7 Places You Need to See in Cyprus Now
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The first time I found myself in sunny Cyprus I didn’t hit the beach a single time. Why? I was too busy checking out the restaurants in the capital of Nicosia, inspecting the Greco-Roman ruins at Kourion, and as I (sort of) recall, drinking a lot of the sweet local red wine called Commandaria — the world’s oldest, so they say. Needless to say, one trip was not enough.
Cyprus is not by any means a tiny place. At more than 9,000 square kilometres, it’s actually the third-largest island in the Mediterranean. It takes repeat visits to get to the know the best spots and appreciate its diversity. Party island? Not exactly, though Ayia Napa does have a well-deserved reputation as the Ibiza of the eastern Med. But the thing to do in Cyprus is to take your time and explore some of the places that make Cypriots justifiably proud of their very historic, very lovely isle. That said, be a wiser bloke than me and get your trip off to a suitably sybaritic start on the sand: There’s certainly no shortage of it.
1. A Few Choice Beaches
While lazing at the beach in Cyprus may seem easy and obvious, not all beaches are created equal. Near the popular resort spot of Ayia Napa, Konnos Bay is a standout for its fine sand and crystal blue water, and less of a scene than more famous Nissi Beach. Around Limassol the perennially popular and quite lovely beaches are Lady’s Mile Beach and wide Kourion beach, the latter spreading out beneath a well-preserved Greco-Roman amphitheater. West of Limassol, Avdimou is a gorgeous beach that sits partly on land belonging to a British Sovereign Base Area. While just beyond, in the direction of Pafos, Pissouri Beach beckons with both organized and more rustic sections.
Where to stay: The five-star Grecian Park Hotel is an excellent choice near Cape Greco and Konnos Bay. At Pissouri Beach, the Columbia Beach Resort is luxe Med-chic cocoon you’ll be sad to have to leave.
A mix of interesting sights like the medieval Limassol Castle — where Richard the Lionheart married Berengaria of Navarre, crowning her Queen of England in 1191 — vibrant street art and a multitude of hopping great restaurants options are just some of the things that make Limassol a must on any Cyprus itinerary. By contrast to the foregoing, Limassol while fronting the Med is not home to the best beaches but rocks and a more urban vibe. That said, seaside supping and imbibing is something of a sport in Limassol at hot spots like La Isla Beach Bar, Columbia Beach and Puesta Oyster Bar.
Where to stay: Much buzz has surrounded the recent opening of Parklane, a Luxury Collection Resort and Spa. Also new is Amara, while the older Crowne Plaza and St. Raphael Resort both have their acolytes. As elsewhere in Cyprus, you can generally expect a bountiful breakfast buffet to be included in your room rate.
Larnaca is something of a Cypriot paradox: Though it is the island’s most ancient city and home of the largest international airport, it has long been something of a backwater compared to more bustling Limassol and the capital, Nicosia. But that’s changing. The city’s Finikoudes beach promenade bustles with breezy seafood tavernas and eclectic restaurants like To Arxontikon, set in a stunning 1850 mansion. While a few blocks away from the seafront, the winding sunny streets are full of interesting little boutiques and authentic Cypriot cafes.
Where to stay: With its sleek rooms and suites, many with wide balconies that offer sweeping views of the Med, the new Radisson Blu Larnaca is the best game in town.
4. The Pafos Coast
The stretch of coastline between Pissouri and the seaside city of Pafos is the most scenic in the southern section of the island and probably the most iconic on account of Petra tou Romiou, or Aphrodite’s Rock where the goddess of love is said to have drifted ashore eons ago. The alabaster-colored cliff formations in either direction are stunning. The ruins of the Sanctuary of Aphrodite at Palaeopafos are worth a visit, and from there it’s not far to Pafos itself. The Archaeological Park of Pafos has some of the most spectacular ancient Roman mosaics in the Mediterranean.
Where to stay: In Pafos, you are truly spoiled for choice when it comes to good hotels. My favorite is one called Almyra, which feels like a sophisticated seaside resort but it’s not too large either. There’s a superb spa and you can walk to the heart of town in minutes. If you book a seafront Kyma suite you won’t want to leave.
5. Akamas Peninsula
Once considered remote, and still mostly undeveloped, the Akamas Peninsula is now simply considered gorgeous. It’s an easy drive north from Pafos and actually makes up the Akamas Peninsula National Park. Aphrodite is said to have bathed in these parts, but less apocryphally, you can have yourself a refreshing dip in the luscious turquoise waters of the so-called Blue Lagoon. Landlubbers shouldn’t miss a hike through the Avakas Gorge.
Where to stay: Nearby Anassa, a member of Leading Hotels of the World, is one of the best resort hotels in the Mediterranean.
6. Omodos & Troodos
Located in the Limassol district but inland, the beautiful village of Omodos is nestled in the lower foothills of the Troodos Mountains, which is a region synonymous with vineyards. There’s a wine festival in August, but any time of year you can sample sweet Commandaria and other great Cypriot wines. One of the best options is the Oenou Yi winery, which has a fine vine-to-table restaurant.
Exploring the scenic hills of southern Cyprus has its own rewards, from fresh air and views of pine-clad peaks to sleepy rustic villages and ancient monasteries.
Where to stay: Apokryfo is a dreamy, rambling hotel in the hilltop village of Lofou, designed by Cypriot architect Vakis Hadjikyriacou and his British wife Diana. Guest rooms have stone walls and rustic accents but all the mod cons too and the hotel’s Agrino restaurant is one of the best in Cyprus.
7. Ayia Napa and Protaras
The resort town of Ayia Napa has a reputation that precedes it as party spot par excellence and it’s true there is probably no better place in Cyprus to let your hair down. But a stay of any length in Ayia Napa or adjacent Protaras is also what you make it, whether you want to go clubbing or simply power down at one of the area’s cosmopolitan seaside resorts.
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