Pavlo has been working as a travel writer for more than 8 years, and his work has been featured in CNN Travel, BBC Travel, Time Out and Fodor's, among others. Changing cities and continents is a lifestyle for Pavlo, he has been to more than 40 countries across the globe. He can’t get enough of exploring the world and loves to share this passion through travel writing.
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Gentle turquoise Meditteranean waters caress the mythical land of ancient ruins, picture-perfect beaches, and cypress tree-dominated forests. Welcome to Cyprus, an enthralling European destination that proposes a quintessential sun-filled break and pairs it with amazing local food, centuries-old traditions, and luxury beachside resorts. Although tiny, it offers a diversity of terrain to explore.
From mountain trails to white sand beaches, vibrant nightlife in the hedonistic cities to calm rustic breaks in the agrotourism properties – this is the collection of the best places to visit in Cyprus to plan your perfect retreat.
Best for: Archeological exploration and scenic walks
If it’s your first visit to the island, Paphos is an ideal base. It’s a classic Meditteranean resort town with plenty of beachside hotels to choose from with equal representation of budget-friendly and luxurious. What makes the town stand out, though, is the sprawling UNESCO-protected Paphos Archaeological Park. Easily accessible from any part of the city, it’s an epic visit filled with Greek and Roman architecture, superb sea vistas, and medieval baths. The showstopper is the necropolis from the 4th century BC known as the “Tombs of the Kings.” The Byzantine castle in the city center is another must-visit. Once you’ve done enough sightseeing, the long Paphos promenade is a pleasant stroll with plenty of water-facing cafes and traditional restaurants satisfying all your halloumi and souvlaki crazes.
The capital of Cyprus is unlike any other city in the world. There’s a Berlin wall-like line running in the middle of Nicosia, dividing the city and the country in two. The other part is Northern Cyprus, a de facto republic only recognized by Turkey. This island has a tumultuous history. But don’t worry, as a tourist you can freely explore both sides. The capital of the Republic of Cyprus is a relaxed mid-sized city with short distances, a magnificent medieval town core, imposing Venetian walls, and a sacred devotion to cafe culture. Terraces rule the streets, with frappe reigning supreme as the favorite drink of the locals. An ideal visit to Nicosia includes lots of museum-hopping with such must-dos as the Cyprus Museum hosting an impressive archeological collection, Leventis Municipal Museum devoted to city history, and the free-entry House of Hadjigeorgakis Kornesios with a Turkish Bath.
Looking for a party? A Cypriot answer to Ibiza and Mykonos, Ayia Napa is where you find the biggest concentration of bars, nightclubs, and hedonist resorts on the island. While it may have a tacky fame and super touristy soul, it is still a worthy visit. The beaches here are stunning, and it’s a getaway to the incredibly scenic Cape Greco Peninsula that looks like a Mediterranean dream. Almost 200 hotels and resorts mean that you have a great variety of options, and there’s always something that will speak to your tastes. Be sure to visit the azure Blue Lagoon, take a dip at the postcard-worthy Nissi Beach, and try various sea activities at white sand Pantachou Beach.
There are places where tourists go, and there’s Larnaca. A port town with an international airport rarely enjoys much attention from the majority of Cyprus guests who rush to go to the likes of Paphos and Ayia Napa for their holiday. That’s exactly the reason you should visit Larnaca. The city is perfect for experiencing the unfiltered and authentic local lifestyle. The seaside promenade is an ultimate happening spot, with bars lining the boardwalk and the Larnaka Medieval Fort dominating the panorama. Take a dip at the Finikoudes city beach before proceeding to local food sampling at numerous tavernas and restaurants (where paycheck will be lower than the resort towns). Have a souvlakia (grilled meat skewers), indulge in aromatic kleftiko (slow-cooked lamb with potatoes), and feast on moussaka (lasagna-like lamb and eggplant casserole).
When in Cyprus, you can’t escape the temptation to visit the alleged birthplace of the goddess of love and lust herself. According to mythology, Aphrodite (or Venus in Roman lore) emerged from the foam near the rock on the southern shores of what is now known as Cyprus. Truth be told, the beach and the natural formation is still very much spectacular sight to see. Expect crowds of tourists there during the high season, though. Everyone wants to witness a piece of divine intervention. The beach itself is comprised of pebbles and is not really suited for swimming due to the rough waters. It’s perfect for gazing and taking panoramic strolls accompanied by the breeze.
The second biggest urban area in the country, Limassol is not famous for anything particularly breathtaking. But as with Larnaca not far away, it’s the charm of the everyday Cypriot life that lures you here. The city is a great destination to slow down and enjoy the delightful Mediterranean climate in an urban setting. All roads lead to Molos Seaside Park with magnificent sunsets, omnipresent freddo-serving cafes, and the recently revamped Old Port area with shops, restaurants, and a Ferris Wheel. The local marina has the biggest concentration of luxury boats on the island, and the upscale dining proposition caters to wealthy clientele. The medieval Castle is the biggest city sight and an essential visit for all history buffs.
There’s time for resort leisure and city exploration. Then there’s time to get wild. Akamas National Forest Park on the island’s west coast is precisely for that. It’s a marvelous area of hidden coves, rocky bays, deep gorges, and abundant wildlife. Largely untouched by mass tourism, it is quite an off-the-beaten-track destination that deserves a respectful approach when visiting. Currently, tourists can only access certain parts of the vast area, but what you find there is going to be absolutely gorgeous. Blue Lagoon is a magnificent gem of a bay that can only be reached by boat. Then, there are three designated nature trails through forested and rocky terrain. Avakas Gorge trail is for more active exploration and raw natural scenery.
Nothing can beat taking a dip in the cold waters of the natural spring with a waterfall on a hot day. Adonis Baths is that idyllic place in Cyprus. According to Greek mythology, it is a mythical fountain of youth where the mortal with the ideal body Adonis spent many days with his lover goddess Aphrodite. The swimming hole is among the most popular on the island, so expect it to be moderately crowded. Still, it’s a beautiful natural spot to check out and a refreshing competitor of the beachside leisure.
Proudly Orthodox, the Republic of Cyprus has many striking monasteries in the cities, near the sea, and in the mountains. If you were to visit just one, Kykkos is the most impressive of them all. Dramatically standing surrounded by the Troodos Mountain range, it is a sprawling complex of religious buildings with an immense historical significance to the country. Founded in the 11th century, it was subsequently destroyed, then resurrected again in the 19th century to a frescoed, golden-clad glory.
One of the most rewarding things about Cyprus for a visitor is the fact that the island is incredibly diverse and small at the same time. That’s how you can lounge on the sandy beach in the morning and then go on exploring the pine tree-shaded walking trails, hunting for waterfalls in the mountains during lunch. Troodos range occupies a large chunk of the island’s center and is an absolute must-visit for its superb green vistas, quaint historic villages, traditional scenic restaurants, cozy boutique lodges, and UNESCO-protected monasteries. It’s an ideal environment to forget about the big city routine and embrace the wilder living. When the winter comes, the snow covers the peaks, and skiing on the slopes of Mount Olympus becomes possible.