Cyprus is a wonderful island in the Mediterranean sea with a great mixture of nature, beaches and history. On top of that it is the birthplace of both Aphrodite and wine, so do we even need to say more? Here is a list of the 15 best things to do on the island.
Arriving in Cyprus
There are two active international airports in Cyprus. They are based in Larnaca and Paphos with Larnaca being the bigger and main airport. Since we were staying in Protaras, we decided to land in Larnaca and then take a taxi to Protaras, which costs around €50. We travelled with a friends group who had already rented out a car (for around €200 for 5 days), which is why we took a taxi. However, if you plan on renting a car to explore the island (public transport is awful so a rental car is highly recommended), you can do that from here.
Protaras is known for its beaches and fig tree bay. Since it is more tranquil and less touristy, we decided to set base here. We stayed at Kokkinos Boutique Hotel and can highly recommend it. The rooms were clean and spacious and the breakfast and service were exquisite. In the evening you will find a lot of karaoke bars in Protaras, mainly catering to British tourists. You can rent sunloungers for €2.50 per day, go water skiing, parasailing or windsurfing.
The Cypriot food is amazing and because there is so much to explore, we created a separate post you can find here. If you also decide to stay in Protaras, make sure to go to the small bistro that is next to Kokkinos Boutique Hotel. You will not be able to find it on Google Maps and it may not look particularly special, but the food and the owner are beyond amazing, trust us! Close to the beach of Protaras, you will also find Zorbas, an excellent high-end supermarket/bakery chain, where we went daily to get fresh groceries, iced coffees and quick, but healthy lunches.
If the beach in Protaras is still too crowded for you, Paralimni, located on the Eastern coast of Cyprus, is the place for you. You will have the feeling that you’re completely alone in Cyprus and yet, a beach bar is proximate enough to still offer you delicious cocktails and snacks on the go. There are grottos to explore and even a cliff in swimming distance from which you can jump off if that is what you fancy. Since the Turkish invasion in 1974, Paralimni has increased in size mainly due to refugees coming from the north.
Larnaca, located on the Southern coats of Cyprus, offers a good mix of old and new historical sites. You can explore the Larnaca castle, visit Agios Lazaros, an old orthodox church, go to the neaby Kamares Aqueduct or the artists workshops. We were very excited to do the latter but unfortunately had to find out that a lot of the workshops were closed. Also keep in mind that for visiting the churches you need to cover your knees, shoulders and hair. Some churches will provide you with a cover but otherwise will simply not allow you in, if you aren’t properly dressed.
Nicosia (Lefkosia in Greek) is Europe’s last divided city split between the Republic of Cyprus (60%), British occupied military zone, the UN controlled green belt and the Turkish occupied land (only Turkey recognizes the occupation). You can find Venetian and Byzantine architecture here and since it is the capital of Cyprus definitely a little bit more of an Urban vibe compared to the rest of the island. You can find the statue of Aphrodite here in the Cyprus museum as well as the Famagusta and Paphos gate through which you can enter the Turkish occupied part of Cyprus. Have lunch at Piatsa Gourounaki.
The Northern part of Cyprus is the part that is occupied by Turkey. If you want to explore that you will have to go to one of the three gates with a boarder check and passport control. Once you’re on the Turkish side you will feel like you’ve literally just entered Turkey. From bazaars to Turkish coffee to Lokum, the contrast between the two worlds is quite amazing. Despite the tense political history, the atmosphere is very relaxed here, both for tourists and for Cypriots coming here for shopping or for dinner. Do not forget to turn off free roaming on your phone when crossing the border!
Tochni is a small village located in the Larnaca district of Cyprus. It is great to visit if you are curious to explore a traditional Cypriot village. The small houses are built with light-colored ‘Tochni’ stone while most have been transformed into agro-tourism lodges, which are open throughout the year making Tochni one of the more important agro-tourism destinations. It is definitely nice to hike around the small streets, taking pictures of the traditional houses and stopping for a refreshing smoothie and a piece of Cypriot cake after all the climbing (it is quite hilly).
Last but definitely not least, make sure not to miss out on Ayia Napa. The resort town is definitely the more touristy but also all the more happening part of Cyprus located on the Southeastern coast. Ayia Napa’s wild parties have created the image of it being the ‘rowdiest place in the Mediterranean’. We cannot say what happens at nighttime but during the day Ayia Napa definitely delivers on beautiful golden beaches, delicious seafood and stylish beach bars. Also, when you want to go shopping, you will find lots of boutiques here. Have lunch at Cyherbia Garden and Maze.
What else to see
Since we travelled with friends, we explored less and had more of a beach holiday in Cyprus. However, if you are up for exploring other parts of the island, here is where you should go:
- Paphos: Paphos is the closest city from Aphrodites rock, a must see when you’re in Cyprus. Since it was named the cultural city in 2017, Paphos has faced a lot of redevelopment so you will find a lot of hip cafes and boutiques here. What you actually come to Paphos for are the Tombs of the Kings, a Unesco World Heritage site, the Paphos Archeological Park and if you travel with kids, the waterpark. For food you can go to Laona restaurant or 7 St. Georges Tavern.
- Aphrodites Rock Brewing Company is so good, they deserve their own separate listing in here. It is a restaurant and bar located in Paphos where you can spend an entire long evening and enjoy yourself immensely. They offer their house-made ciders, lagers and beers, local wines, sourdough pizzas in a picturesque stone courtyard setting. On top of that you can tour their brewery and learn about the beer making process.
- Limassol: If you go to Limassol in February or March, don’t miss out the carnival spectacle. The other times of the year, Limassol offers a medieval castle, a nice promenade and Kourion, where you find ancient ruins. For food you should go to Dionysus Mansion and Meze Taverne
- Northern Cyprus: Of course there is not only Nicosia to explore in Northern Cyprus but also Kyrenia castle in Girne Kalesi, the most beautiful town in Turkish occupied Cyprus with its Girne castle located right at the harbour. You should also visit Bellapais Monastery with its greats views from the top, the fancy resort town Varosha that Turkey is heavily investing in and St. Hilaron castle with once again great views overlooking the mountains.
- Do a hike: Cyprus offer a lot of nice hiking trails. Here is a list of them for you to check out further: Aphrodite Nature Trail (7.5 km, 4 hours walking, Rugged trail with steep sections, stone ruins & rocky viewpoints offering dramatic lagoon panoramas), Adonis Nature Trail (7.3km, 2.5 hours, moderately challenging), Smigis Nature Trail (6.13km, 2 hours), Artemis Loop Hike (7km trail that leads you around the top of the Trodos mountain), Milomeris Waterfall hike (1km trail to waterfall, very picturesque)
- Troodos Mountains: At this Unesco World Heritage site, you will find waterfalls, beautifully colored churches, dozens of old villages that have hardly changed in centuries with cobbled town squares and Byzantine monasteries. There’s even a chocolate making workshop hidden among the pine forests!