The easy on the eye eastern Mediterranean island is most famous for its rich archaeological sites, its sun drenched beaches, mosaic-adorned villas and for being the birthplace of Aphrodite – the ancient Greek goddess of beauty. Separated into a Greek south and Turkish north, its an intriguingly beautiful place with many areas of unspoilt natural beauty if you know where to look. We asked Cypriot born blogger Marilia Paraschou from Wandering Islander to choose 10 of the most beautiful places to visit in her home country…
Ayia Napa and Protaras Beach
Cyprus is famous for its beaches and rightly so. Some of the best beaches are found in the Eastern part of the country, near the holiday resorts of Ayia Napa and Protaras. Ayia Napa is particularly popular amongst clubbers and party animals alike. The resort town of Protaras, just 10km away from Ayia Napa, is quieter and caters more towards families and locals. Both have stunning beaches with crystal clear waters and golden sand.
Cape Greco is considered one of the country’s most beautiful areas. This is an area of sea caves with crystal clear waters to swim in. There is a small, white chapel built on the edge of the cliff, which is a great place to practice your photography skills. For those looking to get married, it is worth noting that this is also a very popular marriage location.
If you are not a fan of the sea, then you might want to visit some of the country’s mountain resorts. Cyprus is not particularly famous as a ski destination as the country only gets small amounts of snow, if any at all, during the winter months.
The mountains however provide a great opportunity to go hiking and escape the heat. Caledonia falls is the country’s most famous waterfall. It is located in the middle of the Caledonia nature trail, which runs along the ‘Kryos Potamos’ river. The trail joins the village of Platres with Troodos Square. If you start the trail at Troodos Square, you will be walking downhill amongst some beautiful scenery and the sweet sound of birds and running water. You can then visit the Mountain resort of Platres, which provides several options for dining and relaxation.
This beach deserves to be on this list. In fact, many Cypriots consider it as the most beautiful beach of the country. Personally though, I have a love-hate relationship with it. Due to its reputation, tens of people flock there during the summer months. The beach becomes overcrowded, it is nearly impossible to find a place to lay one’s colourful and stylish beach towel, let alone find an umbrella. I’d recommend you visit this beach on a weekday. That way you can enjoy it without having to push your way into the water.
Nicosia City and The Green Line
The capital city of Nicosia often referred to as the ‘Last Divided Capital city of Europe’. This is because the northern part of the city, along with the northern part of the island, is under military occupation by Turkey. Visitors can walk up to the UN Buffer zone, known as the ‘Green Line’ which runs through the city and divides the island. It is possible to cross over to the ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ (unrecognized by any Nation except for Turkey) for those who wish to do so.
No visit to Cyprus is complete without a visit to Aphrodite’s Rock. This is a rock formation off the western coast of the island, near the city of Paphos. This is a must-see sight and a nice place for a swim. There is ample parking space and a no-frills café nearby whilst the site is well signposted. There is a direct bus from Paphos’ harbour to the Rock and it is worth combining it with a visit to the city of Paphos.
Paphos is the smallest city in Cyprus. Situated on the South West coast of the island, it is also one of the most picturesque places on the island. The old town and harbour area is ideal for a romantic stroll during sunset. The tombs of the Kings, a UNESCO world heritage sight, are only 2 miles away from Paphos.
Akamas Peninsula National Park
Akamas is an area in the Northwest extremity of Cyprus. The park supports a range of animals and plants, a lot of them endemic to Cyprus. It is one of the few untouched areas of the country and a must-see for those looking for more than just a ‘sun-sea-beach’ holiday.
The seaside town of Limassol is not known for its beaches. Its residents will argue to the nail that their city ‘s beaches are equivalent to the beaches of the rest of the island. They are not. What makes Limassol though a fine holiday destination is that it’s a city. Hence, Limassol boasts a great range of entertainment, dining and sightseeing options unparalleled to anything available in holiday resorts. The city also hosts the country’s largest Carnival parade every spring with thousands of people attending.
Admittedly, this is not a ‘place to see’ per se. Yet, food is such a big part of Cypriot culture that I couldn’t possibly leave it off this list. Cypriots love to eat. The country has its own cuisine combining elements of Greek, Turkish and Arab cuisines. The best way to sample Cypriot cuisine is to visit a Taverna; a restaurant serving local food and order ‘’Mezedes’’. Mezedes is a type of meal consisting of several small plates. Go with an empty stomach and leave the rest of your day free for eating and digesting.
Written by Marilia Paraschou. Marilia writes a Travel Blog for young backpackers. Born and raised in Cyprus, she lived in London and Singapore, backpacked through Southeast Asia and made too many travel mistakes to count. Learn from her mistakes at wanderingislander.com