Yes, you could just head to the beach. But there's so much more to see once you venture away from the shore. History buffs can ponder big-hitter archaeological sites around Famagusta (Gazimağusa), Pafos and Lemesos, a trove of fresco finery in the Troödos and mountaintop castles in the North. While the ridiculously underrated divided capital of Nicosia (Lefkosia) and North Nicosia (Lefkoşa) serve up architectural gems from multiple eras and contemporary culture in equal measure.
On both sides of the Green Line there are vast opportunities for outdoor pursuits, from paragliding off a peak near Kyrenia (Girne) to exploring a cargo-ship carcass on a wreck dive in Larnaka Bay. From a rural retreat in the Karpas Peninsula to easy-breezy holiday fun in Protaras, this island may be small in stature but it punches well above its weight.
Lemesos & the South
Into the Past
Ancient Kourion is the star archaeological site with views as majestic as its past. Nearby Kolossi is a doll's house of a castle. Lemesos has Ancient Amathous on its doorstep plus its own fortress, slap in the centre of town.
Lemesos is famed for its innovative culinary scene, particularly in and around the historic centre. Check out the expertly renovated Old Carob Mill, home to some seriously urban-chic dining choices.
Life in the Foothills
Some of the region’s prettiest villages lie near Lemesos in the foothills of the Troödos Mountains. Enjoy picturesque cobbled streets, traditional architecture and atmospheric tavernas, as well as fascinating monasteries tucked away in the hills.
The Troödos is hiking heaven with an ever-expanding number of signposted nature trails, whether you're looking for an easy half-hour ramble to a tumbling waterfall, or tackling the climb to Mt Olympus' peak.
The vivid frescos decorating the churches hidden within these hills are an artistic triumph of late Byzantium. Their unique state of preservation, with a clarity of detail and colour that has remained largely unchanged for centuries, makes them one of the world's most important collections of Byzantine art.
Cycling, birdwatching, horse riding, or just road-tripping the villages – this region’s appeal lies in its lack of commercialism, compounded by its natural beauty.
Pafos & the West
Sun & Surf
Pafos is all about easygoing sun-and-sand resort fun. For full facilities with beach bar on hand, stick close to town. Or head away from the crowds on the Akamas Peninsula where you'll find stretches of sand without a sun lounger in sight.
Off the sand, the haul of mosaics at the Pafos Archaeological Site should be your first stop but don’t make it your only one; there are tombs, catacombs and a castle too.
For a glimpse of untamed Cyprus, head out on a hike in the Akamas Peninsula, visit the villages in the western foothills or wonder at the towering trees in the bucolic Cedar Valley.
Larnaka & the East
West and east of Agia Napa you'll find some of the prettiest sweeps of golden sand Cyprus can offer. This is serious sand-between-your-toes country for the beach connoisseur.
In, On & Under the Sea
One of the world’s top-five diving wrecks is just off the coast at Larnaka. Kayaking and snorkelling are the best ways to get up-close-and-personal with Cape Greco's sea caves, plus there are boat rides, windsurfing and kiteboarding…or you could just go for a swim.
When rural retreats beckon, head for the hills. Sample traditional life with cobblestone-alley strolls and local produce shopping (including that famous lace) amid the tiny villages of Vavla, Lefkara and Kato Drys.
Museums & Galleries
From Bronze Age archaeological finds to modern art installations, Nicosia is the cultural heartbeat of the island. The Cyprus Museum and the Byzantine Museum host a swag of riches while a bundle of small, private museums walk you through Cypriot history 101.
Contemporary Cafe Life
Street life is big in Nicosia thanks to a vibrant cafe-culture. Independent art spaces create a buzz and once the sun goes down this tiny capital punches far above its weight in a nightlife scene.
Dining out is a way of life. This is a foodie city with everything from rustic homestyle tavernas to industrial-chic-styled bistros serving up modern-Med menus.
North Nicosia (Lefkoşa)
The city is studded with buildings that peel back the layers of Cypriot history. The Selimiye Mosque was once a Gothic cathedral and the Büyük Han showcases typical Ottoman caravanserai style. The British colonial law courts still stand and fulfil their original use today.
Watch the dervishes whirl, get a rub-a-dub scrub down in an old hammam, or simply sit down with a çay (tea) and watch the city at work.
Walks through Eras
Wander meandering alleyways towards the eastern walls to spot Ottoman houses slouching into ruins. Twist your way through Arabahmet for some of the best-preserved townhouses on either side of the Green Line.
Kyrenia (Girne) & the North
Fortress central. Run rampant on the ramparts at Kyrenia’s castle, soak up the ruined glory atop the lonely crag of Buffavento and spiral your way up seemingly never-ending stairs to the very top of mighty St Hilarion Castle.
For wild deserted beaches head for the coastal tip of Koruçam, while just west and east of Kyrenia there are more stretches of sand, including Alagadı Beach, one of the Mediterranean’s prime turtle-nesting spots.
The Kyrenia Mountain Trail is an epic hike threading through the entire North, but if that's a little too rugged, the Kyrenia Range has plenty of day-hiking options offering sweeping coastal views.
Famagusta (Gazimağusa) & the Karpas Peninsula
The Karpas Peninsula is Cyprus at its most remote. The beaches are wonderfully wild, intrepid hikers and cyclists can bask in empty, rugged trails and during spring rare orchids and wildflowers bloom across the rolling hills.
Ramble through thick weeds between marbled Roman baths, toppled churches and temple ruins. Ancient Salamis is one of the island’s prime and most extensive archaeological sites and the most significant of the 10 ancient city-kingdoms in Cyprus.
Once seen, never forgotten, the historical centre of Famagusta is an extraordinary landscape of Frankish and Venetian ruins, with gap-toothed frontages and looming facades.