How many similar guides have you seen already? If you’re researching ideas for your holiday in Cyprus, you will find plenty of advice online. And guess what? Most of it repeats the tips in all the other guides you’ve just read.
This one is a little different.
Unlike other guides, this one is written by a local.
No, I’m not Cypriot but I’ve spent over 6 years on the island and have seen what it has to offer, both the glorious side and the not so camera friendly. I got burned on the most common tourist traps and tested questionable places just so I can report back here =)
I’m personally not a huge fan of similar roundups because I don’t believe to experience a country you have to tick off some artificially created list. The reason I’m writing one of these guides is because I’ve received numerous emails asking the same questions, so I thought people might find it helpful to summarize some of the highlights in one handy guide.
So here we go, 13 cool experiences, beautiful places and things to definitely try in Cyprus! They are in completely random order and showcase some of the coolest experiences I had on the island in my 6 years. Pick & choose what tickles your fancy and don’t feel obliged to follow any guides!
PS: This guide does not feature any places in Northern Cyprus, as that’s a topic that deserves its own chapter. The photos are of mixed sizes as they were taken in different times & with different cameras, apologies for that.
1. Views from Stavrovouni Monastery
If you find yourself staying in either Larnaca or Limassol, Stavrovouni Monastery lies somewhere in between and is well worth the trip just for the views.
On a clear evening, the jaw-dropping views will be even more rewarding when you remember you didn’t have to climb any tall mountains. You can drive all the way to the top with your car.
For an upgraded experience, consider taking some snacks with you and a bottle of bubbly. Time your arrival for sunset and soak in the glorious surroundings.
2. Mezze at Kolios Winery
I’ve probably written too many glorious things about Kolios, but this list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning them. It’s my favourite local winery and their wines have been a company to my nights out and home meals for over 6 years (I even requested them on our wedding).
Sure, you can have mezze at any local taverna, but this one is special. First of all, the views are to die for. It’s the highest located winery on the island and while you enjoy your food you can admire the stunning views of the valley and Troodos on the other side.
The food is grown & prepared by the owner’s wife and you can really taste the difference. If you book your lunch for 1pm, arrive earlier and you will also be give a tour of the winery and a free wine tasting.
What’s not to like?
3. Enjoy a Glass of Champagne at Sunset Picnic
I can’t count the number of picnics I’ve done over the years. After living in London, I swapped the picnics in Hyde Park for the sunset picnics at the nearest beach and I have to say, what a major upgrade!
Finding a picnic spot with good sunset view has become something of an obsession. Especially in Paphos where you get treated to some of the most beautiful sunsets on the island. The best ones I found were in Akamas Peninsula and also in the Sea Caves area of Paphos.
Unfortunately, the sunsets are hard to see from Limassol & Larnaca due to location of the cities, so if you’re spending a holiday in Paphos, or fancy a trip for a night or two, a gorgeous sunset is almost guaranteed.
Most of the beaches or the rocky areas in Akamas are easy to sit on, so you don’t need a proper picnic blanket to get comfy.
Lots of the local supermarkets and cafes offer ready made sandwiches, so drop in a bottle of bubbly and you’re all set!
4. Swim at Blue Lagoon
This is one of the more touristy places you will find on the list.
Blue Lagoon has been becoming more and more popular over the last few years and in addition to the local chartered tourist trips, there are now also a lot of rented boats of all sizes and shapes.
Blue Lagoon is on the North side of Akamas Peninsula, with best access from Latchi where you can rent a boat or take one of the Blue Lagoon cruises which will set you back 18 eur per person (includes a drink and fruit on board). Some of the cruises also come with an option for freshly cooked BBQ lunch on boat.
If you want to beat the crowds, rent a boat from Latchi early in the morning and late in the afternoon before the tourist boats arrive. Blue Lagoon is also accessible from the south of Akamas, you can cross only with quadbikes and even that is a bit of an extreme ride (but so much fun!).
If you’re accessing Blue Lagoon from the coast, not water, bear in mind that the access to water is not easy and not recommended to undertake in flip flops.
Location on map here, and recommended boat rental here. You can check the cruise options here. Please keep in mind its best to take them from Latchi Harbour, if you go all the way from Paphos you will end up paying a lot more.
5. Go Wild with a Quad-Bike
Every time we had family or friends visiting, for me it meant one thing – the greatest excuse to rent a quad-bike and go wild in Akamas.
I used Golden Ride rentals in Coral Bay, but you will find plenty of rental places around the island. You can book either a guided tour where you go in a group, or book just the bike and go on your own. I prefer the second option.
The bikes comes in different models, some small & slower than others. We always opted for the most expensive model (below), which will set you back 100 eur, but shared between a couple it’s not that big deal. These ones comes with storage at the back and feel more like a tiny car with 4×4. A security deposit is required upon reservation, usually around 200 eur. Don’t be surprised if a lot of the rental places only accept cash, no cards.
A word of advice – wear a scarf over your mouth as it gets dusty, whether it’s Akamas or Cape Greco. No white clothes or loose dress that might get stuck in the wheel.
For the journey, the guys at the shop will advice you what are the best routes to take and what places to avoid. From my side of the island (Paphos) we usually headed towards Lara beach, further along the coast towards the peak of Akamas or the Blue Lagoon. Driving on road with these is also fine as the model we had goes around 80km/h.
Now all you have to do is settle who will be the driver and when will you take turns =)
6. Pick the Cool Historic Places
Cyprus is full of historic sites and ancient relics. If you wanted to explore them all, I think you would get a little bored.
Luckily, some of these come with stunning views and a gorgeous beach nearby, so I picked the best ones to visit that tick more than just one box.
Kourion near Limassol – short drive from Limassol, this large historic site is actually also an event place – in summer the amphitheater is home to classical music concerts and performances. In addition to the stunning sprawling views, there is also a long stretch of beach right under the hill, with restaurants and the usual beach indemnities.
Paphos Archeological Park – another one which is large, but has great views and super convenient location. Best visited in spring or autumn when the temperatures are a bit lower, as there is no place to hide here and no refreshments. Once you’ve seen enough, you can simply stroll out and enjoy a lunch in one of the restaurants in Paphos Harbour. In summer the park tends to get overcrowded with buses of tourists arriving frequently, so just a warning that you might get stuck in a queue getting tickets into the park.
Both of the above sights are large enough that even in summer when the island gets crowded, you don’t feel overwhelmed when visiting them.
7. Visit Troodos Villages
Escape the heat in summer and enjoy a bit of fresh mountain air. The picturesque villages in Troodos are just the perfect escape plan for a day or two. As an added bonus, a lot of these are part of the wine routes, so you can stop in a local winery for a tasting on your way there.
Some of my favourites are Kakopetria, Omodos and Kalopanayiotis.
Kakopetria is the popular summer escape for all locals who come to cool off in here during the summer heat. The village has a gorgeous old centre, is surrounded by beautiful nature (check out the nature trails) and if you’re looking for a place to stay, the Mill is a hotel like no other!
Omodos is most famous for their monastery and wines. It’s fairly popular so you can expect a bit of a crowd in a summer. Kalopanayiotis is a less known village that’s deeper inside the Troodos mountain range and the drive is a little longer. The village has a new resort which brought some of the old traditional houses to life and made them into luxury accommodation. The village has sulfur springs, and you guessed it – also a monastery. There are charming cafes and beautiful streets all around. I visited in November and it was magical!
In autumn or winter, head to Troodos square to enjoy a bit of snow & winter festivities.
8. Book Wine Tasting
My favourite exploration activity, of course it involves wine.
Cyprus has an abundances of amazing local wineries that will introduce you to the ingenious wine grapes only found on the island (Maratheftiko, Xynisteri etc).
You can check the wine routes and book it as an experience with a group, or find a victim that will be happy to drive you around without feeling sorry for not tasting any wines. My favourite wineries are Kolios – mentioned above, and also Vouni Panayia winery, which is not far from there and also offers amazing views. You can also book a mezze lunch in Vouni winery. Close to the winery is the beginning of the village where you will find another monastery and gorgeous old town.
Another one I was impressed with was Tsangarides Winery which is the only one that produces organic Cypriot wines.
Most of the wineries are concentrated short drive away from Paphos, with lots more available on the edge of Troodos mountains short drive away from Limassol. In most places, no booking is required for the wine tasting.
More of my wine adventures available here.
9. Have a Night Out in Ayia Napa
Admittedly, due to my grand old age, I haven’t done this as much as you guys who would come here for a holiday.
Ayia Napa is the ultimate place for nightlife, stag dos and hen parties. There is a decent size amusement park, plenty of affordable accommodation and bars that line up both sides of the main street.
It has some of the most know beaches (Nissi Beach) and you’re only short drive away from Protaras, where you would be treated to pretty beach clubs and gorgeous beaches (Fig Tree Bay).
Prepare for lots of live shows and entertainment in bars and restaurants, and loud youngsters speeding down the roads on quad-bikes and scooters (there, I already write like I’m 60!).
If you’re coming with family or young kids, Ayia Napa is generally place I would avoid, or at least book accommodation at the edge of the town where it’s a bit more quiet.
10. See the Waterfalls
For those who love the mountains as much as they love a sandy beach, a hike to see the waterfalls will be another highlight of your holiday.
The easiest to find & approach are Caledonia Falls, which can be found after very easy and beautiful hike that leads along a small stream. Drive to Troodos Mountains and the direction to Caledonia Trail are well marked. I also marked the location on map here.
The other ones are mentioned and marked in the blog post I linked above. The last one that got on the list, even with a little hesitation, was Adonis Waterfalls. It’s not really a nature site like the rest of them, but a bit of a tourist trap, in all honesty.
The waterfall is located under an old mills which is 20 minutes drive away from Coral Bay on a very bad road. You need to pay something like 8 eur to get in to access the little pool & waterfall. In a hot summer day it’s great because the water is ice cold and super refreshing. At the same time, you will have to wait to take a picture as there might be 20 other tourists trying to take a selfie or Instagram shot.
If you’re going there, it’s still good enough if you adjust your expectations and prepare that it’s not the hidden gem anymore.
11. See the Last Divided Capital in the World
Nicosia is full of contrast and culinary experiences.
It’s the last divided capital in the world, and if you’re interested in getting a little taste of Northern Cyprus without driving there, there is a pedestrian crossing at Ledra Street. You will need your passport to get through there.
In the old town, you can still see the evidence of the unrest and occupation fights from the 70s (photography not allowed). There are museums, historic buildings and plenty of interesting culinary experiences to enjoy for a few days.
One word of warning – Nicosia can be extremely hot in the summer, so bear that in mind if you plan your trip.
In all honesty, I’ve never been a huge fan of Nicosia because it feels like a hot concrete jungle, but it has also a really charming side that’s best explored in spring or autumn.
12. Get Off the Beaten Path
The best for the last – no matter what any guide tells you, the best adventures come from venturing off the beaten path.
Cyprus is not the smallest island, but it feels wonderful to get lost, follow the coastline and see where it takes you. No matter which way you drive, you will find stunning views, friendly people and the smell of fresh Mediterranean air.
Be adventurous and don’t be afraid to explore. Forget about visiting museum & historic sights if all you want to experience is the most gorgeous sunset with that special person.
If you happen to get lost, all locals speak English and will happily guide you.
One of my favourite places to get lost was on the least crowded North side of the island in Pomos – the drive towards Kato Pyrgos is simply beyond words!
PS: Article on driving in Cyprus here (in case you would want to rent a car, there is a little practical advice)
I hope this gives you plenty of ideas to get excited about for your holiday!
As always, if you have any questions, just drop a comment below! Happy Holiday!