New student Timur Egamberdiev shares his ideas about how to make the most of your free time in Cyprus

Sometimes we all feel the need for some excitement, some new experiences, or a change of atmosphere. For new students at Cyprus International University this need is most urgent during the weekends. But not everyone knows how to satisfy this need, especially international students who have just arrived in Cyprus, so here are some insights into what you can do.

Picnics

It is wonderful to get close to nature with a bunch of friends so you can enjoy some kebabs and sunshine.

You can find a lot of different picnic zones throughout North Cyprus. The closest I know is Bufavento picnic zone. It is easy to reach: from the campus you first go to the village Taşkent, and after that you can just follow road signs to Bufavento. I highly recommend that you ask a Cypriot friend for help – firstly you won’t get lost, and second they make a really nice kebab. If one of your friends has a car, your journey will be much easier.

There are plenty of things you can do on a picnic, but if you feel bored it is good idea to play some teambuilding games with your friends. I tried this myself and proved to be a great source of fun. There are dozens of teambuilding games – you can search for them online and choose the one that is most suitable for you.

I’ll give you one example of a teambuilding game that we played the last time we went for a picnic. The main idea is for you and your friends to stand close to each other. Everyone must hold each other’s hands, but not in the usual way: you form a circle take hand of person opposite to you in one hand and the hand of any other person in the other hand. You will form a kind of net of hands in your circle, and the task for you is to untangle the net without releasing each other’s hands. The task will prove to be challenging if there are many of you.

Beaches

In the summer North Cyprus has got plenty of good beaches; the two best destinations are Girne and Famagusta.

The journey is the main obstacle in planning a visit to the beach. If you go to Famagusta you can easily catch the bus and there are many free beaches within a walking distance from the city. One beach I’ve been to is close to EMU university and it is quite easy to find if you follow the road leading to the sea. The good thing about it is that it’s free and very popular and you might meet a lot of students there.

When it comes to Girne, there are buses going to the city, but the beaches are quite a long way from the city centre and they definitely are not reachable by foot. It is better to travel by car or, if you feel adventurous, by hitchhiking. One good beach I’ve been to is created by the organization ‘Sivil savunma’. It is close to the Escape Beach Club and it is approximately 10 km from the city if you follow road to the west. The beach is free and in my opinion it is a good place to spend some time.

Historical sites

The history of Cyprus is rich and diverse. If you are interested in ancient monuments you will find plenty of them in North Cyprus. Medieval castles and churches, ancient Greek and Roman ruins – there is a lot to explore and discover. I’ve been to most of the popular places and I can share my experiences.

Starting with the oldest, the first thing you should visit is the Salamis ruins. I highly recommend visiting this site; it is my personal favorite. If you will go there you will be amazed by the stoic and graceful architecture of the place, with its Roman-style columns, well preserved statues of ancient gods and goddesses and Amphitheatre, where thousands of years ago crowds would cheer a well-performed play or speech.

The place is on the way to Famagusta and you just need to follow the road to Famagusta and then after half of the way you need to start watching the road for a sign that will point you to Salamis.

If you’ve already been to Salamis or you are more into the Middle Ages, you should visit one of the great castles on the island. If you live on the campus you will also find it interesting that your dormitory is named after one of these old castles. There are five castles in North Cyprus, but I suggest visiting Bufavento and St. Hilarion because they are best preserved.

Bufavento is a really interesting place. When you get there you will need to climb a thousand stairs in order to reach the castle situated at the top of the mountain. But it’s a price worth paying because the view is amazing, and you can actually see other castles in the area. It is part of the ancient alarm system, so if inhabitants of one castle spotted an enemy they would immediately light a fire at the top of their castle, and you could see that fire from another castle and do the same thing to alarm the castle further away.

St. Hilarion is another great castle. It’s actually much better preserved then Bufavento, and it is bigger in size. There are rumors that Walt Disney used this castle as an inspiration in some of his cartoons, and you can actually see the resemblance between this castle and castles in Disney animations such as Snow White.

If you make it to the top of the castle you will not regret it because the view is just great. At one side you can see the sea and at the other long chain of the mountains going into the heart of the island.

You can get to the castle if you follow the road from Lefkoşa to Girne. On the road you should look for a sign pointing to the St Hilarion castle and you should just follow it.

The things that I have listed are just a small portion of what you can do where you can do in North Cyprus. I highly recommend you go to the places I have mentioned because you will not have a full impression of the island without visiting them. I wish you good luck, good adventures and many new discoveries.