Cyprus Travel Guide – Everything You Need to Know

Cyprus, the third-largest island in the Mediterranean, is a captivating destination that seamlessly blends ancient history, stunning natural beauty, and modern comforts. Renowned for its sunny climate, Cyprus offers travelers a unique experience with its picturesque beaches, archaeological treasures, and vibrant culture. Whether you’re interested in exploring ancient ruins, relaxing on sun-kissed shores, or indulging in delectable Mediterranean cuisine, Cyprus has something for every type of traveler.

What’s the Best Time to Visit? 📅

The best time to visit Cyprus as a tourist depends on your preferences and the type of experience you’re seeking. Cyprus enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Here are the different seasons and what to expect during each:

  1. Spring (March to May): Spring is a wonderful time to visit Cyprus. The weather is pleasantly warm, and the countryside is in full bloom with wildflowers. It’s an ideal season for outdoor activities, exploring historical sites, and hiking in the Troodos Mountains.
  2. Summer (June to August): Summer is the high tourist season in Cyprus. The weather is hot and dry, making it perfect for beach lovers. The coastal areas, especially Ayia Napa and Limassol, come alive with various water sports, festivals, and vibrant nightlife. However, it can get crowded and more expensive during this time.
  3. Autumn (September to November): Autumn is another excellent time to visit Cyprus, as the weather is still warm and the sea is at its most pleasant temperature for swimming. The crowds thin out, and prices become more budget-friendly. It’s a great time for outdoor activities, exploring ancient ruins, and enjoying cultural events.
  4. Winter (December to February): Winter in Cyprus is mild, with some rain and cool temperatures, especially in the coastal areas. However, it’s a great time to explore the cities, visit archaeological sites, and enjoy traditional Cypriot cuisine. The Troodos Mountains may receive snow, making it a destination for winter sports.

In summary, the best time to visit Cyprus for beachgoers and water sports enthusiasts is during the summer. If you prefer milder weather, fewer crowds, and the opportunity to explore the island’s rich history and culture, consider spring or autumn. Winter is ideal for those interested in mountain activities and a more relaxed pace. Choose the season that aligns with your interests to make the most of your trip to Cyprus.

What’s the Best Way to Get Around? 🚌

Getting around Cyprus as a tourist is relatively easy, thanks to a well-developed transportation system. Here are the best ways to get around the island:

  1. Rent a Car: Renting a car is one of the most convenient and flexible ways to explore Cyprus. Most major car rental companies have offices at the airports and in major cities. Be sure to have an international driver’s license if your regular license is not in English or Greek.
  2. Public Buses: Cyprus has an extensive public bus system, particularly in major cities like Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaca, and Paphos. Buses are an affordable way to get around. The buses are modern and air-conditioned, and they connect many towns and tourist destinations. Check the local bus schedule for routes and timetables.
  3. Interurban Buses: Interurban buses are a good way to travel between major cities and tourist destinations. These buses offer comfortable and affordable transportation.
  4. Taxis: Taxis are readily available in cities and tourist areas. They are generally safe and reliable but can be more expensive than public transportation. Make sure the taxi has a working meter, or agree on a fare before starting your journey.
  5. Bicycles and Scooters: Many tourists opt for renting bicycles or scooters, especially in coastal areas. Cyprus offers scenic routes and bike paths. Just ensure you wear a helmet and adhere to traffic rules.
  6. Walking: Cyprus is a great destination for walking. Most cities and towns have well-preserved historical areas and pedestrian zones. Walking is an ideal way to explore ancient ruins, old towns, and picturesque neighborhoods.
  7. Tours and Excursions: Consider joining guided tours or excursions to explore specific areas or historical sites. Many tour operators offer day trips to attractions and activities, including archaeological sites and boat tours.
  8. Ferries: To visit the northern part of Cyprus (the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus), you can take a ferry from the southern part (the Republic of Cyprus). Be aware that you’ll need to go through border controls when crossing between the two parts.
  9. Private Transfers: Some tourists prefer private airport transfers or private drivers for their convenience and comfort. These can be arranged through hotels or booking agencies.

Remember that in Cyprus, driving is on the left side of the road, and road signs are in both Greek and English. Take into account the season, your preferences, and the locations you plan to visit when choosing your mode of transportation. Regardless of how you choose to get around, Cyprus offers a diverse range of experiences waiting to be explored.

What’s the Official Language?

The official languages of Cyprus are Greek and Turkish. The majority of the population in the Republic of Cyprus speaks Greek, while in the northern part of the island (the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus), Turkish is predominantly spoken.

Here are some useful Greek and Turkish phrases for tourists in Cyprus:

Greek Phrases:

  1. Hello – Γειά σας (Yia sas)
  2. Thank you – Ευχαριστώ (Efcharistó)
  3. Yes – Ναι (Ne)
  4. No – Όχι (Óchi)
  5. Please – Παρακαλώ (Parakaló)
  6. Excuse me – Συγγνώμη (Signómi)
  7. Good morning – Καλημέρα (Kaliméra)
  8. Good evening – Καλησπέρα (Kalispéra)
  9. Goodbye – Αντίο (Adió)
  10. How much is this? – Πόσο κοστίζει αυτό; (Póso kostízei aftó?)
  11. I need help – Χρειάζομαι βοήθεια (Chriázomai voítheia)

Turkish Phrases:

  1. Hello – Merhaba
  2. Thank you – Teşekkür ederim
  3. Yes – Evet
  4. No – Hayır
  5. Please – Lütfen
  6. Excuse me – Affedersiniz
  7. Good morning – Günaydın
  8. Good evening – İyi akşamlar
  9. Goodbye – Hoşça kal
  10. How much is this? – Bu ne kadar?
  11. I need help – Yardım istiyorum

While many Cypriots working in the tourist industry speak English, using a few basic Greek or Turkish phrases can be appreciated by the locals and enhance your travel experience. Most signage and menus in tourist areas are also bilingual in Greek and English, making it easier for tourists to navigate.

Where to Stay? 🏨

Cyprus offers a wide range of accommodation options for tourists, catering to various preferences and budgets. Here are some popular places to stay in Cyprus:

  1. Hotels: Cyprus has a plethora of hotels, ranging from luxury resorts to budget-friendly options. Major cities like Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaca, and Paphos have a variety of hotels, many of which are located near the coast.
  2. Beach Resorts: The coastal areas, especially in cities like Paphos and Limassol, are home to numerous beachfront resorts and all-inclusive hotels. These are perfect for travelers looking for a luxurious and relaxing seaside experience.
  3. Holiday Villas: Cyprus offers a range of holiday villas, particularly in areas like Paphos and Ayia Napa. Renting a villa can be an excellent choice for families or groups, as it provides privacy and a homely atmosphere.
  4. Guesthouses and Bed & Breakfasts: In smaller towns and villages, you can find guesthouses and B&Bs, which offer a more personal and local experience. These are often family-run and can provide insights into Cypriot culture.
  5. Agritourism and Eco-Friendly Stays: For a unique experience, consider staying at agritourism properties or eco-friendly accommodations in rural areas. These offer a taste of traditional Cypriot life and the chance to explore the countryside.
  6. Hostels: Budget travelers can find hostels in cities like Nicosia and Larnaca. They’re an affordable option for solo travelers and backpackers.
  7. Camping and Caravanning: Cyprus has several campgrounds and caravan sites, particularly in the Troodos Mountains and along the coast. Camping is a great way to connect with nature.
  8. Airbnb and Vacation Rentals: Many locals rent out their apartments, houses, or rooms through platforms like Airbnb. This can be an excellent choice for those seeking a more independent and local experience.
  9. Traditional Stone Houses: In villages like Lofou and Omodos, you can find charming, traditional stone houses converted into guest accommodations, offering a unique and historical stay.
  10. Monasteries: Some monasteries on the island provide accommodations for travelers, offering a serene and spiritually enriching experience.

It’s advisable to book your accommodation in advance, especially during the peak tourist season in summer, to ensure availability and potentially secure better rates. The choice of where to stay in Cyprus depends on your interests, budget, and the kind of experience you’re seeking, whether it’s a beachfront resort, a historic village, or a bustling city.

What to Eat? 🍽️

Cyprus boasts a rich culinary tradition with a blend of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors. When visiting Cyprus as a tourist, be sure to try these must-try Cypriot dishes and delicacies:

  1. Halloumi: Cyprus is renowned for its halloumi cheese, which is often grilled or fried and served with fresh bread and vegetables. It’s a delicious and iconic Cypriot food.
  2. Souvlaki: This is a classic Cypriot fast food. Souvlaki consists of small skewers of marinated and grilled meat (often pork or chicken) served in pita bread with salad and tahini or yogurt-based sauces.
  3. Meze: Meze is a delightful way to savor a variety of Cypriot dishes. It’s a spread of small dishes, including olives, hummus, taramasalata, stuffed vine leaves, and grilled meats. It’s a social and flavorful experience.
  4. Kleftiko: Kleftiko is a traditional Cypriot dish of slow-cooked lamb or goat. The meat is often marinated with garlic, lemon, and herbs, then sealed in an oven to cook to perfection.
  5. Moussaka: Similar to its Greek counterpart, Cypriot moussaka consists of layers of minced meat (often beef or lamb), eggplant, and a creamy béchamel sauce. It’s a comforting dish.
  6. Tahini: Cyprus is known for its high-quality tahini, which is a sesame seed paste. It’s often used in dips, dressings, and desserts.
  7. Cyprus Delight (Loukoumi): This sweet treat is made from sugar and starch, flavored with rosewater or other essences, and often topped with powdered sugar or nuts.
  8. Cypriot Wine: Cyprus has a long history of winemaking. Sample local wines, such as Commandaria (a sweet dessert wine) and dry reds like Maratheftiko.
  9. Fresh Seafood: With its coastal location, Cyprus offers an abundance of fresh seafood. Try grilled fish, calamari, and octopus dishes at coastal restaurants.
  10. Cyprus Coffee: Enjoy a strong and aromatic cup of Cyprus coffee, similar to Turkish coffee, often served with a small glass of water.
  11. Pastelli: A traditional Cypriot sweet made from honey and sesame seeds, pastelli is a crunchy and flavorful treat.
  12. Cyprus Sausages: Local sausages, like sheftalia (pork sausages wrapped in caul fat) and lountza (smoked pork loin), are flavorful and often served with pita bread.

When dining in Cyprus, it’s common to enjoy a long and leisurely meal, so take your time and savor the local flavors. Be sure to pair your meal with a glass of local wine or a traditional Cyprus coffee to complete your culinary experience.

What to See? 🔍

Cyprus is a treasure trove of natural beauty, historical sites, and cultural attractions. Here are some must-see places for tourists in Cyprus:

  1. Paphos Archaeological Park: This UNESCO World Heritage Site in Paphos features well-preserved Roman villas with intricate mosaics, the Odeon amphitheater, and the Tombs of the Kings.
  2. Troodos Mountains: Explore the stunning Troodos range, which offers opportunities for hiking, visiting traditional villages, and admiring Byzantine churches with exquisite frescoes, including the Kykkos Monastery.
  3. Akamas Peninsula: This rugged and pristine area in western Cyprus is perfect for nature enthusiasts. Discover diverse flora and fauna, hike along scenic trails, and take a boat trip from Latchi to explore the coastline.
  4. Kyrenia (Girne) Castle: Located in the northern part of Cyprus, this well-preserved castle boasts a museum, panoramic views, and a unique shipwreck museum housing the remains of an ancient ship.
  5. Limassol Old Town: Wander through the charming old town of Limassol, where you can explore historic buildings, visit the Limassol Castle, and enjoy the vibrant arts and cultural scene.
  6. Nicosia’s Old City: The capital city’s historic center is surrounded by Venetian walls and filled with museums, mosques, and markets. Don’t miss the opportunity to cross the Green Line and visit the buffer zone between the Greek and Turkish parts of the city.
  7. Cape Greco: Located near Ayia Napa, this national park offers striking coastal scenery with sea caves, cliffs, and crystal-clear waters. It’s a great spot for hiking, swimming, and photography.
  8. Larnaca Salt Lake: Visit this natural wonder, which is known for its flamingo population during the winter months. It’s a unique spot for birdwatching and scenic walks.
  9. St. Hilarion Castle: This fairy-tale castle in the Kyrenia Mountains provides stunning views and is rumored to have inspired Walt Disney in creating the castle in “Snow White.”
  10. Ayia Napa: Known for its vibrant nightlife, Ayia Napa also offers beautiful beaches, such as Nissi Beach, and the fascinating Ayia Napa Sculpture Park.
  11. Hala Sultan Tekke: Located near Larnaca Salt Lake, this is one of the holiest Islamic sites in Cyprus, and its serene setting is perfect for reflection and photography.
  12. Kourion: This ancient city on the southern coast boasts well-preserved Greco-Roman ruins, including a theater, a Roman villa, and a stunning sea view.

These are just a few of the many attractions Cyprus has to offer. Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or coastal beauty, Cyprus provides a diverse range of experiences for tourists to enjoy.

What to Do? 📸

Cyprus offers a wide range of activities and experiences for tourists. Here are some must-do things to make the most of your trip to this beautiful island:

  1. Relax on Beautiful Beaches: Cyprus boasts numerous gorgeous beaches along its coast. Whether you’re in Ayia Napa, Limassol, or Paphos, take time to unwind and swim in the crystal-clear waters.
  2. Explore Historical Sites: Cyprus is rich in history. Visit archaeological sites, including ancient Greek and Roman ruins, Byzantine churches, and medieval castles like Kolossi Castle and Kyrenia Castle.
  3. Enjoy Meze and Local Cuisine: Savor Cypriot cuisine by trying meze, a spread of traditional dishes. Don’t miss out on halloumi cheese, souvlaki, and fresh seafood.
  4. Wine Tasting: Discover the island’s wine culture by visiting wineries and sampling Cypriot wines, such as Commandaria and Maratheftiko.
  5. Hiking in Troodos Mountains: Explore the Troodos range with its picturesque trails, waterfalls, and traditional mountain villages. The Caledonia Trail is a popular choice.
  6. Take a Boat Trip: Enjoy a boat trip along the coast to visit sea caves, secluded beaches, or take a sunset cruise. Trips depart from various locations, including Ayia Napa and Paphos.
  7. Diving and Snorkeling: The clear waters of Cyprus offer excellent diving and snorkeling opportunities. The Zenobia shipwreck near Larnaca is a famous dive site.
  8. Birdwatching: Cyprus is a stopover for migratory birds. Visit Larnaca Salt Lake or Akrotiri Salt Lake during the winter months to observe flamingos and other bird species.
  9. Visit the Buffer Zone: In Nicosia, take a guided tour of the buffer zone that separates the Greek and Turkish parts of the city, and gain insights into the island’s complex history.
  10. Attend Local Festivals: Experience Cypriot culture by attending traditional festivals, such as the Limassol Carnival or the Ayia Napa Medieval Festival.
  11. Cross the Green Line: If you’re interested in the island’s political history, take a day trip to visit the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and explore cities like Kyrenia and Famagusta.
  12. Mountain Biking: The Troodos Mountains offer excellent terrain for mountain biking. Rent a bike and explore the scenic trails.
  13. Adventure Sports: For the more adventurous, try paragliding, jet skiing, or quad biking at various coastal destinations.
  14. Golfing: Cyprus has several golf courses with stunning views. Aphrodite Hills and Minthis Hills are popular options.
  15. Shop for Handmade Crafts: Visit local markets and shops to purchase traditional Cypriot crafts, including lacework, pottery, and silverware.
  16. Enjoy Traditional Entertainment: Experience traditional Cypriot music and dance performances in local tavernas or during cultural festivals.

These activities provide a diverse and memorable experience for tourists in Cyprus. Depending on your interests, you can tailor your trip to focus on history, nature, relaxation, or adventure.

Culture and Safety 🦺

When traveling to Cyprus as a tourist, it’s important to be aware of the local culture and take steps to ensure your safety. Here are some tips on both aspects:

Culture:

  1. Respect Local Customs: Cypriot culture is influenced by both Greek and Turkish traditions. Respect local customs, such as greeting with a handshake and addressing people by their titles.
  2. Tipping: Tipping is customary in Cyprus. In restaurants, it’s common to leave a tip of around 10% to 15% of the bill. You can also tip taxi drivers and hotel staff.
  3. Dress Modestly: While Cyprus is generally relaxed when it comes to dress code, it’s a good idea to dress modestly when visiting religious sites, including covering your shoulders and knees.
  4. Language: English is widely spoken and understood, particularly in tourist areas. Learning a few basic Greek or Turkish phrases can be appreciated, but it’s not essential.
  5. Respect Religious Sites: Cyprus has many Orthodox Christian churches and mosques. When visiting these places, be respectful and dress appropriately. Women should cover their heads in Orthodox churches.

Safety:

  1. Crime: Cyprus is generally a safe destination for tourists. However, like in any other place, be mindful of your belongings, avoid displaying valuable items in public, and be cautious in crowded areas.
  2. Health and Safety: Cyprus has a good healthcare system. Make sure you have travel insurance, and carry any necessary medications with you. The emergency number for medical assistance is 112.
  3. Traffic: If you plan to rent a car, be aware that driving is on the left side of the road. Follow traffic rules, and watch out for occasional aggressive drivers. Seat belts are mandatory, and the use of mobile phones while driving is prohibited.
  4. Water Safety: Cyprus has beautiful beaches, but be cautious of strong currents. Pay attention to warning flags and signs at beaches, and avoid swimming alone in remote areas.
  5. Emergency Services: The general emergency number in Cyprus is 112. For police assistance, dial 112. For fire or ambulance services, also dial 112.
  6. Currency Exchange: Use official exchange offices or ATMs to obtain local currency. Be cautious of unscrupulous money changers.
  7. Cultural Awareness: The island is divided, with the Republic of Cyprus in the south and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in the north. Crossing between the two sides can be sensitive, so be aware of political and cultural nuances.
  8. COVID-19 Precautions: Stay informed about local COVID-19 regulations and health protocols. Check if there are any specific requirements for entry into Cyprus, such as testing or quarantine.

By respecting local culture and taking basic safety precautions, you can have a pleasant and trouble-free experience in Cyprus. As always, it’s a good idea to stay updated on the latest travel advisories and guidelines from your government or relevant authorities before your trip.

Conclusion

As you bid farewell to Cyprus, you’ll take with you memories of breathtaking sunsets over the Mediterranean, the warmth of the Cypriot people, and the taste of traditional meze and local wines. This enchanting island offers a rich tapestry of experiences, from historic sites like Kourion and Paphos to the lively atmosphere of Limassol’s old town and the serene tranquility of Troodos Mountains. Cyprus is not just a destination; it’s a journey through time and culture, leaving you with a sense of wonder and the desire to return to this charming island in the Mediterranean.