Cyprus is a stunning Mediterranean island. Fiercely protective of its identity, Cyprus revels in its cultural heritage, which is forged from Greek, Turkish, British and even Italian and Spanish influences. It offers holidays with pristine beaches, beautiful scenery, interesting history, friendly people and tasty food.
The small island of Cyprus once played a big role in world history and it has the artefacts to show for it. There are several great museums presenting visitors a glimpse into the past through expertly curated exhibitions. One of the best places to start is the Cyprus Museum. Housing antiquities from the Neolithic to the Roman era and beyond, the museum is divided into several rooms which illustrate the evolution and influences of culture on the island. Other interesting museums in Cyprus include the Museum of Barbarism, and the Pierides Archaeological Foundation Museum.
While not known globally as a wine-growing hotspot, the island is dotted with over 50 vineyards. Most are located in or near the Troodos Mountains. Agia Mavri Winery welcomes visitors from all around the world and encourages them to sample their range of fine wines.
From ancient Assyrian sites to medieval castles, Cyprus is covered with more than its fair share of archaeological sites. Lemesos Medieval Castle is the most popular with tourists. Originally a Byzantine-era castle, it was fortified during the 11th and 14th centuries, and was used by the Ottomans and Venetians as a strategic military base. The site is also allegedly, where Richard the Lionheart crowned himself the King of Cyprus. The castle’s interior courtyard features stunning ancient gardens that should not be missed.
Stretching even further back into the island’s history is Ancient Amathous. This archaeological site was once the seat of one of Cyprus’ oldest kingdoms. Ruins here date back more than 3,000 years with clear influences from the ancient Phoenicians and Assyrians. The kingdom’s ruins show the remnants of grand marble columns which once held a temple dedicated to the Greek god Apollo.
Cyprus has a number of beautiful beaches. The Paphos area is a favourite with visitors and contains two popular beaches – Coral Bay and Lara Bay. However, what makes Paphos so popular is Petra tou Romiou (Aphrodite’s Rock). According to mythology, it was here that the goddess rose from the sea and was born.
Protaras and Kyrenia are two other common beach areas for tourists. For something a little more secluded, head to the Larnaca area.
Churches and Monasteries
Several of Cyprus’ historical religious sites have earned the status of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Agios Ionnis Lambadistis Monastery looks unassuming from the outside, however, the small cluster of buildings is the result of 400 years of continuous work. Inside, the monastery reveals colourful and intricate frescoes dating from the 13th to the 16th century.
Panagia Forviotissa is another stunning example of a Cypriot church featuring beautiful frescoes. These date from between the 12th and 16th centuries. Pay close attention to the figures depicted in these detailed paintings. Many of their eyes have been scratched over as a result of Ottoman rule.
Restaurants, Taverns and Cafes
Cyprus has always boasted thriving and lively taverns. In recent years, local restaurants and eateries have begun to focus on high quality dining as well, making the island secretly one of the best gourmet destinations in the region. The local food is cooked to perfection and ranges from delicate fish dishes to hearty wild boar. Heavily influenced by Greek cuisine, try home-cooked kebab along with fresh seafood, such as sea urchin or wild game dishes like deer, fowl or boar.
The cafe scene is also alive and well inCyprus. Coffee shops are full of excellent beverages, people-watching and gossip. Iced coffees and frappes are popular in the summer heat, whilst some cafes still serve strong, traditionally brewed espresso – a must try for any coffee enthusiast.