If at all you have only half a day to spend in North Cyprus, then go to St. Hilarion Castle. This castle is located high up on the mountains offering incredible views onto the cost of Kyrenia. For the avid trekker/walker, you face a moderate 45 minute climb to the top of the castle. It is rumoured that Walt Disney got his inspiration for his castle from this one and the views/location of this castle corroborate this rumour to a large extent.
When you go from Nicosia towards Kyrenia, you drive towards the Kyrenia range of mountains. You cross the mountains through a gap in the range. Around midway through this pass, you will see an exit for St. Hilarion Castle, from the where the roads climbs to the left. The views on the right during this climb are impressive where you see the entire range of mountains in their full glory. After climbing for a while, you cross a military base (on the right). You may be stopped here, but they let you pass when you mention that you are going to visit the castle. You can drive right upto the base of the hill on which the castle is located. For those not willing to take the trek until the top, the views from this point too are good.
The climb to the top of the castle can be quite daunting in summer with most of the climb being in the open. Also, you have to plan according to the closing time. The gates close at 4.30 pm in winter and 6 pm in summer. You need at least an hour and a half to go up and return. Around a quarter-way into the climb, there is a small museums displaying photos of various sites in North Cyprus. There is also a small shop there selling drinks and ice-cream. Be sure to buy some liquids here, if you aren’t carrying them along with you.
Just before the final climb to the top, you will see a narrow path leading to the right marked as “Royal Chambers” (or something like that). You would have seen a similar place much before and would most likely not visit this. But , do take this diversion. What is not mentioned in the marker is that this is the route you have to take to climb to the peak (watch tower). This is very easy to miss and i noticed this during my second visit. The views from the top of the peak are excellent and provide good photo-ops too!
Even if you are not fit enough to make the climb, the drive up to the base of the castle is interesting enough to warrant a visit to this place.
Places to see near St.Hilarion Castle
A 20 km drive on the mountain roads would take you to a Lapta Village, famous for its taverns and laid-back lifestyle. I haven’t been there, but heard a lot about this place. It seems that, in spring, you have streams flowing across this village. Maybe, next time i shall visit this and update this space.
Enjoy North Cyprus!