Top Spots in the Republic of Cyprus

  • 2 Weeks

Take in beaches, wide-arcing history, mountain vistas, rural villages and urban buzz, all in one swoop.

Fly into Larnaka for a day of beach time. Brush off the sand to discover the history behind this beach resort by checking out the Agios Lazaros and Pierides Archaeological Foundation. Afterwards, head for Nicosia (Lefkosia) via the cobblestone villages of Kato Drys and Lefkara. In the capital, delve into the historic Old City, framed by Venetian walls and crammed with art galleries, museums and contemporary cafe life.

Next head for the hills. The slopes of the Troödos hide a clutch of churches, home to fabulous frescos which fizz with Byzantine-era flair. While here, pull on your hiking boots to traverse a mountain trail or two. Roll back to the coast, stopping at neolithic Choirokoitia on your way to Lemesos (Limassol). Base yourself here while exploring the spectacular hillside perch of Ancient Kourion and the Commandaria region's village idylls.

Then veer west, getting your best goddess-of-love strut on beside Aphrodite's rock at Petra tou Romiou, as you hop to Pafos. Check out the swag of mosaics and ruins here before escaping the crowds to flop on the sand at Lara Beach.

Spanning the Peninsulas: From Akamas to Karpas

  • 10 Days

Stretching from western tip to eastern tail, this evocative journey encompasses crumbled ruins, rural vistas and white-sand stretches as it sweeps across the island.

Head up to the rugged Akamas Peninsula from Pafos airport. Hike in the footsteps of Greek gods on the Aphrodite and Adonis trails and throw your towel down on strips of wild and windswept beach. Then make a beeline east inland, stopping at traditional villages such as Ineia and Dhrousia on the way to charming Fyti to revel in the slow pace of Cypriot rural life.

Dive onwards into the sylvan backwoods of Cedar Valley to visit ornate Kykkos Monastery before heading to the Troödos Mountains to stride out on the nature trails meandering through the hills. After a few days of birdsong, forest walks and frescoed church frippery, hightail it to Lemesos (Limassol) to explore the nearby archaeological sites and feast on meze while overlooking the castle within the compact old town. Scoot along the coast all the way to Protaras; stopping to say hi to the flamingos at Larnaka Salt Lake, and calling in to Agia Napa Monastery and Museum of the Sea en route. Kick back on Konnos Beach for a day and discover the dramatic limestone cliffs of Cape Greco National Park on foot or by kayak while hanging out at the Republic's most easterly point.

Cross the border to the North to spend the night amid shattered church shards in the old city of Famagusta (Gazimağusa) and then crane your neck at the Gothic glory inside the Lala Mustafa Paşa Camii. Devote a day to tootling around the Famagusta hinterland, delving far back into the island's mind-boggling past at the nearby ruins of Ancient Salamis, Ancient Enkomi and the beautiful Church of Apostolos Varnavas. Then unplug from modern life with a journey up the Karpas Peninsula. On your way up the island's eastern tail, climb the ramparts of Kantara Castle and view the mosaic remnants of the Basilica of Agia Triada before basing yourself near teensy Dipkarpaz (Rizokarpaso) for some serious downtime soaking up the long swath of sand at Golden Beach (Nangomi Bay).

From here you could zoom back down to Larnaka to fly out, or turn west along Northern Cyprus' coast to Kyrenia.

Essential Northern Cyprus

  • 1 Week

Take a week to traverse the highlights of Northern Cyprus, capped by castles, scattered with lonely ruins and monuments and rimmed by beaches.

Make your first stop Kyrenia (Girne) to take in the old-fashioned Mediterranean vibe of this picturesque harbour town loomed over by a Byzantine castle. Base yourself here while you explore the Augustinian splendour of Bellapais Abbey just inland. Here you'll capture a sense of simple village life while meandering the narrow alleys which spindle up the hillside beyond. Afterwards take to the water to swim, fish and soak up coastal views with an afternoon aboard a gület (traditional wooden ship with raised bow).

Head west to the fairy-tale crumbled ramparts of St Hilarion Castle, where, if you puff your way up to St John's Tower, you'll be rewarded with vistas which can stretch all the way to Turkey's Taurus Mountains on a clear day. Then scoot coastwards to Lapta (Lapithos) for the night. From here, road-trip through the northwest, heading through citrus country with stops at the remarkable blue-toned frescos of Agios Mamas Church in Morfou (Güzelyurt) and the lonely coastal ruins of Ancient Soloi and scattered clifftop remnants of Ancient Vouni, before hitting the road to North Nicosia (Lefkoşa).

Take a full day to wind your way through North Nicosia's old-town alleys, checking out the layers of history preserved in the architecture of the Büyük Han and Selimiye Mosque, then scoot east, via the ruined towers of Buffavento Castle sitting high on a mountaintop, to Famagusta (Gazimağusa). Wander the crumbled remnants of Gothic glory of this once-mighty Lusignan stronghold and head even further back in time amid the vast ruins of Ancient Salamis just to the north. From here, take a drive up the remote Karpas Peninsula to enjoy the beaches and raw vistas all the way along this thin finger of land, capped by the lonely Monastery of Apostolos Andreas watching over the coast on the eastern tip. Spend the night in one of the peninsula's rustic hotels, then it's time to backtrack west towards Kyrenia, stopping at the golden sweep of Kaplıca beach and wild Alagadı Beach, with its official turtle-hatching program, along the way.