Must See

Agia Napa

Although Agia Napa has a sixteenth-century monastery and family beaches, it is more famous for its boisterous clubbing scene, attracting party-goers from around the world. Other attractions include its aterworld leisure centre and Go-Karts track.

Famagusta

Known as Gazimagusa by the Turks, Famagusta is located in the north of the island, on the east coast. Its was also called Ammokhostos (meaning 'hidden in sand') and it is still known by that name in Greek today. Once the richest city in the world, Famagusta is now home to some spectacular ruins, including a magnificent amphitheatre, Roman baths, a gymnasium and royal tombs.

Famagusta harbour is dominated by a great citadel sometimes known as Othello's Tower in reference to the Shakespeare play. It contains a splendid 14th century Gothic Hall. South of the town are some fine sandy beaches.

Kourion

Set on a steep hillside near Episkopi, the ancient city of Kourion is home to a superbly sited Graeco-Roman amphitheatre where concerts and Shakespearean plays are performed in summer. Also of interest are the public baths, the House of Eustolios (which has beautiful mosaics), the Nymphaeum, the necropolis, the Fountain House, the Christian Basilica, House of Gladiators and House of Achilles.

To the west of the city lie the ancient stadium and the Sanctuary of Apollo Ylatis.

Kyrenia

This pleasant coastal resort (also known as Girne) has an atmospheric old town along with a modern strip of hotels. Originally built in Roman times and overhauled by the Venetians, it has a strong Mediterranean feel, with outdoor cafes and the spectacular Kyrenia Castle, which houses a twelfth century chapel within its walls. Inside the castle, there is a Shipwreck Museum, exhibiting the remains of a 4th-century Greek ship, discovered not far from Kyrenia in 1967, together with its cargo.

Larnaca

Larnaca is a resort town set on the southeast coast of the country; its 25 km (16 miles) of clean beaches make it one of the major seaside resorts in Cyprus. Other attractions of the town include the Agios Lazaros Church (built over the tomb of St. Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha); the ruins of Ancient Kitium (particularly the remains of the Cyclopean Walls); the Pierides Museum (a private archaeological museum); the District Archaeological Museum; Larnaca Fort (built in 1625); the Tornaritis-Pierides Palaeontology Museum; the Natural History Museum; and the scant ruins of ancient Kition.

The Larnaca Salt Lake (near Larnaka International Airport) fills with water during the winter, when it is visited by flocks of flamingos who stay there from November till the end of March. On the banks on the lake stands the Hala Sultan Tekkesi, a historic mosque set in beautiful gardens.

Limassol

The second largest city in Cyprus, Limassol is located on Akrotiri Bay, on the island's southern coast. To the west of the city is the UK's Akrotiri Sovereign Base Area.

The city's medieval castle is one of the nine castles of Cyprus, and was built by the Byzantines around 1000 AD. It is said that Richard the Lionheart married his fiancée Princess Berengaria of Navarre on this site as she accompanied him to the Third Crusade. The Castle was used as a prison between 1790 and 1940, and now serves as a medieval museum, with exhibits including cannons, 17th and 18th century wood carvings, statues, glass and marble artefacts, coins and suits of armour.

Other attractions include the Archaeological Museum, which houses a collection of antiquities found in the district of Limassol, dating from the Neolithic Age to the Roman period; the Folk Art Museum with its displays of Cypriot Folk Art such as national costumes, tapestry, embroidery and tools; and the Municipal Gardens, which also houses a small zoo with tigers, lions, monkeys, ostriches, pheasants, vultures and pelicans.

Mount Olympus

Mount Olympus is part of the forested Troodos range and the highest peak on the island. The summit soars 1,952 metres and is invariably covered in snow in winter. Skiing on its slopes is a popular activity at that time of year, while it attracts hikers in the summer.

Nicosia

Known locally as Lefkosia, Nicosia is the laid back Greek Cypriot capital, with good restaurants and museums, and a lively art scene. Despite the recent symbolic gestures shown by both communities in removing small sections of the dividing wall, Nicosia remains the only divided capital city in the world, with the northern (Turkish) and southern (Greek) portions divided by the 'Green Line' - a demilitarized zone maintained by the United Nations.

Tracing its history back to the Bronze Age, Nicosia became capital of the island in the 11th century AD, and today blends its historic past with the bustle of a modern city. The heart of the city, enclosed by 16th century Venetian walls, is dotted with museums, ancient churches and medieval buildings preserving the nostalgic atmosphere of years past.

Nicosia is known for its fine museums. The 'Levention' Municipal Museum, with an imaginative presentation of the capital's history, was awarded the title "1991 European Museum of the Year". The Archbishop's Palace contains a Byzantine museum where visitors can admire the largest collection of religious icons on the island. Other interesting museums include the National Struggle Museum (witnessing the rebellion against the British administration in the 1950s), the Folk Art Museum, the Cyprus Ethnological Museum (house of dragoman Hadjigeorgakis Kornesios) and the Handicrafts Centre. Not to be missed is the unique Cyprus Museum, housing the island's most important collection of Cypriot antiquities and treasures from the Neolithic Age to the Roman Period.

Paphos

Also known as Pafos (and as Baf by the Turkish Cypriots), this booming tourist town is located on the southwest coast of the island. In Greco-Roman times, Paphos was the island's capital, and it is famous for the remains of the Roman Governor's palace, where extensive, fine mosaics are a major tourist attraction. At the harbour, there is the Castle of Paphos, originally built as a Byzantine fort to protect the harbour. Saranta Kolones, near the harbour, is a castle built in the first years of the rule of the Lusignans (beginning of the twelfth century) on the site of a previous Byzantine Castle. It was destroyed in the earthquake of 1222. Nearby is Kato Pafos, an area of tombs carved into the sea-cliff.

The city contains many catacomb sites dating back to the early Christian period. The most famous is Saint Solomoni Church, retaining some of its twelfth century frescoes. A sacred tree at the entrance is believed to cure the ailments of those who hang a personal offering on its branches.

Just 2 km north-west of Paphos lies the Tombs of the Kings, a large necropolis containing underground tombs carved out of the solid rock that date back to the 4th century BC. Some of the tombs feature Doric columns and frescoed walls.

Other archaeological finds around the city include a cluster of excavated Roman villas near the harbour, among them the House of Dionysos and the Villa of Theseus with their remarkable mosaics still beautifully preserved after 16 centuries under the soil; the ancient Odeon Theatre; and the Pillar to which Saint Paul was allegedly tied and whipped.

A few miles outside the city, the rock of Aphrodite emerges from the sea. According to legend, Aphrodite rose from the waves in this strikingly beautiful spot. Nearby lies the ancient city kingdom Palaepaphos (Old Paphos), where you'll find the ruins of the Temple of Aphrodite, one of the most important places of pilgrimage of the ancient world. The museum, housed in the Lusignan Manor, is small but impressive with many finds from the area.

Activities

Beaches and Resorts

Cyprus has some excellent beaches and resorts, just some of these include:

  • Cape Gkreko: an area indented with small sandy beaches and rocky coves perfect for explorations by boat, picnics, scuba-diving and snorkelling.
  • Coral Bay: a fast-growing resort around a good beach on the coast north of Pafos.
  • Fig Tree Bay and Flamingo Bay: busy family-friendly resorts south of Famagusta, speckled with golden sand beaches, and ideal for children.
  • Lady's Mile Beach: a long stretch of excellent sand south of Limassol, on the Akrotiri Peninsula.
  • Polis: a bustling resort on the north coast.
  • Protaras and Pernera: family-oriented resorts with good beaches, cafes and beach bars.

Skiing

The skiing season on Mount Olympus usually lasts from January to mid March. Both Kakopetria and Platres are conveniently placed for skiing excursions, although Troodos is actually the nearest resort to the skiing area.

Walking and Hiking

There are many unspoilt areas in Cyprus perfect for hiking through; recommended trails include those found in the forests of Machairas and Limassol, the Aphrodite and Adonis trails in the Akamas area, and the Kaledonia, Atalante and Persephone trails in the Troodos area.