Situated at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Cyprus is a sun-drenched island with an intoxicating history. It was once inhabited by the Mycenean Greeks before invasions by the Persians, Crusaders and Ottoman Empire, followed by British annexation in 1914.
Today, the island is divided along the Green Line that separates the Republic of Cyprus in the south (predominantly Greek Cypriot) and the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Each has its own unique cultures and traditions, as well as an enticing gastronomic scene.
With beautiful beaches and charming old towns, Cyprus has become a popular getaway, particularly amongst European travelers. You can party into the early hours in the beach resort of Ayia Napa or explore spectacular Byzantine churches, ancient Greek and Roman ruins. Discover the rugged landscapes of the Karpass Peninsula or venture into the Troodos Mountains, which are dotted with historic monasteries and medieval wine-making villages.
Cypriot cuisine is heavily influenced by both Greek and Turkish gastronomy and you’ll notice significant differences between the north and south of the country. While the south has a Mediterranean-inspired cuisine, the north draws more heavily on Turkish and Middle Eastern traditions.
Southern Cypriot cuisine focuses largely around fish and pork, with dishes such as afelia (a pork stew marinated in wine and coriander seed), seftalia pork rissoles and loukanika (a spicy smoked sausage). In the north, pork is replaced by lamb, with dishes such as kleftiko otto (slow roasted lamb on the bone) and tava (lamb stew baked with cumin, onions and potatoes).
Across the island you will find delicious halloumi cheese, which is perhaps Cyprus’ most famous export and is often featured on mezze plates with stuffed vine leaves and dips. Fresh fruits are widely available across the island, as are preserved fruits and nuts. If you’re after a sweet treat, try the almond fried pastries known as daktyla, as well as soutzioukos, which are made from grape juice and either almonds or walnuts.
Cyprus has a proud winemaking history, with the sweet dessert wine known as Commandaria the most famous. Six wine routes have been established by the country’s tourism board so you can sample the varieties on offer or you can stop in at the Cyprus Wine Museum.
The locally-produced ouzo (an anise-flavored aperitif made from grape juice) is also a speciality of the island, together with the stronger zivania, which is distilled from grape skins and local wines. Carlsberg and Keo are both locally brewed on the island and you’ll find a wide range of important beers in most bars.
Nightlife on the island ranges from stylish cafes and restaurants to traditional pubs and international-style beach clubs and dance clubs. Tourist hubs such as Ayia Napa are renowned for their nightlife, with no shortage of beach parties and nightclubs that are open until the early hours of the morning.
Both the north and south of Cyprus have a wide selection of accommodation options, ranging from hotels and private villas to short-term rental properties and hostels. Rates in the north tend to be slightly cheaper than the south.
The majority of accommodation on the island is large resort-style hotels that cluster in the main tourist towns, with a choice between hotel rooms, villas and apartments. You can also find some smaller hotels and guest houses that are in the middle of all the action, as well as private apartment rentals listed through short-term rental sites.
Self-catering villas are increasing in popularity and are often owned by expats. Lettings are usually organized for a week or two at a time and may include the use of a car. In rural areas, old buildings and farms are also being transformed into small guesthouses and hotels in a bid to safeguard the traditional lifestyle of the communities living here.
Hostels are generally limited to the major centers, with a handful of campsites in the Troodos Mountains and along the coast. Wild camping is not illegal but you should consult with local villagers before pitching your tent to avoid suspicion.
Cyprus experiences a typical Mediterranean climate, with temperatures at their peak during the summer months of June, July and August. Winters can get quite cold (and some businesses will close altogether) but this is the perfect time to hit the ski slopes of the Troodos Mountains.
Summer is the peak tourist season when Europeans are on their annual vacations and you should expect to pay higher hotel prices during these months. If you want to avoid the crowds and enjoy milder weather, consider visiting during the shoulder months of April/May or September/October. Spring is a particularly beautiful time to visit thanks to the wildflowers that are in bloom while the Greek Easter festivals are also an unforgettable experience.
• Explore the winding streets, mosques and churches of historic Nicosia.
• Relax in the lively beach resort of Ayia Napa.
• Discover the natural beauty of the rugged Akamas Peninsula.
• See the legendary birthplace of the Greek goddess of love at “Aphrodite’s Rock”.
• Make a pilgrimage to the Greek Orthodox monastery of Apostolos Andreas.
• Wander through the atmospheric Venetian-walled city of Gazimağusa.
• Soak up the harbor views from the Byzantine castle of Girne.
• See the highly revered icon of the Virgin Mary at the 11th-century Kykkos Monastery.
• Explore the Byzantine churches, monasteries and winemaking villages of the Troodos Mountains.
• Discover the ancient ruins of UNESCO World Heritage-listed Kourion.
There are two international airports in the Republic of Cyprus at Larnaka and Pafos, with frequent flights from cities in the United Kingdom and European hubs such as Athens, Amsterdam and Brussels. If you’re traveling to the Republic of Northern Cyprus, you’ll need to fly through Istanbul or catch the ferry service that links Turkey with Cyprus (Mersin–Gazimağusa, Tasucu–Girne or Alanya–Girne). There are no direct flights to Cyprus from North America, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa, with most flights connecting through Europe or the Middle East.
If you decide to go away, book your hotel, flights and activities through our trip concierge for discounts and benefits. We offer free upgrades, free breakfasts, free hotel credit and VIP gifts at many luxury hotels for the same price as the hotel’s own websites. (Book direct and you don’t get these benefits so why would you?). Our packaged vacation prices tend to be considerably cheaper than flight and hotel prices available online.
Cyprus is quite a small island and has a well-established motorway system that links most of its major towns and tourism centers. The south has a good intercity bus system run by various different companies while bus services in the rural south and north of the island tend to be more unreliable, with the latter often waiting until the bus is full to leave.
The most efficient and convenient way of getting around Cyprus is to rent your own vehicle, particularly if you want to explore the more remote parts of the island. Cars are right-hand drive and Cypriots drive on the left-hand side of the road, with strictly enforced speed limits. There are plenty of petrol stations throughout the island but you should be aware of donkeys and goats meandering along the roads in rural areas. If you’re renting a car in the south, keep in mind that some companies will not allow you to cross into the north, so check when booking your vehicle.
Taxis are readily available in larger towns and cities, with most operating from designated ranks. Urban taxis use metered fares while in rural areas, you should agree on a price before setting off. In both the north and the south of the island you can also find shared taxis that operate between major towns and involve sharing the vehicle with other travelers for a fixed rate.
With its mild climate, Cyprus is somewhat of an ideal country to explore by bicycle, with bike rental companies in many of the southern tourist towns. Bike rentals are less readily available in the north but hotels may be able to assist in arranging them for you.
The official currency of the Republic of Cyprus is the Euro (EUR) while the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus uses Turkish Lira (TL) as the official currency. ATMs are widespread where you can access cash and credit cards are accepted at most hotels, large restaurants and shops. You’ll find exchange counters at all of the island’s major airports where you can pick up currency on arrival.