photo of Cyprus

A harbor in Cyprus (Nicholas Pitt/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

What to do in Cyprus

Cyprus, the third largest island in the Mediterranean, has played host to every regional civilization at one time or another, including the Phoenicians, Egyptians, Assyrians, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, Muslims, and British. The island was separated into Greek and Turkish sections by a bitter war for 30 years, but it is now united and easily traveled. The island's economy has bounced back and Cyprus is now a member of the European Union. It's no wonder millions of tourists descend on this slice of Mediterranean paradise every year, with its Gothic castles, ancient monasteries, walled cities, traditional villages, miles of wild trekking, and of course flawless beaches and mild weather. And even in the non-beach months of January to March, you can ski Mount Olympus, one of Europe's most southerly ski resorts. Cyprus also attracts scuba divers to its underwater wonders, including the famous wreck of Zenobia off the southern coast, while kiteboarders make a beeline to Paramali Beach in the Limassol district.

The island has a population of about a million and is still technically in two parts—the Republic of Cyprus, covering about two-thirds of the island's area in the south, and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, covering about one-third of the northern section. Cyprus is a legendary land, where the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, was born. Julius Caesar bestowed the island to Cleopatra as a token of his love. For those who have been to Greece, it feels very much like a large Greek island, except for the near absence of American tourists. Northern Europeans, notably Brits, flock to the gorgeous beaches, especially the party-hearty Nissi Bay Beach in the 24/7 Agia Napa resort area on the island's eastern shore, where the biggest tourist infrastructure is found.

Larnaca, the main city on Cyprus, enjoys an arid perch on the island's southern coast. It's a small but fashionable ribbon of a city, home to a number of stunning beaches filled with chic sunbathers and open-air taverna restaurants. Larnaca International Airport is the island's main point of entry and is frequently used as a hub by passengers traveling from Europe to the Middle East.

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  • Cyprus Travel Q&A