Top Cyprus towns: Ayia Napa, Limassol, Paphos, Nicosia

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This island of Cyprus in the Med is somewhat of a seductress, able to entice with a sensory experience tailored to suit. Sunshine, jasmine-scented air, shimmering seas and superb beaches are the ideal conventional fun-in-the-sun holiday. Yet her Byzantine heritage beckons the inner tourist to actually brush off the sand and go touring, not to just her archaeological sights but also her vineyards to sample their sun-imbued nectar.

Away from the towns are superb nature trails that will awaken the part of you that wishes you were more of a trekker. On offer are paths through  pine forests and around her twisty, curvaceous mountain paths are sensationally deep gorges such as the Akamantas Peninsula that give the illusion of descending deep into the earth. Green and loggerhead turtles live and lay their eggs on the Aphrodite Beach and her range of fauna and flora and even bird watching opportunities abound.

Should you decide to explore, make your base in Limassol and hire a car – the good news for Brits is that Cypriots drive on the left.

Here is a round-up of four most popular towns in Cyprus.

1Ayia Napa

Nissi Beach, Ayia Napa, Cyprus
Ayia Napa Nissi beach (c) wikimedia/Romeparis

The reputation of this once remote fishing village says this is a raucous party town for hedonists. And in part it is true. International DJ’s and their cult followers beat a path to its clubs and booming bars open their doors during the summer months making this a prime site for nightlife.

Yet its gorgeous beaches, Nissi in particular, some say are the finest in Cyprus, and the magnificent rocky headland, quaint harbour, serene cloistered monastery, smart hotels and sublime fish restaurants all talk of relaxing holidays and luxuriant surroundings.

Ayia Napa is about 60 km from Larnaca Airport.

2Limassol

Kolossi Castle, Limassol, Cyprus
Kolossi Castle, Limassol (c) wikimedia/Vegard Ottervig

Even though Richard the Lionheart married Princess Berengaria, daughter of the King of Navarre here in 1119, Limassol remains a bustling port town rather than a place of romance. For that you should head to Pafos.

The town is rather dull architecturally speaking with a mish-mash of building styles but it does make a great base for seeing other towns. It is situated between two archaeological sites, the ancient kingdoms of Amathous to the east and Kourion to the west. Happily the centre of the wine industry and this means it has a vibrant wine bar and restaurant culture in its heart.

On the slopes above the town there is a wine museum at Erimi where the country’s 6000 year old wind industry can be unearthed. The medieval castle of Kolossi is where the still popular sweet desert Cypriot wine commandara was first made by the knights of St John of Jerusalem in ancient times.

Limassol is a coastal town and you opt for hotel on the seafront enjoy seaviews by staying at the Le Meriden. This is a lovely resort hotel in beautiful landscaped gardens, overlooking great beaches and pools.

Limassol is about half way (60-70 km) between Larnaca Airport and Paphos Airport.

3Paphos (Pafos)

Paphos hotel beach
Paphos hotel beach (c) wikimedia/Paphoshotelbeach

This ancient harbour is a town of two halves. Here’s why: its lower part, Kato Pafos, has neon lights, bars and heady clubs and its upper part Ktima, is calmer, where locals live and work.

Yet Pafos is where you will find the island’s most fascinating archaeological sites and is famed for being the birthplace of Aphrodite, goddess of love at Petra tou Romiou. The town’s forest has probably the most spectacular scenery on the island and the Pafos Mosaics, a compelling meze of intricate and colourful mosaics is a pleasure. It tells of all sorts of hedonistic stories including the famous tale of Narcissus.

The main attraction is the Tomb of the King’s, a Unesco World Heritage site around two kilometers from Kato Pafos. It’s a bit of a misnomer, as these tombs do not have a single royal resident, at all but they do look grand therefore where dubbed so.

There are several museums in Pafos, but if you just visit one, make it the Byzantine Museum in Ktima’s main square. The oldest icon on the island, the Agia Marina, is houses here and dates back to the ninth century.

Paphos Airport is located about 4 miles from the city.

4Nicosia

Nicosia (c) pixabay/Yolanda

Known locally as Lefkosia, this star-shaped city has a fascinating history. It is located bang in the middle of the country and the wall that divides the Turkish North from the Cypriot south cuts right through it. A UN-patrolled buffer zone, called the Green Line, snakes east-west across the countryside and symbolically slicing it in two.

Holiday-makers don’t generally make it to Nicosia because it doesn’t have a beach – but it does have an old town surrounded by thick Venetian walls that are over 400 years old. The Ledra Museum-Observatory on the 11th floor of the Shacolas Tower offers the best aerial view over this divided city.

These days you can cross the UN checkpoint and its worth doing just to note the difference in nationalistic style from Greek Orthodox to Islam 100m can make.

It is easy to reach; just 30 minutes from Limassol and with a slew of museums and restaurants it could make an interesting overnight stay.

Nicosia is served by two airports: Larnaca Airport (50 km) on the Greek side and Ercan Airport (30 km) on the Turkish side.

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