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North Cyprus - Eating and sleeping
The range of food and restaurants on offer in North Cyprus, especially in and around Girne, is enormous, from local cuisine to Chinese, Indian, Italian and French. For those who prefer home favourites, British food is very widely available in the Girne/Lapta area. You can snack on a doner kebab from a street stall or savour dinner at a chic restaurant that can hold its own with top restaurants in Europe (for information on tipping etiquette, see Tips on Tipping). Whichever cuisine you choose, standards are generally very good. Most local specialities will be familiar to visitors to Turkey – various meze (selection of hot and cold appetisers), börek (hot pastries stuffed with spinach, cheese or meat), kebab, kofte (spiced meatballs), dolma (stuffed vine leaves) and salads that feature aubergines, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, peppers, watercress, parsley, radishes and olives.
(Photo: © North Cyprus Tourism Centre)
Ordering a ‘full kebab,’ which is available at many places, will result in a seemingly endless stream of delicious dishes being delivered to your table.Freshly caught sea creatures are widely offered, and include red and grey mullet, lobster, crab, mussels, rock bream, squid and sea bass. Fish is usually simply cooked, grilled or fried, though a few more sophisticated places offer it prepared in special sauces. Specifically Cypriot is the halloumi cheese, with that wonderful rubbery texture, often served grilled as a very tasty meze. There is also the crumbly white goat’s cheese, and thick creamy yoghurt (excellent on meat, mixed with herbs, or as a sweet, drizzled with local mountain honey). Good-quality fresh fruit according to season includes melons, cherries, apples, strawberries, bananas, figs, grapes, oranges, grapefruits and pears. Turkish delight is available in a variety of flavours, and that with walnuts or pistachios inside is especially delicious.
Of the Turkish wines, those that are consistently the best are by Kavaklidere and by Doluca. Kavaklidere produce the red Yakut, the white Çankaya, the rosé Lâl and the primeur Nevsehir.
To wash it all down, there’s the cheap and widely available mineral water and the usual range of fizzy drinks, as well as delicious Cyprus lemonade (made from mandarins and lemons). Ayran (yoghurt drink) is also popular. On the alcoholic front the Turkish Efes beer is very good. The local beer is Goldfassl, produced in Gazimağusa, though it is becoming difficult to find. Wine is not cheap in North Cyprus, and ordering a bottle will certainly bump up any restaurant bill. The local wines (Aphrodite, Kantara and Monarch) are, by their own admission, inferior to those from the Turkish mainland, as wine-making is still a newly developing skill in the north. Of the Turkish wines, those that are consistently the best are by Kavaklidere and by Doluca. Kavaklidere produce the red Yakut, the white Çankaya, the rosé Lâl and the primeur Nevsehir. Doluca produce the red and white Doluca and the more upmarket red Villa Doluca. Also recommended is the Special Reserve Karmen, and the semi-sweet Valdı. Many hotels and bars claim to make the best Brandy Sour, Cyprus’s signature cocktail, a combination of mild, local brandy and lemon juice: do try one during your stay. Raki is the local spirit, clear and aniseed flavoured, drunk either neat with ice or mixed with water, when it turns cloudy, thus explaining its description as ‘lion’s milk’. It goes well with meze, fish and lamb. The Turkish Yeni Raki is better than the local Has Raki, for the same reasons as the wine. Then there’s the Turkish version of grappa, Zivania. Turkish coffee is widely drunk, introduced here, as elsewhere in the eastern Mediterranean, by the Ottomans in the 15th century. It is drunk sade (without sugar), orta (medium sugar) or şekerli (heavily sugared).
Accommodation options are expanding rapidly in North Cyprus; the range covers everything from five-star hotels to seaside camping facilities. Many of the top-end establishments cater mainly for visitors from the Turkish mainland, though, of course, visitors from elsewhere are welcome. As a broad rule of thumb, if a hotel has a casino, the majority of its guests will be Turkish, as gambling is illegal on the mainland. The smaller, family-run hotels tend to attract European and other guests, many of whom are loyal, repeat customers.
Costs do vary throughout the year, with anything up to a 50% discount during the off -season (November to March), a lower 10–20% discount during the ‘shoulder’ season (April and October) and a substantial discount for children. For those who are not too bothered about having a roof over their head, there are campsites at Lapta, İskele, Kumyali and Salamis; local tourist offices should be able to provide details of these. In addition to these, the really adventurous might fancy wild camping, which is not subject to restrictions, other than it is illegal (as well as stupid) to light fires in the forests.