Cyprus – the most detailed information about the island with photos. Main sights of Cyprus with descriptions, popular cities, beaches and a map of the island.
Cyprus (Greek: Κύπρος, Turkish: Kıbrıs) is an island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and one of the most popular destinations in Europe for beach holidays. Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean, second only to Sicily and Sardinia, and is also considered the legendary birthplace of the ancient Greek goddess of love Aphrodite, perfectly combining high mountains, fertile plains and stunning beaches. But Cyprus is not only about the sea, the sun and extraordinary nature, it is an ancient history frozen among ancient ruins, the charming provincial atmosphere of local cities, the beautiful architecture of Greek churches and Muslim mosques.
Cyprus is considered one of the oldest places in Europe and was inhabited about 10,000 years ago. The island has a rich history, being at the cultural, linguistic and historical crossroads between Europe and Asia. Such a favorable location has always made Cyprus the main target of conquerors who conquered the Eastern Mediterranean in different eras. Nowadays, people flock here to enjoy the sea and sun, practice water sports, or experience the ancient history and local culture.
Since 1960, Cyprus has become an independent state, having previously been a British colony. But now, in fact, the island is divided into two parts: the Republic of Cyprus itself and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, proclaimed in 1983 and controlled by Turkey, and recognized only by it. This article will mainly focus on the description of the southern part of the island.
Geography and climate
Cyprus is located approximately 65 km south of Turkey, 100 km west of Syria and 770 km southeast of mainland Greece. The maximum length of the island from Cape Arnaouti in the west to Cape Apostle Andrew in the northeast is 225 km, with a maximum length from north to south of about 100 km.
The shape of the island vaguely resembles a pot with a handle. The total length of the coastline of Cyprus is 640 km. Most of the coast is rugged, rocky and very picturesque. At the same time, Cyprus has many long sandy beaches. In the west of the island are the Kyrenian Mountains, in the southwest – the Troodos Mountains with the highest peak of Cyprus – Mount Olympos (1952 m). Between the two mountain systems lies the Mesaoria plain (literally translated as “between the mountains”), flat and low-lying, stretching from the Gulf of Morphou in the west to the Gulf of Famagusta in the east. The capital of the Republic of Cyprus, Nicosia, is located approximately in the center of the plain. Mesaoria is the main agricultural region of the island.
Cyprus has a typical Mediterranean climate with a pronounced seasonal rhythm. Hot, dry summers (June to September) and rainy winters (November to March) are separated by short autumn and spring seasons. Precipitation in the fall and winter is often inconsistent. The average annual rainfall in Cyprus is only 500 mm.
Information for tourists
- Population – 1.2 million people
- Area – 9 251 km2
- Currency – Euro
- Language – Greek / Turkish
- Time – UTC +2
- Visa – Schengen or pro-Visa issued by the Consulate of the Republic of Cyprus in the form of an electronic file. The period of stay on a pro-visa should not exceed 90 days within a 180-day period.
- Cyprus is divided into 6 administrative units, each of which is named after its capital: Kyrenia, Famagusta, Larnaca, Nicosia, Paphos and Limassol. The district of Kyrenia, most of the district of Famagusta and the northern part of the district of Nicosia are Northern Cyprus.
The best beaches in Cyprus
Cyprus is one of the centers of European beach vacation. The main resorts of the island (Paphos, Ayia Napa, Limassol and Larnaca) are surrounded by beautiful beaches. Here are the best of them:
- Aphrodite’s Beach is one of the most legendary places on the island, as it is here that the goddess of love Aphrodite was born from the sea foam according to ancient Greek legend. The beach is a small pebble bay and is famous for its beautiful sunsets.
- Nissi is one of the most beautiful and popular beaches in Cyprus. It is located 3 km from the resort of Ayia Napa and is famous for its purest white sand, which is beautifully combined with the turquoise sea. Right off the coast is the rocky islet of the same name, connected to the mainland by a sandy spit. The bay has a shallow depth and this islet can be easily reached. Nissi Beach is surrounded by bustling cafes and restaurants, being a rather noisy place in high season.
- Lara is a tranquil wild beach in a nature reserve located 27 km north of Paphos on the Akamas Peninsula in the far west of Cyprus.
- Golden Beach is one of the most beautiful and pristine beaches on the island with soft golden sand. It is located in Northern Cyprus and is part of the national park.
- Salamis is a beautiful beach in the north of Cyprus, 9 kilometers from Famagusta, located near the grandiose ancient Greek ruins.
- Coral Bay is one of the best beaches in the vicinity of Paphos.
- Vrissiana is one of the most popular beaches on the east coast of the island near the resort village of Protaras, with hotels and restaurants along its entire length.
- Konnos is a picturesque white sand bay surrounded by a cliff and pine forest. It is located on the outskirts of the Cape Greco National Park (about five kilometers south of the village of Protaras)..
- Fig Tree Bay is an excellent sandy beach near the village of Protaras.
- Pissouri Bay is a pebble beach 38 km from Limassol.
Cities and popular places of the island
- Nicosia is the largest city in Cyprus, the administrative and financial center of the island, located in the heart of the Mesaoria plain. It is divided into two parts: South is the capital of the Republic of Cyprus, and North is the capital of Northern Cyprus.
- Larnaca is one of the oldest cities in Cyprus, divided into an old center and a resort area with many hotels and restaurants stretching along the beaches.
- Limassol is the second largest city in Cyprus and the island’s largest seaport. It is considered one of the main tourist centers.
- Paphos is a city on the southwestern coast of Cyprus. It is known as the birthplace of the Greek goddess Aphrodite and in ancient times was the capital and main cultural center of the island, so there are many archaeological sites in its vicinity.
- Ayia Napa is a city on the southeast coast of Cyprus, which can be called the resort capital of the island and the center of nightlife. Many tourists consider this city to be one of the best places to relax in Cyprus.
- Troodos is a picturesque mountainous region that includes more than 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a whole scattering of charming villages.
- Protaras is a small resort village famous for its excellent beaches and clear blue sea.
- Lefkara is a charming town with a vibrant character in the heart of Cyprus at the foot of the Troodos Mountains.
Best time to visit
For a beach vacation, the best time to visit Cyprus is summer and the first half of autumn. Spring is perfect for outdoor activities and sightseeing. At the same time, the island can be warm enough for walking from February.
Cyprus was inhabited by people in the Paleolithic period (approximately 10 thousand years ago). In the Bronze Age, the first cities were built on the island. In the 2nd millennium, the Mycenaean Greeks established their colonies in Cyprus, adding it to the ancient Greek civilization. During the late Bronze Age, the island was controlled by the powerful Hittite Empire. In the 1st millennium BC. Cyprus was successively part of the possessions of the Assyrians, Egyptians and Persians. In the 4th century BC, the island was captured by Alexander the Great.
After the collapse of the state created by Alexander the Great, Cyprus was ruled by the Ptolemaic dynasty, under whose rule the population was almost completely Hellenized. In 58 BC, the island became a Roman province and was ruled by Rome until its decline. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, Cyprus became part of Byzantium. In the 7th century AD, the island was invaded by Arabs and, under an agreement with the Byzantines, was jointly administered by the two nations for the next three centuries.
In the 10th century, Cyprus became fully Byzantine again. In the 12th century, the island became a target of the Crusaders. Richard the Lionheart landed here and his army occupied Cyprus. The island was then sold to the Templars. Then Cyprus was captured by the French under the leadership of the Lusignan dynasty, who later became its kings.
At the end of the 14th century, the Kingdom of Cyprus began to lose its independence. At first, the Genoese dominated the island, then the Mamelukes took over. In the second half of the 15th century, the independence of Cyprus was restored, but not for long. The last queen sold the island to Venice. In 1571, the Ottomans conquered Cyprus and ruled it for three centuries. The Turks lost full power over the island in 1878 after the Russo-Turkish War.
In the late 19th century, the island came under British control. In 1960, the independent Republic of Cyprus was established. Despite the Constitution guaranteeing a certain degree of power sharing between the Greek Cypriot majority and the Turkish Cypriot minority, the two peoples clashed in 1963-1974, resulting in Turkey’s control of the northern and eastern parts of the island (approximately 38% of its area). In 1983, the Turkish-controlled territory declared independence and became known as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. So far, only Turkey recognizes this state.
Whether you prefer air, sea, or land travel, Cyprus is within your grasp.
The most common and convenient way to reach Cyprus is by air. The island is served by two international airports: Larnaca International Airport and Paphos International Airport. Both airports receive direct flights from numerous European and Middle Eastern cities, making it easily accessible from various parts of the world. Major airlines offer regular flights to Cyprus, allowing you to choose the most suitable option for your departure location.
For those who relish the journey as much as the destination, reaching Cyprus by sea is an exciting alternative. The island has multiple ports that accommodate cruise ships, private yachts, and ferry services. Limassol Port, located on the southern coast, is the largest and most frequently used port for passenger ships. You can board a ferry from Athens, Greece, or take a cruise that includes Cyprus as one of its stops, giving you the opportunity to explore multiple destinations along the way.
From Neighboring Countries
Cyprus is well-connected to neighboring countries, providing opportunities for overland travel. If you happen to be in Greece or Turkey, you can embark on an unforgettable journey by ferry or take advantage of the frequent flight connections between these countries and Cyprus. The ferry route from Athens, Greece, to Limassol, Cyprus, offers a scenic and leisurely experience, allowing you to witness the stunning vistas of the Aegean Sea.
If you’re already exploring the nearby Greek islands, why not add Cyprus to your itinerary? Several ferry companies operate routes between the Greek islands and Cyprus, providing an enchanting island-hopping experience. From Rhodes, Santorini, or Crete, you can catch a ferry to Cyprus and bask in the joys of exploring different Mediterranean paradises in a single trip.
Reaching Cyprus is an adventure in itself, with multiple travel options available to suit your preferences and circumstances. Whether you opt for a convenient flight, a scenic sea voyage, or an island-hopping extravaganza, Cyprus welcomes you with open arms
The most commonly bought souvenirs are local wine, traditional lace from Lefkara, jewelry and leather goods, glass and cosmetics, olive oil, and other local products (sweets, cheese, and jam).
Cypriot cuisine is a kind of synthesis of Mediterranean, Greek and Turkish gastronomy. Fried halloumi cheese is probably the most famous product of Cyprus, and its popularity extends far beyond the island. Dolma and souvla (grilled meat with fresh vegetables) and various variants of meze (traditional appetizers) are also very popular.
In addition, in Cyprus, you can try the famous moussaka (fried chicken baked with onions and spices), stifado (meat with onions served with rice, potatoes or bulgur), afelia (pork with red wine and spices, usually served with rice), sheftali (traditional Cypriot kebabs), loukaniko (traditional Cypriot sausages with a unique fennel flavor).
Cyprus has an amazing variety of attractions: from the impressive ruins of ancient cities and medieval castles to important sacred sites and picturesque natural sites.
Kourion is one of the most important archaeological sites in Cyprus. It is located 18 km west of Limassol near the small town of Episkopi. Scientists believe that Kourion was one of the most important cities in ancient Cyprus. Here you can see impressive fragments of ancient buildings, including the Greco-Roman theater, located in the southern part of the city overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The theater was built in the 2nd century BC and rebuilt by the Romans a few centuries later. In its heyday, it could accommodate 3,500 spectators.
Another interesting feature of Kourion is the preserved mosaics of ancient mansions. The most interesting is the House of Achilles, whose mosaics date back to the 4th century A.D. You can also explore the ruins of a Byzantine basilica with fallen columns and fragments of mosaic floors.
St. Hilarion Castle
St. Hilarion’s Castle is considered one of the most beautiful medieval ruins in the Eastern Mediterranean and is located in Northern Cyprus near the city of Kyrenia. This old Crusader bastion is full of mysteries, myths and legends. Local legends claim that the castle was built by a fairy queen who used to enchant local shepherds on its slopes.
In fact, the castle was built by the Byzantines in the 11th century to protect against Arab pirates and later modernized by the Lusignan dynasty. In the 15th century, most of the castle was dismantled by the Venetians. Nevertheless, the castle’s extensive defenses have survived to this day, winding picturesquely uphill. A hiking trail passes through the lower castle buildings and stables to the remains of the towers, royal chambers, and chapels.
Salamis is a large ancient city that is now a significant ruin. It was believed that Salamis was the capital of Cyprus as early as 1100 BC, i.e. at the end of the Bronze Age. Located in the eastern part of the island, north of Famagusta, the city survived the conquests of the Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians and Romans throughout its long history, but eventually succumbed to the forces of time and nature.
Salamis was founded by tribes that arrived from Anatolia towards the end of the Bronze Age. It is believed that the city was initially limited to a small area around the harbor and gradually expanded. The city’s development was spurred by the decline of the neighboring copper mines after a strong earthquake, as the entire neighboring population moved to Salamis.
During the Roman period, Salamis became an important trading center and a major port, with ships arriving from all over the Mediterranean. Although Paphos was the official capital of the island at the time, Salamis was the most important trading city, stretching for two kilometers along the coastline and one kilometer inland. Therefore, most of the archaeological sites in Salamis are from the Roman period.
From the 1st to the 2nd century AD, the city suffered several times from earthquakes and uprisings. In the 4th century AD, earthquakes destroyed Salamis again. The Byzantine Emperor Constantine rebuilt the smaller city and made it the capital of Cyprus from 368 to 403. However, natural disasters continued to hinder the city’s prosperity and by 647 it was finally destroyed and abandoned.
The most interesting sights of Salamis:
- The main temple of Salamis is dedicated to Zeus and is located to the south of the agora. Today it is rather poorly excavated.
- The Gymnasium is the most impressive ruin of Salamis. It was built by Emperor Trajan and Hadrian after a powerful earthquake in 76 AD.
- To the south of the gymnasium is an open-air theater, which is one of the main attractions of these ancient ruins. It was opened only in 1959. The theater was probably built during the reign of the Roman Emperor Augustus in the early years of the Roman Empire and completed in the 2nd century A.D. It is interesting that, unlike most other Roman theaters facing the sea, this one faces the mainland. In addition, this building has another interesting feature: Roman theaters were usually built on a convenient hill, which greatly facilitated construction, but here it is the opposite.
- A Byzantine cistern located on the northern edge of the Agora, which is an impressive monument of the early Middle Ages and one of the largest such structures in Cyprus. It is believed to have been built around 627 – 640 AD.
- The Campanopetra Basilica, built in the 4th century AD, occupies a magnificent location overlooking the sea. This building consisted of a large rectangular courtyard with a colonnade and porticoes on all sides and a three-nave basilica.
- The Basilica of St. Epiphanius was once the largest church in Cyprus, built around 400 A.D. This impressive monument of sacred architecture had three aisles on either side of the central nave, separated by two rows of stone columns.
- The Agora is a 235×55 meter stone forum that was the center of city life and a marketplace. The square dates back to Hellenistic times, but took its current form around 22 BC during the reign of the Roman Emperor Augustus.
Kolossi is a 700-year-old medieval castle that is the birthplace of one of the oldest vintage wines in Commandaria. This tiny fortress near Limassol is an old Crusader citadel and a reminder of the time of the Crusades to the Holy Land.
The castle, originally owned by the Knights of St. John, was built for their commander and had a great location, facing directly onto the coastline. Its surroundings were originally used as sugar cane plantations. Today, grapes are grown in the villages surrounding the castle and the famous Commandaria wine is produced, which was highly praised by Richard the Lionheart himself.
Not far from Paphos are the impressive ruins of an ancient city included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. It was once called Nea Paphos and was founded in the 4th century BC. In the 2nd century BC, the city became the capital of Cyprus. Here you can see several important monuments of antiquity and the Middle Ages.
Among the most significant remains of the archaeological complex are four large Roman villas with magnificent mosaics. In addition, the excavations revealed an agora, an Asklepion (a pagan temple dedicated to the god of medicine), a basilica, an odeon (a Greco-Roman theater), and a necropolis known as the Tombs of the Kings. The theater, located in the northeastern part of the ancient city, dates back to the end of the 4th century BC.
The most popular place in ancient Paphos is the Roman villa called the House of Dionysus, which houses an incredible collection of mosaic floors, famous for their excellent preservation and bright color. Here you can see the best examples of intricate mosaic art. The building is named after the god Dionysus, who appears on many mosaics depicting scenes from Greek mythology.
The Tombs of the Kings is an ancient necropolis containing numerous cave tombs dating back to the 4th-3rd centuries B.C. The name of this archaeological site is not entirely correct, as kings were not buried here. Despite the monumentality and magnificence of the ancient tombs, they were intended for wealthy officials and aristocrats.
Many of the tombs in the necropolis are very elaborate, with decorated walls and columns carved out of solid rock. This interesting and historically very important place is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Panagia Araka is one of the most interesting churches in Cyprus, although it does not look convincing and simple. It was built in the 12th century as part of a monastery. The interior of the church is an exceptional example of Byzantine art.
The most interesting attraction of the church is the magnificent frescoes that cover its ceiling and walls. The vivid images of biblical characters stand out against the indigo color background. The quality of the centuries-old art is impressive, and all the decorations are incredibly well preserved. In fact, the church boasts the most complete set of frescoes from the medieval Byzantine period in Cyprus.
Hala Sultan Tekke
Hala Sultan Tekke or Umm Haram Mosque is a historic Muslim complex located on the shores of the Salt Lake of Larnaca. The mosque was built in 648 in the place where a relative of the Prophet Muhammad, Umm Haram, died during an Arab raid. Today, the mosque is one of the most important religious buildings in the Muslim world.
The Rock of Aphrodite
The Rock of Aphrodite is one of the most famous places in Cyprus. Not only the myth of the Greek goddess of love and beauty attracts visitors here. People also like to swim in the cool waters in the summer, some in the hope that they will regain their youth, others just for fun. Here you can witness the natural beauty of Cyprus and admire the views of the endless sea, which, according to the ancient Greeks, was “created” by the goddess.
Cape Greco, also known as Cavao Greco, is a protected national park that offers excellent nature trails, stunning sea views and the opportunity to explore breathtaking sea caves. The national park includes nine nature trails that wind through juniper forests along picturesque sea cliffs.
Limassol Castle, located in the heart of the historic city, is believed to have been built in 1193. However, the current structure was significantly rebuilt in the 19th century under the rule of the Turks. The castle has powerful walls up to 2 m thick and special prison cells on the ground floor, which were actively used until 1950. Now it houses the Cyprus Museum of the Middle Ages, which boasts exhibits from the 3rd century to the 18th century. The museum displays a wide range of artifacts, including medieval ceramics, coins, and various weapons.
Located at the foot of the Troodos Mountains, Hirokitia is a former Neolithic settlement that is now one of the most important prehistoric sites in the Mediterranean. This village, which existed from the 7th to the 4th millennium BC, was discovered in 1934 and has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1998. Near the village, you can see five reconstructed residential buildings. They were carefully crafted using the same methods and materials that were used in the Neolithic period.
St. Lazarus Church
The Church of St. Lazarus is located in Larnaca and is one of the most important Byzantine monuments in Cyprus. It was built in the 10th century. It is believed that the tomb of St. Lazarus, who was resurrected by Jesus Christ, is located in the crypt under the church. The original building had three domes, which were demolished during the Ottoman occupation.
Kikkos Monastery, located at an altitude of 1318 meters in the Troodos Mountains, is one of the most famous monasteries in Cyprus. Although it was founded in the 11th century, most of its buildings are fairly new because the old structures burned down. The monastery is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is known for the fact that one of the three icons attributed to the evangelist Luke is kept here.
Stavrovuni is a monastery built in the early 4th century at an altitude of 750 meters above sea level on the top of the hill of the same name. The monastery was founded by St. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great, who left a fragment of the Holy Cross here. Today it is one of the few places in the world where you can see such a relic.
The medieval Paphos Castle, located right in the harbor and connected to the land by a vaulted bridge, was originally a Byzantine fort built to protect the port. The structure was destroyed and rebuilt several times over the years. The current appearance of the castle dates back to the Ottoman period.
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