Ayia Napa may possibly be the best-known town in Cyprus, celebrated for its sandy beaches and vibrant nightlife that attract families, newly-weds and enticing clubbers alike. Whether it’s crystal blue waters you’re after, delicious fresh fish or cultural history, this popular coastal town definitely has more than meets the eye. Here’s our guide to the best of Ayia Napa.
Attracting locals and tourists alike, the sea caves of the Cape Greko area are a stunning natural landmark to witness. The beautiful rock formations were created by waves hitting the cliffs over the centuries and according to legend, pirates would use the caves to hide their goods. Today it is a must-visit spot, offering numerous activities.
Snorkelling is a great way to explore the caves, though proper shoes are recommended as the rocks can be sharp. Some caves are accessible on foot, and the grand attraction is a round cave with a stunning background of the sea that’s the shot for many newly-wed couples. Enjoy the peacefully scenery or if you’re feeling more adventurous, the sea caves is a known spot for cliff jumping. Around 10 meters (33 feet) high with clear waters, it’s a prime location to cliff jump, though bear in mind that no rescues services are nearby so jump with care.
Also remember that there is no shady area, so go well-prepared with a hat and a water bottle as the only amenity you may find is the odd ice cream truck. Found just outside Ayia Napa‘s resort center, it’s a great place to catch a glimpse of the sunset before it hides behind the horizon.
Blue waters and a vibrant nightlife isn’t all that Ayia Napa has to offer: a trip to the ancient site of Makronissos Tombs will confirm that. Some 19 tombs of the Hellenistic and Roman periods were discovered here, overlooking the sea and marking the region with great historical importance. All chambers look almost the same, with wide steps leading down to the tombs, which visitors can explore. It’s a breathtaking site to visit, whether you’re interested in archaeology or not.
Enjoy an alternative take on Greek mythology at Ayia Napa’s Waterworld Waterpark, winner of numerous international awards. With more than 30 different crazy rides referring back to Greek mythological tales such as the Quest of Hercules, it’s fun overall for kids, families and thrill-seekers. And it’s not just kids that have a ball, adults can take a hydromassage in the Aphrodite’s Baths adult pool, or float down the Lazy River. Welcoming guests since 1996, the park has several pools and rides as well as food halls and souvenir shops.
Our tip: The latest addition to the park is the Thea VIP Suite, a luxurious lounge area which offers panoramic views of the waterpark from the comfort of a king size couch, as well as floor-to-ceiling glass doors and complimentary wine.
Besides being known for its partying, another big attraction of Napa – as Cypriots often call the town – are its soft, white sandy beaches. Nissi beach is the most popular beach of the town and stretches over 500 meters (1,640 feet). This designated blue flag beach gathers large crowds in the summer as beach tennis players, tanning bodies and sand castles cover the shore. Its name ‘Nissi’ means island, and takes its name after the small islet that’s found a few meters from the shore. The islet can be easily reached on foot and creates a quaint curve on the beach. Another beautiful beach worth visiting is Konnos that’s surrounded by vegetation and cliffs. To reach it, drive down the hill that opens up to a stunning cove with blue waters. Grab a drink at the shady bar, try your hand at a water sport, or simply cool off by the sea.
On the outskirts of Ayia Napa, towards another popular beach sanctuary, Protaras, is the Ayia Napa Sculpture Park which hosts a large collection of sculptures. A walk through this open-air museum offers beautiful panoramic views of the coast as art lovers explore the pieces. Some 50 international artists came together at the 2015 annual Sculpture Symposium held by Ayia Napa Municipality. The sculptures where created on-site over a period of three weeks and the project is on-going as the collection continues to expand. The sculpture park is also tied to the Park of Mediterranean Plants, Cacti and Succulents that showcases the plant variety of the island which thrives due to the warm dry climate of Cyprus. Take a stroll in the free park amongst the sculptures and rest on a bench enjoying the Mediterranean sea.
Further down from the sculpture park towards Protaras is the Cape Greko National Forest Park, which extends along Ayia Napa’s coastline and offers numerous trails and unspoiled natural beauty. The walking trails (a total of 16 km (9.94 miles)) and cycling trails (4 km (2.5 miles)) are a great way to take in the vegetation of the region alongside the tranquil blue waters. The park spans some beautiful landmarks such as the sea caves, the love bridge and the charming chapel of Ayioi Anargyroi where many weddings take place. At the chapel you’ll find stairs that lead to crystal clear waters for a refreshing swim. It’s also commonplace to see people jump off the rocks; these are lower than the sea caves. At the park you can also spot many animals such as hares, hedgehogs and migrating birds. Numerous benches are spread along the park to sit down and rest whilst discovering Ayia Napa’s seashore.
Marine admirers meet culture lovers at the Thalassa Museum, which showcases the impact and the significance of the sea (as “thalassa” translates to “sea”) upon the history of the island. Found at the heart of the town, it opened in 2005 to bring the essence and study of the Mediterranean sea closer to its locals and visitors. Explore the museum’s three-storey building made from marble, onyx, wood and metal, where you can enjoy exhibitions from a bird’s eye view due to the layout of the building. Various pieces hang from the ceiling – the most intriguing items are a life-size replica of the ‘Keryneia II’ ship that sank off the coast of Keryneia around 300 BC, and a skeleton of a pygmy hippopotamus, believed to be more than 75,000 years old.
A prime reason many come to Ayia Napa is for its wild club scene with dozens of bars, beach parties and clubs offering a great time. The nightlife here is renowned all over Europe and draws thousands of young visitors each year. Even though Ayia Napa’s party scene is quite a touristy activity, some locals like to join in the fun. With a heap of foam parties and shows, DJs and dancers light up the clubs until early morning hours – Napa is heaven for party-goers. If you’re not a fan of drinking or staying out until dawn, you can still enjoy the club area, which also boasts a number of quieter spots. And who knows, you might even enjoy it.
Take a break from Ayia Napa’s buzzing vibe and visit a historical and religious must-visit landmark in the town center. The monastery holds great importance as it is home to the icon of the Virgin Mary of Napa – which was originally hidden in a cave in the monastery – and it managed to survive as a convent and a monastery during Ottoman rule. It was built around 1500 AD in the form of a castle – part of it is underground, so its architecture is sure to impress. One of its most remarkable features is the ancient sycamore tree that’s believe to be over 600 years old! If you’re interested in discovering Cyprus’ antiquity this is a good place to do so – if you’re looking for more thorough information, visit the monastery’s museum.
Visiting the seaside and not going on a boat trip would be a sin. With some of the island’s bluest and calmest waters, taking a boat trip is a fantastic and relaxing way to see the coastline. Dozens of boat companies offer trips weekly and some even offer drinks and snacks on board with the ticket. Most journeys make a stop so visitors can take a dive in the sea. It’s an activity for all tastes as some boats have more of a party vibe with loud music playing and others a more serene mood. Even the locals can’t enough of them.
Another must in the region is tasting the local fresh fish. Fish taverns decorate the coast and the inner town centre as its fishing harbour is home to local fishermen. Find a fish tavern and indulge in a rich, colourful fish meze which include salads, dips, fresh fish and numerous seafood recipes. If you’re interested in trying some local fish, ask your waiter what’s fresh which usually isn’t included on the menu. Of the region’s freshest that are worth tasting are sea bream, sea bass, whitebait, red mullet (usually fried) and the much-loved grilled octopus and fried baby calamari.
As a haven for sun and sea, Ayia Napa is a great location for water sports which can be found in organised beaches along the coastline. Most hotels offer information about water sports activities, though with even a mere short walk along the beach you’ll be able to get what you need. From parachutes, to fun banana rides and fly fishing, there’s a whole list of water activities to choose from for both kids and adults. The latest craze is fly board and SUP paddling which only a few places offer. Considered to have very safe waters, Ayia Napa is a good spot for beginner scuba divers. The calm waters and quiet sea life make the introduction to scuba diving effortless and reassuring.