Cyprus at a glance
For golden beaches, great nightlife, enchanting temples and engaging history.
Picture-perfect Paphos in western Cyprus boasts a pretty port, a castle and a fine selection of hotels.
You probably didn’t know
Cypriot halloumi cheese is considered to be the one true halloumi.
Hesiod’s Theogony recounts goddess Aphrodite’s birth in Cyprus, while Shakespeare’s Othello is set on the island. Bitter Lemons, meanwhile, is Lawrence Durrell’s autobiographical account of life in Northern Cyprus during the 1950s.
- Population: 11,9 million (2013)
- Annual visitor numbers: 2 million (2011)
- January mean temperature: 12°C
- August mean temperature: 27°C
Things to do in Cyprus
To Kazani Tavern
For an evening meal in Larnaca, head to the To Kazani Tavern, a small family-run restaurant known for its warm, friendly service, reasonable prices and good food.
Risto La Piazza
For fine dining in a scenic setting, book an al-fresco table at Risto La Piazza in Paphos. Here, “Professor” Raffaele Santoro from Venice conjures up traditional and innovative Italian dishes, which can be enjoyed on the beachside terrace. The restaurant also has an impressive wine list.
Alternatively, for a high-end take on traditional Greek fare, head to Mavrommatis at The Four Seasons in Limassol.
Vasiliki, down a back alley in Nicosia, serves an ever-changing menu of homemade greats (ten different dishes a day). If possible, try the “gemista” (tomatoes, peppers, and courgettes stuffed with minced meat and rice) or the slow-cooked lamb.
For fresh, expertly prepared seafood, roll up for a long lunch at Pyxida in Nicosia. Fish can be ordered by the kilo or served as smaller mezze-style dishes.
Kalamies on 40 Ellinon Street in Protaras is another popular seafood spot, serving the catch of the day with great sea views.
Cyprus’s famous (often infamous) nightlife scene centres on Ayia Napa. Or more specifically on Ayias Mavris, a strip lined with bars and clubs and heaving with inebriated Europeans.
Among the classier options in Ayia Napa there is Pepper at Napa Plaza Hotel – a laidback café and bar during the day, which ups the tempo in the evening.
Makarios Avenue and Stassicratous Street in Nicosia
The best shopping is in the capital city, Nicosia, on Makarios Avenue and Stassicratous Street. These are lined with recognisable high-street and luxury brands.
The Cyprus Handicraft Service
Otherwise, there are plenty of tourist shops and stalls across Cyprus for cheap-and-cheerful souvenirs. However, finding traditional crafts can be difficult. The Cyprus Handicraft Service, sponsored by the Ministry of Commerce, sells authentic handmade goods, including hand-woven baskets, ceramics and embroidery. They have outlets in Nicosia, Limassol, Paphos, and Larnaca.
Larnaca is also home to Oro Fino, for contemporary handmade jewellery and trinkets.
Unesco World Heritage sites
Cyprus boasts three Unesco World Heritage sites. The first is the site of nine painted Byzantine churches in the Troodos mountain range.
The second is the Neolithic hunter-gatherer settlement of Choirokoitia, which dates back to 7BC.
The third World Heritage site is the stunning city of Paphos, with its ancient villas, tombs and fortresses. Also home to splendid Roman mosaics in the Villa of Theseus and the Villa of Dionysus.
Those who prefer natural history should head to Alagadi Beach in June to watch newly hatched green and loggerhead turtles make their first journey into the sea. For further details, contact the Society for Protection of Turtles.
To catch a glance of fully-grown turtles and other sealife, suit up and dive into the waters surrounding the island. Cyprus has become one of Europe’s leading diving destinations, largely thanks to the wreckage of the Zenobia that lies about 2km off the coast of Larnaca. The ferry sank in 1980 and is the perfect wreck for all certification levels – the top of the wreck sits at 18m and stretches down to the seabed at 42m.
The Green Line
For a taste of the island’s recent history, head to capital Nicosia (or Lefkosia, as it’s known to Greek speakers) and walk the Green Line – the 180km border that separates north and south Cyprus. The border reopened in 2008 and now can be crossed freely (providing you have your passport to hand). Nicosia is also home to the imposing Selimiye Mosque.
Events to look out for:
- Limassol Carnival (February)
- Ancient Greek Drama Festival (August-September)
- Cyprus Wine Festival, Limassol (September)
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