Wander picturesque streets in the Old Town of Nicosia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site crammed with 16th century architecture and the only divided capital in the world, with it’s UN-enforced Green Line separating the Greek and Turkish sections of the city.
Discover Cyprus' ancient sites by hire car. Glimpse the island’s history at the archaeological site of Kourin, peer into the Baths of Aphrodite – a natural grotto fringed with gorgeous maidenhair ferns where (supposedly) the Greek goddess of love used to bathe – admire exquisite mosaics in Paphos, then visit the Tombs of the Kings, a massive underground catacomb complex dating back over 2,000 years.
Explore one of Cyprus' ancient castles. Walk in the footsteps of the Crusader King Richard the Lionheart on the ancient ramparts of Limassol Castle or head into Northern Turkey and climb the lofty heights of Saint Hilarion Castle (photo) or Buffavento Castle that were once bulwarks against Saracen raiders.
Don't miss the colourful Limassol Carnival and Paphos’ Anthesteria Flower Festival, both held in February. Sample local wine at the Limassol Wine Festival in September and watch the Cyprus Rally in November.
From ancient ruins to medieval fortresses and lush mountain vistas, Cyprus offers a choice of must-see attractions for inquisitive couples celebrating a honeymoon, including the following must-see sights….
Admire this mesmerising collection of colourful mosaics featuring lifelike scenes and intriguing tales from Greek mythology.
Found by accident in 1962, the mosaics decorated the floors of several large, opulent Roman villas dating from the 3rd to 5th century BC. In the House of Aion, scenes depict the gods Apollo and Aion as well as the legendary royal beauty Cassiopeia.
The mosaics in the Villa of Theseus depict a heroic theme with a club-wielding Theseus preparing to take on the Minotaur watched by Ariadne, while Achilles is seen as a child.
The House of Dionysus is the largest villa and features more than 550sqm of floor space in 14 rooms decorated with colourful mosaics of Dionysus, the god of wine.
The excavated site is in the southern sector of the Pahpos Archaeological Site, south of the Agora and about 300m from Pahpos harbour.
Wander the sprawling Pahpos Archaeological Site, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was first unearthed in 1962 and arguably the most exciting and inspiring archaeological site on Cyprus.
Known as Nea Pahpos (New Pahpos), the ancient city of Pahpos was founded in the late 4th century BC.
Today, you can examine lavish mosaics found on the floors of four Roman villas; admire the Roman Odeon, a partly restored Roman theatre, with 11 tiers of seats, standing on a hillside overlooking the site; visit the Asklipion, a hospital and temple dedicated to Asklipios, god of medicine; and stroll the Agora, the former marketplace of the ancient city.
Elsewhere, stroll the long ramparts of the ancient Roman Walls and visit the semi-circular Hellenistic Theatre with its seven rows of stone benches cut into the rock of the hillside overlooking Kato Pahpos from the south slope of Fabrica Hill.
Peer into the honeycomb of vaults and dungeons surrounded by a dry moat at the Saranda Kolones, a stronghold erected in the 13th-century.
The sprawling Pafos Archaeological Site is located in the western section of Kato Pahpos.
Tombs of the Kings
Descend stone stairways into the rock-carved tombs and discover impressive Doric columns, a below ground-level atrium and niches built into the walls where bodies were stored.
The well-preserved underground tombs and chambers at this UNESCO World Heritage site date from the 3rd century BC to the 3rd century AD and are unique in Cyprus.
Named for their grand appearance and the Doric pillars that help support the structures, the rock-carved tombs are thought to be the burial sites of residents of Nea Paphos who were members of the higher social classes of the period. There is no evidence the tombs were actually used by royalty.
The tombs are built in the peristyle court structure, much loved by the ancient Egyptians who believed that tombs for the dead should resemble houses for the living, a tradition reflected in the Pahpos tombs. The tombs are located two kilometres north of Kato Pahpos.
Baths of Aphrodite
Take a romantic side trip to the natural grotto where legend has it that the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, used to take her baths. The Baths of Aphrodite are located on the Akamas Peninsula near Polis, about 48km north of Paphos.
Stroll around the ruins of ancient Kourian, a spectacular 13th century BC archaeological site that sits on a hillside overlooking Kourion Beach and the Mediterranean Sea.
Relax on the stone seats of the Greco-Roman theatre, or forum that has been completely restored and is used today for open air musical and theatrical performances.
Visit the public baths, the Nymphaeum, the necropolis, the Fountain House, House of Gladiators and House of Achilles.
The ruins of Kourion are located near the town of Episkopi, within the Aktrotiri Sovereign Base Area, on the southern coast of Cyprus.
Tip: Come in the quiet of the morning to escape the midday heat and the afternoon crowds.
Wander the ancient ruined foundations of this once proud city – founded more than 3,000 years ago and one of the very first of the island’s city-states.
Discover the remnants of ancient temples, city walls and Byzantine churches, including stone columns that mark the site of the Hellenistic gymnasium and foundations of a very early Christian basilica, dating from the 5th century AD.
Don't miss the remains of the aqueduct that supplied the whole of ancient Amathous and its citizens with fresh water, geometric black and white mosaics that formed the floor of the Roman baths and the colourful mosaic floors of a medieval monastery.
Excavations that began in 1980 continue today.
Amathus is located about 24 miles west of Larnaca and 6 miles east of Limassol.
Nicosia Walled City
Stroll around the picturesque Old Town, ringed by impressive stone fortifications and home to a lively melange of streets bustling with shops, bars, restaurants and local colour.
Discover restored buildings such as the Archbishop’s Palace and Byzantine Art Museum, which reveals Byzantine icons that date from the 9th through to the 18th centuries.
Don’t miss the Paphos Gate, just metres from the Turkish zone, and the Famagusta Gate, that houses the city’s cultural centre and a changing schedule of exhibitions.
In the northern part of Nicosia, see bazaars and medieval monuments and the dramatic Selimiye Mosque – the largest and oldest surviving gothic church in Cyprus. The cathedral took more than 150 years to construct and although unfinished was finally inaugurated in 1326.
After the Ottomans occupied the city, the cathedral of Agia Sofia was turned into a mosque and all the decorative elements including stained glass and colourful frescoes were destroyed.
Note: Nicosia is also known as Lefkosia in Greek and Lefkosa in Turkish. Crossing from southern to northern Nicosia is permitted.
Cyprus Archeaological Museum (Nicosia)
Discover a display of fascinating archaeological artefacts, some of which are 8,500 years old.
Admire pottery and implements from the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods then trace the history of Cyprus through the Stone and Bronze Age, Hellenic Period, Mycenaean times and Roman Period to the early Byzantine.
See Neolithic flint blades and implements, Mycenaean ceramics and wine bowls including a gold-inlaid bowl, ivory carvings of mythological beasts that once adorned one of the thrones in the Royal Tombs at Salamis, gold and silver jewellery, and plates and chalices displayed around the Leda mosaic.
The latter date from the 6th century AD and were found at Lambousa in northern Cyprus.
Don’t miss the army of terracotta votive figurines discovered at the shrine at Agia Irini, the marble Statue of Zeus poised to hurl a thunderbolt dating from the 7th and 6th centuries BC and the naked bronze figure of the 2nd century AD Roman emperor Septimius Severus – one of the world’s most impressive relics of ancient Rome.
Stroll the ancient ramparts first erected by the Byzantines in the 14th century overlooking the old harbour on the site of an earlier Byzantine castle.
The castle is renowned for being the place where the Crusader King Richard the Lionheart married Berengaria of Navarre, and crowned her Queen of England in 1191.
Today it houses the Cyprus Medieval Museum, which boasts a fine collection of artefacts dating back to the Early Christian Era (384-650).
Troodos Painted Churches
Discover a unique treasure trove of Byzantine religious art and some of the most beautiful early Christian frescoes in the world at this UNESCO World Heritage listed site, which consists of several churches dating from the 13th century.
The most impressive is arguably the Agios Ioannis Lampadistis monastery, home to three churches built side-by-side over 400 years from the 11th century and boasting a series of intricate and colourful frescoes.
The 13th-century frescoes include those dedicated to Agios Irakleidios, the Raising of Lazarus, the Crucifixion, the Ascension and the Arrival of the Magi on horseback, wearing crusader armour. In addition, a small museum houses a collection of 15 icons that date from the 16th century.
Note: Photographs of the frescoes are not allowed.
Discover one of the most important and best-preserved prehistoric sites of the eastern Mediterranean. Excavations have revealed the site to be of the Neolithi aceramic period and is the oldest Neolithic sites on Cyprus, dating to 7000 BC.
Explore the settlements defensive wall, circular houses and tombs once home to primitive farmers who cultivated wheat and barley. Four of the beehive-shaped houses made of mud and stone have been reconstructed to show how these early farmers lived.
Most of the archaeological finds from Khirokitia are displayed in the Cyprus Museum in Nicosia. Khirokitia is located about 32km from Larnaca on the Lefkosia-Lemesos road.
Enjoy sea views from the battlements of Larnaka’s medieval fort while rusting cannons silently stand guard. Then duck into the Medieval Museum to view a collection of ferocious swords and daggers, medieval armour and flintlock muskets as well as a display of 12th- to 18th-century pottery.
Northern Cyprus – Sights & Attractions
Discover the ruins of Crusader castles and medieval abbeys, splendid mountain vistas, empty beaches and a countryside pretty much left to its own solitude.
Life in northern Cyprus continues at a more gentle pace than in the South, partly as a result of the international boycott that has affected tourism to the North since 1974.
Stroll the battlements and explore the cells of Kyrenia Castle (photo) – a massive Venetian sea-fort that overlooks the town’s natural harbour and Mediterranean Sea. Inside, discover Shipwreck Museum, home to one of the world’s oldest shipwrecks believed to have sunk around 300 BC.
The ship was salvaged in 1967, complete with its cargo of wine-jars.
Visit also the Tomb-Finds Gallery, with its fascinating collection of Neolithic, Bronze Age and Hellenistic treasures. Later, relax at one of the ethnic restaurants overlooking the pretty harbour.
Discover the most spectacular example of Gothic architecture in Cyprus. Admire the vaulted stonework decorated with elaborate carving, wander the pavilions and courtyard framed by manicured gardens and enjoy the magnificent views over Kyrenia and the surrounding coastline.
Built by the Augustinian order in 1200, the abbey (from the French ‘abbaye de la paix’ which means the Peace Monastery) is perched on the side of a mountain just a short walk from the village of Bellapais.
St Hilarion Castle
Climb to the Queen’s Window in the upper ward of the multi-level castle for spectacular views over Kyrenia and the northern coast of Cyprus.
Originally built in the 10th century as a monastery and named after a monk who used it as his hermitage, the site was later fortified by the Byzantines and formed a defence of the island together with Buffavento and Kantara castles against Arab raiders.
The castle was further improved for the Lusignan kings in the 11th century and commanded of the pass leading from Kyrenia to Nicosia. It is the best preserved of the three castles and was last occupied in the 16th century by the Venetians.
Climb up to the wind-buffeted heights of Buffavento Castle stunning vistas over Cyprus. At 950m above sea level, Buffavento’s ruined tower stands in the middle of the Kyrenia range overlooking an important pass and within sight of St Hilarion Castle to the west and Kantara Castle to the east.
The castles were built by the Byzantines as a defence against Saracen raiders in the 11th Century.
Stroll past graceful columns to the Roman amphitheatre, see the remains of Roman baths and the foundations of two Byzantine basilicas at one of Cyprus’ greatest ancient sites founded more than 3,000 years ago but devastated by earthquakes in the 4th century AD. Salamis is located 6km north of Famagusta.
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