Accommodation located within the old city walls has the extra bonus of close proximity to one of the official pedestrian crossings between the two non countries. The visitor could be walking no more than 200 meters and end up face to face with this non border. There are at least two major impressions that ooze from the experience of the crossing. One is that the Greeks are pretending that you are not leaving the country and gracefully scan your passport without stamping it while the Turks are hammering with great panache any document in front of their faces as if to make it sink into anybody’s head that this definitely is a different country. As a result, passport stamps-hungry people can get their fill and refill as many times as they wish - day and night. The second impression is of the depth of the schism between the two societies and their way of life especially at night when the Greek section is still lively and well lit while the Turkish side is obscure and dirty with practically no places open. This revelation comes as a great shock after the unsolicited speech of the border guard on the demise of the Greek economy but hey, he was very knowledgeable about Canada as well, insisting that this is the coldest place on Earth so some inaccuracies were to be expected in whatever field his expertise was extending to. It immediately has to be mentioned that the daylight makes wonders on the Turkish side and the faulty experience of the night visit falls into the category of a fleeting nightmare.
Once in Cyprus and more specifically in Nicosia, one must do the “Green Line” walk no matter what (even it is raining cats and dogs for example). Such kind of sorry state of affairs would be difficult to find in any other city in the world of the year 2015. There are sections of the demarcation line that are open to visitors (due to shear geography) to ogle at the bizarre situation of barbed wire separating improvised stadium in the base of the old city walls so the pitch is in Turkish Cyprus but half of the benches are in Greek Cyprus. From time to time watch towers pop up high enough in order to survey a vast swath of land or in other cases keep low profile in the streets so they are almost inconspicuous if it were not for the threatening signs to “mind you business”.
BE SURE TO READ THIS IF YOU PLAN CROSSiING ANY GREEN LINE
It is possible to travel to the north of Cyprus from the south (and back again), including via the LEDRA PALACE & LEDRA Str. Checkpoints in central Nicosia where you can cross on foot.
If you intend to take a hire car to the north, the main crossing in Nicosia is Agios Dometios.
Cyprus immigration authorities have confirmed that EU passport holders with a ‘TRNC’ stamp in their passport will not experience difficulties when re-entering the south.
You can take a hired car through some of the checkpoints. Many cars hired in the south are not insured for use in the north so have this in mind.
Be sure to check with your insurance company - you will not be allowed through a crossing without the correct insurance documents.
At some of the crossing points it is possible to buy car insurance for the north.
The cost of insurance varies between €18 - €23 maximum for one day, and €25 monthly. It is actually for people who are compelled to cross daily due to work!
There are controls on the quantities and types of goods that can be bought in the north and brought into the south, including from the communal village ofPyla in the buffer zone.
(Pyla is in the outskirts of Larnaca).
Goods, including cigarettes, may be confiscated at the checkpoint and you may be fined.
The Republic of Cyprus currently imposes a limit of 40 cigarettes per person on crossing the Green Line from north Cyprus.
Anyone with documents relating to the purchase of property in northern Cyprus when crossing the Green Line could face criminal proceedings.
Nicosia is the only divided city in Europe after the invasion of the Turks in 1974. The ‘green line’ is the United Nations buffer zone and divides the north part where Turks live with the south.
The crossing over the green line is nonstop mostly from tourists. Even Cypriots have to present their passports to cross this line something that I found weird, but it is a fact.
I cannot say that goods are much cheaper at this side but just for the change it’s worth visiting. There are lots of small businesses selling souvenirs like in every touristy place and goods are more or less the same on both sides. Bags, clothing, goldsmiths’ shops, groceries, and restaurants are what you come across 200 metres from the line.
Turks are friendly and I was impressed. You see, when my friend had a stumble and fell on the ground in seconds locals offered to help her and somebody brought her a bag of ice cubes in a plastic bag for her knee.
Separating the Greek and Turkish sides of the city is about fifty meters of nostalgia. Frozen in time, every brick, sign, window, beam and slab of pavement is exactly how it was in 1974 when Turkey invaded. Since then anyone foolish enough to step inside this kill zone will be instantly shot. Well at least if you aren't a cat.
But don't worry too much. The divide is mostly political and symbolic. It's not like the Berlin wall. Turkish and Greek Cypriots are free to travel across the island, and so are you, as long as you go don't try and run across No Man's Land. It's very relaxed around the walls. I drank ouzo with Cypriot soldiers gearing up for New Year's, while "no photographs" signs are routinely flouted.
Nicosia is the last divided capital of Europe and the Green Line is the line that divides the island it between the north (theTurkish Cypriot part) and the south (its Greek Cypriot counterpart). There are a few passages, with "real" borders between the two sides: the one I used is the Lhedra Palace Hotel check point - which is a pedestrain only passage, fenced by barbed wire.
The Green line came into existence in 1964, after the ceasefire and, when Turkey took over the norther part of the island in 1974, it closed and became off-limits to everyone. It has since been re-opened and it is now possible to cross into the north again. Keep in mind that photography is not allowed anywhere near the Green Line - and there are signs all around it to rmind you of it, so if you want to snap a coupe of illegal photos, you really have to be discreet and, particularly, quick.
If you succeed missing it pls alert me :-) ... probably the most famous militar-controlled borderline in the world, after Berlin wall collapsed ... IMHO it is more a touristic spot than other; I fully respect reasons of people living on one side or another one, but having in 2006, in Europe, a divided city is somehow silly.
The snack bar in the pic well interpret the spirit of this "out of time" spot.
For a short review of what's happened and the reason of the "green line" (which clearly split the country) just check wikipedia, searching for Cyprus.
Cross the green line to the other side of Nicosia. The pedestrian crossing is near the famous Ledra Palace hotel. You will first pass the Greek border police, then go through the green line. On your left you will see an imposing building which Ledra Palace. Time is at a standstill with the abandoned houses from 1974. Many have sand bags and are falling apart. Then you will reach the Turkish border police which needs to supply you with a visa.
Since 2003 the "borders" have been opened to allow movement for Greeks and Turkish and there is no restriction on time spent on each side. You will find a small form at the Turkish booths which you need to fill in and present with your passport or ID card. They will only stamp the paper and not your passport. Don't loose that paper as it will be needed on your way back.
However friendly people seem, it is highly advisable to steer away from politics in Cyprus. People have lost homes (or even relatives) in fighting that has gone on in the island during its recent turbulent past. You can therefore evoke some very strong reactions if you say the wrong thing.
Enlarge this photo, you will see that the sign is riddled with bullet holes. You will also see that due to the partitioning of the island, that the sign has had several of its destinations painted out (from memory these were Kyrenia and Famagusta) as it was not possible to access these destinations from the South when the picture was taken.
This is certainly not the only sign of conflict you will see. Look carefully and you will see bullet marks on the sides of buildings in several places. This picture was taken near the Green Line on the road to Ledra Palace.
Although I have been to the North of Cyprus on quite a few occasions, I have never stayed a night there. Until very recently, not staying overnight had been a condition for crossing the Green Line.
The process was:
(1) - Check on at the Greek side who would check your passport
(2) - Walk past the Greek checkpoint, UN checkpoint and get to the Turkish checkpoint.
(3) - Buy a nominally priced visa using Greek Cypriot pounds making sure you didn't get your passport stamped as you may not be allowed back into the South otherwise. This was on the assumption your passport was not Greek!
(4) - Make sure you returned to the South by late afternoon with no shopping and no extra stamps on your passport.
These days things are a little more relaxed (as of about a year ago), and it is now possible to stay the night.
This photo shows the Turkish checkpoint at Ledra Palace as you arrive in the North.
Here you can see the same part of the Green line, but this time from the North. The wall here is much more ramshackle and it is purely functional here rather than decorated. It is possible to see bomb damaged buildings in the UN patrolled buffer zone, and behind them, the Greek and Republic of Cyprus flags flying on the South side.
It is typically a very quiet area round the wall here on the North side and there do not tend to be many people about.
Since Cyprus became a divided country in 1974, Nicosia also became a divided city. The UN inhabit a buffer zone inbetween the Greek South and the Turkish North.
From the Greek side, if you go to Eleftheria Square and walk down the now pedestrianised Ledra Street (a.k.a. the Murder Mile in the 1950's on account of the number of British soldiers shot there) until you can go no further, you will reach this bit of the Green Wall. This is the most decorated bit I have seen - in many places it is just a ramshackle old wall with no sentries at all. Here however you will normally find a sentry with a rifle, a mini museum about the conflict and rifle slits that you can look through towards the North side.
Flags of Cyprus and Greece fly side by side and maps of Cyprus can be seen showing present day boundaries.