The Insider Guide to Cyprus

The birthplace of Aphrodite. An Ottoman fiefdom. The setting of Shakespeare’s Othello. Cypriat history is impressively expansive – and just as alluring as the sun, sea and sand that draws millions of tourists every year.

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The Main Attractions

Just off the coast of Lebanon is an island that fits an array of ancient ruins and sandy beaches into a tiny landmass. Start your history tour of Cyprus at the Kato Paphos Archaeological Park, found on the southwest coast. A Unesco World Heritage site, this necropolis contains morbid monument the Tomb of the Kings, and dates back to the 4th century BCE. A 45-minute drive east to Limassol promises more ancient splendours, not least the Greco-Roman amphitheatre of a kingdom otherwise destroyed by an earthquake in 365CE. If it’s the outdoors you’re after, head inland to the Troodos Mountains: they offer skiing in winter and walks in summer. If that sounds like too much hard work, then head to Fasouri Watermania to cool off at the largest waterpark in Cyprus. Relations between north and south of the island have improved dramatically since the 1974 Turkish invasion; the resort of Famagusta is a spooky reminder of a turbulent past, as is the checkpoint in the capital, Lefkosia, which still gives you a frisson. Pack your passport and head north to the harbour town of Kyrenia – or Girne as it’s known locally. It’s a particularly pretty spot for a stroll and a bite, with excellent meze options. While you’re here, clamber up to the 12th-century St Hilarion Castle in the mountain range for island-wide views. If the sea is more your thing, dive down to the Zenobia wreck, off Larnaca: scuba divers from all over the world flock to this modern cargo ship carcass. When it comes to nightlife, how could you overlook Ayia Napa? This city on the southeast isn’t just a hub for partiers; the blue flag beaches are a big draw for families. Plus, the monasteries, cobbled streets and harbourside tavernas there make for an altogether more relaxing experience. Read on for more hot tips on Cyprus.

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Neighborhoods in Cyprus