Cyprus is a whole unique island nation, the third largest island in the Mediterranean. Politically, it belongs to Europe, despite being only 100 km off the coast of Asia. The country is divided into two parts by the so-called Green Line: the south-southwestern Republic of Cyprus and the north-northeastern Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. This line, which also divides the capital, separates the area inhabited by the Greeks in the south and the area inhabited by the Turks in the north.
The south-southeastern part of the island, the Republic of Cyprus which is mainly inhabited by Greeks, is part of the European Union and therefore people can fly with an ID card to its two main airports in Larnaca and Paphos.
In recent years, Cyprus is not only a popular beach destination in the summer, but more and more often is chosen as a destination in the other months of the year as well. This is due to the fact that the temperature does not go below 10-15 degrees Celsius at any time of the year, and even in March, we can be lucky with 20-25 degrees, beautiful bright sunny days.
For those who do not go to Cyprus specifically for beaching, but rather to explore and roam the island, the spring / autumn period is definitely a better choice, even if a few rainy days come. Because in the summer, in the heat of up to 40 degrees, it is not the greatest pleasure to explore the island.
It is advisable to rent a car in Cyprus because transport between some places can be cumbersome and tedious without a car. There are buses, but in order to get to the beautiful natural attractions and other hidden places, it is definitely advisable to rent a car. Renting a car is not expensive. Based on personal experience, I recommend Regency Car Rentals. For us, renting a seven-seats car was 175 Euro for 7 days with airport pick-up and drop-off. They also offer full insurance at a very reasonable price, the so-called “ZERO Insurance Excess”. In our case, it was only a 35 Euro surcharge. And the highways are free, so there is no extra cost for them. (2019)
What is also important to mention here is that these cars are used a lot, so you don’t have to wait for a brand new salon-vehicle, but they still fit the purpose perfectly, and there was no problem with cleanliness either.
The ideal number of days to explore the island (Greek part) is about a week, and in order to avoid long hours in the car, it is worth booking 2 different accommodations and staying around Larnaca one half of the week and close to Paphos around the other half of the week. Both cities are full of hotels and Airbnb accommodations, so there is a large selection and you can be sure that you find an accommodation which suits your needs.
Below I present our itinerary broken down on a daily level, with the main attractions, but of course, the details and the order of the itinerary depend a lot on where you are booking the accommodation.
The main attractions of Cyprus, which are not to be missed, and which I will write about (as well) in more detail when presenting the detailed daily itineraries below:
Sea Caves (Day 1)
Kamara Tou Koraka Stone Arch (Day 1)
Kostol (Day 1)
Salt Lake, Flamingos (Day 2)
Nicosia, walk to the Turkish side (Day 2)
Chantara Falls (Day 3)
Kelefos Medieval Bridge (Day 3)
Archaeological Park - The Tombs of the Kings (Day 4)
Paphos Mosaics (Day 4)
Akamas Peninsula, Blue Lagoon (Day 5)
Avakas Gorge (Day 6)
Rock of Aphrodite (Day 7)
Day 1 - East coast of the island (belonging to the Greek part)
Ayia Napa is a popular tourist paradise because its surroundings are full of beautiful beaches and coves. In the summer, perhaps one of the most popular beaches is Nissi Beach, it is a very nice sandy beach. In many places, you can read that it is a white sandy beach, which however, does not fully reflect the reality. But whatever color the sand is, it’s a really nice beach.
One of the main symbols of the city is the Ayia Napa Monastery in the middle of the city. It is a tiny little monastery that can be visited freely, in front of which a giant, hundreds of years old tree makes the view even more beautiful.
As you approach the Green Line, in the direction of the Turkish part, a number of beautiful bays await tourists who are looking for quieter, less crowded beaches than Nissi Beach. These include Fig Tree Bay, Konnos Bay, Kalamies Beach and Sunrise Beach. For the latter, its name suggests, that it is the perfect venue for a sunrise walk.
As you come back from the Green Line to Cape Greco, make a short stop at Kostol, where you can walk down the parking lot on small stone stairs to discover a small cave formed by the sea.
For those who are not afraid of a short though steep hike, I recommend climbing the Monument of Peace, which is located on the highest prominent cliff in the area. From here you have a wonderful view of the southeast coast of the island.
After a bit of relaxation and admiration, the next stop, Sea Caves, is just a few minutes drive away.
Sea Caves were shaped by the wild waves of the sea. The road on the way there is not so smooth, in the end you have to go on a rocky-slag road for a while, but it's definitely worth the bumps, because it's a very nice and unique sight. A scarf comes in handy even in good weather because there is a very strong wind at the bay. No wonder, as there have to be huge waves that are able to carve such caves into the rocks.
Other nice spots of the southeast coast are the small rock bridges / arches.
One is near Kostol, the Kamara Tou Koraka Stone Arch and the other is the Love Bridge, not far from Ayia Napa.
Day 2 - Larnaca, flamingos and Nicosia, the halved capital
Larnaca’s city center is tiny, easy to walk around.
If you arrive by car, you have to look for a parking lot in the small streets, where there is a vending machine for every 2 parking spaces, which does not issue a note, but if you throw in a coin, then it starts counting down from two hours, and the small machine shows that until how many minutes/hours more is the parking still paid on the left and on the right side of the machine.
The church of Agios Lazaros is located in the main square. From the outside, it is very friendly but worth going in and seeing the interior splendor with its gilded decoration.
There are many small candy shops around the main square, where tourists can enjoy a tasting of small colored jelly cubes like the Turkish Delight. However, the vendors don’t look at people kindly when they hear the name Turkish Delight, because it’s a local sweet from Cyprus, even though it’s almost the same thing as Turkish Delight.
After a walk in the downtown, it is also worth taking a short walk down to the beach.
After that, don't miss Salt Lake, just a few minutes drive from Larnaca. It is a very beautiful area, surrounded by wildflowers, the main attractions of it are the local flamingos. From far away you can see the pink spots in the lake.
The flamingos’ natural home is the Salt Lake and its surroundings.
Driving a little further, moving away from the main road, you reach Hala Sultan Tekke, which is a small mosque on the lake shore with a proper little garden and carpeted prayer room.
Next stop is perhaps one of the most unique experiences in Cyprus, namely a visit to the capital. This is a unique experience because the Green Line, which divides the island into two, goes through Nicosia, which means that one half belongs to the Greek Republic of Cyprus - which is a member of the European Union, so EU citizens can travel here with an identity card, but the other half of Nicosia belongs to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus which, in principle, can only be entered with a passport.
Nicosia, on the other hand, has a pedestrian border crossing where both locals and tourists can cross to the Turkish side without a passport. Of course, everyone is strictly checked, they ask for documents, so for tourists, this little getaway is more like a short little sightseeing on the other side, or a roam of the traditional Turkish bazaars and the Ataturk Square.
Personally, for me it was a great experience that we could walk to practically another country. This is not possible in many places, especially not in the middle of a capital. :)
Apart from that, there was no other very big attraction in Nicosia, the coastal part of Cyprus is much more interesting, more beautiful and more spectacular, but I think this experience is worth a half-day getaway. When you head back to shore, it’s worth taking a turn to the Great Mosque and at least admiring it from the car.
Day 3 - Troodos Mountains
As there are many beautiful places and natural wonders in the Troodos Mountains, it is worth taking a day for this. It is relatively far from the coast, so it is advisable to visit the area at once. There are many beautiful waterfalls in the area.
If you drive up from the south, from Limassol to Troodos, the first, southernmost waterfall is Trimiklini Falls. Even though it is one of the smallest, they charge 5 Euro per person as an entrance fee. I do not recommend that you pay for this, because driving a little further you will find several other more beautiful and larger waterfalls for nature lovers.
Millomeris Falls is as follows. Here we followed the instructions on Google Maps, but probably the sign on the road should have been followed, because we didn’t end up at the waterfall, but on a very nice hiking trail where we walked along a river between huge cliffs. It was a very nice path and the sight fully compensated us.
Next waterfall is Caledonia Falls. It is also shown by signs along the way, you have to park your car there and then the hike to the waterfall can begin.
The last major waterfall in the area is Chantara Waterfall. After a lot of walks and hikes, it is good that at this waterfall you can drive until the waterfall. In the end, the road is quite bad, but only the last ~ 1 km is very bumpy, but it is definitely worth the ride. There is a staircase to the right of the waterfall, if you walk up that, you can see the continuation of the waterfall from there.
After admiring the waterfalls of the Troodos Mountains, you can still drive to the Kykkos Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, on the way to the accommodation.
At the foot of the mountains is the Kelefos medieval bridge, which I definitely recommend you to visit. Very nice and unique bridge. I think it's the perfect end to the day.
If you book the accommodation as I recommended at the beginning, so half the nights around Larnaca and the other half in Paphos, it is worth visiting the above presented sights from the accommodation in Larnaca and the following places from the accommodation in Paphos. And it’s a good idea to schedule the shift between the two accommodations on the day when you visit Troodos Mountains. So in the morning of that day, you leave the 1st hotel and you go and visit the Troodos Mountains and then in the evening, you arrive at the next accommodation. This will save you a lot of driving. :)
On the map it doesn’t seem to be a very long distance, but it’s deceptive because the road is full of serpentines. The highest point of the Troodos Mountains is ~ 2000 meters above sea level. Thus, it is even possible in Cyprus to ski and then swim in the Mediterranean within an hour.
Day 4 - Paphos
Paphos is perhaps one of the most touristic cities in the Greek part of Cyprus. It is a really nice neighborhood and there are a lot of leisure activities in the area. One of the city's biggest attractions is the Archaeological Park - The Tombs of the Kings, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980. The huge outdoor park is mostly from Roman times, from the period between the B.C. 4th century and the Middle Ages. You can admire the remaining ruins, monuments, and the famous Paphos Mosaics. Or at the Odeon Amphitheater, you can try the incredibly good acoustics of old theaters.
For lovers of history, this is definitely a major attraction. After exploring the park, discovering the underground catacombs and, of course, admiring the beautiful precise mosaics, take a walk along the beach or admire the castle of Paphos at the harbor.
During the beach walk, you might come across specialties that are completely natural for the locals but they will be big deals for you.
For example, squid that is just firing its ink, or e.g. big green turtles popping up in the sea along the coast.
For a special sunset, the best choice is to visit the MV Demetrios II Shipwreck.
Day 5 - Akamas Peninsula
The Akamas Peninsula is a national park in the northwestern tip of Cyprus. If you have the time, you should definitely organize a day trip here. There are many opportunities to explore the peninsula: for example, you can rent quads, buggies, jeeps, but of course, you can also walk the northern coast of the peninsula with a long 11km walk. There is a dirt road all the way, in principle it is not possible to enter by car. But it is better this way, because hikers aren’t bothered by the constant car traffic.
The tour is very varied, there are sections where the road leads well above sea level, then you reach the sea level, beautiful bays, rocks, and at the end of the tour the Blue Lagoon awaits the persistent hikers in all its splendor.
You have to go back on the same road to the car park all the way to the bath of Aphrodité, and if you are lucky, you will also see goats grazing freely, climbing trees, running in front of you along the way.
On the way back to Paphos, it is worth stopping at the small seaside port of Latsi for a short walk.
Day 6 - North of Paphos: Avakas Gorge, Lara Beach
One of the most special natural wonders of Cyprus is Avakas Gorge and its surroundings, just 20km north of Paphos.
This beautiful 3 km long canyon was dug by a river in the middle of a several meters high limestone wall. In some parts, the canyon is very narrow, and after rainy weather, it proves to be a very difficult hike due to slipperiness and water obstacles. But anyone who is not afraid of the challenge or is in good shape should not miss this natural wonder. On the other hand, I don't recommend this path for seniors, or those with spatiality and those who already have a hard time jumping and balancing, because there are quite difficult sections where you have to jump over big rocks, for example, while the river is rushing under you.
A hiking stick is a great help, especially in these critical sections!
And those who persevere and do not give up, arrive at this miracle:
If there wasn’t enough excitement for a day, head on to the northwestern tip of the island, all the way to Lara Beach. A very adventurous dirt road leads there, and this destination is not recommended for less experienced drivers. In this case, it is worth considering the insurance of the car, because it is possible that the car rental stipulates that if something goes wrong on the dirt road section, the insurance is not valid for that. But if you decide to take the risk, you can drive all the way to Lara Beach, which is special because this is where green turtles lay their eggs in early summer and after a few months the baby turtles hatch and set off towards the big sea.
Of course, then the nesting place is closed for tourists, but you can go swimming to another area. Unfortunately, when we were there, the beach was very dirty.
On the way back to Paphos is a beautiful sunset place on the Edro III Shipwreck shipwreck.
Day 7 - Paphos-Larnaca southern coast
This day was more like a return to the airport for us, spiced up with a few super attractions such as the Rock of Aphrodite, the banana plantations, Limassol and the must-try Cypriot Meze.