Beyond Dipkarpaz there’s a real feeling that you’re approaching the edge of the world. This is a land of roaming donkeys, open country, isolated beaches and wild geological formations. Along the north coast are the ruins of Aphendrika, one of the largest cities of Ptolemaic Cyprus, marked now only by the ruins of three later churches – Panagia Chrysiotissa, Agios Georgios and Panagia Asomatos. Along the south coast (turn right at the mosque in Dipkarpaz) a good-quality highway turns, after about 5km, into a rough and bumpy road and remains so for the 17km to Apostolos Andreas monastery, which is amply signposted. Look out for herds of sheep and goats, and for the famously importunate wild donkeys. Side roads strike off to the right, giving access to several south coast beaches, including one of the finest in Cyprus – Nangomi, or Golden Sands Beach. Backed by substantial dunes, the beach is some 6km long, with a hill at the end of the western promontory, and consists of fine sand and shallow pellucid water, with access down several paths at different points from the road. Besides being a fine bathing beach, Nangomi is also a sea turtle nesting site where the security of the eggs are ensured by particularly aggressive sand flies. It is also, as is the whole tip of the peninsula, a protected area.
Apostolos Andreas Monastery
A couple of kilometres beyond Galounopetra Point, at the eastern end of Golden Sands Beach, is one of Cyprus’s greatest pilgrimage destinations, the Apostolos Andreas Monastery. A kind of Cypriot Lourdes, its reputation for miracles comes from the tale of the Apostle Andrew who is said to have run aground here on his way to Palestine. St Andrew went ashore, the story goes, struck a rock with his rod, causing spring water to gush out. The ship’s captain was blind (perhaps why the ship ran aground), but bathing his eyes in the spring water cured him. A chapel was built on the spot in the fifteenth century followed by a church in the eighteenth century and the monastery buildings in the nineteenth.
The monastery’s miraculous reputation was boosted in 1895 by the story of Anatolian Greek Maria Georgiou, whose son had disappeared seventeen years earlier. She was told in a dream to visit the monastery to pray for her son’s return. On the boat over she told her story to a young dervish, who asked how she would identify her son after all this time. She said that he had distinctive birthmarks on his shoulder and chest, at which point he threw his cloak back to reveal identical marks, prompting a tearful reunion (and, of course the reversion of the son to the Orthodox faith).
The monastery was the site of frenetic mass pilgrimages on the saint’s name days, August 15 and November 30, until the events of 1974 caused its closure. Since the opening of the Green Line in 2003 it has been growing in popularity again, not only with the religious, but also as a general tourist attraction. The long-awaited renovation of the monastery complex, partly financed by the United Nations and seen as a step towards reconciliation of Greek and Turkish Cypriots, is now well under way. Before renovation started, it consisted of a huge plaza surrounded by lodgings and stalls selling souvenirs and religious items with, towards the sea, monastery buildings surrounding a church topped by a bell tower. Inside, in addition to the usual icons, were numerous votive offerings. From the church, steps led down to the chapel and the holy well. As with many monastery buildings in Cyprus, the whole place was overrun by cats. At the time of writing, renovation was taking place; in due course the monastery, restored to its former splendour, will be well worth visiting.
Zafer Burnu (Cape Apostolos Andreas)
A further 4km from Apostolos Andreas Monastery brings you to Zafer Burnu (Cape Apostolos Andreas), which has a rocky shore and a small archipelago offshore – the Kleides (“Keys”) Islands. A rock, hollowed out by caves and bearing Turkish and TRNC flags, marks Cyprus’s northernmost and easternmost point.