Cyprus, known officially as the Republic of Cyprus, is a tranquil little island with a vast amount of history as one of the oldest Mediterranean civilizations in the world. The sheer amount of intrigue surrounding this Island as well as its lush vegetation, mild climate, and beautiful beaches make it an ideal location for thrill-seekers.
The Island is also dotted with ancient runes with great Archaelogical importance that serves as evidence of past civilizations and empires. Add in the modern infrastructure and a mostly friendly populace, and you have the perfect tourist destination, Cyprus.
That said, if you’re planning on a trip to Cyprus soon or anytime in the future, here are the main attractions you need to go see:
1. Ancient Kourion
Cyprus is a country with many ancient tourist sites, and Ancient Kourion is undoubtedly one of the most popular attractions. The location of this site – atop a bluff – suggests it was established during the Neolithic period, and scholars believe Kourion was founded sometime around the 13th century BC when Mycenaean colonizers took control of the area.
However, despite the long-standing history of this area, it is the more recent 5th century AD Greco-Roman Ruins located in Kourion that are the primary source of interest. The site contains a smattering of buildings and structures that give visitors a vague idea of what life must have been like on the island thousands of years ago. Some of the main attractions located on the site include a Greek Amphitheatre, a temple to Apollo, the Byzantine basilica, House of Eustolius Roman baths, and an open Agoura.
2. Kykkos Monastery
The Republic of Cyprus is an island with a deep religious history, and the Kykkos Monastery, founded by Alexios I Komnenos and located 20 kilometers west of Pedoulas is one of the country’s better-known tourist locations. A fire that gutted the building destroyed most of the original structures, but a renovation project started and completed in 1831, restored the monastery to its former glory.
Each building in the Kykkos monastery is lined with both external and internal Greek murals and adorned with prized artifacts made of silver, gold, and bronze. The monastery also contains a portrait of the Virgin Mary, believed to have been painted by Saint Luke himself. The central museum located within the monastery contains manuscripts and documents which give a detailed account of the Island’s pre-Christian history.
3. Church of Saint Lazarus
Most of us are familiar with the story of the biblical character, Lazarus, and the Church of Saint Lazarus, erected over his now-empty tomb is one of the three Byzantine churches which have survived in Cyprus over the years. The other two are the Church of Apostle Barnabas and the Epiphanios church.
And although the Church of Saint Lazarus is now mostly empty, its intricate design and exquisite architecture are sure to appeal to tourists. The interior of the church comprises three double aisles, each with two big pillars and arched openings running through them.
A fire incidence that occurred sometime in 1970 destroyed most of the building’s interior décor as well as a section of the iconostasis, but repair works have since been carried out to restore the damaged portions.
4. Mount Olympos
I know what you all are thinking, but, no, this is not the Mount Olympus described in Homer’s Iliad – sorry Greek mythology fans. Nevertheless, Mount Olympos is famous as being the highest point in Cyprus and is a place every visitor to Cyprus should strive to visit at least once.
Although the top of the mountain itself is an army base that is not accessible to the general public, the surrounding landscape is a beautiful scene with dense vegetation and creeks that run throughout the year – a stark contrast to the other parts of the Island which are mostly dry. Mount Olympos usually experiences thick snow between January to March, hence providing an ideal skiing location.
5. Kolossi Castle
Unlike other castles that cover vast expanses of land and comprises gigantic structures and military installations, the Kolossi Castle is a small structure which was of great importance during the crusades of the high middle ages. The castle, initially held by Knights of St. John served as an excellent location for spotting enemy advances over the coastline; It was later forcefully taken over by their rivals, the Knight Templars, but rightful ownership was restored following the abolishment of the Templars in 1313.
The structure today, comprises of a three-story building with a spiral stairway that leads to the top floor for an astonishing view of the Mediterranean – further evidence of its extensive usage as a spotting location. Parts of the Kolossi castle that remain intact include its kitchen, the main chamber, and a fireplace. A sugar factory also lies to the east of the castle, and you could visit the nearby winery to get a taste of ‘Commandaria,’ one of the oldest named wines in the world.
6. Blue Lagoon
The blue lagoon is precisely as its name suggests – a sheltered bay with crystal clear blue water located in Akamas Peninsula National Park, in the region of Paphos. The lagoon contains sparkling clear water, which offers a breath-taking view of activities going on underwater.
Water in the lagoon is typically warmer than what is obtainable in the rest of the area and is not very deep, making it perfect as a natural swimming pool. The lagoon also has a reef, which makes it ideal for those who would love to snorkel or dive.
7. Paphos Archaeological Park
Cyprus, as stated earlier, is one of the oldest civilizations in the world, and the Paphos Archaeological Park is rife with evidence of past life activities and contains what is a blend of ancient Greek and Roman civilization. First discovered in 1962, the park was listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1980 due to the sheer amount of ancient remains.
And although excavation work is still ongoing at the site, several amazing scenes are bound to keep visitors enthralled at the park. Some of the attractions at the park include four Roman palaces, namely: House of Dionysus (named after the Greek god of wine), House of Aion, House of Orpheus, and House of Theseus.
Others include the impressive Hellenistic theatre, the Agora (market), and the Asklipion Temple built in honor of the Greek god of medicine.
8. St. Hilarion Castle
The St. Hilarion castle, one of the best-preserved of the old Crusader Castles, and unarguably one of the most beautiful ruins in the Mediterranean is another location that visitors in Cyprus should endeavor to visit. The castle is named after a hermit monk who, under serious persecution in the Holy land, fled and lived out his life in a cave located in the mountains.
The castle initially served as a church and a monastery. It also doubled as a watchtower to warn of impending attacks from pirates; It was later converted to a summer resort for the Lusignan nobility before the Venetians dismantled it in the 15th century.
The castle consists of three main parts: the main entrance, the middle section – which contains the royal palace, kitchen, the church – and the lower section, which served as a lodge for soldiers and their horses. A steep flight of stairs leads to what was once a hilltop guard tower where visitors can enjoy a stunning view of the landscape and shoreline.
9. Nissi Beach
Nissi beach is, undoubtedly, the most popular of the numerous Protaras and Agaia Napa Beaches, and it is not difficult to see why. The long stretch of lovely white sand and clear blue waters plays host to a bevy of activities during the day – from parties to water skiing, windsurfing, and beach volleyball. The waters of Nissi Beach are shallow and crystal clear, making it perfect for swimming and wading.
However, if you are the type who enjoys quiet, you can take long walks on the beach early in the morning or late in the evening.
10. Tomb of the Kings
Tomb of the kings, which is a large necropolis that has been in existence as far back as the 4th century, is another UNESCO World Heritage Site located within Cyprus, and a must-visit for tourists. The necropolis consists of underground tombs carved out of solid rock in the ancient Egyptian style, and they serve as burial sites for high-ranking officials and Ptolemaic aristocrats.
Contrary to its name, however, there is no evidence so far of royalty being buried at the site. The name ‘Tomb of the Kings’ instead serves as an acknowledgment of the size of the necropolis and the exquisite work of the ancient stone carvers.