The island of Cyprus is the third-largest and most populous island in the Mediterranean. It is located only a few hours off the coast of Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt. The northern part of the island is Turkish, while the southern part forms the Republic of Cyprus. We spent a few days touring the south; exploring its beaches, archeological sites, rugged wine region, and cities.
Departing from Athens, our trip started at Larnaca International Airport. After picking up our rental car, we headed east, towards Ayia Napa, a resort town welcoming thousands of (dominantly British) tourists every year. The town almost solely consists of bars, restaurants, and clubs, and comes alive at night. During the day, most tourists relax in their hotels, or on the beach.
The closest beach to Ayia Napa is Nissi Beach. This 500-meter long beach has extremely clear waters, and a protective bay offering calm waters ideal for swimming. The summer can get pretty crowded as most people spent the majority of the time on the beach. Luckily, there is a small shack near the parking lot selling refreshments and fast food.
If you prefer to avoid the crowds, the Blue Lagoon near Cape Greco (the southeastern tip of Cyprus) might be of interest. This is not really a beach, but more like a rocky terrain from where you can jump into the sea. Many boats also anchor in the bay.
Just a short drive north, you can find Konnos Beach. This beach is wildly popular place among locals, as it has a bit of a hidden entrance. From the hillside parking lot, a short walk down the hill will bring you to the beach. Like Nissi Beach, Konnos Beach is protected by a bay, making it a great place to swim.
The last beach we would visit that day was the beautiful Fig Tree Bay Beach, located in Protaras. Its fine sand and crystal-clear water make for a great swim, or alternatively you can rent a glass floor boat to explore the sea life a bit further off shore.
Back in the day, the entire coastline around Fig Tree Bay consisted of a reef. Today, just off the southern tip of the beach, you can still find some of the remaining reef. This small area is a popular place to snorkel, although the water is so clear that the reef is visible from the beach as well.
After all the swimming we were getting hungry, and decided to go for a quick meal in Protaras. Contrary to Ayia Napa, which mostly caters towards Brits, Protaras welcomes mostly Russians. Personally, we found Protaras a bit more upscale, as well as slightly cheaper (especially alcohol).
The next morning, after visiting so many beaches, we were ready to explore the inlands of Cyprus, as well as Paphos, a seaside city on the western end of Cyprus famous for its archeological sites. From the main highway, we took an inland road leading towards the Troodos Mountains, the mountain range covering the center of the island. We didn’t really set out to explore wineries in Cyprus, however once we came across some signs we simply had to. We came across Karseras Family Winery, where the tasting included house red, white, or rose.
The real surprise discovery, and the wine that really stole the show was a special tasting of Commandaria, also known as the wine of kings. This amber colored sweet wine is produced from sun dried Xynisteri and Mavro grape varietals and is the oldest wine in the world still in production today. Although we generally don’t care much about sweet wines, this wine had a certain balance and elegance that can’t be matched and should be on every wine lovers list.
Continuing on, we left the mountains behind us, and headed back towards the coast. Our destination was two miles north of Paphos, at the archeological site of the Tombs of the Kings. As the name suggests, this site was a burial ground, and many high officials and aristocrats (the upper class) were buried here.
Apart from the Tombs of the Kings, the city of Paphos has a few more archeological highlights, like its Castle of Paphos. This fort, built by the Byzantines, was used to protect the harbor. Over the years, it was rebuilt after an earthquake, as well as strengthened by the Ottoman empire. In more recent history, the castle has been a prison, a warehouse, and was ultimately turned into a museum.
Before leaving Paphos and heading to Limassol, we decided to go for a stroll along the boulevard of Paphos. Here, you will find plenty of restaurants, fast food, and ice cream to satisfy your cravings.
From Paphos, we drove back eastwards towards Limassol, the second city of Cyprus. Halfway there, we stopped at Petra tou Romiou, also known as Aphrodite’s Rock. According to the Ancient Greeks, this rock is the birthplace of Aphrodite, Goddess of Love.
The rock can be accessed by parking on the side of the highway, and taking a set of stairs down towards the beach. Apart from the rock itself, you can go for a swim if you like. Even though it is not the nicest beach, the presence of Aphrodite’s Rock makes it very scenic.
If you are looking for a slightly nicer beach, you might want to opt for Kourion Beach. This beach, located just outside of Limassol, is quite basic when it comes to facilities, but very popular among locals. Many drive their cars right on the beach, and spend their day sunbathing, swimming, and relaxing. The beach has very little cover, however, which can lead to high waves and strong winds, making it less than pleasurable.
We arrived in Limassol towards the end of day, and decided to go for a stroll along the Promenade. Here, you can find people enjoying the park, the beach, or a meal at one of many restaurants. The Promenade is over a kilometer long, ending at the Old Port in the west.
Limassol Old Town is situated behind the Old Port, and consists of many alleyways, boutique shops, and more restaurants. This neighborhood is also home to the Limassol castle, cathedral, city hall, and university.
On our last day, prior to flying out from Ercan International Airport on the Turkish side of the island, we finally had time to visit Larnaca. The most prominent sight in Larnaca is the Church of Saint Lazarus, a Byzantine church built in the 9th century. The church holds the tomb of Saint Lazarus, a biblical figure restored from the dead by Jesus.
From the church, we made our way to Finikoudes Beach, the beach right in front of the Old Town. Larnaca is a typical city thriving on tourism, given the many souvenir shops, fast food chains, and restaurants. We chose to get an ice cream, and enjoy our last hours in Cyprus.
We, Mark & Herta, are currently backpacking through Europe, and eventually planning to settle in London. Beyond that? The possibilities are endless.Read Mark & Herta’s full story.