Cyprus is one of the last countries in Europe for me to visit. Located just south of Turkey and just off the coast of Lebanon, Cyprus has long been a mysterious country on my list. Having traveled all over the Cyclades islands, the Ionian Islands, and Athens, I knew that at some point I had to visit the island nation of Cyprus.
Cyprus is a unique country that’s divided into two parts, the Republic of Cyprus in the south and the Turkish Republic of Cyprus in the north. The cause of division is long and complicated and I go into detail about this later. Historically, Cyprus has changed hands through countless different empires that came through the lands given its strategic location at the crossroads between East and West. Just understand that Cyprus is by all intents and purposes a Greek island but with plenty of Middle Eastern and Turkish influences.
I spent almost two weeks traveling through Cyprus which I think is plenty of time to see this beautiful country. This itinerary will primarily focus on the Republic of Cyprus (the southern half) as visiting the Northern part is difficult with a rental car.
Where I went in Cyprus
In total, I spent 12 days traveling through Cyprus. I don’t think you’ll need this much time to see the island but I spent a lot of time relaxing in the cities and working as a digital nomad.
Some of the highlights of my Cyprus trip include the following
- Cape Greco National Park
- Nicosia, Cyprus and North Cyprus sides
- Kourion Architectural Site
- Troodoo Mountains
- Aphrodite’s Rock
- Akamas National Park
If these places ring a bell and sound like the places you want to visit, this is the perfect itinerary for you!
Best time of year to visit Cyprus
Cyprus is one of the sunniest places in Europe enjoying over 300 days of a sun a year. It’s no wonder that Cyprus has become such a popular tourist, digital nomad, and retirement destination over the years.
While Cyprus enjoys warm and comfortable temperatures all year round, there are definitely certain times of the year that are better than others. It’s important to understand what you’re getting yourself into so you can plan accordingly (or not plan!)
The most popular times of the year to visit Cyprus are June to August. This is Europe’s high travel season and you’ll see the huge swarms of tourists all over the island. The temperatures during these months can be extremely hot and unbearable. 30 degrees is the average and there will be plenty of days where the temperatures can reach 40 degrees which becomes uncomfortable in my opinion. During these months, you can also expect the cost of accommodations to be much more expensive especially at the big resorts.
Conversely, the winter months of Cyprus (Dec to Feb) will see temperatures dip in to the upper teens. 18-20 degrees is common in the winter time which is still quite pleasant for me but might be too cold for others. You will also experience the most rain and wind during these months. Nevertheless, it’s still a great option for those looking to escape the European winters.
The best time of the year to visit Cyprus in my opinion are during the shoulder seasons. Mid Sep to end of November is a fantastic time to visit the island. Temperatures are a much more reasonable 25 to 30 degrees during the day and the sea is warm from the hot summer. Night time temperatures can dip to 15-20 degrees but still very pleasant. March to May will see similar temperatures but the sea will be much colder. Just keep in mind that during this time of year, there is a higher chance of storms that could last a few days at a time.
In the end, there is no bad time to visit Cyprus especially if you’re looking to escape the cold of the European winter (or even fall).
Cyprus vs Greece
My first question before coming to Cyprus was just how it compared to Greece, which is perhaps my favorite country in Europe.. It turns out, Cyprus and Greece are very similar. For starters, they both speak the Greek language and the cuisine is pretty much the same (good for me as I love Greek food).
To understand the differences and similarities between Cyprus and Greece, we must understand the history because everything always stems from history.
Cyprus was for all intents and purpose a Greek island even from ancient times. Greek settlers came here from 2000 BCE and called it home for the next few thousands of years. It changed hands under the different empires of history including Macedonian, Roman, Byzantine, and more. After the whole region was conquered by the Ottomans in the 1500s, Turkish settled on the island and comingled with the Greek people already on the island. Islam and Orthodox Christianity coexisted on the island and life persisted.
After the fall of the Ottoman empire in the early 1990s, Cyprus became a colony of the British Empire. Cyprus achieved independence in 1960 and the Greek majority actually wanted to reunite with Greece at this point. However, due to the large Turkish minority on the island, this would have caused huge problems and conflicts with Turkey, whom already had lots of disagreements with Greece. Finally, in 1974, the island split into two sections: The Republic of Cyprus in the south, and the Turkish republic of North Cyprus in the north.
North Cyprus is not recognized as a country by any country except Turkey and is nowadays still a de facto state. The South eventually joined the EU and has become the tourist and tax haven hotspot that it’s known for today. However, by all intents and purposes, Cyprus is Greek. The locals all speak Greek and view themselves as ethnically Greek. I suspect if it wasn’t for the Turkish population, the island would have definitely reunited with Greece. This whole situation reminds me of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. One island separated by religion and colonists from a larger empire.
Middle Eastern Influence
Given Cyprus’ proximity, there is a definitive Middle Eastern influence to the island that you don’t find in other parts of Greece. There is a large exodus of Lebanese that migrated to Cyprus during the civil war as well as recently due to the economic collapse of the country.
You can even see it with the food in Cyprus. Halloumi cheese is widely available in all tavernas, and the Arabic pita is used with gyros as much as the Greek pita. In fact, some of the best restaurants on the island were Lebanese restaurants which really made me want to hop on the 40 Euro flight to Beirut, one of my favorite cities in the world! Hummus is widely consumed in Cyprus where it is hard to find in Greece. Shisha is also everywhere in Cyprus!
How to travel through Cyprus?
Cyprus is a large island, easily one of the largest in the Mediterranean. While not as large as neighboring Crete, the island is much larger than islands in the Cyclades or the Islands of the Ionian sea.
From the Eastern tip of Cape Greco to the western part of the island past Paphos, it is only a 2 hour drive. However, there are a ton of sights to see inland where you will need a car to travel.
Car rentals from Larnaca airport or in the city center are quite affordable. There are numerous companies that will drop your car off at the airport. I was able to get a car rental for €20 a day which included insurance. Gas on Cyprus is cheaper than in mainland Europe, and especially cheaper than Greece.
Buses in Cyprus
There is a somewhat comprehensive bus system in Cyprus. You can take the buses in the main cities of Larnaca, Paphos, and Limassol as a way to get around. There are also inter city buses connecting Larnaca to Paphos and Limassol that run multiple times a day. As well, there are buses from these three cities to the capital in Nicosia.
Similarly, there is a bus from Larnaca airport that travels directly to Limassol or Paphos. This is perfect if you can find a cheap flight on Ryanair or Easyjet from your city to Paphos or Larnaca and want to visit the other cities.
If you’re budget strapped, traveling by bus is definitely possible to see the main cities of Cyprus. However, the beauty of Cyprus is certainly not in the main cities and you’ll need a car to see the ancient ruins, beautiful beaches, mountains etc.
Cyprus is a strange place
There is no character to the cities
The cities of Cyprus have no character at all. For example, the city of Larnaca is industrial and overbuilt with ugly midrise buildings and condos. There is no old town in the city with the famous cobblestone streets, traditional houses, or the famous bougainvillea trees that Greece is known for.
I thought Cyprus would have some resemblance to Crete as they are similar in size and in their proximity away from the Greek mainland. I was wrong.
Similarly, Paphos has a bit more charm than Larnaca but the Kato Paphos area on the beach is mostly just Irish pubs overflowing with drunk Brits, touristy restaurants, and ugly condo buildings.
Accommodation options are terrible
I don’t know what it is about Cyprus but the accommodation options are just terrible. They are really abysmal. I’m not even a picky traveler by any means but the options in all three of the main cities in Cyprus are just awful.
Your choices are being all inclusive style resorts with 200 rooms that look terribly outdated, or 1980s style apartments that are neither comfortable or cute. Perhaps I’ve just become too used to the level of accommodations I’ve found in other parts of Greece. I know Cyprus is not a Cycladic island so you don’t expect beautiful views like this.
However, I just expected more from Cyprus because even the typical Airbnb accommodation options were mediocre at best.
Full Cyprus Itinerary
This itinerary starts in Larnaca, Cyprus third largest city. Larnaca was simply the starting point because of their airport. Flights from abroad primarily fly into Paphos and Larnaca. Larnaca is not a beautiful city and most people spend 1-2 days as a jumping off point to other areas in Cyprus. I spent a few days in Larnaca to just relax and unwind from a long flight.
I went to the capital city of Nicosia and crossed over to the Turkish side which was the perfect day trip. I also visited Cape Greco and the natural wonders to the East of Larnaca.
From Larnaca, I traveled by rental car to the second largest city of Limassol. Limassol is much more developed and a prettier city than Larnaca. It’s also the most expensive city in Cyprus with plenty of digital nomads and expats calling it home. From Limassol, there are various Roman ruins and beaches to visit. From Larnaca, I then went to Paphos for a few nights which included exploring the ruins and sights in the area.
Finally, from Paphos, I circled back towards Larnaca making a stop in the Troodos mountains, home to the famous Mount Olympus. Finally, I drove back to Larnaca and flew home.
Day 1-4: Larnaca
The itinerary starts in Larnaca, Cyprus’ third largest city. The main reason my trip started here is simply because the flight to Larnaca was cheapest and most convenient.
Most people spend a day or two in Larnaca before traveling to the other areas of Cyprus. Truth be told, there is not that much to do or see in Larnaca so you don’t need to spend more than 1-2 days. Larnaca is a great place to base yourself to explore the surrounding sights like the Cape Greco National park in the eastern coast with its famous sea caves.
Larnaca has a beach promenade equipped with sun beds and various restaurants. Many of these restaurants are big chain brands which you should avoid at all costs (eg: TGI Fridays, KFC, Burger King, etc.).
Instead, visit the tiny old town plaza where you can find the beautiful Church of St. Lazarus and the fantastic tavernas, cafes, and cocktail bars in the city center.
Restaurants and cafes in Larnaca
As unappealing as Larnaca looks, there’s a great collection of restaurants and cafes in the city to keep you occupied for a few days.
- Paul’s Cafe: Great cafe for coffee to lounge and get work done
- Edem’s Yard: Best brunch in town by far
- Ithaki Taverna: Great Greek food in a beautiful garden vibe
- Mingle Cafe: Great brunch and breakfast cafe
- Beirut Cafe: Delicious Lebanese style food in the city center
- Elia’s Backyard: Delicious Greek food in with an eclectic vibe
- Souvlaki.Gr: Best place for grilled meats, souvlaki, pitas etc.
- Makou Beach bar: Beautiful cafe on the beach. This was my favorite place to grab a coffee and get work done as it’s a huge space with unobstructed beach views.
- Duende Cocktail: Trendy and a great vibe for a cocktail + shisha bar
Diving the Zenobia Wreck
Without a doubt, one of the biggest highlights of my trip to Cyprus was diving at the Zenobia Wreck. This shipwreck located right in front of Larnaca is consistently rated as one of the best dives in all of Europe. The Zenobia was a cargo ship from Sweden that sunk in front of Larnaca in the 1980s. It is a whopping 160m which makes it even bigger than the SS Thistlegorn battle ship in Egypt.
This wreck is not to be missed if you’re a diver and you could easily spend a week just diving in and out of the wreck.
I did a two dive day trip with Dive-In Larnaca which was spectacular. The first dive was diving around the wreck itself exploring the exterior, mast, chambers, and even fish species that have grown around the ship.
The second dive was penetrating the wreck traveling through the cafeteria, various chambers, and more. This was an absolute joy penetrating a wreck this large. There are many more dives that you can do including visiting the engine room, cargo deck, and more. The wreck goes all the way down to 42m so Cyprus has also become a hotspot among the tech diving community that want to explore the deeper parts of the boat.
All in all, if you’re a diver and are visiting Cyprus, absolutely secure a trip to visit the Zenobia wreck!
Visit Cape Greco and the beautiful sea caves
One of the must visit sights in Cyprus is to visit the beautiful Cape Greco national park east of Larnaca. Located just 30 minutes by car from Larnaca, this is a beautiful half day trip.
The main sights you want to visit here are the following:
- Bridge of Lovers
- Sea Caves
- Blue Lagoon at Ayia Napa
The Sea Caves are especially beautiful especially for those that want to watch the sunset. As Larnaca faces mostly east, there is no sunset. Therefore, if you are already in this area, stay and watch the sunset from these beautiful caves. Unfortunately, they are an incredibly popular attraction and will be packed with tourists.
Day 3: Day trip to Nicosia and North Cyprus
Nicosia, also known as Lefkosia by the locals is the capital city of Cyprus. It’s not as visited or as well known as their seaside towns of Larnaca, Limassol, and Paphos. However, it is certainly worth a visit for the historical relevance.
I visited Nicosia as a day trip from Larnaca which is more than enough. It’s not that charming of a city so I don’t recommend spending more than one night in this town.
Nicosia, the last divided capital in the world
Nicosia is located in the center of the island and is the last divided capital city in the world. The city is literally split into two by a makeshift border. This has been the case since the 1974 during the formation of the Republic of Cyprus.
The southern half of Nicosia belongs to the Republic of Cyprus while the northern half belongs to the Turkish republic of North Cyprus which is a country that is only recognized by Turkey. The rest of this world sees this as an autonomous region that is occupied.
Crossing the border from Cyprus to North Cyprus
Make your way to the northern border of Nicosia within the old town and you will find the border control between the two parts of Nicosia.
You can absolutely visit the Turkish part of Cyprus with simply your passport. Pretty much all passports are accepted without the need of applying for visas or paying any sort of visa fee.
Northern Cyprus is not Turkey and while you can fly to Turkey from Northern Cyprus, you will need to go through immigration again. Conversely, when you enter Northern Cyprus, you are not exiting the EU as your passport is neither scanned or stamped.
At the immigration, you will go through Cyprus immigration and walk 50 meters to the North Cyprus immigration where they simply look at your passport without stamping before waiving you in. It didn’t seem like contested border by any means, even less so than when I visited the autonomous region of Transinistria in Moldova.
Nicosia of Northern Cyprus
As soon as you cross the border, you’ll officially be in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus! You’ll be greeted with Turkish restaurants, baklava, an outdoor bazaar, mosques, and other shops. The official currency of North Cyprus is the Turkish Lira but Euros are widely accepted given that many of the tourists that visit are coming from Cyprus.
I found the Northern Cyprus Nicosia to be much more interesting than the southern side. The Turkish side appeared to have more character, and slightly more charm. Of course, neither side of Nicosia are especially beautiful by any means so don’t get your hopes up.
Visit the Caravan House
The main highlight of Nicosia in Northern Cyprus is the Büyük Han cavaran house. It is the largest caravansarai on the island of Cyprus and is considered to be one of the finest buildings on the island.
It was built in 1572 as a way to celebrate the Turkish conquest of the island from the Venetians. The local Greek population actually welcomed the Ottomans as life under Venetian rule was especially difficult.
Nowadays, the caravan is home to restaurants, various shops, and just beautifully preserved traditional architecture. Look at these photos if you don’t believe me!
Day 4-6: Paphos and the surrounding area
From Limassol, the next stop is Paphos, the western most city in Cyprus. Located in the southwest of the island, Paphos is known as the historic birthplace of the Greek goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite, and is blessed with both a beautiful coastline and numerous fascinating historic sites.
Paphos town itself is much more picturesque than say Larnaca or Nicosia. The old town located up on the hill has beautiful views of the ocean. The new part of town, Kato Paphos is home to numerous resorts, cafes, bars, and a beautiful promenade.
I preferred staying in the old Paphos because there was just much more character to the area than the overly developed part of Kato Paphos. While not as picturesque as other Greek towns, Paphos is a solid compromise in Cyprus which really doesn’t have much traditional Greek charm.
Where to eat and drink in Paphos
Paphos has a ton of amazing restaurants, bars, and cafes. I think the old town of Paphos has the better options for dining and cafes than the Kato Paphos.
There are also a ton of Indian restaurants that are actually very good. This is of course to serve the huge British population that live and visit Cyprus. As well, there are a few Georgian restaurants which was even more random but this is probably to serve the large Russian community here.
- Elia Taverna
- Agora Taverna
- Grafica Cafe
- Beanhaus Cafe
- Pietra Lounge
- Omikron Brunch
- Beeroom Craft Pub
Tomb Of Kings
The Tomb of Kings is one of the most important archeological sights of Cyprus. This UNESCO World Heritage site is located in Kato Paphos and is a must visit while visiting Paphos.
The monumental underground tombs are carved out of solid rock and date back to the Hellenistic and Roman periods. These tombs were the resting places of high ranking officials and aristocracy buy due to the size and splendor of the tombs, the name “Tomb of Kings” was given.
The Tombs are spread out in this archeological site but it’s located right next to the Mediterranean so you’re sure to enjoy the walk no matter what. Make sure to visit the center tomb home to beautiful rock pillars.
Located 25 minutes outside of Paphos is the famous Petra Tou Romiou. This beach is the mythical birthplace of the Goddess Aphrodite. While she was born here, she spent most of her time living in the island of Milos. The big rock pillar in the sea is dubbed Aphrodite’s rock and is a beautiful sight. The cliffs surrounding the beach are also breathtaking making this one of the must visit sights in the country.
Plenty of people also sunbathe at this beach which has no sunbeds or development (yay). The water is rough though so swim at your own discretion.
Located 20 minutes north of Paphos is the famous Edro III shipwreck. The Sierra Leone-flagged EDRO III ran aground off Pegeia on 8 September 2011 in heavy seas, during a voyage to Rhodes, from Limassol. This shipwreck is docked just a few meters in front of the beach for everyone to see.
It reminds me of the shipwreck in the island of Amorgos that is also located just off the main shoreline. This shipwreck is a great place to take photos and there was even a film crew set up there on the day I visited. There’s also an amazing restaurant located next to it with great views of the ocean.
Akamas Peninsula and the beautiful Blue Lagoon
Finally, perhaps the most beautiful place I visited in Cyprus was on the island’s far west side. The Akamas peninsula is adorned with big cliffs leading up to an absolutely breathtaking lagoon with the most turquoise water. The Blue Lagoon is a very popular trip by boat that you can book from Paphos.
The park is a 30 minute drive from Paphos and makes for a perfect day trip. To get to the blue lagoon, you will have to park near the Baths of Aphrodite (itself worth visiting) and take a 4×4 to the Blue Lagoon.
The roads leading up to the Blue Lagoon are terrible so it’s absolutely not possible to drive with a normal car. There is however a shuttle service that will drive you from the park entrance to the Blue Lagoon at various times of the day. Alternatively, you can rent a quad bike or dune buggy from the numerous shops nearby for about 50 euros for a day (very expensive).
Finally, if you don’t want to pay anything, you can simply hike to the Blue Lagoon. This 5km hike will take you just over 1 hour and comes with breathtaking views of the Mediterranean. The hike isn’t that difficult without much incline or decline. However, once you’ve spent the day at the Blue Lagoon, you might be too tired to walk all the way back.
Day 6-9: Limassol
The next stop on the trip is to the beachside town of Limassol. Limassol or Lemesos in Greek, is Cyprus’ 2nd largest city behind Nicosia and it’s most cosmopolitan. Limassol is a beautiful city with a huge beach promenade stretching for many kilometers. It’s also home to the most restaurants, cafes, and bars compared to the other cities.
Limassol is also where all the high end hotels and resorts are. The Four Seasons is located outside of the city center and is by far the most expensive and fancy hotel on the island. Prices are slightly higher in Limassol than other cities as it attracts the wealthier expats and digital nomads.
Limassol also has a beautiful mosque, castle and harbor front with perhaps the most picturesque street of the major cities. You’ll find plenty of trendy restaurants, cocktail bars, cafes, bakeries, and more. It’s still a far cry from neighborhoods in Athens but it’s the best I could find in Cyprus. Just look at these beautiful photos!
Kourion Archaeological Site
The Kourion Archaeological site, located just 20 minutes west of Limassol is one of the main highlights of the island. It was once a major ancient city of the Kingdom of Cyprus over two thousand years ago.
The site is home to the famous Kourion amphitheater which is one of the more picturesque theaters I’ve seen in my travels through Greece. The theater has magnificent views of the Mediterranean as it is located high up on the hills.
If you don’t have a car, you can take the Bus #16 from Limassol which runs multiple times a day.
Kalymnos beach is located just west of Limassol and is probably one of the better beaches in Cyprus. I wasn’t overly impressed with the beaches in Cyprus and I certainly wouldn’t come back for the beaches but this is one of the better options you’ll find in the island.
Best restaurants and bars to visit in Limassol
Limassol is probably the most cosmopolitan of the major cities in Cyprus and therefore there is a plethora of bars and restaurants. Here is a small list of my favorite spots:
- The Melting Pot – The best cafe in Cyprus and perfect place for a digital nomad
- Sami Manoushe – The best Lebanese food in Cyprus without a doubt. They also have a full baklava bar as well as fantastic shisha on offer. Highly recommended
- Draught Microbrewery – Perfect bar for craft beers
- 22B Rooftop Bar
- Gin Garden / Library Bar– My favorite cocktail bar
- Meze Taverna Restaurant – Amazing Greek meze restaurant
Day 9: Troodos Mountain and Lofou Village
From Limassol, it’s an easy day trip to the Troodoo mountains just north of the city. These mountains offer stunning views of Cyprus from high above – you can see all the way to the Mediterranean. The mountains also receive a fair amount of snow and becomes a ski resort in the winter (which is wild). Just take a look at this photo:
It’s not every day you can ski down the mountain and have a video of the Mediterranean. Sadly, in October, there is no snow so I wasn’t able to see this.
Nevertheless, there are numerous hiking trails in the Troodoo mountains including trails that venture through the famous Mount Olympos.
Lofou Village is a must visit village when you’re visiting the Troodoo mountains. It’s located just 40 minutes from Limassol and is a popular getaway for locals there.
Lofou village is a small town with some of the most picturesque villages you will find in Cyprus. There aren’t many of these traditional looking villages in Cyprus so it was nice to finally stumble upon one.
There isn’t much to do in this village besides walk through the streets, eat at the local taverna, and visit the little microbrewery in the town.
Day by Day breakdown of my Cyprus Itinerary
Here is a day by day breakdown of the Cyprus island itinerary. It’s pretty involved each day so absolutely feel free to spread it out over more days if you have the time! I had almost two weeks to explore Cyprus which I think is too much. However, I have laid out how I would plan a trip to Cyprus based on how much time you have.
One week in Cyprus itinerary
Day 1: Land in Larnaca. Explore the East side of Cyprus
Day 2: Full day in Nicosia visiting Cyprus and Northern Cyprus sides
Day 3: Drive to Limassol and explore the city
Day 4: Full day to explore the Troodos Mountains and Lefkara Village
Day 5: Drive to Paphos while visiting Aphrodite’s Rock and Kourion Archeological sight
Day 6: Full day in Paphos
Day 7: Explore the Blue Lagoon
Day 8: Drive back to Larnaca and fly home.
10 day Cyprus itinerary
Day 1: Land in Larnaca. Explore the East side of Cyprus
Day 2: Full day in Nicosia visiting Cyprus and Northern Cyprus sides
Day 3: Drive to Limassol and explore the city
Day 4: Full day to explore the Troodos Mountains and Lefkara Village
Day 5: Full day in Limassol
Day 6: Drive to Paphos while visiting Aphrodite’s Rock and Kourion Archeological sight
Day 7: Explore the Blue Lagoon and Akamas Peninsula
Day 8: Explore the sights of Paphos
Day 9: Full day in Paphos
Day 10: Drive back to Larnaca and fly home
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