There is a great deal packed into a small space on the island of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean. Not only does it abound with good beaches and holiday resorts, but its relatively tiny landmass is riddled with the relics of ancient history, from the beehive huts of primitive man to classical Greek and Roman ruins, and everything imaginable in-between.
The charms of Cyprus are many and varied. For a start the weather is sunny and dry for most of the year, and the encircling sea is blue, clear and enticing. There are modern luxury hotels in the coastal resort towns, historic restored city precincts to explore, tavernas and nightlife aplenty. Cyprus has remote and picturesque mountain villages and monasteries, beautiful churches, Crusader castles and fascinating museums. The local people are extremely welcoming of tourists, happy to share with them their innate love of life and camaraderie. In Cyprus it is possible to mingle with crowds, or seek isolation off the beaten track as the mood takes you, even in peak holiday season. For this reason the island is also a favoured destination for honeymooners, a reputation enhanced by the fact that legend has it that Cyprus was where Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love, rose from the sea.
It is only Cyprus’s third largest coastal city but it is possibly the most popular tourist hub. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, and has plenty of historical sightseeing on offer to complement its deep-blue sea, bright sandy beaches and reliably sunny skies.
Much of its rich archaeological heritage has been preserved and is showcased in two of its main museums.
In addition to its rich history, the Larnaca region is known as a hotspot for partyingon the Mediterranean, and is home to Ayia Napa, one of the most popular resort areas in Cyprus, as well as lively villages like Protaras, Kapparis, and Paralimni.
Away from the action in the towns, the region offers miles of unspoiled wilderness to explore; the Cape Greco peninsula is a government-protected conservation area with dramatic cliffs and abundant indigenous flora and fauna.
The city of Paphos on the southwest coast of Cyprus. Paphos has become a popular seaside resort with a large population. The Ktima section of the city is the main residential area, while Kato Paphos is the playground of holidaymakers, built around the medieval port with its numerous luxury hotels, tavernas and entertainment venues.
Most visitors to Paphos come for the stunning beaches, framed by palm trees and limestone cliffs. Aphrodite’s Rock Beach offers some of the best snorkelling in Cyprus, while Pissouri Beach is popular with waterskiers and windsurfers. Paphos Municipal Beach is conveniently located close to the centre of town, and has a long promenade with plenty of restaurants and bars nearby.
Paphos also makes a great base for exploring the unspoiled beauty of the Akamas Peninsula, the Diarizos River Valley, and the Ezouza Valley.
Today Limassol is Cyprus’ second-largest city with around 200,000 inhabitants. many people travel to Limassol to enjoy its lovely beaches, sidewalk cafés, and lively nightlife. Visitors can take an evening stroll on the seafron Akti Olympion, followed by a visit to a traditional buzukia tavern for live music. The Old Town radiates from the fishing harbour, with narrow streets lined with shops and boutiques.
The foothills of the Troodos Mountains lie north of the city and offer charming country walks that meander through friendly villages. A quick drive to the Kourion, only nine miles (15km) away, also offers historic sites such as The House of Achilles, the Altar of Apollo, and Curium Beach.
The bustling city of Nicosia (Lefkosia) in the northern interior has been the capital of Cyprus since the 12th century. It stands today as Europe’s only divided city, being split in two by the ‘Green Line’, a United Nations buffer zone that divides the government-controlled Republic of Cyprus in the south from the Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus.
The modern city centre of Nicosia is surrounded by elegant tree-lined suburbs, but the favoured tourist sector is the Old Town, which is being extensively renovated. The Old Town is a picturesque fusion of 16th-century walls, pedestrian precincts, pavement cafes and squares, brimming with charm, character and sightseeing opportunities. There are many things to see and do in Nicosia, with a variety of museums, performance venues, cinemas, restaurants, bars and nightclubs to choose from.
While Nicosia doesn’t have the stunning Mediterranean beaches to offer visitors, it is a great base from which to explore the mountainous regions of Cyprus, which are very beautiful in their own right and offer numerous hiking trails.
When to visit
Set in the far south of the Mediterranean, Cyprus has one of the best climates in Europe. The island sees a massive 340 days of sunshine a year. Swimsuit temperatures kick in as early as April, when the mercury rises into the low 20s. Things get much hotter in the summer, 30 degrees is normal, although don’t be surprised if the thermometer creeps closer to 40 on some days. Autumn is slightly cooler, so it’s perfect for sightseeing or hiking in the Troodos Mountains. Cyprus gets most of its rain between December and March, but it’s not much, and temperatures are still pretty mild.