Just south of Turkey, and in the far eastern corner of the Mediterranean Sea, is the island of Cyprus. The island is a mixing pot of cultures that is technically geographically located in Asia but has clear ties to Europe. Cyprus is well known for its warm weather and scenic beaches, but that isn’t everything the island has to offer. You’ll also find quaint historic villages, ancient ruins, incredible mountains and wonderful, vibrant cities. See it all by incorporating as many of the best places to visit in Cyprus into your next vacation itinerary.
In eastern Cyprus is the city of Famagusta, where the deepest harbor on the island is located. As a result, this is where many of the cruise ships dock when visiting Cyprus. In addition to a thriving port, Famagusta is home to a traditional walled city, which still stands to this day. Two of the most iconic landmarks that still remain in Famagusta include the Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque and the St. Barnabas Monastery. Immediately to the south lies the ghost town of Varosha, once the heart of Famagusta’s tourist trade, now isolated by the Turkish invasion of 1974.
The western tip of Cyprus is an area known as the Akamas Peninsula, and it is one of the least-inhabited parts of the island. If you’re eager to get off the beaten track, then this is the place to be: There are literally no paved roads! As a result, it is ideal for hiking or mountain biking. It is also an amazing place for spotting wildlife, just some of which can include sea turtles, reptiles and native birds. You can also explore the history of the Akamas Peninsula with a visit to the Agios Andronikos, a former mosque and current church that was constructed in the early 16th century.
Nicosia is the capital city of Cyprus, but it is unlike any other capital. Nicosia is divided between the Turkish-controlled Northern Cyprus and the cultural Greek Republic of Cyprus to the South. There are more than a dozen museums in Nicosia, with the top picks being the Cyprus Museum, the Byzantine Museum and the Ledra Observatory Museum, where you can climb to the 11th floor and actually see the island’s national dividing line (known as the “The Green Line”). If you are in the market for some Cypriot souvenirs, head to either Ledra Street for more traditional items or Laiki Geitonia for affordable souvenir shops catering to tourists.
For maximum relaxation and accessible beaches, it is hard to beat the coastal resort of Protaras. The main beach, Fig Leaf Bay, is dotted with sun beds and loungers, and you can choose whether to take a dip in the refreshing waters of the Mediterranean or just sip a cocktail in the sunshine. The nearby Cape Greco is a protected nature park with a quieter, family-friendly atmosphere. There is also a nearly 10-mile pedestrian trail that lets you hike and soak in the views of the ocean and the town, and the nightlife in Protaras offers plenty of fun until the early hours of the morning.
The northern section of the island is under Turkish control, rather than the cultural Greek Republic of Cyprus. Kyrenia is a harbor town in Turkish Cyprus that boasts a stunning backdrop made up of the Pentadaktylos Mountains, architecture that is more than 1,300 years old and endless opportunities for outdoor recreation. The best museums in Kyrenia include the Museum of Decorative Arts, the seventh century Byzantine Kyrenia Castle and the Shipwreck Museum, where some artifacts date back 2,300 years. Kyrenia is also the place to spot turtles in their natural habitats, tee off on a local golf course in view of the Mediterranean Sea or hike along the coast.
Historical evidence shows that Larnaca is likely the oldest city in Cyprus, boasting a history that dates back more than 6,000 years. Many visitors today pass through Larnaca because the city is home to the largest international airport on the island. However, you won’t just want to pass through, because Larnaca has a lot to offer. History enthusiasts should tour the ninth century Church of St. Lazarus or the impressive Faneromeni Church. For an adventure, head to the Larnaca Salt Lake to spot pink flamingos, or dive down to explore the incredible wreck of the Zenobia, a major attraction for scuba divers in Cyprus.
In the southwest of the island, the towering Troodos Mountains stand as a major destination for outdoor recreation in Cyprus. You can hike to the rushing waters of the Caledonia Falls, hike over the Milia Medieval Bridge or rent a mountain bike and explore the miles of trails up the mountains as well as around the foothills. There are also many small, traditional villages in the Troodos Mountains, and you may wish to visit charming landmarks like the Byzantine Timios Stavros Church in Pelendri or the Archangel Michael Church in Pedoulas.
If nightlife is what you’re after, then the resort destination of Ayia Napa is the perfect spot to visit. The Square is the hub for what happens after sunset, and there are countless bars and clubs located there that stay open until dawn. This is the place to be for live music, great drinks and a vibrant, youthful atmosphere. During the day, be sure to check out Ayia Napa’s wonderful beaches like Nissi Beach, Grecian Bay and Makronissos Beach. For some history and local culture, take time to visit the 16th century Ayia Napa Monastery as well as the Thalassa Museum, which boasts a unique collection of exhibits explaining the importance of the sea to the development of the region.
After the capital city, Limassol is the largest urban destination on the island of Cyprus. It is a major sea port, and over the last few decades it has become a major tourism destination for those in search of sun and sand. The Old Town of Limassol is the best place to start your time in the city, and you won’t want to miss a tour of the impressive Limassol Castle. Also in the Old Town is Anexartisias Street, a major shopping venue, and Saripolou Square, which serves as a nightlife hub for locals and visitors alike. Don’t leave without admiring the luxury yachts docked in the Limassol Marina or strolling along the beachfront Akti Olympion path.
On the southwestern tip of the island is the coastal town of Paphos, commonly referred to as the birthplace of Aphrodite. Today, Paphos is split into two parts. The lower section is known as Kato Paphos, and it is where many of the hotels and archeological landmarks can be found. The upper destination is the commercial area where you can find shops and eateries. Ruins and archeology are the main attractions in Paphos, and you won’t want to miss the Roman ruins called the House of Dionysus and the House of Theseus, the 16th century Paphos Fort built by the Turkish, the Tombs of the Kings or the Odeon, a classic Greek amphitheater where plays and other live performances are still offered.