If Cyprus is imagined as a hand with an elongated index finger pointing northeast, Dipkarpaz National Park would be the tip of the finger. In this part of the island, black donkeys wander around freely and tease tourists.
The donkeys are there because of the island’s complicated late 20th-century history. In 1974, tension between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots escalated. A Greek Cypriot military coup followed by attacks on the Turkish Cypriot community caused the Turkish army to enter the island. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus then formed. The crossing point between the two states only opened in 2004.
When the Greek Cypriots left the northeast part of the country, they left everything behind—including their donkeys. These donkeys started roaming around freely and, of course, reproducing. Today, you can still find them in the protected area on the most northern part of the island.
Entering Dipkarpaz National Park requires passing through Karpasia National Park first. A curling road that slowly rises allows people to enter Dipkarpaz, where black donkeys usually wait near the entrance. When you reach the top of the road, glance down and you’ll see travelers on the long beautiful Golden Beach.
Once you’re in the park, you’ll also have access to the Apostolos Andreas Monastery. This place’s destiny changed when St. Andrew’s ship allegedly crashed into rocks and the captain’s blind eye was healed after he came ashore. You’ll find people making wishes by lighting long, thin candles. Not surprisingly, donkeys walk around in the church garden waiting to be fed.
Know Before You Go
The best way to go to this untouched part of Cyprus is to rent a car. There are no big hotels due to preservation rules, so you can stay in bungalows or trailers.