May 24, 2024

Explore like a local: things to do in Cyprus

“I’m glad I travelled here with a local, I would never get to do so many things in Cyprus as a solo traveller.” These are the words of almost everyone that visited me on my little island, and I have to agree. While exploring Cyprus like a local might be trickier than most other places, the country offers something for everyone. Beach lovers will enjoy the island’s crystal-clear waters, foodies will get to taste its Mediterranean and Middle Eastern-influenced cuisine, and history lovers will get surprised at the island’s past, unknown to many.  Here are some things to do in Cyprus from someone who lives there.

 

How to explore Cyprus like a local:

  1. Learn about the island before you go.
  2. Rent a car to make the most of Cyprus. 
  3. Explore the beautiful Mediterranean beaches.
  4. Visit Nicosia, the last divided capital city in the world. 
  5. Go hiking in Trodos and stop by its villages.
  6. Visit a vineyard.
  7. Indulge in the delicious Cypriot food.
  8. Do a turtle release.
  9. Take a road trip to the northernmost point of the island.

 

1. Learn about the island before you go

Learning about the country before your trip is always useful but in the complicated case of Cyprus, it is critical. Cyprus is a divided island, with the Greek Cypriots mainly living in the southern part and the Turkish Cypriots in the north. As a traveller, you will most likely arrive in Larnaca or Paphos on the south side, since these are the major cities with airports. You can still cross to the north by showing your ID card or passport at the border. 

If you have a limited time, here is a quick overview of the most popular cities in Cyprus so that you can choose where to spend your time and plan things to do in Cyprus:

  • Larnaca: Larnaca has a lively promenade right next to the beach, with many restaurants and bars lined up.
  • Paphos: A coastal city, Paphos is known for its archaeological sites, rocky beaches, and charming harbour.
  • Nicosia: Nicosia is the capital city where you can discover the rich history of many civilisations inside the well-preserved Venetian Walls.
  • Limassol: Hosting the headquarters of many international companies, Limassol is another beautiful seaside town.
  • Ayia Napa: A world-famous party destination, Ayia Napa’s beaches are some of the best on the island. 
  • Kyrenia: Located in the north, Kyrenia’s picturesque harbour makes for a quintessential Cyprus photo. The city also has a beautiful mountain range.
  • Famagusta: Also in the north, Famagusta offers a unique blend of ancient ruins, mediaeval walls, and sandy beaches.   

 

2. Rent a car to make the most of Cyprus

To explore different cities, do short road trips, and have more flexibility, renting a car is the best option. If you want to go to both parts of Cyprus and plan on renting a car in both, I recommend renting a different car on each side as your insurance in the south won’t cover you in the north and vice versa. 

 

3. Explore the beautiful Mediterranean beaches

No Cyprus trip is complete without a trip to the beach. In the party city of Ayia Napa, you will find the lively Nissi Beach, the famous sea caves of Capo Greco, and the calmer Konnos Beach. In Paphos, you can visit Aphrodite’s Rock, which is said to be the birthplace of the Greek goddess Aphrodite. If you want to hit the beach as soon as you land, you can visit Mackenzie Beach which is only twenty minutes away from Larnaca Airport. More off-the-beaten-path, there is Golden Beach at a remote region of the island, which gets its name from its golden sand. Keep an eye out for the beaches as you drive, and you might discover some untouched spots throughout the island. 

 

4. Visit Nicosia, the last divided capital city in the world

Known as the last divided capital city in the world, Nicosia’s streets are full of history, with traces of Venetian, Lusignan (an old French commune), Ottoman, and British architecture. 

Ledra Street Border or Ledra Palace Border are two places you can cross to the other side in the city centre. While you discover the historical landmarks, such as Büyük Han (The Great Inn), Selimiye Mosque, Eleftherias Square, and Famagusta Gate located across the divide, you will notice that the capital city is full of nice coffee shops, bars, and restaurants. And the best part? Most of these places offer the opportunity to enjoy your drink with historical views all around you. Check out the bar Swimming Birds, where you will be right next to Nicosia Municipal Arts Centre, and the bars on Zahra Street, where you can have the unique experience of putting your drink on the Venetian Walls as you watch the Ledra Palace Hotel in the distance. 

 

5. Go hiking in Trodos and stop by its villages

Trodos is the tallest mountain in Cyprus, with many traditional villages at its base. In winter, you can go up to its highest point, Mount Olympus, where you can ski (yes, it does snow in Cyprus!), and in summer, you can enjoy its hiking trails as you breathe the fresh mountain air. While you’re there, consider stopping by one of the villages such as Kakopetria or Omodos to grab a Cyprus coffee — a great way to get some more energy for your hike.

 

6. Visit a vineyard

Wine enthusiasts will be pleased to learn that Cyprus is home to the world’s oldest manufactured wine. This wine, which is called commandaria, is a dessert wine that is only produced in 14 villages. You can follow the commandaria wine route or visit other vineyards that also offer wine tours at affordable prices – a must do on any list of things to do in Cyprus. 

I’ve recently been to Tsiakkas Winery and had a tour and wine tasting which included red, white, and rose wine as well as commandaria and zivania (traditional Cypriot spirit). The whole experience was great and it cost €12. 

 

7. Indulge in the delicious Cypriot food

Meyhane in Turkish and taverna in Greek. These are the places where you can get the most of Cypriot food, including a wide range of mezzes, specialty kebabs, and traditional drinks such as rak? or ouzo. They mostly have a fixed menu that includes all these dishes for around €20. 

Other than these traditional restaurants, Büyük Han in Nicosia is a place where you can find a wide range of Cypriot food options. In this 16th-century Ottoman inn, you can also find independent shops selling handmade goods such as jewellery, soaps, souvenirs, and home decoration.

 

8. Do a turtle release

During the summer months, there are plenty of conservation activities that you can get involved in and protect these endangered species. These include watching adult turtles at night, nest excavation, and turtle release.

 

9. Take a road trip to the northernmost point of the island

The ultimate Cypriot road trip: head to the northernmost point of Cyprus, the Karpaz Peninsula. As you drive to the tip of the island, you’re sure to make some friends: the famous Karpaz donkeys! Roaming freely along the road, they will accompany you as you explore the natural beauty of this lesser-known Cypriot region. 

 

 

We hope this guide helps you to discover things to do in Cyprus. Let us know in the comments if you’ve been to any of these spots or if you’d like to share an activity that you think other backpackers shouldn’t miss. Enjoy Cyprus!

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