Table of Contents
- Time Travel at the Kourion Archaeological Site
- Scenic Drives Along the Paphos Coast
- Take A Hike in the Troödos Mountains
- Explore Nicosia, the Last Divided Capital in the World
- Feasting on the Outrageous Food in Cyprus
My Best Photos of Cyprus from Ancient Ruins to Stunning Beaches.
Cyprus is known to many as a sun-kissed beach destination — but few of us know its history or culture. Armed with a curiosity to learn about this island, we headed to Cyprus last week to find out what this country is all about.
As it turned out, Cyprus is far more than just a summer destination. It is multilayered, not only in its history, but also its rich traditions, cuisine and landscape that few other countries can rival.
Located in the Mediterranean Sea next to Syria and Lebanon, Cyprus boasts a unique culture and lifestyle strongly influenced by the Middle East and Greece but still very much its own. Although the island is geographically in Asia, it is politically a European country. It’s no wonder the island nation is such a colorful concoction of cultures and flavors.
With a long and tumultuous past, Cyprus has an impressive amount of historic sites, fascinating relics and Roman ruins, some of which are so immaculately preserved they rival their famous counterparts in Greece and Turkey. Blessed with a rugged terrain, the island’s interior is blanketed with pine-clad mountains, sweeping valleys and densely planted vineyards with great hiking and biking trails. Even in the midst of winter, its mild climate means you can easily spend all your time outdoors on Cyprus.
Read more: Winter in Cyprus
Here’s a look at some of our best photos of Cyprus from its mountain villages to hiking trails. You’ll see why Cyprus makes such a great year-round destination.
Time Travel at the Kourion Archaeological Site
Digging into the island’s past is one of the most interesting things to do in Cyprus. In the country’s numerous archaeological sites, you’ll unearth fascinating relics, including neolithic dwellings, Bronze Age and Phoenician tombs, and exquisite Roman mosaics. One of the most spectacular ancient site on Cyprus is the Kourion Archaeological Site, originally built in the 2nd century B.C. and now restored to reveal its original glory. Famed for its magnificent amphitheatre, Kourion is also home to immaculately preserved mosaic tiles, colonnades and baths. We found it comparable to the magnificent ancient sites in Greece and Turkey, and highly recommend a visit for any history buff.
Scenic Drives Along the Paphos Coast
With over 650km of coastline, Cyprus has no shortage of beautiful coastal drives and it’s a great way to get different perspectives of the island as well. We loved driving along the Paphos coast (towards Limassol), especially along the stretch at Petra tou Romiou. Translated to mean Rock of the Greek, this spot is also known as Aphrodite’s Rock as it’s believed to be the birthplace of the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite. A local myth says that any person who swims around the Aphrodite Rock will be blessed with eternal beauty.
During our visit (in early December), the weather was actually warm enough to swim. We didn’t take a dip, but we saw a few people swimming and it was definitely t-shirt weather (25 degrees Celsius). Nonetheless, you can easily stroll along the beach or continue driving on to see more of the coastline.
Take A Hike in the Troödos Mountains
This is definitely Cyprus’ best kept secret: Away from the touristically developed beach towns, Cyprus brims with empty hiking trails and challenging biking paths further inland. For outdoor-loving travelers, the rugged terrain of this sun-kissed island begs to be explored. You can choose from day-long hikes between picturesque villages to epic multi-day treks across mountain ranges.
The Troödos Mountains are one of the best regions to pull your hiking boots on. We chose to hike the Kaledonia Nature Trail, an easy 3-km gradual uphill hike through pine forests, running streams and ending at the Kaledonia waterfalls. It was simple and leisurely, perfect for experiencing the outdoors with Baby Kaleya. There are many other hiking trails to choose from in this area, with many recommending the Asinou–Agios Theodoros trail, which begins at the Byzantine-frescoed Panagia Forviotissa church.
Wander through Quaint Mountain Villages
One of the best ways to get to a feel for rural Cyprus is to spend time in one of the island’s snoozy villages, which seem to exist in a cobblestoned time-warp where life slows down to snail pace. We spent some time driving from one village to another in Troodos Mountains, tasting locally made wine and sweets and getting lost in the narrow alleys that criss cross the villages. Our favorite has to be Omodos, a village steeped in tradition and the traditional bread rings, arkatena. We recommend visiting the famous George’s Bakery to try some of the freshest arkatena along with homemade zivania liquor and then having an authentic Cypriot lunch at the popular Katoi Restaurant (our favorite restaurant on this trip!).
Explore Nicosia, the Last Divided Capital in the World
Behind the chirpy sun-soaked facade of Cyprus lies a troubled past. In 1974, the island was divided into two separate countries due to violent protests by extremists from both ends: the southern half is now known as the Republic of Cyprus (with an internationally acknowledged government) and the other half is still occupied by the Turkish army today and is known as North Cyprus. The Green Line that divides these two regions cuts through Nicosia itself and the capital city is actually shared by both regions.
Today, many people cross from one part to another on a daily basis and there are peace talks to discuss the possibility of reunification. (We only managed to visit the southern half – but tourists can visit both sides easily with a passport.) Nicosia itself is such an intriguing city with a mishmash of Greek orthodox churches and Muslim mosques, taverns and tea houses, markets and baths. While everyday life continues as normal in this bustling capital city, you can still see hints of its complex past, especially at the Ledra Street pedestrianized crossing.
Feasting on the Outrageous Food in Cyprus
Before coming to Cyprus, I’d heard about its food. Cypriot cuisine is known to be a Mediterranean muddle of Greek, Turkish and Middle Eastern influences that sings with fresh flavours. The combination of Greek salads and dips with tender roasted-off-the-fire souvlaki meat and fresh-from-the-sea fish is just perfection. Meze is a staple of Cypriot cuisine, tantalising the taste buds with a feast of small dishes, ranging from creamy hummus to spicy grilled sausage, and everything in between.
Some of the culinary stars that you should definitely try include the stringy grilled cheese haloumi, wine-marinated smoked pork tenderloin lountza and the fish roe dip taramosalata. And the desserts are irresistible, flavoured with almonds, rose water and pistachios and ranging from creamy rice puddings to gloriously sticky baklava.
Disclosure: Part of this trip was organized by Visit Cyprus. They kindly helped us with our itinerary and provided accommodation. As always, all opinions expressed are our own.