Cyprus12 things to do and see in Cyprus and 4 not to do
To tell Cyprus it is not a simple operation. The history of this island, third by extension in the Mediterranean after Sicily and Sardinia, has always been particularly complex. A complexity due to the different dominations over the centuries and the geographical proximity to the countries of the eastern Mediterranean. The Turkish invasion of 1974 is only the latest chapter in such a troubled history that, however, at the same time, it greatly contributes to the tourist appeal of the area. The secular role of hinge between West and East has in fact had many implications: fromarcheology to the religion, passing through thearchitecture and gastronomy, Cyprus is an island waiting to be discovered, more suitable for travelers who like to move far and wide than for lazy beach vacationers. Obviously nothing prevents you from privileging sea e beaches (there are beautiful ones), but also watch out for them hiking routes of the island, one of the favorite destinations for lovers of trekking. In conclusion, Cyprus is a complete and welcoming destination with the tourist. Both the Greek and the Turkish side, in fact, are generally jovial and hospitable with visitors who choose it for their holidays from May to October. Below we see together the main tourist attractions of the area. Happy reading.
At the beginning we referred to the enormous historical and naturalistic background of Cyprus. Kyrenia (Girne), along the north coast of the island, in the Turkish side, is the ideal starting point to begin to become familiar with so much diversity. Sure, the seaside tourism favored abuilding expansion not always of fine workmanship but, fortunately, the city, and especially the surroundings, still offer a lot to see. Starting with porto vecchio where fishing boats, private boats and yachts dock and in whose warehouses, at one time, carob beans, fruits with multiple nutritional properties and widely used in the kitchen, were sold. Instead of the carob warehouses today there are restaurants, bars and shops but, with a little imagination, especially in the early morning, it is possible to relive the frugal atmospheres of a not so distant past. The old port, from which several specialized boats depart sightseeing tour of the bay, is surrounded by a castle of Roman origin which, however, over the centuries, has undergone several changes by the Byzantine, English and above all Venetian. It is not the only fortress in the area. There are three others and they are all worth a visit. We are talking about the Sant'Ilarione Castle and the ancient fortifications of Buffavento e Kantara. Trekking is the best way to approach these places, stages of Kyrenia Mountain Trail, splendid hiking trail of over 150 kilometers. For more information visit the place: www.dogakoruma.eu.
2 Ancient Salamis
After Kyrenia, the journey to discover the northern part of the island can only stop at Salamina, archaeological complex world famous not far from Famagusta (see point 3), in turn one of the most famous tourist resorts of the Turkish Republic of Cyprus. The area, easily reachable by car and public transport, perfectly reflects the historical complexity we mentioned at the beginning. Ancient Salamis, in fact, over the centuries it was first Greek, then Assyrian, blind, Ptolemaic and finally Romanian. The period of greatest splendor coincided with the Roman domination: the High School preparation, Temple of Zeus, Theater of Augustus, spa it's a Villa they tell of the splendor and wealth in which the city lived from the XNUMXst to the XNUMXth century AD. C. The subsequent Arab incursions put the prestige of Salamis in crisis, irreparably compromising a significant part of the remains of the Hellenistic period. Fortunately, many artifacts have survived to the present day, transforming the town into an unmissable stop on a trip to Cyprus. In addition to the archaeological finds, however, it is also necessary to remember the religious testimonies. Two in particular: the Early Christian Basilica of Agios Epifanos and Church of Apostolos Varnavas. On the road that leads to the latter it is worth a stop Necropolis of Salamis (o Tomb of the Kings). It is an extensive burial area with the tombs of kings and aristocrats who lived in the ancient city-state. Not to be missed!
Famagusta (Magusa) and another one unmissable stop of a trip to Cyprus. This city is a perfect compendium of the thousand historical vicissitudes of the island: from the first Mycenaean settlements, to the kingdom of Salamis, to the Genoese, Venetian and Ottoman dominations up toTurkish invasion of 1974. Especially the latter has frozen a part of the territory, returning a ghostly vision, but in a certain sense also full of charm, of the district of Varosia (Maraş, see photo) where the Greek Cypriots lived, hastily forced to flee. This area in the 70s of the last century was somewhat considered the Rimini of Cyprus. A wide and sandy coastline had favored tourism development with considerable prospects for economic growth. The advance of the Turkish army, however, blocked everything and after more than 40 years remain the architectural traces, now ruins, of a history abruptly interrupted. Also worth seeing are the mighty ones Walls made by the Venetians and theformer Cathedral of St. Nicholas (Agios Nikolaos), converted to mosque (Lala Mustafa Paşa Camii) after the Ottoman conquest of 1571. Therefore a city in which the past, even the recent one, plays a preponderant role in the tourist appeal, even if there is no lack of efforts by the local community to try to restore the city's fame. L'International Famagusta Art & Culture Festival which takes place every year between the months of June and July is the key event of this desire for rebirth. Feeling that is also accompanied by a sparkling nightlife. To be seen!
4 North Nicosia
After Kyrenia, Salamis and Famagusta it is the turn of North Nicosia (Lefkoşa). In reality it is from here that the exploration of the Turkish Republic of Cyprus. For two reasons: one historical and the other logistics. In fact, the division into two areas of influence of the city occurred 11 years before the decomposition of the entire island. In 1963, after violent attacks by Greek nationalists forced Turkish residents to retreat to a well-defined portion of the territory, the decision came to formalize the break with the creation of a Green Line officially designed by the British army to promote the ceasefire (from 1925 to 1960, in fact, Cyprus was a colony of the British Empire). The Green Line that cuts the city in two remained the same even after the Turkish invasion of 1974, transforming, with the seal of the United Nations, into the border between the two Cypriot republics. The checkpoints along the Green Line are different, although the most popular are undoubtedly the two pedestrians in Ledra St. e Ledra Palace Hotel. It is here that tourists and residents pass daily, moving from north to south and vice versa. Briefly said of the story, let's get to the things to see in Lefkosia. Three in particular: the Buyuk Han (see photo), la Selimye Mosque and Bedestan. The first is one of the few caravanserais to have survived to this day. During the Middle Ages travelers and merchants on horseback stayed in the inns of this building, bordered by mighty walls protecting a large courtyard. Today, however, the premises have been transformed into shops, cafes and artisan shops and represent one of the busiest areas of the city. Selimye, on the other hand, is a former Gothic church dedicated to Santa Sofia (Agia Sofia) which was adapted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of 1571. Since then this has remained its intended use and can be visited outside the hours reserved for the five prayers days of Islam. Finally, the Bedesten is an ancient Byzantine church of the thirteenth century which after a very long decline (during the Ottoman occupation of the sixteenth century it was used as a granary and market) has been renovated and transformed into a cultural center.
From the hints made so far it is already clear enough that Cyprus is much more than just a seaside resort. On the contrary, it is an island that bases much of its tourist appeal on the enormous archaeological heritage available. Of this heritage a place of honor belongs to Choirokoitia site, 32 kilometers from the city of Larnaka and about 50 from Nicosia and Lemesos, the two main cities of the Republic of Cyprus. It is about one of the most important prehistoric sites in the entire Eastern Mediterranean, not surprisingly below UNESCO protection since 1998. The village, dating back to the XNUMXth millennium BC. C., is located on the slopes of a hill protected by an articulated wall system. Just the presence of one walls suggests the existence of a well-structured social organization; feeling that is further confirmed once in the presence of village real. The settlement is made up of circular houses built of brick and stone and with flat roofs. Furthermore, numerous have been found under these houses funerary remains from which it was possible to obtain an estimate of the average age of the villagers (approx. 22 years; the elderly max. 35 years; high infant mortality), as well as a whole series of useful elements on religious practices around the cult of the dead. It is not over, because numerous have also been found everyday utensils which attest to the high degree of specialization achieved in agriculture and hunting. In short, we are faced with a very precious testimony, restored in a non-invasive way with the sole purpose of consolidating the existing material without compromising the integrity of the place. The archaeological site of Choirokoitia is open all the year. For visiting hours consult the table.
|Days / Months||16 Sep-15 Apr||16 Apr -15 Sept.|
Not far from the Neolithic site of Choirokoitia there is Larnaka, another essential stop on a tour to discover Cyprus. First airport, second port and third city of the island by number of inhabitants, Larnaka (in Spanish, Citium) looks like one modern seaside resort when the days pass lazily between a coffee in the morning, a long stop on the beach and a beer in the evening. All focused on the extended seafront of Finikoudes, engine of the local tourism economy. However, woe to stop at this dimension alone. The city hinterland is a treasure trove of cultural heritage of great value. Starting with Church of San Lazzaro (Agios Lazaros, see photo), continuing for the ancient Turkish quarter of Skala, until the small strong citizen who divides the coastal area from the innermost part of the city. Also worth seeing in the neighborhood is the Salt lake, ideal place for lovers of birdwatching, especially during the spring months. Folklore and strong religious devotion do the rest: in fact every year, in June, Larnaka Kataklysmos Festival. This review comes 50 days after Orthodox Easter and starts from a central event in the biblical story: the Great Flood. Over the years, celebrations of another type have been grafted onto the traditional religious re-enactment, but still consistent with the "theme of water": windsurfing, kayaking competitions e swimming which, together with the usual stalls on the seafront, act as an excellent tourist attraction. To be seen!
After Larnaka the journey to discover the beauties of Cyprus continues south. It is the turn of Lemesos (o Limassol, in Turkish Limasol) second city of the island, as well as the first seaport. A record, the latter, following the invasion of 1974. After the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus, in fact, the need arose to divert the maritime trades that until that moment had rewarded Famagusta. This circumstance has driven the commercial and tourist development of the city, whose borders have expanded considerably under a building pressure that is not always aesthetically flawless. Not everything, however, has been lost. The Old Town, for example, is a little darling. Shops, bars, restaurants and clubs with a lively atmosphere attract many tourists who basically choose the location for three reasons: in addition to lively nightlife just mentioned, a decisive role in the choice to be based in Lemesos is played there nearness to two archaeological sites of world importance such as theAncient Kourion e Pafos, without forgetting the Trodos Mountains, another "mecca" for lovers of hiking. Lemesos is also an important museum center: a visit to the Wine Museum which, between tastings and insights into the winemaking tradition, offers a fairly comprehensive overview of the wine history of the area. Not surprisingly, among the events most appreciated by tourists there is the Wine Festival which takes place every year between August and September. Pure celebrations for the Carnival they are particularly popular.
8 Ancient Kourion
A few kilometers from Lemesos, on the Episkopi bay, the beautiful arises archaeological site of Kourion. Perched on a rise with a splendid sea view, this settlement dates back to the XNUMXth century BC. C., even if the most flourishing period undoubtedly coincided with the Ptolemaic and Roman dominations. Especially the latter has left many traces, as evidenced by the excavations that came to light from the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The Roman Theatre and Villa of Eustolius are unmissable stops on a trip to Cyprus. The Sanctuary of Apollo Ylatis and Paleochristian Basilica. The importance of the archaeological site of Kourion, in fact, also lies in having provided a lot of valuable information on transition from paganism to Christianity. A not easy transition due to the seismic instability of the territory and the subsequent Arab invasions which, at a certain point, forced the Christian community of Kourion to move to nearby Episkopi (which means, precisely, Episcopate). Right in Episkopi, there is a museum with other finds from the archaeological excavations of Kourion and Apollo Ylatis. In short, archeology is an added value for the Cypriot economy. Not by chance, Ancient Kourion is an area very popular with tourist buses. It is therefore advisable to make the visit early in the morning before the arrival of the organized tours (the ticket office is at the entrance to the area). The archaeological site of Kourion, recently the subject of restoration works, is open all year round. During the summer, the visit can be interspersed with a swim in the pretty beach below. For the orari di apertura see the table.
|Days / Months||16 Sept - 15 Apr||16 Apr - 15 Sept.|
|Mon - Sun||08:15
9 Troodos Mountains
Monks, outlaws, political activists, bored wealthy and, more recently, skiers and hikers: Troodos Mountainshave always welcomed very different subjects in search of refuge, protection, asceticism or, more simply, a little coolness and contact with nature. In more recent times, this mountainous complex that extends over the Lemesos and Larnaka valleys, has turned into one formidable tourist resource capable of attracting thousands of visitors all year round. In winter for ski or do snowboard; in the other seasons to devote himself to trekking, To mountain bike, birdwatching up to a picnic with friends and family. Near the Mount Olympus, the highest peak of the mountain range (1952 masl.), there is a well-equipped visitor center from which to get maps and news about available routes (path of Artemis, path of Persephone, Atalante, Caledonia etc.). It is not over, because in addition to outdoor activities, the Troodos Mountains hold some of the most significant evidence of Byzantine and post-Byzantine art. It is 10 religious buildings (nine churches and a monastery) in which the contrast between the simple forms of Cypriot rural architecture and the rich interior decorations that cover a time span from 1100 to 1400 stands out. Not surprisingly, these churches (Agios Nikolaos tis Stegis, Panagia Phorviotissa, Panagia tou Arakou, Agios Ionannis Lambadhistis etc.) have long been declared UNESCO World Heritage Site. Finally a piece of advice. If you don't have the time to see them all (it takes at least 2 days), bet on Agios Ionannis Lambadhistis Monastery. You will not regret it!
10 Pafos Archaeological Park
Pafos is the main tourist destination of Cyprus. Even more so after the appointment in 2017 a European Capital of Culture together with the Danish city of Aarhus. A designation that has internationalized tourist flows, alongside the more traditional Russian and British presence. And it is precisely the role of bridge between different cultures the main motivation behind the recognition. In fact, Pafos - but the discussion must be extended to the whole of Cyprus - has been dominated by over the millennia Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Franks, Venetians and Ottomans. A melting pot of which many traces remain, especially those of the Hellenistic period. It is no coincidence, therefore, that the main points of tourist interest are The Tombs of the Kings and the namesake Archaeological Park. Both sites are located close to the city center. The former are a large burial area famous for the majesty of the tombs. Majesty to be traced back to the belief, borrowed from Egyptian culture, that the size of the burials should reflect that of the living quarters. The Archaeological Park, on the other hand, is famous above all for the mosaic floors of its homes. House of Dionysus, Villa Teso, House of Orpheus and House of Aeon are unmissable stops for anyone who is really interested in learning more about classical mythology and the sophisticated ones mosaic techniques in use in antiquity. It is not over, because one is also part of the Archaeological Park Early Christian basilica of the thirteenth century (Basilica of Hrysopolitissa). Ça va sans dire both The Tombs of the Kings and the Pafos Archaeological Park are UNESCO World Heritage Site.
After wandering through coastal cities and archaeological sites, the time has come to stop in the Cypriot capital: Nicosia. Jokes aside, it goes for Lefkosia (the topos by which the capital of the Republic of Cyprus) a little what has been said about the Turkish side (see point 4). Those interested in touring the island far and wide, because eager to deepen the many aspects of its millenary history, can very well base here. After all, there are really many things to see. Starting with Venetian walls which, although they failed to prevent the Ottoman advance in 1571, remained standing and still constitute the the most advanced part of the capital. The neighborhood of Laika Geitonia, inside the walls, offers several interesting ideas both from an architectural point of view and for what concerns the Mundane life, considering thehigh concentration of bars, cafes, restaurants and boutiques. Same Green Line that marks the border between the north and south of the island has become a force gametourist attraction. In fact, since 2003, the checkpoints have been open 24 hours a day, while the two pedestrian crossings of Ledra Street and Ledra Palace Hotel have been open since 24. Also worth seeing is the Cyprus Museum. A few minutes walk from the central Elefherias Square, this museum ideally completes the archaeological knowledge of the area. Inside, in fact, there is an important collection of statues and votive figures, including the famous one Aphrodite of Soli, whose icon is often used on tourist posters promoting Cyprus. Obviously it's not over, because in addition to the museums there are churches, mosque and countless others glimpses. There are also hammams. Among the many, theOmereye hammam, recently entirely renovated. To be seen!
12 The beaches of Cyprus
The story of the beaches of Cyprus traces, roughly, the stages told so far. Therefore the first beach is that of Lara. According to many, this beach, not far from Kyrenia, is the most beautiful on the island. However it is a different beauty, relatively less commercial (although there is no shortage of cabins, showers and snack bars), and above all from thevery high environmental value. In Lara, in fact, the sea turtles monitored by a group of volunteers ("Society for the Protection of Turtles") who even installed a station on the nearby beach of Alagadi to study their behavior and protect their habitat. Turtles also nest on coast of Famagusta, both in the Turkish part (see point 3) and in the Greek Cypriot district. Here you will find other beautiful beaches. The most famous of all is Nissy Beach in the city of Agia Napa (approx. 50 km from Famagusta) which, in a short time, went from being an anonymous fishing village to one of the most advanced tourist districts of the island. It is also worth a visit Protaras which, compared to Agia Napa, is less libertine and more suitable for family tourism. Another beautiful stretch of coast is the one between Lemesos and Pafos. Of the different beaches that meet along the way, the most beautiful of all is Petra tou Romiou, Also known as Aphrodite beach. According to a legend, in fact, the goddess of beauty emerged near this beach to go to a love meeting. Petra tou Romiou is also one of the most photographed places in Cyprus. The presence of two large stacks close to the beach and, above all, the generous sunsets of the southern coast attract thousands of tourists to the area in search of the perfect shot (see photo).
1 Don't come for a week
Many tourists visit only the southern part of Cyprus, the Greek Cypriot one to be understood. We disagree, so much so that we began our story starting from the places in the north of the island. To visit everything, however, one week is not enough. In 7 days it is better to visit one of the two areas, postponing the visit of the other to a second trip. To have a sufficiently exhaustive knowledge of the territory it takes at least 10 days. Two weeks is better!
2 Do not cross the border outside official crossings
As we have repeated several times in the post, Cyprus, since 1974, has been divided into two distinct areas of influence (Greek and Turkish). A "Green Line" delimits the borders between the two states by specifying the crossing points (7 and all well marked) that cut the island from east to west. The thing to keep in mind is do not pass from one side to the other outside the official checkpoints. Among other things, the freedom of movement is much greater than in the past and, consequently, even the bureaucratic controls have become much more streamlined. So it would be really imprudent to try to be smart. An imprudence that, moreover, could cost very dearly, up to the stop. Not to do!
3 Watch out for driving on the left
From 1925 to 1960 Cyprus was a colony of the British Empire. In fact, the English influence had already begun in the nineteenth century, immediately after the end of the Ottoman rule, and continued even after the new independence of 1960.England, in fact, he had a decisive role in designing the Green Line which then sanctioned the division of the island, and still maintains aimportant military presence in the south of the territory. The most significant legacy, however, was cultural and commercial. The emblem of the English cultural heritage is represented by the driving style. Previously we referred to the opportunity to stay at least 10 days. The other advice is precisely the use of the car, undoubtedly the most comfortable way to explore both the coast and the hinterland of Cyprus. But watch out for driving on the left. Forgetting can be very expensive! As for the commercial influence, however, it is even more evident. From hotels, shops to nightclubs, almost everything is designed for a British clientele (in more recent times flanked by the Russian presence).
4 Do not cross military zones
Another thing that needs to be given due attention in Cyprus is the military zones. The two British military bases are located in Akrotiri and Dhekelia, respectively in the vicinity of Lemesos and Larnaka. In the north of the island, however, the Turkish military presence is significant. The thing to keep in mind, therefore, is not to cross military areas (duly marked by signs, barbed wire and men in uniform) without permission. Do not cross them or even photograph them. The penalty is the seizure of the camera and, in some circumstances, arrest.