The best things to do in Cyprus

written by
Andy Turner

updated 12.07.2021

The birthplace of Aphrodite and the crossroads between three continents, Cyprus has seduced and inspired generations of travellers for hundreds of years. And it continues to do so today. Here is our pick of the best things to do in Cyprus.

This article is inspired by the Rough Guide to Cyprus — your essential guide to travelling to Cyprus.

1. Turtle-watching

Beaches in both the south and the north represent some of the last Mediterranean nesting places of green and loggerhead turtles. One of the most beautiful and most isolated beaches in Cyprus, Lara Bay is a haven for loggerheads and green turtles. During the turtle laying season volunteers monitor the beach for female turtles and relocate their eggs to a fenced hatchery, protecting them from predators.

East of Acapulco Bay is Alagadi Beach, a “Protected Area” because of the green and loggerhead turtles that nest here. As well as sea turtles, the area is home to a variety of plants, lizards and butterflies.


Watch sea turtles in Cyprus Andreas Michael/Shutterstock

2. Explore the Akamas Peninsula

With no main roads, few people and a spectacular coastline, the Akamas Peninsula is a pleasant contrast to the island's more developed and crowded parts. A trip to this rugged coastline is one of the best things to do in Cyprus for walkers, mountain bikers, and off-road drivers.

Driving on the Akamas means either renting a 4WD or signing up for a jeep safari, and only experienced walkers, properly dressed and equipped, should attempt it on foot. Given its military past, if you find anything that looks like a live shell or other ordnance, leave well alone.

For the faint of heart, the best way to see the peninsula is from the comfort of a boat – excursions run from Pafos and Lakki (Alkion run cruises in glass-bottomed boats along the Akamas coast.


Akamas Peninsula, Cyprus © f8grapher/Shutterstock

3. Girne (Kyrenia)

Girne (still widely known by its Greek name Kyrenia or Keryneia) is the most beautiful town in Cyprus, owing to its ravishing harbour, mighty Venetian castle, and a backdrop of sharp and craggy mountains. It even has a pleasant climate, courtesy of those mountains, which bring cooler air and a greener landscape than in the rest of Cyprus.

Apart from the harbour and the castle, much else is hidden among Girne’s steep serpentine alleys. The Anglican Church, the Cafer Paşa Camii, the Ottoman Cemetery and the Chrysopolitissa Church attest to the spiritual life of the town, and the tiny Folk Art Museum and Icon Museum to its cultural life.

Ready to explore the Mediterranean further? Read our guide to the best Greek islands.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Girne.

Port Kyrenia, Girne, Northern Cyprus © MarinaDa/Shutterstock

Beautiful view of the new port of Kyrenia (Girne), North Cyprus © MarinaDa/Shutterstock

4. Go hiking

Cyprus has some top-quality hiking trails, particularly in the Troodos Massif – even in high summer, the altitude makes for a pleasant walking climate. The foothills offer an opportunity to get away from the brashness and heat of the city and the coast.

A section of the European Long Distance Path E4 travels for 539km the length of the island, and there is 322km of good walking divided into 72 nature trails. The best general walking in the north is in the Kyrenia range and along the Karpaz Peninsula – look out for the tourist office’s excellent trail guides Kyrenia East and West and Karpaz East and West.


Hiking in Cyprus © MoLarjung/Shutterstock

5. Eat at Lemesos Restaurants

Visiting Lemesos is unquestionably one of the best things to do in Cyprus for foodies, with the widest range and highest quality of restaurants. This is partly because it is both a year-round city and a multicultural one with an eclectic range of cuisines on offer.

As elsewhere in the world, restaurants come and go, but this shouldn’t deter you from seeking out exciting new ones. A new concentration of places to eat and drink – bars, chain restaurants and fast-food outlets – particularly patronized by younger locals, has been provided by the redeveloped Marina, which is located just south of the city centre.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Lemesos.

Marina in Limassol city in Cyprus @ f8grapher/Shutterstock

Marina in Limassol city in Cyprus @ f8grapher/Shutterstock

6. Relax at Buyuk Han

This beautifully renovated Buyuk Han “Great Inn” at the heart of Lefkosa’s old town is a great place to shop or simply unwind. It is a graceful and harmonious building which is somehow more affecting because it was not built to glorify God or the power of princes but as practical lodgings for traders and merchants.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Nicosia.


Buyuk Han, Cyprus © Andriy Markov/Shutterstock

7. Painted Churches of the Troodos Mountains

In its stock of simple but exquisitely painted rural churches, the Troodos Mountains are truly blessed. You can come across these little gems across the region, but especially on the north slopes of the range, sometimes in villages, sometimes in remote wooded areas.

They are modest in construction, with steeply sloping wooden roofs (to shed snow during the winter) above stout rough stone walls. Inside, they are decorated with wonderful frescoes (and in some cases mosaics) which offer a glimpse of life and beliefs during the almost thousand years of the Byzantine Empire. Ten of these churches are collectively included in Unesco’s World Heritage List.


The beautiful painted churches of the Troods Mountains © Shutterstock

8. St Hilarion Castle

Of the three magnificent castles in the Kyrenia mountains, by far the most accessible, popular and complete is St Hilarion. Dramatically sited on a rocky crag with elegantly ruined turrets, towers and windows, it certainly fires the imagination.

The castle formed the template for both the fairy-tale castles of King Ludwig in Bavaria and Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom. If possible, visit in spring when the surrounding landscape is a riot of wildflowers. The views from the snack bar are to die for.

Dreaming of seeing the great lost ruins of the world? Don't miss our guide to the great lost cities of the world.


St Hilarion Castle in Cyprus © Steve Allen/Shutterstock

9. Kykkos Monastery

The monastery of Panagia tou Kykkou, widely known simply as “Kykkos”, is the most famous in Cyprus. Located on the far edge of the Troodos area, 15km west of Pedoulas and the Marathasa Valley, it’s often dismissed because its buildings are relatively modern. But in reality, it will tell you more about Greek Cypriots and their religion today than all the more venerable churches of Troodos put together.

With its mixture of religious observance and commercial enterprise, the presence of national hero President Makarios’s tomb and the nearby EOKA hideouts, a visit here is one of the best things to do in Cyprus for anybody trying to get a handle on modern Cyprus.


The Kykkos Monastery © ruzanna/Shutterstock

10. Ancient Salamis

One of the most significant archaeological sites in the Mediterranean, Salamis is notable not only for the richness and extent of its remains but also for its agreeable beachside setting. The site itself is huge and, despite almost a century of archaeological digging, has still not been completely uncovered.

The approach to the site is along a road beside a huge picnic area, and the first thing you’ll see is a restaurant (Bedi’s) with a recently added beach bar and pier and a fine sandy beach. A plan of the site at the entrance offers two walking routes, one short, and one long.

Luckily the most important and most comprehensively investigated buildings are very close together just beyond the entrance. If you intend to view every single part of the city, it’ll involve a lot of walking so come prepared.

Romans ruins of the city of Salamis, near Famagusta, Northern Cyprus @  xabi_kls/Shutterstock

Romans ruins of the city of Salamis, near Famagusta, Northern Cyprus @ xabi_kls/Shutterstock

11. Encounter the local Mouflon

Though a working forest station, Stavros tis Psokas is also a popular destination for walkers and tour groups. It lies in a beautiful setting 3km off the road to Kykkos, along a side road which drops down through a wooded valley.

Here you'll find a large, hilly and wooded mouflon enclosure, where, if you’re lucky, you may see these iconic wild mountain sheep, the emblem of Cyprus. You can’t go into the pen (in 2011, a man who climbed the fence and goaded the animals was gored), but a path up some steps from the road runs around the perimeter fence.


Local mouflon © RudiErnst/Shutterstock

12. Top-notch diving

The wreck of the Zenobia, a modern car ferry which sank in mysterious circumstances off Larnaka, is one of the Mediterranean’s premier dive sites and one of the best things to do in Cyprus. The story of its sinking remains something of a mystery. Compared to most shipwrecks, the whole drama was played out relatively slowly, and as a result, there was no loss of life (though several divers have been drowned in the wreck since).

Apart from the catastrophic failure of a state-of-the-art ferry, the mystery is that, despite her intrinsic value and the €200 million cargo she carried, no investigation was ever carried out, and the owners never tried to collect the insurance. However, all is not lost; the wreck of the Zenobia is now considered to be one of the best dive sites in the world.


Cyprus wreck diving © Rostislav Ageev/Shutterstock

13. Learn local history at the Cyprus Museum

Outside the walls and the Pafos Gate, at the top of Mouseiou and to the left of the Municipal Gardens, is the Cyprus Museum, the single most important attraction in Lefkosia. Here you’ll find a trove of archaeological treasures representing the many cultures which have inhabited the island.

It’s all slightly old-fashioned and the collection is beginning to outgrow the current building – a new, purpose-built museum building has long been promised, but, courtesy of the world financial crisis, has still not arrived.

The Cyprus Museum is one of the best things to do in Cyprus @ Shutterstock

14. Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque

Approaching from Larnaka, instead of going “through the roundabout” as the sign tells you to, double back as if returning to Larnaka; the turn-off to Hala Sultan Tekke is on the left, clearly signposted. There’s a car park immediately after the turning which you can use if you want to walk the footpath; otherwise, there’s ample parking next to the mosque itself.

On the shore at the far end of the salt lake from Larnaka is one of Cyprus’s most important Muslim sites, the Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque. With its elegant domes and minaret peeping out from a grove of palm and cypress trees on the shimmering edge of the lake the mosque is extremely atmospheric, only slightly marred by the distracting wind turbines located on the hillside behind.


Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque © Shutterstock

15. Enjoy the local café culture

From small village kafenions occupied by old men sipping strong coffee to smart Nicosia establishments are packed with the young and stylish, café culture that flourishes across the island.

The variety of restaurants in Cyprus has increased exponentially during the last decade or two. Most popular are still the traditional tavernas (still the only option in many rural areas), or the slightly more formal estiadoria. But these have been joined by a host of restaurants offering cuisine from around the world.


What to do in Cyprus? Enjoy the local cafe culture © Magicmood/Shutterstock

16. View the Roman Pafos Mosaics

These stunningly vivid mosaics at Pafos give an insight into the life of the Roman elite on the island. There is no doubt that the jewel in the crown of the Pafos mosaics is the House of Dionysos. This represents the central public area of a rich man’s home, clustered around an atrium. The mosaics here are stunning and a visit is one of the best things to do in Cyprus.


The beautiful Roman Pafos Mosaics © NORTH DEVON PHOTOGRAPHY/Shutterstock

17. Gazimağusa (Famagusta)

The charming city of Gazimağusa (Famagusta) is second only to Girne in the north’s tourism league table. Like Girne, it boasts an atmospheric old town surrounded by crumbling Venetian walls, a legacy of its strategic position facing the Middle East. Its shops, restaurants and cafés are threaded between the photogenic remains of churches destroyed or damaged during the Ottoman siege of 1570–71.

Immediately to the south lies the ghost town of Varosha, once the heart of Famagusta’s tourist trade, now isolated by the Turkish invasion of 1974. To the north lies a clutch of historically important sites – ancient Enkomi/Alasia, the monastery of Apostolos Varnavas, the Royal Tombs, and above all ancient Salamis – and the many kilometres of beaches that line Gazimağusa Bay.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Gazimağusa.


Gazimagusa, Cyprus © Sopotnicki/Shutterstock

18. Enjoy the north coast beaches

Cyprus has hundreds of beaches, though arguably the finest – such as Golden Sands – are strung along the north coast and Karpaz Peninsula. One of the most sparsely settled places on the island, road improvements have now made it more readily accessible and holiday villages are springing up along its otherwise pristine beaches.

Greek Cypriots also make pilgrimages here to visit Apostolos Andreas Monastery, near the peninsula’s tip. There is no fixed view of where Karpaz begins, but we’ve defined this area as east of Iskele/Boğaz on the south coast, and Kaplica on its north coast. On this basis, the atmospheric castle of Kantara falls within its boundaries.


The beautiful north coast beaches © Dmitry Pichugin/Shutterstock

19. Wine tasting

Follow one of six wine-tasting routes, drop into the Cyprus Wine Museum or throw yourself into the bacchanal of the Lemesos Wine Festival.

Over two weekends in the middle of September, the Municipal Gardens are transformed into a tent city as the Lemesos Wine Festival hits town. The festival offers, in the words of the organizers, “a revival of ancient festive manifestations of worship of Dionysus and Aphrodite”, or, to the more cynical, a chance to get very drunk.

Dozens of Cypriot wine producers offer tastings and talks, and there’s plenty of information on the island’s wine routes. It’s an inclusive, fun affair – giant figures dressed in traditional Cypriot costumes wander around the park holding bunches of grapes in one hand and wine bottles in the other.


Wine-tasting is one of the best things to do in Cyprus © ElenYrebyata/Shutterstock

20. Bellapais

Almost exactly halfway between St Hilarion and Buffavento is the flower-bedecked village of Bellapais, a tangle of narrow lanes and steep hills, with fine views down to Girne’s modern harbour. The village is synonymous with its medieval abbey, one of the most beautiful in the eastern Mediterranean.

A trip to Bellapais is one of the best things to do in Cyprus, so it is often packed. Try to avoid the high season and late morning/early afternoon. Despite being such a popular attraction, Bellapais is not easy to find.

Travelling east on the main road from Girne, turn right at the Bellapais-signposted “peace” roundabout, and, a few hundred metres along, take the first (unsignposted) main turning left. At the top of the hill turn left at the (unsignposted) roundabout, and continue on to the village.


The medieval abbey of Bellapais © travelview/Shutterstock

21. Orthodox Easter Celebrations

Inevitably, given the importance of Easter in the Greek Orthodox Church (much more important, for example, than Christmas), a lot of the festivals relate to Easter – the run-up to it, the day itself, and its aftermath.

Easter is the biggest event in the Greek Orthodox calendar. There are processions on the evening of Good Friday, midnight Mass on Easter Saturday, and lots of eating and drinking and games on Easter Sunday and Monday. Note that the Greek Orthodox Easter doesn’t always coincide with that in the rest of Europe.

Easter moments in a small church in Paphos @ Franginos Theodorou/Shutterstock

Easter moments in a small church in Paphos @ Franginos Theodorou/Shutterstock

22. Omodos

Omodos is the epitome of the Troodos foothills wine village. That’s why it attracts so many visitors and that’s why it’s lambasted for being too touristy. Don’t listen to the critics – if you’ve only got time for one village, make it this one. Surrounded by vineyards, Omodos is laid out around a large pedestrianized cobbled square which slopes gently down to Timiou Stavrou (Holy Cross) Monastery.

There’s a massive old wine press near the square, dating from the Lusignan period, while 1km north is the Ktima Gerolemo winery, which offers winery tours and wine tasting, as well as a gift shop.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Omodos.

omodos village cyprus

A visit to Omodos is one of the best things to do in Cyprus© leoks/Shutterstock

23. Visit the Tombs of the kings

Off the main road from Paphos to Coral Bay lies one of the strangest, most atmospheric ancient sites you’re likely to come across – the so-called Tombs of the Kings. This is an extensive necropolis used from the third century BC to the fourth century AD for the burial, not of kings, but of high-up administrators, civil servants and their families.

There is evidence that early Christians also used it to bury their dead, while in the Middle Ages, people even lived in tombs. Since 1977, eight large tomb complexes have been identified. Each follows a similar plan: an underground atrium surrounded by Doric columns and a portico, with the tombs dug into the walls behind – imagine a Greek temple built in a deep pit.

An ancient burial chamber at the 'Tomb of the Kings' necropolis in Paphos, Cyprus © Shutterstock

An ancient burial chamber at the 'Tomb of the Kings' necropolis in Paphos, Cyprus © Shutterstock

24. Take a boat trip to sea caves

Separating the beaches of Agia Napa and Protaras, Cape Greko is a bare, rocky headland dotted with sea caves. Though protected as a nature reserve, it gets busy with locals hurtling around on motorbikes and dune buggies. There’s often an ice cream van in the car park nearby, and beyond the church, there are steps down to a “sacred” sea cave and a signpost to others some 4km away.

Elsewhere on the Cape, there are picnic sites, walking trails (the Agioi Anargyroi and Aphrodite paths) and a new Environmental Centre. Along this stretch of the coast, you are likely to come across cruise boats anchored offshore for people to have a swim, and youngsters testing their mettle by jumping or diving off the cliffs.

A view of a sea shore in Kavo Greko nenar Aiya Napa, Cyprus © Shutterstock

A view of a sea shore in Kavo Greko nenar Aiya Napa, Cyprus © Shutterstock

25. Partying in Ayia Napa - one of the best things to do in Cyprus for a joyous experience

Agia Napa (often appearing as Ayia Napa), 35km east of Larnaka, is not to everybody’s taste. If you want peace and quiet, to commune with nature, or to get to grips with traditional Cypriot life, go somewhere else. But if you’re young – or think you’re young - and want the company of people of your own age and lots of stuff to do, this is one of the best holiday regions in Europe.

Though much of the resort’s appeal is down to its nightlife, there’s now a lot more to it than that. Its remarkably compact centre sits behind a surprisingly charming small harbour (Limanaki) with some fine stretches of sand, notably Nissi beach, running west from here.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Ayia Napa.

Ayia Napa, Cyprus © Shutterstock

Partying in Ayia Napa, Cyprus © Shutterstock

Despite its appeal, Cyprus is by no means the cheapest destination for travelling in Europe. For an alternative budget destination, read our guide to Croatia - the perfect honeymoon destination.

Ready for a trip to the Balearic Islands in Cyprus? Check out our Rough Guide to Cyprus.

If you prefer to plan and book your trip to Cyprus without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.

We may earn a commission when you click on links in this article, but this doesn’t influence our editorial standards. We only recommend services that we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

Andy Turner

written by
Andy Turner

updated 12.07.2021

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