The eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus is popular for a reason. With its hot, sunny climate, long coastline and EU and Eurozone membership (in the south and west of the island, at least), its beaches fill during the summer months with work-weary tourists wanting nothing more than to stretch out in the sun.
But there is so much more to see in Cyprus than just the beachfront strips and tourist resorts. The island has a rich cultural heritage, and a wealth of historic sites to discover. This itinerary will take you off the beaten track to discover some of the best Cyprus excursions, in a 5 day trip which is particularly pleasant in the mild winter months. If you are visiting in summer, make sure to wear a hat and carry plenty of water, as some sites have little shade.
Day 1: Larnaca
On day one, you will arrive in Cyprus. The Republic of Cyprus has two main airports, one at Larnaca in the east and the other at Paphos in the west.
Day 2: Explore Larnaca, then head to Cape Greco for a clifftop hike
The city of Larnaca can be busy in high season, but in the winter you can wander the quaint streets in relative solitude. Most restaurants and cafes offer a traditional Cypriot coffee and fresh seafood with a beach view.
Check out the Church of St Lazarus, as well as Larnaca Castle and the Larnaca Salt Flats, where flamingos gather in the salty water.
After lunch, drive to the far eastern end of the island to Cape Greco (Cavo Greco). The drive will take you through the British army base of Dhekelia – no documentation is required, although there is nowhere you will be allowed to stop. Head to Konnos Beach, where there is a lovely walk south along the cliffs to sea caves and a small church. Finish your day by heading on south to Cape Greco itself, to watch the sun set over the Mediterranean.
Day 3: Nicosia
On day 3, head inland for an hour to the capital Nicosia, one of the must-see Cyprus destinations.
Day 4: Choirokoitia, Limassol and Kourion
On day 4, check out of your Larnaca accommodation and head west. The first stop, around 30 minutes from Larnaca, is the UNESCO World Heritage site of Choirokoitia. This Neolithic settlement dates from the 7th to 4th centuries BC, and is a fascinating visit. Be prepared for some uneven steps, although those with mobility issues will find plenty to see at valley level too.
From Choirokoitia, keep driving to the southern city of Limassol. On the way, make sure to stop off and enjoy the lush green countryside; there are plenty of walks to be had in this area. In Limassol, take a break for lunch at one of the restaurants that are open at this time of year, visit Limassol Castle, or take a stroll along the Promenade before heading on.
Your final stop of the day is the Roman city of Kourion, just a half-hour drive west of Limassol. You should ideally plan to spend a couple of hours here, and if you have extra days on the island you could make this a separate trip from Paphos. Kourion is a full Roman city, lovingly excavated and preserved. Check out beautiful mosaics, an amphitheatre and the Forum, among others, all with a spectacular clifftop setting. From Kourion, it is less than 1 hour’s drive to the western city of Paphos.
Day 5: Paphos
Paphos in summer is a tourist resort, but in winter it is peaceful enough to truly enjoy its treasures. The marina and castle are certainly worth a visit, but the jewels of the city are the Tombs of the Kings and the Paphos Archeological Park.
The Tombs of the Kings, towards the north of the city, are exactly what they suggest – huge burial chambers dating from the Hellenistic and Roman periods. It’s possible to enter many of the excavated tombs, and the whole site will take your breath away.
Head back into Paphos town centre for a seafood lunch by the harbour before your next stop.
The Kato Paphos Archaeological Park, located right by the harbour, is a Roman settlement with one of the most incredible collections of mosaics anywhere in the world. A walk around the park will take you right back in time as you marvel at the heritage; many of the mosaics are undercover, which is perfect if the weather is not the greatest!
After your day exploring Paphos’s history, you might consider heading north up the coast to visit the Baths of Aphrodite; but if, like me, you are catching a late flight, there is one more Cyprus travel stop on the way to the airport. Aphrodite’s Rock is steeped in legend; often marked on signposts as Petra tou Romiou, it is believed to be the birthplace of the goddess herself. It is slightly further down the coast from the airport, but only a short detour; from the car park, cross under the road to a rocky beach with a spectacular view of the waves breaking around the rock itself.
If you have more days to spend on your Cyprus vacation, you could consider heading up into the Troodos Mountains for snowy weather and the chance to ski. The Troodos Mountains are best added between Limassol and Paphos.
Another option is to head into North Cyprus to explore the country’s Turkish region. Note that, while you can take rental car from the Republic of Cyprus into the North, you will not be insured; far better, then, to hire a new car north of the border, or use public transport.
Safe and relaxing Cyprus holiday
With Covid-19 now present in our lives, whenever we think about holidays, we have to think twice about safety. We have to make sure that we all remain healthy during vacations and return safe at home.
Many people prefer holiday homes because they are private and share no common spaces with other guests, such as receptions, elevators, restaurants, bars or pool areas. This simple fact makes villas a safer place for your family holidays. Therefore, you can enjoy all the relaxation you need in absolute safety.
Whether you are a villa holiday pro or never considered one before, make 2021 or 2022 the year of the villa holiday – when the world of resort and hotel holidays seem a bit uncertain, you can be sure a stay in a villa will be ten times safer (and more enjoyable, to be honest!).