The Eastern Mediterranean has always been a melting pot of civilizations and at its heart is the scenic island of Cyprus. From the ancient Egyptians and Greeks to the Crusaders and the British, numerous powers have fought for control of the island and left their indelible marks. This Cyprus vacation itinerary takes you on a tour through the centuries and lets you discover what lies beyond Cyprus’ pristine beaches and busy tourist resorts.
1. Kato Paphos Archaeological Park
Near the town of Paphos in the southwestern corner of Cyprus lies Kato Paphos Archaeological Park, one of the country’s prime tourist attractions and a true archaeological gem. The site displays remains that cover a vast range of historical periods, from ancient times to the Middle Ages. The majority of monuments date back to the Roman period of Cypriot history: expect to see well-preserved villas adorned with authentic mosaics, sanctuaries, the Odeon, and many other monuments. One of the site’s most famous attractions is the Tomb of the Kings, which houses the remains of local aristocratic families from Hellenic to Roman times.
2. Kourion (Curium)
If you’re traveling from Paphos to Limassol, pay a visit to the ruins of Kourion (Curium), once one of the island’s busiest urban centers. The site has been populated since the fifth millennium BCE, but the city reached its utmost prominence during the Assyrian, Persian and Hellenic times. Most of today’s monuments are the remnants of Greek and Roman cultures and include a series of mosaic-adorned residences and numerous public buildings. Include a one day trip to Kourion in your vacation trip planner. The most famous sight is the Greco-Roman theater, which still hosts live performances. Aside from its obvious cultural appeal, the site also attracts adventurous travelers who flock here to enjoy paragliding.
3. Limassol Castle
Moving on from ancient times to the medieval and early modern period, Limassol Castle makes a great stop on your historical tour of Cyprus. Located in the center of the city, the original castle was erected by Guy de Lusignan, who settled in Cyprus after fleeing the Holy Land before Saladin’s approaching armies; its most famous occupant was undoubtedly Richard the Lionheart. The current castle structure was built by the Ottomans after the Venetians destroyed the original structure. Medieval history enthusiasts visiting the castle will want to swing by the on-site museum, which displays a collection of authentic weapons, armor, and various other artifacts.
4. Buyuk Han
In Nicosia, just north of the border that divides southern and northern Cyprus, lies Buyuk Han, one of the most beautiful examples of Ottoman architecture on the island. The 16th-century roadside inn, or “caravanserai” in Turkish, represents the largest of its kind in Cyprus. Just as many weary travelers did once, you can visit the mosque, relax by the fountain, take a stroll in shade of the colonnades, and sip tea at one of the traditional themed cafes. The complex also includes numerous shops where you can purchase spices, sweets, and souvenirs. Plan your travel itinerary to include shopping here.
5. Ghost Town Famagusta
The history of Cyprus has had its share of turbulence, and at Ghost Town Famagusta you’ll discover that the 20th century was no different. Once the island’s busiest port and one of the East Mediterranean’s top tourist destinations, Famagusta was hit hard by the war of 1974 that divided Cyprus in two. Although normal life resumed in the northern part of the city after the war, a suburb known as Varosha was fenced off, leaving its abandoned, grenade-riddled streets, homes, and hotels frozen in time. Numerous companies around the island organize tours of the ghost town, so book your ticket and see this unique and eerie reminder of recent history.
The island of a thousand faces
Influenced by so many cultures, the history of Cyprus has been one of both destruction and glorious achievement. Add some dynamic to your vacation by visiting some of the island’s historical attractions, and come to understand Cyprus in all its beauty and diversity.
By Nikola Mihaelj