yprus is a lot more than beaches and souvlaki, there’s a whole world to explore in the small towns and backstreets of every part of the island. To help you get to know the less well-known wonders of Cyprus, we’ve put together 10 of our favourites. From historical sites to magnificent landscapes to lots and lots of cats, there’s something for everyone.
1. Mosaics of Paphos
We’re starting off very close to home with the mosaics that form a part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Paphos’ archaeological site. The mosaics that date from the ancient Greek and Roman times are an amazing way of seeing a little bit of daily life from over 2000 years ago. The mix between intricate geometric patterns and scenes from mythology is also a great sight.
2. Monastery of St. Nicholas of the Cats
Located near Akrotiri on the south coast of Cyprus, the monastery of St. Nicholas is a working monastery, which happens to have a large feline population. The monks and the locals work together to take care of the cats who enjoy lounging around in the sun. The views from the monastery are also impeccable as you can look out into the Mediterranean and across the island.
3. Zenobia Shipwreck
Back in the olden times of 1980, a Swedish cargo ship capsized and sank about 1.5km off the south-east coast of Cyprus. No lives were lost when the ship went down, and it ended up sitting around 42m under the sea. In the years since the wrecked ship has become one of the world’s finest wreck diving sites. There are dives for beginners which tour the outside of the ship and more experienced divers venture inside and explore the inner workings of the ship.
4. Larnaca Salt Lake
A bit of a misnomer as it’s actually 4 salt lakes just west of the city of Larnaca, the salt lakes used to be a site where Cypriots harvested salt and exported it. Nowadays, it is a well-protected nature and bird reserve where tourists can come and experience a taste of Cyprus’ natural side. The stars of the show are flocks of flamingos that come to the salt lakes to feed on the shrimp inside.
5. Salt and Pepper Museum
From salt to Salt and Pepper, this museum in Larnaca plays host to over 20,000 salt and pepper shakers from all over the world. The collection has been put together by the museum’s founder and curator over the years, and it’s a lovely gallery of curiosities from all sorts of cultures.
6. Phaneromenis 70
Found in the narrow back streets of Nicosia, Phaneromenis 70 is a unique artistic collective put together by local artists. The art within is a mix of styles but all of it has a special Cypriot twist, usually taking influence from the island’s Hellenic and Arabic influences. As an insight into the modern and urban artistic culture of Cyprus, you can’t do much better.
The abandoned village of Foinikas is located close to Paphos on the western side of the island. It was an important city during medieval times and remained populated until the 1970s when the village was abandoned due to the construction of the Asprokremmos dam. The dam created a reservoir which has absorbed some of the village and sits next to the rest of the abandoned houses. It’s a little out of the way, but the views and the hike are divine.
8. Kyriazis Medical Museum
Found at the heart of Larnaca’s old town, this medical museum is one of the most interactive you can find. The aim is to allow visitors to get hands on with the tools and techniques that were used. The museum staff allow visitors to hold the artifacts, under close supervision of course, and allows them to really get into the history of medicine.
9. Panagia tou Araka
The Orthodox church of Panagia tou Araka is found in the town of Lagoudera, around 50km south-east of the capital Nicosia. The church is one of the best-preserved examples of a medieval Orthodox church in the whole of the Hellenic world. The frescoes painted on the walls of the church are almost perfectly preserved and let visitors step into Cyprus’ middle ages. It’s also located among Cyprus’ Troodos mountains, which provide some of the finest inland views of the island.
10. Tombs of the Kings
Another UNESCO World Heritage site, this necropolis is found about 2km north of Paphos. There aren’t actually any kings buried there, but the monuments are just so awe-inspiring that early archaeologists just assumed that there were. The monuments are cut into the rock itself, and some date from the 4th century BC. Archaeologists are still exploring the site and finding new monuments and relics from ancient times, and the site is an absolute must for visitors with a penchant for the historical.