North Cyprus has been seen as a "forgotten frontier" over the years, but as its doors slowly creak open they reveal a tantalisingly different destination for the modern-day tourist.

First, a short lesson in history, and an even shorter one on politics. In 2,500BC, the island already had a thriving market in the copper discovered there. It is that old--neolithic times.

Some 4,500 years on, the copper may have run out, but in its place an equally rich vein of revenue has taken over. The holiday trade.

That has taken a mere three decades to come to the surface, and follows Turkey's intervention in Cyprus in 1974. What preceded that military intervention has been well documented elsewhere by historians.

These were dark days, and the whys and wherefores of that conflict are deep-rooted and complex.
 
That said, there is no doubt the TRNC (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus) slice of the island - some 37% land mass - is prettier than the south. The Karpaz Peninsular in North Cyprus can take your breath away.

The island "panhandle" beaches have pure white sand stretching for miles, but, astonishingly, without a single bather. You are much more likely to see a wild donkey among the dunes than a tourist.
The solitude is almost tangible and a trip to the very tip of the Karpaz one of life's "unforgettable journeys".

Along the way, try to stop off at Hasan's Turtle Beach, run by the characterful Hasan Korkmaz. His little outpost has a restaurant where you can have, say, fresh sea bream cooked on the barbie,  washed down by a few bottles of the ice-cold Turkish beer, Efes. Stay the night, too, if you wish in one of his little beach huts, which Hasan rents out at give-away prices.

Main resort in North Cyprus is Kyrenia (known as Girne to the Cypriot Turks). It is no more than a village, however, with a population of less than 8,000, but has much to offer travellers. The harbour area, watched over by the imposing Crusader castle (circa 12th century) has the Venetians to thank for its beauty, perhaps unsurpassed on the island. It is wall-to-wall restaurants and bars - a stunning sight by day, but an area that really comes into its own at night, when hungry tourists invade, eager to taste the speciality kleftiko lamb (slow roasted in the oven), or fresh-caught fish such as lagos or minerio.

North Cyprus wines, such as Aphrodite and Kantara, are palatable enough, but it pays to spend a few lira more for the Turkish mainland favourites, including Villa Doluca (red) and Cankaya (white).

"Must" trips in and around Kyrenia ( Girne ) start at the aforementioned and unmissable Karpaz, Bellapais Abbey, St Hilarion Castle (said to be the model for Walt Disney's Snow White castle), Vouni Palace (the only Persian palace in the whole of the Mediterranean), Nicosia(Lefkosa )and Famagusta(Magusa)

Alas, flights to Ercan airport in North Cyprus are still obliged to touch down in Turkey first (perhaps Istanbul) before onward travel is allowed, but that shortcoming will surely change, given the pressure to do so by other nations - most notably the United States.

North Cyprus may have a clouded past, but cast those dark days aside and you'll find a warm, welcoming land where you can expect the unexpected at every turn.

A real Turkish delight!.