Five Finger Mountains
The Kyrenia Mountains, known as the Five Finger Mountains, run for 120km parallel to the North Cyprus coastline. Their name comes from a colourful legend that tells how the Byzantine hero Dighenis laws forced to escape from the Arabs by leaping from Asia Minor onto North Cyprus. Where he landed, his five fingers left their impression on the five jagged peaks of Mount Besparmak. Five fingers mean "besparmak" in Turkish.
Hiking in North Cyprus
Nowadays, Mount Besparmak offers some serious hiking in Northern Cyprus, with great views and rugged terrain to explore, and hardly anyone else in sight. During the spring, the Northern Cyprus Kyrenia mountains explode into colour with a profusion of wild flowers, and a walk at this time of year fills the eyes with beauty and the nose with delightful scents. In autumn the cooler weather of the Kyrenia Mountains makes for better hiking temperatures. Walking during the summer months is hard work and not over-rewarding, since the scenery is baked brown by the North Cyprus summer sun.
Kyrenia Mountain Castles
The mountains have always been a line of defence for the island, and Crusader castles lie ready to be explored between Turkish army bases, which are strictly off limits. Apart from the well-known Kyrenia Castle, a drive through the mountains reveals the other castles in the Crusader network, such as Buffavento. The track leading to Buffavento Castle is rough and steep, but the intrepid explorer is rewarded with a great view over the surrounding countryside from the 3,084 feet high crag.
The third great castle in the Kyrenia mountain range is Kantara Castle, set high above the coastline and with magnificent views. With picnic and barbecue sites available at the nearby forest station, it’s a great day out for the family to escape the heat of the North Cyprus towns in summer.
Kyrenia Mountain Castles and Monasteries
Monasteries seem to sprout from the mountains at every turn, such as the remains of the 10th century Coptic Sourp Magar monastery near Mount Besparmak. From the 15th century right up until 1974, Armenian pilgrims would stop off here en route to the Holy Land. The 12th century Byzantine monastery of Antifonitis near Esentepe is in a sad state, a great shame since its vandalised frescoes show just how magnificent it must have once appeared.
Northern Cyprus hiking tours of the Kyrenia Mountains
Several firms offer escorted hiking tours of the mountains, usually starting from Kyrenia. For the keen, hikes organised by the “Association of Mountaineering” meet every Sunday during the winter for a special interest walk through the mountains, which starts at a very enthusiastic 7.30am!
Horse Riding in the North Cyprus Five Finger Mountains
If walking in the mountains seems like hard work, why not try horse riding instead! The Catalköy Riding Club offer lessons and treks through the Kyrenia Mountains, on trips that include picnic stops and visits to the historical sights. All rides are led by trained, professional instructors, and hard hats must be worn. If you’re not used to horse riding, it might be an idea to have a lesson or two before leaving home, to remind your riding muscles what’s involved.
Bird Watching in the Five Finger Mountains
Bird watching in North Cyprus offers plenty to see in the Kyrenia mountains, especially around the Forest Stations. Be aware that the locals will be hunting for pigeon in the same woods on Sundays from October to February. Areas are strictly controlled and all hunters must have a licence.
North Cyprus off road
To really explore the mountains, the best vehicle to hire is a 4x4 jeep or similar, that can cope with some of the rugged tracks and steep slopes of the mountain. True off-road sites in North Cyprus are limited, but the regular mountain roads and tracks will probably provide enough excitement for all but the true adrenaline junkie.
Paragliding in North Cyprus
For them there’s always paragliding, since the area around St Hilarion Castle is ideal for thermal flying. You must always fly with an approved company or tour, or you can easily stray into military airspace!