Cyprus is an ancient and stunning island, with sunny beaches and an exotic atmosphere. Even though it’s a small island floating in a crystal sea, it is full of diversity, in regards to both the people and the landscape. You can party in a town rich with culture, or wander the mountainous inland region. The nature preserve on the northern side of the island offers isolated beaches and peaceful strolls, and the salt lakes are home to thousands of flamingoes during their migrations.
Because of its turbulent history, Cyprus is filled with ancient ruins like the settlement of Kourion perched high on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean. An early Christian basilica built on the site has the basic structure of a modern church and unique floor mosaics. Tourists visiting Kourion can also enjoy a swim at the beach below the ruins after a day of sightseeing.
The ruins at Salamis give us an idea of this extensive settlement, which had a theater, gymnasium, baths, and an aqueduct. The site features a museum that showcases many ancient artifacts found during the site’s excavation.
The capital city of Cyprus is divided; the Republic of Cyprus controls half of the city, and the other half is controlled by the Turkish Republic of Cyprus. Lefkosia, the Cyprus-owned section to the south, is the cultural center of the country. Mysterious taverns that play traditional music strangely meld with contemporary discos. The city even has its own version of Rodeo Drive, with upscale shops and designer boutiques.
North Nicosia, the Turkish half of the city, presents a more traditional face. Its narrow, winding streets loop through a marketplace filled with craft vendors and locals. The Turkish baths and calls to prayer remind you that you’re in a country steeped in tradition, yet the casinos and nightclubs give the city a contemporary feel once the sun goes down.
The natural wonders of Cyprus are abundant. The Karpas Peninsula in the north is peaceful and remote—its beaches are secluded, and the wildlife is diverse. From the forgotten walled city of Famagusta to the northern tip of the island, the Karpas Peninsula is serene and rustic; it’s one of the most pristine places in the Mediterranean. The local fishing villages supply fresh seafood to the area’s restaurants, and local churches and mosques have a middle-eastern flair.
Cyprus is an ideal destination for bird watching—the enclosed salt lakes attract flocks of flamingoes every year. These unique birds coat the lakes’ surfaces in an undulating rose-colored mass, and other migratory birds join them in the smaller surrounding pools.
The Troodos Mountains are a perfect place to take a break from the hot beaches. Pine trees line the country roads that wind through the forests, villages, and vineyards. You can bathe in the sea and ski on Mt. Olympus during the same vacation. Whether you’re interested in hiking or visiting ancient Byzantine churches, you’ll find what you’re looking for in the Troodos Mountains.
The story of Cyprus is politically tempestuous but historically remarkable. While visiting, you can immerse yourself in culture or plunge into the sparkling blue sea. You can stroll along dramatic cliffs that drop into the warm water, or sunbathe on the golden beaches with the natural pools lapping at your feet. Travel down the meandering streets of an historic city or gaze in wonder at the unusual architecture and wildlife. Whether you crave a pulse-pounding experience, or an undisturbed break from reality, find it in Cyprus and let your imagination run wild.
Author Francesca Santelli is an avid European traveler who writes for cheapholidaysabroad.org, a site to browse for cyprus package holidays, as well as cheap holidays to lanzarote in the Canary Islands.