Cyprus, an island nation in the eastern Mediterranean, boasts a rich history that dates back over 10,000 years. Its strategic location has made it a melting pot of various cultures, from ancient Greeks and Romans to Byzantines, Venetians, and Ottomans. Today, Cyprus is a modern European country that offers a unique blend of ancient history, stunning landscapes, and vibrant urban life.
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Best Cities in Cyprus
1. Nicosia (Lefkosia)
The capital and largest city of Cyprus, Nicosia is a city of contrasts. The ancient walls, built by the Venetians in the 16th century, encircle the old town, where narrow streets lead to historic churches, mosques, and colonial-era buildings. The modern part of the city boasts contemporary architecture, shopping malls, and a bustling nightlife. The Green Line, a buffer zone established after inter-communal violence, divides the city into Greek and Turkish Cypriot parts. Exploring its rich history and vibrant modern culture is a must for those wondering about things to do in Nicosia.
2. Limassol (Lemesos)
Limassol is Cyprus’s second-largest city and a significant port situated on the southern coast. It’s known for its vibrant festivals, including the annual Carnival and Wine Festival. The city’s promenade is popular with tourists and locals and has cafes, restaurants, and shops. Nearby, the ancient ruins of Amathus and the medieval Limassol Castle offer glimpses into the city’s storied past. Things to do in Limassol range from beach activities to cultural explorations.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Paphos is steeped in mythology and history. According to legend, it’s the birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. The city is home to some of Cyprus’s most impressive archaeological sites, including the Roman villas with their stunning mosaics, the Tombs of the Kings, and the Paphos Fort. The picturesque harbor, lined with seafood restaurants, is a perfect spot to watch the sunset. For a list of things to do in Paphos, one can start with its archaeological wonders and scenic beaches.
Larnaca is known for its palm-fringed seafront and the serene Salt Lake, which becomes a haven for flamingos in winter. The city’s history is evident in landmarks like the 9th-century Church of Saint Lazarus and the Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque. Larnaca is also the primary gateway to Cyprus, with its international airport welcoming millions of visitors annually. Things to do in Larnaca include exploring its historical sites and enjoying its beautiful coastline.
5. Ayia Napa
Once a quiet fishing village, Ayia Napa has become a hotspot for nightlife and beach lovers. The city is famous for its golden sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant nightlife. The Nissi Beach and the Ayia Napa Monastery are among its top attractions. While it’s known for its party scene, Ayia Napa also offers family-friendly activities and attractions. The city offers relaxation and exhilarating entertainment for those searching for things to do in Ayia Napa.
6. Famagusta (Gazimağusa)
Famagusta, on the eastern coast, is historically significant. The medieval walls enclose a rich history, with Gothic churches and the impressive Othello Castle. Once a thriving port and resort town, the Varosha quarter now stands as a haunting reminder of the island’s divided past, fenced off and abandoned since the 1974 conflict.
7. Kyrenia (Girne)
Nestled on the northern coast, Kyrenia is renowned for its picturesque harbor, dominated by the Kyrenia Castle. The city offers a mix of history, its ancient shipwreck museum and the nearby Bellapais Abbey, and natural beauty, with the rugged Kyrenia mountain range as a backdrop.
Located on the northwest coast, Polis is a tranquil town that offers a more relaxed pace. It’s the gateway to the Akamas Peninsula, a nature reserve with diverse flora and fauna, hiking trails, and the famous Baths of Aphrodite.
9. Morphou (Güzelyurt)
Morphou, known for its citrus orchards, is a town steeped in history. The ancient city of Soli, Roman theater and mosaics, and the St. Mamas Monastery are notable attractions. The annual Orange Festival celebrates the region’s agricultural heritage.
Paralimni combines modern amenities with traditional charm close to Ayia Napa. The town square, with its cafes and churches, offers a glimpse into local life. The nearby Protaras area is renowned for its beaches, particularly Fig Tree Bay.
11. Bonus: Varosha (Maras)
Varosha, once a glamorous beach resort in Famagusta, is perhaps Cyprus’s most famous ghost town. This area was once popular for celebrities, boasting modern high-rise buildings, luxurious hotels, and beautiful beaches. However, following the Turkish invasion in 1974, its inhabitants fled, and the area was fenced off. Varosha remained untouched and off-limits for decades, with its abandoned buildings and empty streets as silent witnesses to a turbulent past. The overgrown and decaying resort is a poignant reminder of the island’s divided history.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the capital city of Cyprus?
The capital city of Cyprus is Nicosia, also known as Lefkosia. It’s unique in that it’s the last divided capital in the world, with a northern Turkish Cypriot section and a southern Greek Cypriot section separated by the Green Line.
Which city in Cyprus is best for beach holidays?
While many cities in Cyprus offer beautiful beaches, Ayia Napa and Limassol are among the most popular beach holidays. Ayia Napa is renowned for its golden sandy beaches and vibrant nightlife, while Limassol offers a mix of urban amenities and beachfront relaxation.
Are there any UNESCO World Heritage sites in Cyprus cities?
Paphos is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its significant archaeological sites, including the Roman villas with their stunning mosaics, the Tombs of the Kings, and the Paphos Fort.
Which city is the primary entry point for international travelers to Cyprus?
Larnaca is the primary gateway for most international travelers, thanks to the Larnaca International Airport. The city is also known for its scenic seafront, historical landmarks, and the serene Salt Lake.
I’m interested in historical and archaeological sites. Which city should I visit in Cyprus?
While many cities in Cyprus boast rich histories, Paphos is a top destination for history enthusiasts due to its numerous archaeological sites. Famagusta, with its medieval walls and Gothic churches, and Kyrenia, known for its castle and ancient shipwreck museum, are also cities rich in history and worth exploring.