Cyprus is a jewel tucked in the Eastern Mediterranean. It boasts historic, mythical as well as cultural destinations – visitors can enjoy various archaeological sites, or settle for other plentiful outdoor activities including annual festivals, hiking, and water games. Here are the top attractions on the island.
It is not just the myth of the Greek goddess of love and beauty that attracts visitors here – people also enjoy swimming in the cool waters during summer, some in the hope that they will regain their youth, others, just for pleasure. Whichever takes you, Aphrodite’s rock is a perfect destination for a summer afternoon. Come and be a witness of Cyprus’s beauty in the vast sea that gave ‘birth’ to a goddess and the magnificent sites surrounding it.
This World Heritage site, located just 2 km (1.24 miles) north of Paphos harbour, is an underground monument carved out of solid rocks dating back to the 4th century BC. From the name, you would think it was a burial ground for the kings and royal families. On the contrary, high officials were buried here. The name was inspired by the size, and splendour of the tombs. The tombs are meticulously curved into shapes. Today, locals and visitors from far and wide come to admire the grand work of the ancient stone carvers.
Standing majestically with part of its base in the sea, Paphos Castle was built as a fort to protect the harbour. Today, the building, which has seen several recreations over the years, stands proud and provides perfect backgrounds and grounds for cultural events and festivals, one of them being the Aphrodite festival which is held every September. Culture abounds in Paphos – as a result, it was picked as the European Capital of Culture in 2017. The castle is a perfect representation of the powers that controlled Cyprus at the time, and the extent each went to exert their rule on the land.
Adventure lovers, rejoice: the famous Mount Olympus is the highest point in Cyprus, standing at 1,952 metres (6,404 feet). It is located in the Troodos Mountains, roughly in the centre of the island, and looks over vast rugged land with the Mediterranean Sea shimmering at a distance. Use the opportunity to take landscape images of the island – but do so with caution; in summer, snakes slither across the surface in search of shade or food. Be sure to wear the right gear, bring insect repellent, and don’t wander deep into the forest away from the trails. If you decide to visit in winter, there are activities on offer such as mountain skiing.
Hala Sultan Tekke is ranked as the fourth most important holy places of worship in Islam. It is believed that Umm Haram, the paternal aunt of the Prophet Mohammed, died here. The mosque is built over her tomb. The Tekke is open for all people irrespective of their religion, and is a place of great tranquillity. You can extend your stay to the picturesque Larnaca Salt Lake located less than five minutes away.
Larnaca Salt Lake is a network of four salt lakes, and is home to several migrating bird species. In winter, the lakes are inhabited by the long-legged pink birds, flamingos, while in summer, high temperatures cause the water to evaporate, leaving salt crusts. Earlier, the salt was harvested and was one of the major exports of the island. It is located just 4 km (2.5 miles) from Larnaca International Airport.
This is a must-visit attraction for classic car lovers. The museum prides itself in having a huge collection of cars with the oldest being a Ford Model T roadster from 1912. One of the valuable collections at the site is a car donated by the US government to the Cyprus President Makarios III. Make your visit memorable by hiring and tootling around the island in a classic machine – the car rental service comes with a driver. It is a wedding destination for many, and the grounds can be used for photo shoots.
Guzelyurt is one of the most beautiful villages on the island. Also known as Guzelyurt Museum, this attraction has both natural history and archaeological sections. The natural history section has stuffed animals native to Cyprus, while the archaeological section boasts an excellent collection of artefacts from the prehistoric age to the Byzantine period. A number of interesting artefacts include the recently found golden leaves of Soli, an ethereal tiara of gold leaves, among many other cultural finds. Next door is St Mamas Church, an attraction you do not want to miss.
Being the only preserved ship from Greece’s Classical Age, the Star Ship gives a glimpse into the life of the crew members at the time. The ship, which was rediscovered in 1967, now sits together with her cargo in the museum. Within the same building are other attractions including a 12th century chapel, a tomb of an Ottoman conqueror, and archaeological finds. After the visit around the castle, relax at the harbour and enjoy a meal of fresh fish.
If you’re looking for something a little more hands-on, head to this olive park located in the picturesque village of Anogyra. From here you can gain an insight into the real rural life of Cypriots as they go about their duties – there’s no better way to learn about a community’s culture than by spending time with them. The museum takes visitors through a journey of everything related to olives, including extraction methods to the benefits of olives and the role they plays in Cypriots’ houses.
Located in the old town of Nicosia, Cyprus Classic Motorcycle Museum was started some 20 years ago. Today, it houses more than 150 different types of motorcycles, the oldest being a 1914 machine. A collection of the mammoth machines used at special occasions in the past are also exhibited here. They include a military motorcycle used by the army during World War II, and those used in the presidential guard of Archbishop Makarios III.