What to see in Cyprus? This post will guide you through attractions of Cyprus, its legends and myths. It’s going to be not only about places to visit in Cyprus, but also about cats, breathtaking sunsets, Biblical stories, and some funny anecdotes. I have not expected Cyprus to be such an interesting place to visit.
When to visit Cyprus to escape the crowds?
Before I tell you about all the amazing places I visited in Cyprus, I would first like to share some useful hint with you. If – like me – you don’t like crowds, visit Cyprus in the low season. I went there in March and the weather was simply brilliant. Around 18-22 Celsius degrees, warm enough to wear short sleeves, but not too hot to do some hiking. Also, accommodation prices are a bit lower than in high season.
I travelled to Cyprus with a group of other travel bloggers and journalists following an invitation from Grecos Holidays (a Poland-based travel company offering a wide arrange of trips to Greece and Cyprus) and Visit Cyprus. Of course, before accepting the invitation, I was wondering whether I would be able to have fun travelling in a group (as you know, I travel solo most of the time).
Luckily, the people I travelled with were really amazing, the program was very interesting and I had nothing to worry about.
Probably your first stop in Cyprus – Larnaca
Do you know that Cypriots, unlike the rest of Europe, claim that the spring begins on 1st March instead of on 21st? Now, that I’ve visited Cyprus, this doesn’t surprise me any longer. The sun shines so strong in March in Cyprus that there’s no use travelling there if you don’t own good sunglasses. As you can guess, coming from cold and dark winter in Poland, I didn’t even think about bringing my sunglasses and had to suffer a bit until a friend showed me a street stand with sunglasses.
One of the most popular places in Larnaca is a pier by the beach. It leads right into a small port, where you can sit down and relax.
Do you know that Larnaca stems from the word larnakes which means sarcophagus? It is said that there are around 3000 sarcophagus around Larnaca. Another story says the name of the city commemorates the tomb of saint Lazarus.
What to eat in Cyprus? Meze!
When in Cyprus, be sure to order meze at least once. It’s basically a selection of the best dishes of Cyprus cuisine. You can either order a meat or fish meze. In both cases, it begins with small starters which consist of fresh salads and vegetables. Also, you will always get a pita with a choice of different sauces.
Be sure to leave some space for what comes next. Many plates with different varieties of meat or, if you prefer, fish. Scrambled eggs with eggplant, koupepia (meat in grape leaves), ravioli, hummus, and much more. In fish meze, you’ll get octopus, shrimps, mussels, squids. Either grilled or deep-fried. And wine. A lot of good wine.
Church of Saint Lazarus and Cyprus – what’s the story behind it?
It’s a really interesting story and I am surprised I had not heard about it earlier. What did Lazarus do after Jesus brought him back to life? He went to Cyprus and became a bishop. On the spot where his grave is, there’s a Church of Saint Lazarus right now. In this church, you can find his relics.
Are they authentic? I asked our guide. -If you believe, they are. – She responded.
The story of the church itself is also interesting. At first, back in the IX century, it used to belong to the Catholics. Later on, it was converted into a mosque for some 20 years. Nowadays, it’s a monastery of the Church of Cyprus, but quite an unusual one. Unlike in other monasteries, you can actually sit in this one.
Lazarus and Cyprus – story no. 2 – the Salt Lake in Larnaca
And flamingos. As much as the lake is not too impressive itself, I find the story behind its origin very interesting. Who would expect that saint Lazarus was such a badass.
One day, Lazarus was travelling near Larnaca and came across a vineyard run by some woman. One legend says he asked the woman for something to drink and she refused impolitely. Another story says he actually asked for some small grape bushes to plant at his own place. When the woman turned his request down, he was very disappointed.
To manifest his anger, he put a spell on that woman and her vineyard. Since that time, it fills with water each winter to became a salt lake. During summer months, it’s a dry, salty, pice of land.
Kurion Archaeological Site in Cyprus
I was really excited to see the Kurion Archaeological Site in Cyprus and was planning to really pay attention to what is there. As much as the whole site is interesting and offers some really scenic views over the coastline, my attention was caught by the amphitheatre.
There’s a little hole right in the middle of the stage of the ancient theatre. If you stand there and say something, your voice will reach even the most remote spot in the theatre. I have no idea how it works, because if you move a few inches elsewhere, you’ll no longer achieve the same effect.
The volume of voice is comparable to speaking at a stadium. You can nearly touch your voice travelling from one corner of the theatre to another. Even if you whisper, the audience can hear what you’re saying. If you ever happen to visit the Kurion Archaeological Site in Cyprus, be sure to look for this little hole and say a few words standing there. It’s a really unique experience.
Petra tou Romiou (Aphrodite’s Rock) – love, youth, fertility and sea on Cyprus
I bet you’ve heard about Aphrodite, the most beautiful Greek goddess, patron of love, fertility, beauty, and desire – all the things you will notice in Cyprus.
There’s a beach in the middle of the way between Limassol and Paphos where Aphrodite emerged from the sea foam. Everyone knows that. But do you know WHY did she emerge there? Cronus, one of the titans, cut off Uranus (his father!) testicles and threw them into the sea. Blood mixed with the sea water and created white foam out of which Aphrodite was born.
There’s a legend saying that if you swim around the Aphrodite’s Rock, you will enjoy youth longer than others. If the water in the sea was warmer, I would gladly do that.
Jeep safari around the Akamas Peninsula in Cyprus
Akams was Theseus’s son, the one who killed Minotaur. Greek mythology is round the corner everywhere you go in Cyprus.
Akamas Peninsula is the most picturesque place I’ve seen in Cyprus. It’s located int he western part of the island and it’s famous for its clear, light blue waters, white cliffs, lots of greenery and good hiking spots. It’s also home to many endemic species which is why the whole terrain is under protection.
If you consider travelling around Akamas Peninsula by car, be sure to hire either a jeep or a 4×4 one. For most of the time, you’ll be travelling off road on really uneven surfaces. The views, however, are really worth all the trouble.
Tombs of the Kings in Paphos, Cyprus
For some reason, when I was sightseeing the Tombs of the Kings, I was under impression that I would soon run into Lara Croft. Tombs of the Kings is a pretty large necropolis located just a stone’s throw away from Paphos. There are around 100 tombs carved in the rock there, so you will have plenty of things to see there. Most of the tombs stems from the IV century.
An unexpected fact no. 1. Despite its name, no kings were ever buried there. It was a necropolis designed for the richest inhabitants of Cyprus, not for the kings.
An unexpected fact no. 2. The Tombs of the Kings site is located on a hill overlooking the sea. The views are quite spectacular since you see not only blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea, but also white cliffs. It is usually quite windy up there, which means you can take pretty nice shots of women’s hair. :)
What to see in Cyprus? Sunrise!
I am very happy that Ela, an amazing travel blogger and a nice person at the same time, convinced me to get up SO early and go out to shoot the sunrise. It was definitely worth it.
I don’t have much to add here. Everything looks better at sunrise.
Limassol – the most diverse and interesting city in Cyprus
I really enjoyed myself in Limassol. This city has so much to offer! Limassol is the second largest city in Cyprus, home to the biggest transit port in the Mediterranean Sea, academic centre, spot where you can trace signs of antiquity, city where the richest people have their homes and boats. What is more, it has one of the cutest little streets I’ve ever seen.
During those few hours I spent in Limassol, I was feeling as if I visited Albania, Greece, and Hollywood at the same time.
We started sightseeing of Limassol with one really cute street. Even though it wasn’t a long one, we spent an hour there. Blue wooden doors, little colourful decorations hanging between the buildings, little cafes with white wooden tables, and lots of flowers everywhere. Could it get any better?
After that, we went to a local market. Usually, markets are busy and provide a good sample of society. Not this time, however. The market was nearly empty and the sellers were complaining a little bit that large shopping malls are stealing their clients. When we were walking down a central part of the city, we came across a shop with souvenirs. It had small puppies and kittens in baskets that gave some sounds when you touched them. It was so kitschy that it actually was cute.
It’s not only cats and instagram-like streets that I am interested in (although I must admit it IS important to me! :D), we also went to the castle in Limassol, where you can also see the exhibition of the Cyprus Medieval Museum. If you ever happen to be there, be sure to go to the top floor and to the roof. The view over the city is quite impressive.
To wrap it up, we also visited a port and a zone inhabited by the local celebrities and the richest people. The pier and the port are really impressive. Especially if you imagine how expensive all those yachts are.
The rich district looks like taken from some Hollywood movie. It’s impeccably clean. All houses are painted in pastel colours. Even cafes and exteriors of buildings look as if taken from some catalogue. What is even more interesting, is that once you leave that zone, you see ordinary Cyprus with all its imperfections. And I have to say I prefer this face.
What to do in Cyprus? Chill out in Ayia Napa!
Ayia Napa is a small town located on the eastern end of Cyprus and it’s known for its golden beaches and clear waters. If you are into spending some time on the beach, this is the spot you have to consider when planning your trip to Cyprus. If you have been following my blog for some time, you already know that I love hiking. The more challenging, the better.
Not many people know, however, that I also own a sailing license and used to spend quite some time sailing on Polish lakes back in the day. This is actually when I increased the frequency of using bad words – trust me, it’s not possible to avoid that if you spend whole days with weather-beaten sailors.
I love all sorts of water sports. Swimming, snorkelling, diving. And after I get tired, lying down on the beach and warming myself up in the sunshine. Ayia Napa offers all that. And more – if you like partying, there are a lot of clubs and pubs to hit when the sun goes down. However, if you don’t like crowds, I would suggest visiting Ayia Napa off the season, for example in March, April. The water might not be as warm as in the summer, but you will still be able to enjoy good weather and empty beaches.
Nissi Beach in Ayia Napa, probably the best beach in Cyprus
Nissi Beach, located in Ayia Napa is one of the best beaches I have ever seen. Tiny, golden sand, clear blue waters and a small peninsula where you can take a walk while enjoying the views. It’s really a pity that we didn’t have more time there.
It’s famous for a small island connected to the main beach with a narrow passage of the beach. If you google this place, you will see stunning photographs of this beach taken from above. I have not managed to find the spot from where someone took those photographs, but I think it would have to be from one of the beach hotels.
Cape Greco – the most south-eastern part of Cyprus
Cape Greco looks fabulous. It’s right there that you’ll find a natural rock bridge, sea caves, high cliffs and, what is most important, lots of spots to just stop and admire the surroundings. You will also find quite a number of cats there. And, as you might know, cats occupy the highest spot in the hierarchy.
In the IV century, there was a draught in Cyprus. It lasted 36 years and caused a lot of destruction. During that time, a lot of snakes were bred on the island. The snakes would harm the plants and also other living creatures. Saint Helena decided to do something about it and she “imported” thousands of cats into Cyprus. The cats killed the snakes and saved the island. Since that time, it’s more likely that you will trip over a cat rather than a snake in Cyprus.
Also, when you’ll be walking down some streets in the cities I’ve described above, you’ll see that people leave cat’s food on the pavement or directly on the streets. Cats in Cyprus are quite civilised. Of course, there are cat gangs, but by and large, cats look good. They are not skinny (I would say they are the opposite), sometimes they come to play with humans, their fur looks pretty thick. Even though they might not be as clean as house cats, they are still much cleaner than, e.g. stray cats I saw in Turkey.
Some thoughts on press trip in Cyprus
As you know, I predominantly travel solo and really appreciate all the spontaneity this way of travelling gives. Nevertheless, going on a press trip with other travel bloggers and journalist was a really unique experience. Not only did I see a new country, but I also learned a lot thanks to our guide, Maria. It’s a really nice feeling when you see something and you know why it’s like that, what story is behind it. So I can say I exchanged spontaneity for in-depth information about Cyprus. Seems like a fair deal, doesn’t it? Also, I have to add that I am very happy that this blog, which I am running out of pleasure, grew to the extent that there are companies who are willing to invite me for the sake of coverage on this blog. This is a really nice feeling.