Beautiful beaches, sparkling seas, glorious sunshine, fresh fish and seafood, delicious meze and a rugged wine-growing interior make Cyprus a dreamy summer holiday destination. A much fought-over isle, this little piece of the eastern Mediterranean has been settled by the Mycenaeans, Persians, Byzantines, Crusaders, Venetians, Ottomans and the British over the centuries and now draws visitors from across the globe.
The island was split between the Greeks (in the south) and the Turks (the north) in the 1980s. Although dispute continues and the Turkish state is not recognised by international law, tourism is big business here. Cypriots across the island are a lively and welcoming bunch and travellers happily visit both regions on holiday. And thankfully the country has emerged largely intact from the darker Ayia Napa party years (it's still there if you want it, hedonists).
Whatever makes your ideal break, we've rounded up some of the best things to do in Cyprus to help with your holiday planning.
This archaeologist's dream city on the southwest coast is positively stuffed to the gills with ancient fortresses, tombs and catacombs, theatres and palaces, Medieval baths and Roman villas, complete with original mosaics.
Pafos Archaeological Site is the big draw, as well as various locations linked to the goddess Aphrodite whose mythical birthplace was here at Petra Tou Romiou (Aphrodite's Rock). There are also plenty of busy, tourist-friendly beaches, restaurants and hotels.
Standing in the middle of the island on the banks of the River Pedieos, Nicosia (Lefkosia) has been perfectly placed as the capital of Cyprus since the 10th century. It was formally divided into a Greek south and Turkish north in 1963, yet a number of round-the-clock checkpoint crossings mean it is now possible to easily explore both halves of the city.
Within its ancient walls you'll get a taste of the real 21st century Cyprus: a pleasing mix of ancient, atmospheric streets, historic buildings and a cool contemporary cultural scene. Don't miss the Cyprus Museum, home to the largest collection of Cypriot artefacts from the Neolithic period right through to Greco-Roman days.
The Northern Beaches
If you're looking for sun, sea and sand then the beaches of Northern Cyprus will definitely float your boat. The long stretches of golden sands and azure seas cater for all beach-lovers, whether you're after a sunbed, parasol and lots of facilities, a plethora of watersports or a wilder, more natural coastline. Popular beaches include Karpas Golden Beach, Glapsides Beach and Alagadi, a favourite turtle nesting site.
Most visitors head to Kyrenia (Girne) on Cyprus' northern coast to take in the pretty, bustling harbour and indomitable castle with its 15th century Venetian flavour. The dramatic mountainous location provides cooler air and greener lands than much of the island; the port's fisherman deliver tasty fresh fish to quayside restaurants; and the large student population ensures a vibrant bar and cafe scene.
Troodos Painted Churches
This mountain region in central Cyprus contains one of the largest collections of Byzantine places of worship in the world. Ranging from small rural churches to grand monasteries, what they all have in common is their stunning interior frescoes. With architectural elements specific to the island, such as steep-pitched wooden roofs with flat-hooked tiles, the Troodos churches are unique and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Hamam Omerye, Nicosia Old Town
You really shouldn't come to Cyprus and not relax in the beautifully restored Hamam Omerye. This 16th century hamam was built as a gift to the city after it fell to the Ottomans. Re-opening in 2014 after a two-year renovation, it's the perfect place to indulge in an authentic cleansing and purifying Turkish bath in opulent surroundings.
The Akamas Peninsula
The natural beauty of the Akamas Peninsula is a refreshing contrast to all that messy human history and party carnage. Here, at the most north-westerly tip of Cyprus, you'll discover 230 square kilometres of empty, rugged territory. There's dense forest, pine scrub, mountains and a stunning coastline of lovely lagoons and remote bays.
Formerly used by the British Army as a firing range, the peninsula now attracts diverse wildlife from endemic plants to an array of birds, mammals, reptiles and butterflies, and some of the last nesting green and loggerhead turtles in the Mediterranean. The rough footpaths and dirt tracks meanwhile appeal to walkers, hikers, mountain bikers and off-roaders.
More Things to Do in Cyprus
We've found heaps of other places to go in Cyprus! You can visit the donkeys of the Karpas Peninsula; check out magnificent Agios Lazaros (an important Byzantine church) in Larnaca; take a wine and foodie tour of the Limassol district; go wreck-diving on the Zenobia near Larnaca; or try horseriding in Pafos. And go crazy in Ayia Napa, of course.Top