With its laid-back island vibe, warm climate, long stretches of beaches and captivating sunsets, the Mediterranean island of Cyprus ticks all the boxes when it comes to incredible holiday spots. Sun-seekers love bronzing their bods on the secluded shorelines, those longing for leisurely walks will enjoy discovering hidden cobblestone laneways in charming towns like Omodos and Pano Lefkara, and partygoers will find plenty of places to dance the night away in clubs scattered around the southern Cyprus cities of Paphos, Limassol and Larnaca.
Once part of ancient Greece, that influence is felt throughout Cypriot culture, food and history, making it the next best thing to visiting Greece without the large crowds and higher price tags. However, the country is better known for being a place of territorial unrest since its beginnings; while it’s technically an independent nation, Turkey has control of its northern shores. Travelling to this occupied zone can be difficult and includes a rigorous border check, but a visit is possible by booking one of the Paphos excursions that organizes a full-day, guided tour of the contested region.
Most travellers exploring Cyprus base themselves in one of the larger cities, then take day trips to see the rest of the country since the well-connected, maintained highways make it a breeze to explore the southern portion. From UNESCO sites and acclaimed wine routes to scenic spots like waterfalls, beaches and gorges, here are 10 of the best places to visit in Cyprus.
Visit the Baths of Aphrodite (then take a hike!)
Nestled onto the edge of the Akamas Peninsula where the Chrysochous Valley ends and the rugged cliffs begin, are the Baths of Aphrodite. A spot of great mythological significance, these baths are said to be the place that the goddess Aphrodite met her great love, Adonis. Tucked back into thick vegetation, the site has a small rocky grotto and a gentle waterfall that flows into the pools underneath. Although swimming in the waters is not allowed, legend has it that the turquoise waters have the powers to prolong youth and beauty.
Despite being a popular tourist destination, this shallow pool and looming fig tree is not the most impressive thing on the Akamas Peninsula. Instead, just past the grotto is a pathway leading up the Aphrodite Trail, which serve up some of the most scenic vantage points on the island. Follow the rugged path to retrace the steps the Greek goddess would take after her bath, continue past the huge oak tree where she would rest, then pass through meadows of vibrant wildflowers to reach viewpoints overlooking the glittering Chrysochou Bay below.
Be sure to keep an eye out for the friendly mountain goats who graze around these parts, and if the schedule allows time your hike to catch a spectacular sunset.
Adventure into the Avakas Gorge
Avakas Gorge is one of the best places in Cyprus to see some of the island’s most undisturbed natural landscapes. Situated on the west coast, Avakas Gorge is easily reached on a day trip from Paphos, as it’s only a 30 minute drive away. Owing its unique landscapes to a river that once flowed through the area and gradually ate away at the limestone rock, the spectacular, 100-foot gorge was eventually chiseled out and makes for a fun, photogenic hiking spot.
The Avakas Gorge is best explored via the 2.5 km trail which delves deep into the crevices of these unique rock formations, and is one of the best places on the island to discover native Cypriot flora and fauna. As well as fragrant juniper trees and wild buckthorn bushes, hikers are guaranteed to catch a glimpse of the rare centaurea akamantis, a flower that can only be found in Cyprus.
Come prepared with plenty of water, snacks and sturdy waterproof shoes as the terrain can be unpredictable and you may need to wade through pools of water at points along the path. It takes about an hour to get to the heart of the grotto, so consider tackling the walk in the morning to avoid the midday heat.
See the incredible Paphos attractions
As one of the most established cities in Cyprus, you don’t have to go far to get your history fix in Paphos: in fact, the entire city has been declared a UNESCO Heritage Site. Start at the Kato Paphos Archaeological Park, a sprawling site with Roman ruins dating back to the 3rd century AD. Many visit to admire the antique mosaic tiles, which are among some of the most well-preserved in the world.
The Tomb of the Kings is a bit further up the coast, which is another must-see for anyone interested in archaeology and considered one of the best things to do in Paphos. This maze of underground chambers carved out of the bedrock was used as a burial site for aristocrats and officials, in the hope that their souls would carry on living. All of the tombs have been excellently preserved, particularly number three which is decorated with impressive Doric columns.
READ MORE: What to do in Paphos, Cyprus
Near the harbour you’ll find Paphos Castle, which proudly sits on the waterfront and was originally built to protect the city from intruders. Today, visitors are welcome to explore the interior of this former Byzantine fort, which is also a perfect spot to watch the sunset.
Just outside the city limits near Coral Bay are the spectacular Sea Caves, a set of limestone caves have been carved by the wind and waves over many years. Surrounded by turquoise waters, the caves are best admired from afar–just be sure to hold on to your hat, as it gets incredibly windy here!
Book one of these top-rated Paphos day trips:
Where to stay in Paphos:
Apollonia Holiday Apartments: Boasting fully-furnished one or two-bedroom apartments, these are the perfect choice for anyone looking for a self-catered holiday experience. This family-run resort offers the perfect balance of true Cypriot hospitality and quality accommodation. Click here to book
Olympic Lagoon Resort Paphos: This luxury, all-inclusive resort has large, modern suites, sea views and excellent dining options. With numerous poolside facilities and easy walking distance from the beach, you’ll have no problem finding somewhere to soak up the sun. Click here to book
Relax on the best beaches in Cyprus
Let’s be honest: most people travel to Cyprus for a beach holiday, and there’s no question the island has some incredible stretches of sand. Some of the top beaches in Cyprus are found near Ayia Napa, which is situated on the southeastern peninsula. Nissi Beach is one of the most popular beaches, but keep in mind it can often be overrun with tourists and water sports activities. The neighbouring beach, Makronissos sees fewer people and provides a more peaceful alternative.
Other beautiful beaches can be found around Paphos, including Alykes Beach which is popular with families thanks to its on-site amenities, Kissonerga Bay for those looking for more solitude, or Coral Bay, undoubtedly one of the most popular Cyprus beaches thanks to its crystal clear waters and sheltered location.
Become enchanted with Omodos
Omodos is a small village tucked away into the Troödos Mountains of Cyprus. Surrounded by rolling hills rich with vineyards, Omodos is part of Cyprus’ most renowned wine region which still retains a rather traditional approach to winemaking. Try a variety of local wines such as Xynisteri and Mavro, as well as the famous Zivania spirit, a traditional Cypriot brandy made from the leftover grape skins and residue from winemaking.
The vibrant red roofs and white stone bricks of Omodos’s houses are a beautiful contrast to the lush greenery of the surrounding vines, and wandering around the village square and cobbled laneways is the perfect way to spend a leisurely afternoon.
There are few churches in Omodos worth a visit, including the historic Holy Cross Monastery which is thought to have been established in 327 AD, making it one of the oldest sites on the island. Set aside time to explore the monastery and its unique historical features, like the huge vaulted arch door used to protect the monastery from attacks during the Ottoman rule, and the stunning wall murals created by Othon Yiavopoulos in the early 20th century.
For those interested in learning more about this charming town’s heritage, there are several small museums open to the public daily. Visit the Ecclesiastical Treasury Museum located in the heart of the village, which houses an impressive collection of Orthodox artefacts, or the Struggle Museum which showcases the trials and tribulations of Cyprus’ independence movement.
Sip some Cyprus wine
If you enjoyed the wine in Omodos, you’ll be glad to know that several other wine routes wind through the country. In fact, the E601 highway provides an easy route through nearly two dozen villages that have specialized in wine production for hundreds of years, marking the birthplace of winemaking on the island. Be sure to sample an indigenous chardonnay known locally as Xynisteri or a Maratheftiko, which is similar to a light merlot, and make a pit stop at the grand Oenou Yi Winery perched high above the village of Omodos, which pairs its fabulous wines with breathtaking views.
Self-guided wine tours are also easy to do from Paphos for those who have a rental car (or bike, if you’re in the mood for some serious exercise). Some of the best regions are the Akamas Peninsula which is famous for its Xynisteri grape and refreshing white wines, or into the mountains northeast of Paphos to sip Maratheftiko grape varietals.
Hike to the Caledonia Waterfall
While you’re in the Omodos area, it’s worth taking a quick hike up to Caledonia Waterfall which is one of the highest in Cyprus at 12 metres tall. It only takes about 20 minutes to get to the falls starting from the trailhead in Pano Platres, which passes through a serene forest with meandering streams with a backdrop of the Troödos Mountains.
Visit the city of Limassol
Another one of the great places to visit in Cyprus is the sprawling city of Limassol, which is also a handy base for exploring the country. A fun example of old meets new, the city features flashy shops, high-end hotels and yachts along the waterfront, blending with the historical centre’s bustling markets, cobblestone streets and even a medieval castle. Built by the Byzantines in 1000 AD, the castle was once the site of the only royal marriage to take place outside of England, and now houses many fascinating artefacts from Cyprus’ past.
Where to stay in Limassol:
Alasia Hotel: This boutique hotel situated in the quieter region of Limassol offers guests the perfect place to unwind after a busy day in the city. Boasting an intimate setting with a stylish poolside area, immaculately furnished rooms and friendly staff, this is one of the top-ranked hotels in Limassol. Click here to book
Grand Resort: This five-star property is located just a two-minute walk from the beach, with many rooms offering stunning views over the sea. Spacious rooms decked out with king-sized beds will make your stay as comfortable as possible, and staff easily accommodate special requests. Click here to book
Wander through Pano Lefkara
The idyllic town of Pano Lefkara is about as adorable as it gets: think narrow, cobblestone laneways, picture-perfect homes where bright flowers burst out of window boxes, and a backdrop of the Troödos Mountains.
The village is best known for its embroidery, lace making and silver work, and those skills have been passed on through generations and admired by many including Leonardo Da Vinci when he visited the village in 1481. Discover the 11th century churches, pick up some handicrafts for souvenirs, or duck into one of the tucked-away Greek tavernas which serve up some of the most traditional food in Cyprus.
Spot flamingos in Larnaca
Betcha didn’t expect to find flamingos in Cyprus! The fluorescent pink birds are one of the main attractions in Larnaca, a city in the southeast part of the country that’s also home to a major airport. Not too far away from the runway is a salt lake plain that provides the perfect habitat for flamingos, who prefer to huddle together in the middle of the lake which makes for some beautiful reflections off the water.
The Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque sits on the nearby shoreline, which is one of the greatest mosques in Cyprus. Visitors are welcome to tour inside to see the manicured gardens and intricate decor.
Where to stay in Larnaca:
Lebay Beach Hotel: Located just minutes from a beautiful twin bay, Lebay Beach Hotel has spacious rooms decorated in a minimalist style. This laid-back property boasts a modern infinity pool for effortless relaxation, and three excellent restaurants. Click here to book
Frixos Suites Hotel Apts: This small, intimate hotel is located 20 minutes north of Larnaca in the middle of the Larnaca Bay. All suites are equipped with a spacious living area, small kitchenette and offer stunning views over the bay or inland mountains. Click here to book
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