13 Reasons to Visit Cyprus (And Not Just for Nightlife and Beaches)
Cyprus is a delightful little island in the Mediterranean Sea and an absolutely wonderful travel destination. It’s actually the third largest island in the Mediterranean and it has a great mixture of beautiful beaches, history, and nature.
Cyprus is a popular tourist spot across Europe, but strangely, a lot of people don’t even know half of what the island can offer! A lot of the world hasn’t discovered Cyprus yet! There are so many places to visit in Cyprus than just beaches and nightclubs.
Best Places to Visit in Cyprus
I asked a few of my friends, who are regulars to the island, their opinions before I set off. They said: ‘Cyprus is a lovely place, really hot, but there’s no sightseeing’.
I was shocked. If you could describe my worst travel experience in a few words it would be ‘lying on the beach’. I mean, that’s okay for a few hours but not daily for two weeks! Worst. Holiday. EVER!
So, naturally, I immediately set out to prove them wrong. And oh boy, how wrong they were!
Nothing to see in Cyprus? You may as well tell me there’s nothing to see in Barcelona or Italy or Greece or – well, you get the point! So, here’s why you should visit Cyprus – and certainly not just to lie on the beach!
1. Aphrodite’s Beach
Yes, I know I’ve started with a beach. You may laugh. You may also roll your eyes. But seriously this is not just any beach.
First of all, Aphrodite’s Beach is pebbly, so not so much your perfect sunbathing spot.
Secondly, this beach is home to Aphrodite’s rock, also known as Petra tou Romiou, where, legend had it, the Goddess of Love, emerged from the ocean.
The stretch of coastline is one of the most beautiful in southern Cyprus, with rocks jutting out dramatically from the water and coves carved into the white cliffs that sprawl along the horizon.
Being the birthplace of the Goddess of Love, this is also the most romantic spots on the island and a favourite for weddings and proposals.
2. The Tomb of the Kings
This is a vast UNESCO World Heritage site close to the center of Paphos. The tombs date back to the Hellenistic and Roman periods and are pretty spectacular.
They most likely were the tombs of high aristocrats rather than actual Kings. But it was the splendour of the tombs that gave them their name.
They actually share quite a few properties with the tombs at Alexandria in Egypt, which indicates a strong connection between these two civilizations during this period. The tombs themselves are stunning and for the small fee of €2.50, they’re well worth the visit.
Walk through the underground caverns and marvel at the columns and the intricate design of the burial site. The sheer size of some of the tombs is quite astonishing. They resemble small houses, rather than places of the dead!
You will also find countless stacks of stones littering the beautiful horizon of the tombs. Placed there for good luck, a memorial gesture, or as a sign to make a wish, the piles of pebbles spread from the edge of the tombs to the stunning ocean view behind it. Also, if you look carefully, you’ll see a shipwreck mounted on a coral reef in the distance.
3. Cyprus’s Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is one of the most isolated beaches in Cyprus yet one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Europe.
Hidden in the Akamas Peninsula on the most north-westerly tip of the island, it’s another of Cyprus’s hidden gems that are a little tricky to get to. The road to the lagoon isn’t suitable for normal cars so the only way to get there is by 4×4, quad bike, or by boat.
Fortunately, there are plenty of boat tours to the Blue Lagoon and many of them will pick you up from your hotel, which makes getting there a lot easier.
When you arrive, you’ll find dreamy turquoise and peacock-blue water, which is actually really warm, as it’s a shielded bay. You’ll also find soft white sand and coral reefs teeming with fish.
It’s the perfect place to go snorkelling or scuba diving as there’s so much to see in the crystal-clear waters. Plus, you’ll also be treated to some wonderful views out across the island and the ocean.
4. The Ancient Kourion
If you’re a history fan and like the sound of the Tomb of the Kings, then you will fall in love with the Ancient Kourion as well.
The Kourion is fairly isolated; about 45 minutes east of Paphos town and 20 minutes west of Limassol. If you are planning a day trip there, the easiest way to get there is to hire a car. But, as one of the most powerful kingdoms of ancient Cyprus, it’s definitely worth the trouble.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site dates back to the 8th century BC, when the Greeks began to settle on the island. It actually survived 5 earthquakes before becoming one of the most important and impressive archaeological sites on the island.
The star of the show is unmistakably the huge, 3500-seat amphitheatre in the centre of the site. But, if you walk round the entire grounds, you’ll see remains of baths, a treasury, a market, a covered walkway and an ancient Greek wrestling school, which is all proof of just how developed this former community really was.
Additionally, the entire site is set on a hill with endless panoramic views out across the ocean. You will be in awe of this historic civilization.
5. The Sanctuary of Apollo
On the very same hilltop where the magnificent Kourion sits, you’ll find the Sanctuary of Apollo. The Sanctuary was built in the similar Hellenistic period and is a series of holy temples and grounds that focus on the worship of Appollo Hylates – the God of the Forests.
Wandering round the Sanctuary, you’ll see magnificent columns, remains of the walls, baths (which were said to be for athletes after they exercised) and a yard with an altar. The alter was so important to the people, that anyone who touched it that wasn’t a priest, was thrown off the cliff!
6. Kolossi Castle
If you’re ever wanted to see the world’s smallest and cutest castle, then I think you will adore Kolossi! The Gothic-style castle was once a crusader stronghold and is just a short drive west of Limassol city.
Built-in 1210, the castle’s main purpose was defense, with its strategic location providing the perfect, unobstructed views across the countryside.
Due to the location of Cyprus in the Mediterranean, a lot of civilizations wished to control the island. As Limassol was the main port city, the castle was the perfect location for defense.
There are also a lot of vineyards surrounding the castle, as Limassol was also the main city for trading items such as wine, olives, sugar and cotton.
7. Avakus Gorge
Exploring Avakus Gorge is definitely one of the best things to do in Cyprus, even if it is a bit of a challenge to find! If you love natural beauty and exploring, you will really enjoy this, plus it’s free to enter!
Very off the beaten track, this gorge was carved by a stream raging over the limestone thousands and thousands of years ago. This caused it to cut into the rock and wear it down, leaving walls of up to 30 meters high and incredible rock formations.
It’s a fairly challenging hike in parts and I recommend bringing waterproof shoes. Even though you can clamber across a lot of the rocks, there are also very large puddles of water and you will most likely get a little wet!
There are also some pretty narrow sections too, so be warned if you’re a little claustrophobic. Nevertheless, it’s so much fun hiking through the gorge! The scenery is stunning and you may even see some wildlife, like mountain goats or huge lizards.
8. Adonis Baths
The Adonis Baths are fairly close to the Avakus Gorge and we actually stopped here on the way back.
The beautiful natural pools and cascading waterfalls are really pretty, but also rather pricy at €9 each to get in. Included in the fee is entrance to the baths, a small museum that you walk through on your way inside, and some statues of the Greek Gods. If I’m honest, there’s not that much to see, but still worth a look around if you’re interested in the history.
The baths themselves are quite impressive, though. If you want great photos, I’d definitely recommend getting there early, because it can get really busy. There are two waterfalls in total, one above the other and two pools that you can swim in. It’s just what you need after a hot hike in the gorge, but, be warned, the water is icy cold!
9. Troodos Mountains
Most people who visit Cyprus see it as a beach resort, full of sand hotels and swimming pools. They certainly won’t be expecting to be able to explore things like monasteries and mountains.
Cypriot Mountain Range
Yet, take a trip to Troodos for a magnificent Cypriot mountain range, home to some stunning scenery and off-the-beaten-path places to explore. Close to the centre of the island, you could easily spend a day exploring Troodos.
Holy Cross Church and Timio Stavros Monastery
Visit the whitewashed Holy Cross church and marvel at the Monastery of Timio Stavros, which is located in the middle of Omodos village. This is also the perfect place to grab a spot of lunch at one of the local bakeries.
Besides delicious baked goods, the tranquil little wine village is a lovely place to explore. It literally looks as though it was plucked out of a medieval novel!
After Omodos, visit the Kykkos Monastery, perched high in the mountain range. Alternatively, head to the foot of the mountains and check out the ancient Neolithic settlement of Choirokoitia, another of Cyprus’s wonderful UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Top Tip: Whilst you’re in Omodos, you just must taste their local dessert wine, Commanderia. It’s made with a traditional wine press called Linos.
Paphos is a brilliant place to start exploring Cyprus and you’ll be surprised just how much there is to do in this little city. It’s actually the smallest city on the island but packs a powerful punch in terms of its history.
It’ll be hard to miss Paphos castle. The impressive structure juts out past the harbour and is great fun to explore.
Kato Paphos Archaeological site
Right next to the castle, you’ll find Kato Paphos Archaeological site and Paohos Mosaics. Preserved since the 2nd century, they’re considered to be some of the most impressive mosaic structures in the eastern Mediterranean.
The mosaics depict scenes from Greek mythology; mainly war and hunting scenes. The largest is in the House of Dionysos, but the House of Aion also contains an impressive mosaic that tells the story of Dionysos across five panels. It’s quite amazing how preserved these mosaics are. They were actually discovered in 1962 when a farmer uncovered one when ploughing his field!
Aside from historical sites, it’s such a nice end to the day to simply wander through the town and along Paphos’s harbour front. It has a beautiful ocean backdrop and a great range of little stores and eateries there. I particularly love the ice cream parlours, with their delicious selection of flavours, or the handmade sweet stores selling sugar-coated nuts and traditional Cyprus delight.
11. Cape Greco
If you want somewhere you can go to walk, cycle or relax and take in the glorious views, then Cape Greco is the answer. This delightful coastal nature park in Aiya Napa is considered to be one of the country’s most beautiful natural areas.
There are chiselled sea caves, sparkling ocean waters, hidden sandy coves and the cutest white and blue chapel perched on the edge of a cliff. The whole area looks like a Greek fairy-tale, and is another incredibly popular wedding destination.
It’s also a regular cliff diving area, so if you’re a bit of a daredevil, this will also be right up your street!
12. Explore the Old Towns
I love exploring beautiful European old towns and cities and Cyprus has some captivating old towns. I love the quaint wooden shutters, cobbled streets, hanging lights and little buildings, café’s and shops that you can tell were built years ago.
Paphos Old Town
Paphos old town is a wonderful starting point and it also has a famous market that’s open every day from 8am until 1pm. You can also spot some great street art in Paphos.
Further up into the Troodos mountains, you’ll come across the gorgeous little town of Lefkara. Famous for its arts, crafts and lacework, you’ll love getting lost wandering the winding alleyways.
Also, well worth checking out is Platres, a cute little village with a lovely church, quiet streets and a bundle of shops selling homemade goods.
Whilst there, definitely visit the Millomeris waterfalls for a taste of natural beauty. The falls are some of the highest in Cyprus and tucked away in a rocky ravine about a kilometre stroll from the centre of Platres.
Limassol is another great city to explore, although much quieter than Paphos, which is better in a sense, as you can get some great photos. This beautiful port city has a wonderful promenade, pier and glittering marina that’s great to explore too!
13. Cypriot Cuisine
I just had to mention the Cypriot cuisine for no other reason besides the fact that it’s so damn delicious! While on the island make it your mission to try one of their meze platers; they are without a doubt the best way to try all the foods that Cyprus has to offer.
Stuff yourself with Souvla – chunks of marinated charcoaled pork or lamb, souvlaki or Cyprus kebab served with fresh pitta bread and pickles. Try the sheftalia – minced meat with mixed herbs and spices, pastourma – a delicious spicy sausage, dolmades – vine leaves stuffed with minced meat and rice and, of course, grilled halloumi cheese!
These dishes are usually also served with a humus, tzatziki, olives and fresh Greek salad and are absolutely divine! Wash it down with Cyprus’s signature Brandy Sour cocktail or Keo and Leon, the local beers. And, don’t forget to try the famous Cyprus delight whilst on the island!
Getting Around Cyprus
If you’re anything like me then you’ll know that inconsistent public transport is not only annoying, but can literally ruin your entire day.
In hindsight, I really wished we’d hired a car for that trip. The excellent thing about Cyprus (for all British travellers anyway!), is that they drive on the left side of the road! So, driving in Cyprus is literally no different to driving in England except having to convert miles in kilometres.
If you are planning on going to Cyprus and want to explore a lot of the island, I strongly recommend hiring a car. Cyprus isn’t that big of an island. It’ll take you about 2 hours to get from one side to the other, which isn’t too far for a day trip. Since there’s so much to see, you’ll totally regret it if you don’t!
One word of warning however, if you do decide to visit Avakus Gorge, you may want to hire a quad bike for a day to get there. They say the roads are suitable for cars, but I seriously beg to differ!
And these are the best places to visit in Cyprus. There are so many beautiful places in Cyprus, that perhaps the next time you visit, you may just pull yourself away from the beach to take in its many incredible sights!