1. The travel brochure shot
Located in Ayia Napa, Nissi beach is Cyprus’s most popular party destination. For those looking for more wholesome fun, however, the 500m-long beach also offers water-skiing, windsurfing, boating, beach volleyball and even bungee jumping.
2. Walk the Green Line
After the Greek-backed coup d’état and the subsequent Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, the UN established a 180km-long demilitarised zone that cut through the heart of Nicosia, separating Greek territory in the south and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The border – better known as the Green Line – reopened in 2008, and now visitors can wander freely between north and south via Ledra Street (Lokmaci Caddesi in Turkish).
Though Ledra is a shopping thoroughfare, adorned with chain stores and requisite branches of Starbucks and McDonald’s, the surrounding area provides visitors with a vivid, often spooky reminder of the bygone conflict – older buildings are crumbling, abandoned and pockmarked with bullet holes, while sternly worded UN signage, subversive graffiti murals, and Greek Cypriot National Guard bunkers ominously punctuate the Green Line’s route.
3. This way to the beach
One of the most beautiful beaches in Cyprus, Konnos Bay is also one of the most popular. Sunbeds and umbrellas are available to hire, and swimmers are safe in the knowledge that there are lifeguards on duty. There are also plenty of restaurants nearby.
4. Temples to do
While Cyprus is better known as a destination for sun worshippers, the island is as generously endowed with ancient churches, mosques and castles, as it is beaches. The nine painted Byzantine churches in the Troodos mountain range combine to make the first of the island’s three UNESCO World Heritage sites. Travellers wanting to delve further into Cyprus’s rich history should visit the Neolithic settlement of Choirokoitia (another UNESCO World Heritage site). The settlement, dating between 7BC and 4BC, is considered one of the most important prehistoric sites in the Mediterranean. The last of the three jewels in the island’s cultural crown is the city of Paphos, a treasure trove of ancient villas, tombs and fortresses. The Roman mosaics at the House of Theseus and the House of Dionysus villas are among the best preserved in Europe, while the Tomb of the Kings and Kato Paphos Archaeological Park are great places to recreate Indiana Jones-style scenes. Meanwhile, villages Omodos and Kakopetria can be found just north of Paphos. The former boasts the church of the Holy Cross where pilgrims can ogle the skull of St Philip; the latter, scenic streets and the Agios Nikolaos tis Stegis, home to a series of 11th-century murals depicting scenes from the New Testament.
5. Cyprus Hills
Running across the northern coast of the island, from the Zafer Cape to Cape Korucam, the 230km-long Kyrenia Mountain Trail is a great way to explore some of Cyprus’s lesser-known regions, as well as experience first-hand the island’s diverse terrain and ecosystem. Enthusiasts can explore the remote beaches of Karpas in the north-west, as well as scale peaks of 1,024m near Lapta, before heading back down to sea level at Cape Korucam.
For the sake of safety and convenience, it’s advisable to hire a guide. One good option for those who’d rather navigate the ups and downs of the trail via mountain bike is Cyprus Active, which offers multi-day packages and bike hire. Alternatively, the Kyrenia Mountain Trail Association is a good source of information, maps, and links to accommodation and activities.
6. United by a love of ass
Donkeys are synonymous with Cypriot culture – for centuries, they’ve been used for farming or transport, and they have now become a symbol of national unity. In March 2013, 10 wild donkeys were shot dead in Karpas, Northern Cyprus. Senseless as it was, the shooting inspired Cypriots on both sides of the border to unite in an effort to protect these regional donkeys that are descended from those abandoned by farmers during the 1974 war. In April 2013, Greek and Turkish Cypriots stood together at pro-donkey rallies on the beaches of the Karpas Peninsula.
Sympathetic visitors can do their bit by sponsoring one of the 120 mistreated or abandoned donkeys at the Donkey Sanctuary.
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