Five Things First Time Travellers To Cyprus Should Know
- The main currency in use in Cyprus is the Euro. However, in Northern Cyprus, the locals prefer to use the Turkish lira.
- The official languages are Greek and Turkish. The locals also speak English as the island was a former British colony. You'll find that most street signs will be in either of the two official languages with translations in English.
- Check your bill to see if you need to tip. Some of the restaurants in Cyprus will include a service charge. You don't need to tip on top of this unless you feel the service was exceptional. If there is no service charge, the standard tip is 10% of your total.
- Don't flush toilet paper. Due to the poor plumbing infrastructure on the island, toilet paper can easily cause a blockage. Use the waste buckets provided and keep some toilet paper in your bag in case the bathrooms have run out. There is also usually a small charge to use public restrooms.
- You can drink the tap water in the south. However, it's advised to drink bottled water when in the north. That being said, most of the locals in the south still prefer bottled water as it does taste better.
Best Time To Visit Cyprus
The most popular time to visit Cyprus is during the summer. From June to August, tourists flock to the island to take advantage of its pristine beaches. All the attractions will be open, and there will be more than enough festivals and activities to keep you busy. The only downside is that the increase in tourism causes prices to skyrocket. Expect hotel rates to be high and the top attractions to be crowded with other holidaymakers.
If you want good weather without the price tag, book your trip over Cyprus's two shoulder seasons. March to May and September to October see fewer crowds, and temperatures are still pleasant. The spring and autumn months are also perfect for outdoor activities, especially hiking and cycling.
The month of March is host to one of the island's biggest celebrations, Easter. It's a colourful event that happens in all over the island and is one of Cyprus's best cultural experiences.
The cheapest time to visit Cyprus is during its colder months. From November to February, the weather is wet, and temperatures are cool. With the lack of tourists during this period, you'll find great hotel deals, and you'll have a more authentic experience.
Paphos rose to fame as the birthplace of the Greek Goddess Aphrodite. For centuries, the city has been a popular destination for the Greeks and now travellers from around the world.
Head to the lower section of the city, it's full of remarkable archaeological ruins like the House of Theseus and the Tombs of the Kings.
Limassol is the second biggest city in Cyprus. Its major seaport has made Limassol a tourism and cultural hotspot.
Start your journey exploring the city's Old Town, where you'll find rows of shops and some of the best nightlife in Limassol. Other not to be missed attractions include the Limassol Castle, the Kourion ruins, and the Fasouri Watermania Water Park.
Larnaca is the oldest city in Cyprus. It has a history spanning 6,000 years and is a must-visit for anyone interested in its past.
Be sure to take a tour of the Church of St. Lazarus. Head to the Larnaca Salt Lake to spot the 7,000 flamingos and go on a drive to the wreck of Zenobia. It's considered one of the best dive sites in the world and frequently finds a spot on top 10 lists.
Nicosia is the capital city of Cyprus. It's full of interesting museums and is where you can see the national dividing line between northern and southern Cyprus.
Nicosia is also considered to be one of the world's richest cities. Many of the largest businesses and Cyprus's wealthiest citizens call it home.
Its highlights include the Cyprus Museum, the Byzantine Museum and the Kykkos Monastery.
Top Attractions in Cyprus
With a combination of mythology and breathtaking natural scenery, Aphrodite's Rock is one of Cyprus's most visited natural attractions.
It's said to be the birthplace of the Greek Goddess, Aphrodite. Legend has it that she was born of sea foam, rose from the waves and was escorted on a shell to the beach. It's also believed that you can see her silhouette through the crashing waves.
A more recent legend says the Byzantine hero Digenis Akritas, moved the giant rock formations found here to ward off the Saracens Arabs. Other myths say that swimming around the rock three times will bring you true love, beauty and eternal youth.
Kourion is one of Cyprus's most significant archaeological sites. Located near the coastline of Episkopi Bay, the ruins include old baths, a marketplace and a majestic 2,000-year-old Greco-Roman theatre. It's still in use today, and if you have the time, try to catch one of the theatrical or musical performances.
Another site not to be missed is The House of Achilles. Used as a villa in the 4th century, its most interesting feature is the mosaic floors. The tiles depict the story of Odysseus revealing Achilles' true identity, thus giving the ruin its name.
Plan your trip for the late afternoon and make your way to the Early Christian Basilica. The cathedral was built in the 5th-century on the edge of a cliff overlooking the entire city. It's a fantastic place to watch the sunset over the ocean and Kourion ruins.
The Paphos Ruins
Once a thriving ancient Greek city, the Paphos ruins are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The archaeological park is home to many of Cyprus's top historical attractions, including the famous Tomb of the Kings.
Its artefacts date back to the Prehistoric Era, and there's more than enough to see here to keep any history buff entertained for hours.
Be sure to visit the House of Dionysus. It's a wonderful example of the artistry from this period, with a beautiful collection of mosaic floors. Other impressive sites include a 2nd-century theatre and the Saranta Kolones fortress built in the 7th-century.
St. Hilarion Castle
St. Hilarion Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in the Mediterranean. Once a monastery, a hermit known as Hilarion used the fortress for his group of devout followers during the 4th century.
The castle is also steeped in local folklore. Legend has it that a fairy queen, who spent her time seducing the shepherds, built St. Hilarion.
Today, you can walk up the restored staircase to the guard tower. Once at the top, you can enjoy beautiful panoramic vistas of the valleys, mountains and coastline.
Located in the city of Pedoulas, Kykkos is Cyprus's most famous monastery. Built in the 11th-century, nothing remains of the original structures due to a devastating fire. Luckily, a complete renovation began in 1831 to restore the monastery back to its original glory.
The buildings are decorated in Greek Orthodox style, with religious murals lining the walls inside and out. The Kykkos monastery is also home to one of Cyprus's most prized artefacts, a portrait of the Virgin Mary painted by St. Luke.
Each year, Kykkos hosts important religious fairs. If you can, plan your visit around the Birth of the Virgin (8th of September) or the Dormition of the Virgin (15th of August).
Major International Airports in Cyprus
- Larnaca International Airport
- Paphos International Airport