Top Things to Do in Cyprus
Last year I visited Cyprus for a week in August and I immediately felt in love with this country which is perfect for a Mediterranean Summer getaway. Let me share with you my Cyprus bucket list of the Top Things to Do in Cyprus. I hope you have the a great experience in this beautiful island just like I did.
Located in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea in the confluence of three continents (Europe, Asia and Africa), Cyprus has a rich history and culture. It has been influenced by European and Middle Eastern roots, and centuries of travelers from different cultures arriving to the island.
Cyprus is the third biggest island in the Mediterranean. It has so much to offer to visitors from pristine beaches and scenic coastlines, to mountains and valleys, vibrant cities and historical sites from different civilisations to be explored.
Considering its size and diversity of things to do and places to visit, I recommend to stay at least for one week. I also advise to rent a car because it will give you the opportunity to explore the different areas of the island at your own pace.
I split my time in the island staying in three different regions: one night in Larnaca on my arrival, 3 nights in Ayia Napa, 3 nights in Paphos. This was ideal to visit different areas in Cyprus.
In this blog post I will share my list of Top Things to Do in Cyprus, based in my own experience.
Top Things to Do in Cyprus
Conveniently located near the largest international airport in Cyprus, Larnaca is the perfect place to start exploring the country. I stayed in Larnaca for one night when I arrived to Cyprus.
Larnaca is a lively seaside city combining a wide beach with a seafront promenade (Finikoudes Promenade) where you will find many options of restaurants and terraces. Many people also stay there to spend a few days at the beach.
Take some time to walk around Larnaca and to get lost in the typical and narrow streets and passageways, adorned with flowers. At night the streets become quite lively with plenty of traditional restaurant terraces which are the best way to enjoy the warm Cypriot Summer nights.
At the heart of Larnaca you will find Saint Lazarus Church, also known as Agios Lazaros, built in the 9th century and the main landmark of the city. This impressive building made of beige stone lies over the tomb of Saint Lazarus. It is worth a visit to admire the paintings and the Byzantine Museum located inside the church.
Agios Lazaros is located in a square with many cafes where you can take a break and enjoy the atmosphere of the city.
Another highlight of the city is Larnaca Fort, built in the 17th century in the Ottoman era to protect the city. Located by the seaside promenade, it offers great views of the city and the Mediterranean Sea. It also hosts the Medieval Museum. Across the road you can visit Larnaca’s Grand Mosque and near the fort starts the Turkish Quarter, one of the most interesting districts in the city.
In the outskirts of Larnaca visit the Salt Lake, a natural reserve which is a well-known migrating birds spot. From November to March it’s possible to see around thousands of flamingos that land in the shores of the lake to rest and to look for some food. During Summer the water evaporates with the heat and leaves a white layer of glittering salt in the surface. Near the Salt lake you can visit Hala Sultan Tekke, a beautiful mosque built by the Ottomans in 1816.
Beach Hopping in Aya Napa
In the southeast coast of Cyprus you will find Ayia Napa, which is well-known for the stunning beaches, beautiful coastal views and historical sites. It is definitely a must visit area and you can easily spend there a few days beach hopping and visiting its many natural and historical attractions. Ayia Napa is also known for the nightlife and party atmosphere, but it’s also possible to have a quiet vacation if you are not in that mood.
The most famous beach in the area is Nissi Beach, with crystal clear waters and stretching out for more than 500 meters. There is a small inhabited islet nearby that can be easily reached walking from the beach through the shallow waters.
Beside of the beach, there are also some historical sites in Ayia Napa not to be missed.
Ayia Napa Monastery, located in the centre of the village, was built in 1500 carved into the rock and it looks almost like a medieval castle. It is dedicated to “Our Lady of the Forests” and its name comes from “Napa”, the ancient Greek word for wooded valley as in the past it was in the middle of a pine forest.
There is also a Hellenistic and Roman tomb complex in the area with 19 chambers that was just discovered in 1998, Makronissos Tomb.
Top Things to Do in Cyprus
Chase Sunsets in the Love Bridge
One of the most famous natural spots in Ayia Napa region is the Love Bridge, a rocky arch bridge with an edge extending to the sea. According to the legends, if you kiss your loved one standing in the middle of the bridge and make a wish, it will become reality.
It is great to visit during the day and you can even go for a swim in the crystal clear waters with dozens of shades of blue. But go there for the golden hour, it offers one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen.
Not far away from the Love Bridge, you can find the Sculpture Park, a project from the Municipality of Ayia Napa to promote art and culture. This park has many sculptures from Cypriot and Greek artists and it also offers beautiful views to the Mediterranean.
Explore Cape Greco
Located between Ayia Napa and Protaras, Cape Greco is a coastal natural park with stunning landscapes, sea caves, viewpoints to the Mediterranean Sea and natural trails. One of the highlights of Cape Greco is Kamara Tou Koraka, the Arch of Koraka, an impressive natural bridge over the sea.
Only 2km away from Cape Greco, don’t miss Konnos Bay, a secluded beach with pristine waters and excellent swimming conditions.
Discover Beautiful Churches in Protaras
Protaras is a beach resort near Ayia Napa with stunning beaches like Fig Tree Bay, close to Cape Greco. It is worth to take at least one day to explore this area of great natural beauty, but one of the things that you cannot miss in Protaras is the uniqueness of its churches and chapels.
Starting in Cape Greco, Agioio Anargyroy is a small white chapel which reminded me of Greek churches. It is built in a rocky cliff overlooking the turquoise Cypriot sea. Near the chapel, there was a hermit’s cave according to a local legend. This place is now quite popular for wedding photo sessions and you need to stop by to capture it in a picture.
In the centre of Protaras, visit St. Elias Church, built 40 years ago at the top of a hill and reachable by a 150 steps stairway. The church is gorgeous and the views are outstanding.
One of my favourite churches in Cyprus is the scenic Agios Nikolaos, another blue and white Greek style church. Located in Louma beach next to Protaras fishing harbour with great views to the sea, this is another great spot to visit while in the area.
Finally, don’t miss Agioi Saranta Chapel. This is the most most unique of all the churches I visited in Cyprus. Located near Protaras in a remote location, this beautiful chapel was built in a large natural cave in a hill. It’s not easy to get there and be aware that part of the journey is on a dirt road, so be careful if you are not driving a 4×4 car.
Discover Picturesque Mountain Villages
Even if Cyprus is mostly known by the beaches and the historical sites, no visit to this island is complete without visiting its mountains and picturesque villages. There are two main mountain ranges, Kyrenia and Troodos.
At the summit of the Troodos Mountains at 1952m, you will find Mount Olympus which is the highest point in the island. Due to the altitude, Troodos Mountains gets covered with snow during Winter time and there are some sky slopes in Mount Olympus. When I visited in August, it was a great plan to cool down from the heat in the beachside.
This mountain range covers one third of the island and it has a rich fauna and flora, a large woodland and pine trees, countless nature trails and beautiful waterfalls to discover.
But Troodos is also famous for the typical rural villages that are a great way to discover the culture, people and ways of living in Cyprus countryside. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit villages like Pedoulas, Kakopetria, Lefkara, Omodos or Lofou.
I spent a few hours in Lefkara, located at the foot of Troodos Mountains on my way from Ayia Napa region to Paphos. Lefkara is a charming village with cobbled stone streets and picturesque coloured houses with characteristic bright wooden doorways and shutters adorned with plants and flowers.
It is also famous by the traditional lace embroidery (included in UNESCO’s representative List of Intangible Culture Heritage) and handcrafted silver jewellery. From Lefkara you also have gorgeous views to the surrounding mountains.
Wander Around Paphos
Paphos is a coastal city in the southwest of Cyprus and it has a lot of things to offer to visitors, from beautiful beaches, to historical sites and mythological legends connected with the Ancient Greek goddess Aphrodite.
Paphos has two areas, the Old and the New Town. Take some time to explore both areas and Paphos seafront. You will find great street art painting and murals walking by the city. One of the most famous is a mural dedicated to Aphrodite. Paphos also has a nice promenade by the sea with many terraces, bars and restaurants which is ideal to walk at the end of the day. It leads to the the beautiful Paphos Fort, which was destroyed and rebuilt many times along the centuries and it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Stop by Agia Kyriaki Church and the ancient Chrysopolitissa Basili, one of the oldest Christian churches in the world which was built around 400 AD. You can find there Saint Paul’s Pillar, where according to tradition Saint Paul was tied and whipped.
After visiting so many interesting places, relax by the beach. Some of Paphos seaside resorts have their own beaches, but Coral Bay located 5km from the city centre is considered the best one in the region with crystal clear waters and sheltered by a bay.
Last but not least, don’t miss the opportunity to explore the Edro 111 Shipwreck. This ship from Sierra Leone sinked around Paphos in a stormy night back in December 2011. It is still stranded in the rocks, being visible from the shores.
Discover Aphrodite Birthplace
Did you know that Aphrodite’s legendary birthplace is located near Paphos? According to the legend, Aphrodite was born of the sea foam in Petra you Romiou, a beach with a geological rock formation in the southwest coast of Pafos.
It is said that the Greek Goddess of Love and Beauty had rose from the waves and taken to Petra you Romiou on a shell. This mythological scene has been painted by many artists along the centuries. It is worth to visit this area not only for the natural beauty, but also for the mythological symbolism.
There is a great viewpoint in the road to the beach that you should stop to take some pictures of the area.
Visit Archeological Sites
Cyprus is a country with a very rich History influenced by several Ancient civilisations, so there are countless archeological sites to discover around the country.
I visited two of the most relevant ones,Tombs of the Kings and Kourion. They are both located in the area of Paphos, so add them to your bucket list when visiting this region in the southwest of Cyprus.
The Tombs of the Kings is part of the Archeological Park of Kato Paphos, which is considered a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1980. It is a large necropolis located 2km north of Paphos harbour, with well-preserved tombs and chambers from Hellenistic and Roman periods (from 3rd century BC to the 3rd century AD).
The archeological complex is a must visit in Paphos and I can tell you it was one of the most impressive historical sites I’ve ever visited. There are seven excavated tombs scattered across a wide area by the sea. But number 3 is the most spectacular one with an open atrium surrounded by impressive columns below ground level. I recommend to dedicated a couple of hours to explore the Tombs of the Kings.
Kourion is another important archeological site, located at only 40km driving from Paphos. It was a city-kingdom built at the top of a hill facing the sea, and it has been connected with the Greek legend of Argos of Peloponnese. The city was destroyed in 365AD by an earthquake.
The highlight of Kourion ruins is the Greco-theatre with beautiful views of the Mediterranean nearby. It has been restored and now it’s used for open-air cultural events. In Kourion there are also remains of villas, baths, impressive mosaic floors and the Roman Agora.