Shaped like an exotic musical instrument, Cyprus is where they say the personification of love was born. And as a land of captivating myth, mysterious ruins that stretch back past the Bronze Age and sun-soaked, sea-kissed coasts, it takes a firm pull on the heart strings. This sizeable island in the Eastern Aegean is a country of old-fashioned, family-centred values which translate lovingly into a golden formula of welcoming hospitality and excellent Mediterranean cuisine. On a holiday to Cyprus you’ll enjoy this fine culture against a sunny backdrop of golden beaches and a mountainous interior, dotted with rustic villages, modern resorts, sleepy harbour towns and classical ruins.
The mythical birthplace of Aphrodite, the ancient Greek goddess of all things amorous, Cyprus has been an outpost of great empires from the Romans to the Ottomans. Soak up their legacy in the romantic relics scattered across the hills and bays, such as the Solea Valley’s Byzantine churches and St Hilarion Castle, which rises mirage-like from a rocky ridge. They all add to the rich culture of one of the Mediterranean’s largest and most interesting islands. If beach-bumming appeals more than ruin-hopping, the coastal resorts have you covered, with plenty of water sports, seafront restaurants and lively nightclubs. In the likes of Paphos, catch some rays on boat trips and guided tours, or pedalos and banana rides, then hit the taverna for a glass of Cypriot wine and a mezze plate.
The south coast alone offers spots ranging from the European summer party hot spot of Ayia Napa to laidback Larnaca, with its whitewashed houses and seafront promenade. The capital Nicosia (Lefkosia) is well worth a day trip for the vibrant street life and museums contained within its ancient Venetian Walls. It’s typical of this generous island with its 650 kilometres of coastline, two mountain ranges, centuries of history and 325 days of sun a year.
Spring starts, lasting until the end of May. There are fewer crowds and lower prices than during the summer high season, accompanied by sunny weather. It’s the perfect time to go hiking and cycling surrounded by wildflowers.
Ayia Napa becomes one of the Mediterranean’s hottest clubbing destinations, while sun-seekers also flock to Paphos and Larnaca between now and August. To escape the crowds, head inland.
North Cyprus Olive Festival fills Zeytinlik village and Kyrenia Castle with stalls, tastings and celebrations. The week-long event takes place to mark the end of autumn.
Discover ancient sites
Nea (New) Paphos certainly isn’t new, as it has Unesco-protected classical ruins dating back over two millennia, including some of the world’s most beautiful ancient Greek mosaics, an agora and a fortress.
Explore the many sides of this holiday favourite, from the old quarter to the palm trees and cafes of Finikoudes’ promenade and beach. Look out for Agios Lazaros Byzantine church and, if you’re a diver, the wreck of Zenobia.
Wander the lanes of this historic city, stop for lunch on Plateia Salabuli, check out the 14th-century castle and grab a beer at the marina.