Cyprus — Attractions
History and stunning natural beauty are highlights of Cyprus, with plenty to see and do on a break from the beach. Attractions and landmarks span several thousands of years, forming a timeline of the island’s natural and man-made heritage. Blessed with some of the oldest Orthodox churches in the Mediterranean region, stunning crusader castles and glorious Venetian Renaissance architecture, the island is a haven for history buffs, and its magnificent, unspoiled landscapes are perfect for eco-tourists.
Ancient tradition marks this unique offshore rock formation as the birthplace of Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love and fertility. Born from the waves and daughter of Zeus and the water-nymph Dione, the goddess glided to shore on a conch shell blown by the gentle winds of the Zephyrs. Her birth was immortalized in Western art by Botticelli in his ‘Birth of Venus’, the Roman name for the goddess. The rock’s Greek name, Petra tou Romiou, refers to another later legend of the Byzantine hero Dighenis fighting off raiding pirates and protecting his lady from capture.
Address: 40 miles east of Paphos
Nicosia Venetian City Walls
The southern part of Nicosia, known as Lefkosia, is famed for its Old City, surrounded by magnificent Venetian city walls built in the 1560’s to protect the town from Ottoman raids. Sadly, the dry moat, 11 fortified towers, huge ramparts and three massive gates failed to stop the Ottaman forces from taking the town just a few months after the fortifications were completed. The walls today are in much the same condition as they were when the town was conquered.
Address: Nicosia, Cyprus
Othello’s Castle and Citadel
A protective castle for the northern town of Famagusta, the Citadel was raised in 1492 around pre-existing fortifications by the order of the town’s Venetian governor. The gracefully-arched Great Hall is a highlight, with stunning views of two harbors from within the walls. The governor was immortalized in Shakespeare’s play, Othello, and in music by Verdi’s opera and much of the action in the performances take place in the fort.
Address: Famagusta, Northern Cyprus
The Tombs of the Kings
This massive necropolis lies just over a mile from Paphos Harbor, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site dating back to the 4th century BC. Although it’s never been proven that kings are buried here, the hand-hewn sepulchers cut from solid rock were used for 100 years for the burial of Paphitic aristocrats. Frescoed walls and carved Doric columns adorn many of the tombs, and artifacts from the period have been excavated.
Address: Near Paphos Harbor, South Cyprus
Agia Napa Monastery
The exact date of the founding of the Agia Napa Monastery is lost in the mists of time, although its cave, well and hiding place put it as no later than the Byzantine empire. The present Venetian building hails from the 15th century where Cyprus tradition states a hunter discovered a glowing icon of the Virgin Mary in the cave and built a church to hold the sacred relic. Uninhabited by pilgrims since 1758, it’s an atmospheric place of wonder.
Address: Agia Napa, South Cyprus
Cyprus Archaeological Museum
Housing archeological finds from the many digs around Cyprus, the museum traces the impressive history of the island from prehistoric to Christian times. Its highlight is a stunning collection of ancient gold jewelry.
Address: 1, Mouseiou Street, Nicosia
Byzantine Museum and Art Gallery
The star of the art gallery is a stunning collection of Byzantine religious relics dating from the 9th to the 18th centuries. Set in an elegant, historic mansion with a colonnaded portal, the precious displays provide a timeline of the island’s Orthodox Christian heritage and show off the amazing talent of the ancient monks who created them.
Address: Archbishop Kyprianos Square, Nicosia
Cyprus National Forest Park
Home of the magnificent Troodos mountain range and its forests, Cyprus National Park is a botanical haven for its diverse flora, fauna and ecosystems. It’s the water source for most of the island, with more than 50 springs from large to small originating on its heights and flowing down as rivers in the plains. Bats, rabbits, foxes, diverse bird species and the rare, indigenous, moufflon all inhabit its unspoiled region.
Address: Central Cyprus