Exploring Cyprus with your own wheels will give you time to savor attractions, both large and small, that you’d struggle to link together on buses. It's the best way to get under the skin of this sun-blessed Mediterranean island.

Whether you visit the southern Republic of Cyprus or the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, distances are relatively short and road conditions are generally good. Road trips on the island are about frequent stops and taking your time to enjoy the sights and pause for a strong cup of Cyprus coffee.

Lemesos (Limassol) loop

Best introduction to Cyprus

Lemesos round trip; 74km [46 miles]; allow 10 hours (or 2 days)

This easy round-trip escape from touristy, busy Lemesos (Limassol) is a splendid introduction to Cyprus’s abundant attributes, with a mix of sea, sand, ruins, rural villages and wine. With plenty of stops on this relatively short drive, you can cover the route in a day, but consider prolonging its rewards by breaking the journey overnight in a mountain village.

Start by heading north from Lemesos to the hills. Pause first in Doros to drop in on its 14th-century church, and take a break for lunch in the lovely village of Laneia, with its golden-hued buildings spread around cobblestone streets. Get lost wandering here and in nearby Lofou and Silikou, then stop frequently on winding roads amidst terraced farms to admire the distant views of the sea. Look for wineries such as Ayla Mavri and make another interesting village stop at pretty Vouni.

Head south to the coast and Ancient Kourion, one of the island’s most beautiful and important archeological sites. From here, it’s a short drive around the Akrotiri Peninsula; swing by the Holy Monastery of St Nicholas of the Cats and take the plunge at 7km (4.3 mile) long Lady’s Mile Beach, before closing the loop back in Lemesos.

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Boats lined up at the ancient harbor in Kyrenia (Girne)
Kyrenia (Girne) has one of the most perfect harbors in the Mediterranean © nejdetduzen / Getty Images

Cyprus' Remote Northeast

Best for quiet beaches

Kyrenia (Girne)–Golden Beach; 153km [95 miles]; allow one day

The forgotten-feeling beaches of the island’s northeast coast are a world apart from the heaving, tourist-strewn strands of the south. This day-long drive from Kyrenia (Girne) in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus explores untrodden sands and tiny villages, where Orthodox basilicas crumble into the rocky landscape.

Start in Kyrenia, with its evocative medieval harbor and castle. Head east on the coast road, passing scattered villages and beaches; Little Ozanköy is noted for its olive oil and medieval church. Nearby Çatalköy (Agios Epiktitos) features caves that provided sanctuary to the hermit Epiktitos in the 13th century. Pause at Alagadı Beach, home to a government sea turtle conservation project.

Detour inland away from the coast via the village of Bahçeli (Kalograia) and continue to the Byzantine Antifonitis Church with its beautiful dome and frescos. Back on the coast road, continue east and look for the track to Kantara Castle, where you can climb the ramparts for epic views. At the 5th-century Basilica of Agia Triada at Sipahi, seek out the mosaics amidst the ruins. Reaching the eastern tip of the Karpas Peninsula, stop at tiny Dipkarpaz (Rizokarpaso) and enjoy the long swath of sand at Golden Beach (Nangomi Bay), known for wild donkeys munching seagrass amidst the otherwise untrodden dunes.

Family hiking through in Avakas Gorge near Paphos
The water-sculpted Avgas (Avakas) Gorge is a great family detour on the Akamas Peninsula © Shutterstock / Galyna Andrushko

Best of the South Coast

Best for Cyprus’ highlights

Lemesos (Limassol)–Lara Beach; 113km [70 miles]; allow two days

Drive west from Lemesos to see some of the best sights in Cyprus. The first stop is the spectacularly perched hillside ruin of Ancient Kourion. From the Roman amphitheater, let the view of the sea lure you down to quiet Kourion Beach. The beachside cafes of Avdimou Beach are just a short hop west — stop here for a delicious seafood lunch.
Suitably fortified, feel the passion from the goddess of love at Aphrodite’s Rock (aka Petra tou Romiou). Pause on the pebbles and let the beach and views beguile you – it's easy to imagine the goddess rising from the foam. The city of Pafos makes another ideal break; its namesake archaeological site was the heart of ancient Cyprus in the 4th century BCE. Admire the Roman mosaics then wander the medieval back alleys of Pafos, before settling into a seafront cafe on the palm-lined promenade.

Continuing west, Coral Bay and Agios Georgios will delight families with antsy kiddos, with watersports operators and ice cream vendors. Mix it up with a short detour inland to walk the water-carved Avgas (Avakas) Gorge, which cleaves the Akamas Heights escarpment. It's a popular hike of roughly 3.5km (2.2 miles) each one way, passing through lush vegetation into a rocky cleft in the landscape. Finish your trip at beautiful and isolated Lara Beach, a nesting ground for one of the Med’s last sea turtle populations.

Traditional villages and Cyprus crafts

Best for Cypriot art and culture

Larnaka round trip; 106km [66 miles]; allow one day

This looping drive leaves the bustle of Larnaka behind for an outing in the hills, visiting centuries-old villages where locals create traditional Cypriot crafts. Start by driving northwest out of the city to Pyrga, home of the 14th-century Lusignan Chapelle Royale (signposted as “Medieval Chapel”), dedicated to St Catherine and housing some fine frescos.
It’s a short hop west to the pottery village of Kornos, where beautiful ceramics are sold by local artisans. A hilly drive brings you to the precipitous old town of Lefkara, which combines the lace- and silverwork-producing villages of Kato Lefkara and Pano Lefkara; learn more at the Lefkara Folk Art Museum. Follow the winding road southwest to the pretty stone villages of Kato Drys and Vavla, which have some wonderfully restored stone homes.

Descending towards the coast, pause at the impressive prehistoric settlement of Choirokoitia, then take the short road to Zygi, a tiny fishing village known for some of the island’s best fish tavernas. Just inland is Maroni village, where you can buy local cucumbers in season. Continuing northeast along the coast, Kiti features the historic church of Panagia Angeloktisti. It’s a short drive past the airport back to Larnaka, where you can reflect on the trip over a drink at a seaside cafe.

Hands of a woman making lace in Pano Lefkara
Lace-making has been a tradition in Pano Lefkara for centuries © Ray B Stone / Shutterstock

Across the North

Best for historic sights

Kyrenia (Girne)–Famagusta (Gazimağusa); 194km [120 miles]; allow two days

This trip takes in all the essential stops for an immersive visit to North Cyprus. Starting from Kyrenia, head inland to Bellapais Abbey, made famous by writer Lawrence Durrell, where you’ll capture a sense of simple village life while exploring the hillside alleys around the ruins.

Next, drive west to the fairytale ramparts of crumbling St Hilarion Castle; an athletic climb to the top of St John’s Tower serves up vistas that stretch all the way to Turkey’s Taurus Mountains on a clear day. Suitably inspired, head coastwards to the old town in Lapta (Lapithos), uphill from the seafront, where you’ll discover some of Cyprus' traditional charms.

Drive on through the northwest, breathing deeply to catch the heady scent of citrus on the breeze from local orange groves. Pause to admire the remarkable blue-toned frescos of Agios Mamas Church in Morfou (Güzelyurt). More highlights are found at the lonely coastal ruins of Ancient Soloi and the scattered clifftop remnants of Ancient Vouni.
Now drive due east to North Nicosia (Lefkoşa), the northern half of the island's divided capital. Take your time winding through the old town's alleys, checking out the layers of history preserved in the architecture of the Büyük Han and Selimiye Mosque (built as the church of Cathedral of Saint Sophia in 1326). Continue east, via the ruined towers of Buffavento Castle sitting high on a mountaintop, to end up in seaside Famagusta (Gazimağusa), with its architectural treasures hidden behind Venetian walls.

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