If you are looking for a beautiful island destination for your summer holiday, look no further than Cyprus. As one of the first civilizations in the Mediterranean, its history and culture spans an incredible 11,000 years, making it a history lover’s dream. Located between Asia, Africa, and Europe, this island has been influenced by numerous other cultures that have mixed together to form something brand new and highly diverse.
Let’s take a look at the best places to visit in Cyprus, as well as the best time to go.
Entry Requirements to Visit Cyprus
Anyone traveling to Cyprus from the European Union will be able to stay for up to 90 days without a visa. You will need a valid passport that is less than 10 years old (the rules about the expiration date of said passport are in flux at the time of this writing, but you can view the latest updates here), and you may also be asked to show that you have a return ticket and enough money to finance your stay in the country.
Best Things to Do in Cyprus
Visit the Museums
There are countless historical sites all around the island, but if you want a more structured tour of history, be sure to check out one of Cyprus’ many museums. Our favorite is the Cyprus Museum of Natural History in Lefkosia (Nicosia), which is home to over 2,500 exhibits that showcase embalmed fish, birds, and other animals, as well as rocks, minerals, and fossils. There is also the Cyprus Postal Museum nearby, which gives visitors a look at the history of the region’s postage stamps and envelopes, as well as the Kourion Archaeological Museum in Episkopi, where you can see ancient pottery and the remains of the city’s citizens whose lives were lost in a terrible earthquake in the 4th century.
To make things even more interesting and enticing, all three of these museums are free to visit.
Grab a Bite to Eat
Like most other Mediterranean cultures, food is at the center of everything in Cyprus. Every event is celebrated with good food enjoyed with close friends and family, and visitors should definitely make eating an integral part of their trip. Local delicacies include Grilled Halloumi, a cheese with a very high melting point that makes it perfect for grilling and eating on its own or with other dishes, Sheftalies, a type of meatballs made with pork sausage, and Afelia, pork marinated in red wine.
Drink Some Commandaria
Commandaria is the world’s oldest wine that is still being made today: and for good reason. Dating back to 800 B.C., this wine is so good that it was once used as a tonic and believed to have therapeutic properties. Richard the Lionheart of England even called it “the wine of kings and the king of wines.” As for the taste, it is sweet, with a flavor reminiscent of sherry that is drawn from both red and white grapes picked late in the harvest season and left to dry for a long time in the sun before pressing.
Best Places to Visit in Cyprus
Cyprus is full of amazing culturally and historically significant places to visit. These are our top picks.
Mosaics of Paphos
Located in the Kato Paphos region, the Mosaics of Paphos are an extraordinary display of what life was like for the elite during the Greco-Roman era. These colorful floor tiles tell the stories of gods, goddesses, and legendary heroes (and the giant sea monsters and other villains they fought), and once served as the ground wealthy residents walked on in their houses every day in ancient times. Many of the homes with these mosaics were destroyed over time, but five houses remain to be visited by travelers to this day.
Situated on a mountaintop in Marathasa Valley, the Kykkos Monastery is the flashiest of all the monasteries on the island. Its lavish style is due to the fact that, according to legend, a hermit named Isaiah used a miracle to heal the daughter of Emperor Alexios I Komnenos and as a reward, Isaiah asked for a silver-gilded icon made in honor of Luke the Apostle. The emperor (reluctantly) obliged, and had an entire monastery built around the shrine where the icon would be on display. Today, the monastery functions as a museum, a production center for local spirits like Zivania, and a place to hold religious events.
Cape Greco National Forest Park
Nature lovers will enjoy a trip to Cape Greco National Forest Park, a beautiful nature preserve overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. Numerous nature trails are set up to give you a close-up look at the surrounding area, which includes cliffs to peer off of, small, antique churches to visit, a spot where Holy water runs freely, and Cyclops Cave, which has artifacts dating back to before the Neolithic period. There are also multiple bike paths for cyclists, and tons of sea and plant life to observe.
Best Vacation Spots
In our opinion, the entirety of Cyprus is a great vacation spot. If we can only recommend a few cities to stop in, though, we recommend starting with these:
Not only does Paphos have roots dating back to the Neolithic period (and ruins and archeological structures remaining to prove it), it is also the birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. You can visit the rock where she washed up onto the shore in a shell, as well as many of the city’s other beautiful beaches and natural features. Other sights to see include the annual arrival of the sea turtles, who come to lay their eggs on the shore in the summer, and the Tombs of the Kings, underground chambers where the city’s elite were once buried, much like the pharaohs in ancient Egypt. If you’re looking for more suggestions, check out our list of best things to do in Paphos.
Protaras is a resort town on Cyprus’ southeastern coast, and has an eclectic combination of natural beauty, somber churches, and places to party. Visitors can go scuba diving among the sea turtles and shipwrecks, have fun in the sun with their family on the beaches, and eat their fill of meze, small appetizer-like dishes that give you a chance to try out much of the delicious food Protaras has to offer in one meal. You may also find a miracle here if you’re looking for it: couples struggling to conceive can come to the Ayia Napa Monastery and touch the statue of the Virgin Mary, which is said to bring luck (and babies!) to those who believe. Go and read our full list here: best things to do in Protaras.
One of the most interesting aspects of Larnaca is its religious monuments. It is home to the tomb of Lazarus, the man who was brought back from the dead in the bible and went on to live for thirty more years before being buried here, in this very city. It is also home to a mosque created to honor the wet nurse of the prophet Muhammad, who was said to have died on that spot centuries before. Nature lovers will enjoy the warm, sunny beaches and the Larnaca Salt Lake nature preserve, while those really looking to delve into the local culture will enjoy watching the residents of Lefkara as they create the lace their village is world famous for producing. You can read our whole guide here: best things to do in Larnaca.
What is the Best Time to Visit Cyprus?
In the summer, the heat of Cyprus may be too overwhelming to fully enjoy your vacation. So, the best times to visit are either before or after the mercury rises in the thermometer: either May and June or September and October. During these months, the air and water is still warm enough for you to swim, but you’ll be able to do so with much less crowding.
These milder temperatures also make it a better time to walk around and explore all the historical sites that the country has to offer.
What Currency Does Cyprus Use?
Like other countries in the EU, Cyprus uses the euro as its currency. If you are coming from another EU member state, you will have no trouble using cash, debit, or credit cards as you normally would.
Cyprus is a fantastic holiday destination for those who long to immerse themselves in the history of other cultures. This island offers endless natural beauty and ancient historical structures the likes of which (and the age of which) you won’t see anywhere else.