Cyprus Is the New Greece (but Way More Affordable and Without the Crowds)
It's late fall and the water is still warm enough to swim. The smell of souvlaki, grilled halloumi and pita fills the air. Where are we? If you guessed Greece, sorry, that's incorrect. Any other ideas? Fine, we’ll tell you. Only 575 miles away from Athens, under the shadow of Turkey, lies a lesser-known island with beautiful beaches, great food, ancient ruins and so much more. What you won’t encounter? Hordes of guidebook-toting tourists. It’s high time you get acquainted with the myriad charms of underrated Cyprus. Here’s every place to hit up while you're there, including a few more tips.
Government buildings, shops, cafés and landmarks. At first glance, Nicosia seems to be a fairly ordinary city. However, that couldn't be further from the truth. Why? Well, how about the fact that it's the world's last divided capital? The UN Buffer Zone splits the southern (Greek) and northern (Turkish) sections. It's one thing to read about division, but it's quite another to experience it IRL. To understand the life-altering impact of the ongoing chasm, it's essential to visit Nicosia.
The second-largest city, Limassol feels vastly different than Nicosia—brighter, shinier, decidedly coastal. It has a sparkling new marina, seafront promenade with eye-catching sculptures and urban beaches. Of course, like the rest of Cyprus, it delivers a major dose of heritage, too. Housed in a centuries-old castle, the Cyprus Medieval Museum displays an impressive assortment of pottery, tombstones and ancient coins.
With a history dating back to Neolithic times, it’s no surprise that Paphos is flush with archaeological sites, from Fabrica Hill and Agia Kyriaki Chrysopolitissa to Saranta Kolones and the Tombs of the Kings. Its quaint old town and picturesque harbor are also selling points. Further modern attractions come in the form of nightlife venues and vacation-worthy hotels such as Annabelle.
Larnaca is another pretty port city. Holidaymakers can opt to relax on Finikoudes Beach, walk along the waterfront pathway, grab a drink at one of the many ocean-view bars or plan a scuba excursion to explore the MS Zenobia wreck. We highly recommend heading to the Church of Saint Lazarus to gawk at the gorgeous Byzantine architecture.
5. Ayia Napa
For a full-fledged resort feel, hit up Ayia Napa. Perched on the southeast coast of Cyprus, it's blessed with gorgeous sandy beaches. That’s not all. There are lovely tavernas serving fresh-caught fish, plus numerous bars and clubs surrounding the main square, Plateia Seferi. Before imbibing, be sure to take a few moments to admire Ayia Napa Monastery.
6. Troodos Mountains
Perched in the center of the island, the Troödos Mountains showcase some of the most jaw-dropping scenery in Cyprus. We're talking pine forests and majestic peaks. You'll also find enchanting alpine villages and a collection of UNESCO-listed painted churches. While in the area, don’t miss Kykkos Monastery, just outside the town of Pedoulas.
7. Akamas Peninsula
A bastion of biodiversity, the Akamas Peninsula dazzles nature lovers and adventurers alike. Whether you’d rather enjoy an easy stroll through the wooded headland, get your blood flowing with an uphill trek on the Aphrodite Trail or sit back and soak in the vistas on a jeep safari, it's all waiting on the Akamas Peninsula.
8. EAT (A LOT)
Greek flavors dominate the cuisine. You can taste the Turkish influence, too. It’s a big meat and potatoes place. Typical dishes include souvlaki (kabobs), souvla (barbecued meat), sheftalia (sausage) and keftedes (meatballs). And, of course, there’s enough grilled halloumi, pita, tzatziki and hummus to satisfy your cravings. Have a hankering for something sweet? Try soutzoukos, a traditional dessert made with grape juice, honey and almonds or walnuts.
More good news? Dining out doesn’t have to deal a major blow to your budget—at least not in Cyprus. Copious amounts of food cost less than $20. That’s a taste bud-tantalizing steal, if you ask us.