than that - Kyrenia is surrounded by gorgeous countryside just waiting to be explored by courting couples. Mountains to the south, the sea to the north and rolling hills in between. A treat of a town.

Nicosia's Venetian Walls

The Venetian fortifications that surround Nicosia represent an ideal opportunity to observe the divided city from above. Still viewed today by tourists, they are nonetheless included on this guide as they stand dramatic testimony to the incredible history of Cyprus. Initially constructed by the Venetians to protect the inhabitants of Nicosia from an Ottoman attack, they were intrinsic to the defence of the city. Their construction was in vain, however, with Nicosia falling victim to the Ottoman admiral Lala Mustafa Pasha in 1570. Despite this, the importance of the Venetian walls in Nicosia's history cannot be denied.

Selimiye Mosque
Yet another prominent landmark - both literally and metaphorically - is the splendid Selimiye Mosque. Also located in Nicosia, it is housed inside the oldest surviving Gothic church in Cyprus. The mix of cultures and architectures on offer here makes it worth the visit and it is certainly worth bringing your camera as you wander its hallowed halls. Of particular interest are the arches, decorated with reliefs depicting kings, prophets, bishops and apostles. These were sculpted before the invasion of the Ottomans in 1570, who proceeded to transform the church into a mosque. Hence the melting pot of cultures held within a single building that we see today.

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