Many people probably do not have Cyprus on their travel radar but I’m here to hype up this interesting and beautiful Mediterranean island. You can drive around the island in just a few hours but you will want to stop everywhere! It has gorgeous beaches, interesting cities, incredible archaeological sites, mountains, waterfalls, wineries, mosques, cathedrals, picturesque villages, and great food. Who knew? Here are some ideas for how to spend 2 weeks in Cyprus!Is Cyprus on your travel radar? Here is my handy guide to help you plan a visit. Perfect for an upcoming spring trip! Click To Tweet
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Although technically part of Europe, Cyprus is geographically more “Middle-East” because of its eastern Mediterranean location. Cyprus lies about 40 miles (65 km) south of Turkey, 60 miles (100 km) west of Syria, and 480 miles (770 km) southeast of mainland Greece. It is the 3rd largest island and 3rd most populous in the Mediterranean.
Cyprus has two official languages, Greek and Turkish. Armenian and Cypriot Maronite Arabic are also recognized. Although without official status, English is widely spoken and it features widely on road signs, public notices, and in advertisements. An interesting fact I found, on average, Cypriots speak 1.2 foreign languages. According to the Eurobarometer, 76% of people of Cyprus can speak English, 12% can speak French and 5% can speak German.
Cyprus is part of the European Union and the euro is the currency. On the Turkish-occupied side, the currency is the Turkish Lira but many people also accept the euro.
Nicosia (Lefkosa in Turkish). It is a divided city.
Cyprus has what I saw someone describe as an “aggressive” Mediterranean climate. Summers are hot, humid, arid, and clear and the winters are cold, windy, and mostly clear. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 43°F to 92°F and is rarely below 35°F or above 98°F. Beach/Pool weather is from June to Sept with ave temps above 85°F. April/May/October/November is still warm but not hot. Dec-March can be a bit cool.
I went in late June. The humidity wasn’t terrible to me (I used to live in Miami) but it was definitely HOT! I tried to run on the beach in the mornings and if I didn’t finish by 8 am, I was sorry. The evenings just before sunset were very pleasant.
I’m going to risk some backlash here so I will try to be as objective as possible and give you the facts as I understand them. I am not a geopolitics expert by any means, so please do your own research on this subject. If anyone has comments on this or feels I am way off, I always appreciate this feedback! Here’s my very simplified version. I think it’s important to know something about this before visiting.
Cyprus has a LONG history and has at some time or another been under the Persian Empire, Greek Empire, Roman Empire, Assyrians, Arabs, Phoenicians, etc. The Crusaders were here. The British were here (they still drive on the left side of the road). You don’t have an island in such a strategic location between 3 continents without intense movement of people and exchange of culture. This is part of what makes this country so fascinating.
In more recent history, in July of 1974 to be exact, Greece attempted to annex Cyprus as part of a larger Greece. This Greek nationalist movement went back decades. At the time there were many ethnic Greek and Turkish residents of Cyprus (Orthodox Catholic and Muslim respectively). The Greek government, with the unofficial help of the CIA, initiated a military coup against the Cypriot president whom the USA found too socialist leaning (age-old story, amirite?). Things got really crazy and the president barely escaped with his life. He was evacuated by the British to Malta. A new ultra-nationalist and anti-Turk Greek Cypriot president was installed.
There were reports of war crimes against the Turkish Muslim minority and this entire coup situation broke The Treaty of Guarantee, so Turkey sent its military to protect the Turkish Cypriots. Literally 5 days after this coup d’etat, Turkey invaded and captured 3% of the island before a ceasefire could be declared. In just a few days more, the Greek military junta collapsed and was replaced by a civilian government. Peace talks were held in Geneva.
The original Cypriot president was restored and under the Treaty of Guarantee, Turkey no longer had a reason to pursue further military action or widen its territory. Turkey apparently didn’t agree. Following the breakdown of peace talks, another Turkish invasion in August 1974 resulted in the capture of approximately 36% of the island. The ceasefire line from August 1974 became the United Nations Buffer Zone in Cyprus and is commonly referred to as the Green Line.
There was a mass migration of Greeks and Turks from one side to the other. Around 150,000 people (over one-quarter of the total population of Cyprus, and one-third of its Greek Cypriot population) were expelled from the northern part of the island, where Greek Cypriots had constituted 80% of the population. Over the course of the next year, roughly 60,000 Turkish Cypriots, ( half the Turkish Cypriot population) were displaced from the south to the north. People who had previously been friends and neighbors were now forced to live on opposite sides of a border.
What’s truly sad is that the older generations remember their brothers and long for a unified Cyprus. Younger generations who do not know this past only know the division and animosity. Nicosia is the only divided capital in Europe.
I think it’s important to note that no countries in the world recognize The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus as a country, except Turkey. The international community refers to it as “Turkish-occupied territory of the Republic of Cyprus”. Does this mean we as travelers should punish the nice people who live there and deprive ourselves of seeing this beautiful land? Absolutely not. I encourage a visit there but I would do it properly.
Ok, so now you know this important bit of history. Remember as always, listen to locals and be aware that this may be a very sore subject to bring up, so tread carefully.
There are three major airports in Cyprus. In Larnaca, Paphos, and Ercan (on the Turkish side)
The most common city to fly into is Larnaca. There are many direct flights from Athens. You can fly direct from Istanbul to Ercan, but I don’t recommend this unless you only plan to visit Northern Cyprus. You will not be permitted to cross into the Republic of Cyprus (aka the Greek side) since they consider this an illegal entry into the country.
Instead of a specific itinerary, I will tell you all the places I visited plus those I would like to have visited. I’ll provide my exact itinerary as a suggestion. Then you can have all the fun designing your own itinerary based on time and your interests!
This post will focus mostly on the Greek side but if you have the opportunity to visit both I will suggest some add-ons. Just know that if you rent a car, most companies will not permit you to cross the border with it. This was the only reason I did not see more on the Turkish side. You could always cross the border in Nicosia on foot and take the bus to get around or find a rental car on that side. There are definitely ways to see both sides but will take a bit more planning and effort.
I will assume you arrive in Larnaca. If you arrive early enough you can either spend the day here or immediately drive to Nicosia or Cape Greco. Cyprus is small enough that you can move items around in this itinerary fairly easily. You can choose to see Larnaca at the beginning or the end of your trip. I started my trip here and spent 2 nights so I had one and one-half days. It has beaches although they aren’t super scenic. Things to do here:
Places to Eat in Larnaca that are “Cher approved”
This is the capital city which is divided as I mentioned above. I recommend staying in the old part of the city where you can easily walk everywhere.
Things to see here include:
The following are on the Turkish side
I recommend at least 2 days here and 1 of those days spent on the Turkish side of the Green Line. If you have more time this can be a base from which you cross and explore more on the Turkish side. Girne (aka Kyrenia) is a 25 min taxi ride from Nicosia. It is a lovely city on the northern coast.
Charming villages, vineyards, mountain hiking, and waterfalls are among the activities here.
The village of Koilani is rather sleepy but has a couple of small wineries. I would call first to make sure they are open. I visited Ayia Mavri Vineyards . The tasting was 4 euros or free with the purchase of a bottle (which you will want).
Who knew that I’d find a very prestigious winemaker here, producing 50,000 bottles a year? The owners are an impressive and adorable older couple that has won awards for their Muscat dessert wine. They also produce a Commandaria, which is a special wine unique to Cyprus. Only 14 regions in Cyprus produce it. It’s protected regionally similarly to champagne. It is a sweet Cypriot wine made from an ancient recipe of one white grape varietal and one red. It is a brown sort of color. I enjoyed drinking these after dinner at restaurants. The wine I bought to take home was a sweet Shiraz with chili pepper. It wasn’t as sweet as a dessert wine and I was surprised that I liked it since I usually don’t enjoy sweet wines. The uniqueness of the chili pepper in the wine pleased me. My parents really enjoyed it also!
This is a typical Cypriot Village with small winding streets, whitewashed buildings, cascading flowers, and local tavernas. I enjoyed the black and white photos displayed showing life in the past. Check out the local art gallery and the old wine museum.
This is a hillside village with cobblestone streets and traditional architecture. It is fun to roam around for an hour or two and have a meal at a tavern.
This waterfall is very easy to visit provided you can handle the slightly harrowing tiny mountain roads. These were especially nerve-shattering for me driving on the left side. However once you park (there is no obvious parking lot…just park somewhere that makes sense to you and don’t block anyone), it’s just a short walk down some steps to see these pretty rainbow-colored falls. The various minerals in the rocks allow for a variety of colors.
This is also spelled Kaleidonia FYI. These falls start near the town of Platres. The trail is 3km and takes about 1.5 hours in and out. It is fairly easy hiking. It is a pretty trail, following the Kryos Potamos river. You can stop at the falls and head back the way you came for a shorter hike. or go to the end at Psilo Dendro in Pano Platres.
I recommend 2 days in this area. It is easy to visit all these villages in one day and the waterfalls in a half day. You could probably do all of it in one day if you are super organized and ambitious but I prefer a more relaxed pace. If you don’t have time to stay in the mountains, you can visit many of these places from Limassol on a day trip.
Limassol is the 3rd biggest city and it was very similar to Larnaca. Not tons to do in the city but there are many archaeological sites nearby and several beaches. Also as I mentioned above, the Troodos mountains are not far. It is a good place for a base to visit the sites below as well as the mountains if you don’t like moving around too much.
I spent a day seeing this on my drive between Limassol and Paphos but these can be seen as a day trip from Limassol. It only took me around 2 hours to visit the first 3 places on this list, including the drive from Limassol. It cost me around 14 euros in total.
Serving as a fine example of military architecture, Kolossi castle was originally built in the 13th century, and rebuilt in its present form in the 15th century. This was 2.5 euros to enter
The archaeological remains of Kourion – which was one of the island’s most important city-kingdoms in antiquity – are of the most impressive on the island. The magnificent 2nd-century BS Greco-Roman theatre is the site’s centerpiece. This site also holds the remains of a prominent building, the ‘House of Eustolios’, which was originally a private Roman villa. Its remains consist of four panels of ornate 5th-century mosaic floors. This is 4 euros to enter.
During ancient times this was one of the most important religious centers on the island. Apollo was worshipped as Hylates, the god of the woodlands. This is 2.5 euros to enter.
It was one of the most celebrated pilgrimages of the ancient Greek world. Aphrodite, the goddess of love and fertility, was venerated and worshiped here since 1500 BC. The locals had built an elaborate temple and famous Sanctuary on the hilltop. The oldest ruins date back to the 12th c. BC. This area lies very close to the Petra Tou Romiou
Stop at nearby Tavern Ephraim for lunch (I recommend Cypriot salad in a bread bowl)
Petra Tou Romiou (Aphrodite’s Rock)
If you have time, you can enjoy this special rock from the beach and dip in the water, or like me just see it from the viewpoint easily accessed from the road. There is another higher viewpoint as well. They are well-marked on google maps.
Paphos is the largest town on the western side of the island but is also a beachy resort area. There are also wineries and archaeological sites in the region.
I spent 3 days/4 nights here because I wanted to relax at the beach a bit plus wanted time to explore the surrounding area. One half-day was spent visiting wineries and I spent another full day on a boat trip to the blue lagoon and hiking the Avakas gorge. The rest of the time I strolled around the town or relaxed at my hotel beach.
Definitely spend a day in the city both the old town and harbor areas. Say hello to the little boy with the fish statue.
The tasting was 3 euros and included 5 wines. A white made from the Xinisteri grape which is similar to Sauvignon Blanc. Another standout was the Red Blend with Cab Sav, Cab franc, shiraz, and Lefkada…it had an interesting smell, almost like savory food in the oven. It was really easy to drink. They also had a 100% Lefkada.
FYI My fave Cypriot wine was called Persefone (also with the Xinisteri grape) but I didn’t have a chance to go to the winery which is called Kolios.
This gorgeous bay in the Akamas region is shielded and has somewhat warmer water than elsewhere. It has a secluded sandy beach that is only accessible by boat or 4-wheel drive car. The water is crystal clear and great for snorkeling. The best way to experience it is by booking one of the boat tours. They usually include some juice and wine as well which I appreciated.
Beautiful gorge at the beginning of the Akamas peninsula, about 16 km away from Paphos. It is 5 miles out-and-back and takes an average of 2 h 31 min to complete. I did not do all of it because after 40 minutes in I was too hot. (I was there in early July)
This is a large necropolis 2km north of Paphos. In 1980, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The underground tombs, many of which date back to the 4th century BC, are carved out of solid rock and are thought to have been the burial sites of aristocrats and high officials up to the third century AD (the name comes from the magnificence of the tombs; no kings were actually buried here)
A few places to consider for food/drink.
Sea You Beach Bar great place to have dinner and watch the sunset
Zorbas Bakery (this is a chain on the island and I went several times…obsessed)
Tsiakkas Tavern (next to Cynthiana Hotel)
Cape Greco is the area to the far east of the island. It is a national forest park and is a protected area for migratory birds. Essentially a nature paradise. There are two major towns on the peninsula, Ayia Napa and Protaras. I heard not great things about Ayia Napa so I avoided it and that seems to be a good decision. I found an apartment rental closer to Protaras and was happy with it. It is close to many beaches and only a 5-10 minute drive to all the beautiful rock formations.
It is only 90-minute drive from Larnaca and a bit further from Nicosia so it is easily accessible from these cities. I drove all the way from Paphos with a couple of stops to see various things and this drive took about 4 hours.
I recommend at least 2 days in this area. You can have beach time but also check out some gorgeous natural rock formations such as the Sea Caves and the Love Bridge. The most famous beach in the area is called Fig Tree Bay. If you go, get there really early. By 10 am there were no chairs to rent. I ended up walking north to the next beach and found some availability. I like to rent a chair, and umbrella and have a bar nearby. I’m a princess.
If your flight is in the evening as mine was you can easily come from another part of the island. Being in either Nicosia, Limassol or Cape Greco is feasible as your last stop. Cyprus is a very easy country to travel around, provided you have a car and can drive on the left side of the road! If I can do it, anyone can.
I took a taxi here to meet a friend after crossing by foot into the north side of Nicosia. It was around $25 euro. I could have taken a bus for much cheaper but I was low on time. It is roughly 30 minutes without traffic. The waterfront here is beautiful and Girne Castle is definitely worth a visit. Have a burek (Turkish meat or cheese- filled pastry) at one of the many cafes.
I was sad not to have time to visit this town and its surrounding area but heard so many good things about it.
There are many castles on the Turkish side that look stunning including Kantara Castle and Buffovento
Learn more about road-tripping in Northern Cyprus here.
I’m definitely not an expert on lodging here after 1 visit but I was reasonably happy with pretty much all my choices so I will share them here.
Art & Wine Studios and Apartments
Great location, good size room. I think because of covid they weren’t having wine tastings so I missed out on that. I was a bit annoyed on checking in here because it was difficult to find somebody. Other than that I liked it.
I had an apartment rental called City Center Studios. It was a really cute studio apartment right in the center of town practically across the street from the beach.
I loved my hotel here, called Centrum Hotel and would highly recommend it. The room was one of my favorites in Cyprus and it was inside the old city. If you have a car you must park outside the old city in a public pay lot. It was only 5 minute’s walk from the hotel.
Semiramis Hotel This place was rustic but had a nice breakfast and terrace. The staff was very nice. This hotel has parking and was within walking distance to restaurants in the town. It was a short drive to the villages and waterfalls. It was a very small very basic non-AC room
An apartment rental called Proteus Mare Suites. They had parking and it was a cute apartment with a terrace. It was very close to a local beach, just a few minutes’ drive into town. It was also under 10 minutes to the more famous beaches and to the national forest sites.
I didn’t stay in the city, opting for a beachside resort called The Cynthiana Beach Hotel instead. Overall I was pretty happy with it although it is a bit pricey. The lagoon location was beautiful. There was ample free parking here.
I hope this guide helps with your planning. As always, ask any questions below and I am happy to help!
Have you been to Cyprus? What would you add to this?