A favourite among Brit retirees, Cyprus is commonly equated with the Greek southern half of the island. But the northern Turkish half, having been forced to open up as a result of Turkey’s entry into the EU, is hot on its neighbor’s tourist trail. Home to history and hedonism, beyond its beaches Cyprus also offers skiing and hiking in the mountains, quaint hilltop villages and vine-blessed slopes. A popular mediterranean destination for the oldies.
Why You Should Go
What’s Cool: Greek ruins, Ayia Napa’s raucous nightlife, Aphrodite’s grotto, skiing on Mount Olympus, nine Byzantine churches, snorkeling and scuba-diving at Cape Greko, Greek Delight, lots of water sports, hiking on nature trails and free wine at Limassol’s Wine Festival.
What’s Not: Pestering time-share touts, military presence, Englishmen singing karaoke, scorpions in your shoes, crowded beaches, extortionate taxi drivers, costly favors by friendly locals, fake designer clothes and Turkish and Greek islanders hating each other!
When to Go
Cyprus has a warm Mediterranean climate with four distinct seasons.
Summer (May to August) is hot and crowded.
Autumn (September to November) still feels like summer, but is quieter.
Winter (December to January) is rainy with lots of cultural events.
Spring (February to April) sees pleasant temperatures and lots of flowers.
Getting There & Away
The main airport is Larnaca and there are limited domestic flights to major destinations. You can also reach Cyprus by ferry from several Greek and Middle Eastern ports. Getting around the island is mainly by road, and buses connect all towns and villages every day except Sundays and public holidays. Nicosia and Limassol have efficient bus networks.
Health & Safety
Cyprus is remarkably safe with very little violent crime, and cars and houses are frequently left unlocked. Be wary of accepting drinks from strangers at the beach resorts. Romeos on trophy hunts are known to quickly buzz to the next flower after having slaked their thirst. Avoid discussion of the Greek-Turkish divide and events beginning in 1974. Food and drinking water are of high quality, while vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled.
Food & Hospitality
Much of the cuisine in hotels is international, but Cypriot dishes are widely available in local restaurants, closely resembling Greek cooking. Accommodation ranges from five-star hotels to several well-equipped camping sites, but make sure to book well in advance during the high season. Cyprus boasts a lively and enjoyable nightlife scene in most cities and resorts.
One week is the minimum to take in some of the highlights.
One or two days to see the Nicosia’s highlights and nearby landmarks.
Two or three days in Larnaca for sun, sea and culture.
Three days to explore the spectacular Troodos Mountains, home to Mount Olympus.
Two days in the divided capital of Lefkosia, a friendly, laid-back place with good restaurants, museums and a vibrant art scene.
One day to check out Salamis, Cyprus’ most important pre-Christian city and finest archaeological site.
Another week for beach life and partying at one of the many beach resorts.
Cyprus Museum: in Nicosia displays the island’s archaeological treasures.
Larnaca: boasts an impressive church and a handful of museums.
Kourion: on a steep hillside is home to a beautifully sited Greco-Roman theater where concerts and Shakespearean plays are performed in summer.
Kouklia: features the ancient Palaia Pafos ruins and the Temple of Aphrodite. By the coast is the Rock of Aphrodite.
Troodos Mountains: their spectacular southern slopes are the ideal base for excursions to Mount Olympus at 6,404 feet.
Limassol Castle: stands guard over Limassol’s old harbor and houses the Cyprus Medieval Museum.
Cultural sightseeing: is a must, with all the lovely churches and museums, beautiful scenery and intriguing 10,000-year-old history.
Hiking: through Cyprus’ many unspoilt areas along well-marked nature trails in the Troodos and Akamas areas.
Water sports: such as windsurfing, paragliding and swimming on the southern beaches.
Skiing: at Mount Olympus, with four ski lifts open from January to March.
Partying: the night away in bustling Aiya Napa, the famous clubbing resort.
Festivals & Events
Cyprus’ festivals always feature music and dance, and visitors are welcome to join in. Here are some of the best to get to.
January: Cultural Winter in Aiya Napa features lots of music, dance and cultural heritage.
February: Carnival is a two-week period of celebrations with a focus on food, and Limassol is the epicenter.
May: Europe Day in Larnaca celebrates all things European with a special show on the seafront.
August: Limassol Wine Festival features local food, traditional music and dance, and free Cyprus wines from the barrel.