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TRAVEL STORY

The Vegas of the Med

As a regular visitor to the area, Maria Pierides offers some pearls of wisdom on how to make the most of Northern Cyprus’s culture, cuisine and casinos

Hoshgeldiniz! – welcome to North Cyprus. And you certainly will feel welcome. From the moment you step off the plane and the Mediterranean air hits your face, you can rest assured that you’ll be in safe and inviting hands for the whole of your stay.

While the more obvious time of year to go to the place so aptly named the Island of Love is during the scorching summer months, Northern Cyprus can be enjoyed all year round, with an endless supply of activities and culture to absorb. And if you want to avoid making the trip a family-oriented one, ‘accidentally’ planning your trip during term time is advised. Because the less ruby red fellow Brits to share the spotlight with, the better, as Cypriot hospitality should be taken full advantage of.

Even if you’re tempted to follow in the footsteps of poker superstars like Phil Laak and travel the world for gambling purposes (the shades are not compulsory), you wouldn’t be disappointed if the island’s casino scene was all you had pencilled into your schedule. With a choice of casinos to rival Las Vegas, and certainly put anything this country has to offer to shame, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

There are a few essential spots that seem to have exceeded even the highest of expectations. The Oscar Resort Hotel plays host to the Galaxy Casino, which boasts 160 gaming machines, and eight different games to try your luck at on the tables, including age-old favourites American Roulette, poker and blackjack. Both the Dome and Rocks casinos also allow you to indulge in the usual classic casino games, as well as French Roulette and Las Vegas craps.

Strolling into any one of these casinos and getting lost in the ambience is enough to prompt the urge to demand a martini ‘shaken not stirred’, with that same suave, Bond-like swagger we all secretly associate with such atmospheres.

No article about Cyprus would be complete without mentioning the cuisine. Although there are restaurants and bars to cater to all tastes, it has to be said that to get the best culinary experience, you’ll almost definitely need to lap up some of the culture. Whether you’re eating out simply to refuel or want to make an evening of it, the choices are endless. One spot that is as wallet-friendly as it is entertaining is the Ali Pasha Taverna in Kyrenia, near the Celebrity Hotel. Overlooking the sea, it offers traditional Cypriot and Turkish cuisine, as well as some English favourites for those less brave, who prefer to stick with the British pint as opposed to the Ouzo. If you want to take advantage of the all-you-can-eat special, and catch a glimpse of the must-see belly dancing action, make sure you visit on a Wednesday or Sunday night.

To continue living the life of a celebrity, the Sez'i & Yelken Restaurant serves the finest and freshest seafood all year round, and is a real celeb hotspot, so make sure you book in advance (and don’t forget your camera).

When you’re taking a break from revelling in the nightlife, ensure you find time to check out the turtles on Alagadi Beach, which are always an understated but never-forgotten tradition of visiting the island. While to unleash the wild-man in you, going paragliding or caving should be a treat – there is rumoured to be a golden jar hidden inside the Execution Cave, near Kaleburnu.

Although one of the most history-rich islands in the world, and with a plethora of archaeological landmarks to prove it, Northern Cyprus still manages to remain timelessly unscathed.

Whether you’re looking for an adrenaline-fuelled adventure, a relaxing stroll to take in some of Mother Nature’s finest creations, a historical journey through time, or a change (and significant upgrade) of scenery from your usual gambling haunts, Northern Cyprus is the place to be.

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The Vegas of the Med
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