Even though Ammochostos (Famagusta) city itself is one of the two cities of the island that, since 1974 are Turkish occupied, part of the district of Ammochostos is still accessible, therefore we are allowed to enjoy some of the prettiest beaches on the island. If we had to name the two best beach places it would have to be Protaras (Ammochostos) and Akamas (Paphos).
The city of Ammochostos used to be the top destination before 1974, with some of the best resorts of the island. Since the Turkish invasion it is a ghost town where one can still see the bombed hotels and the abandoned houses, surrounded by wild plantation and wires. The locals had no choice but to move their hotels and restaurants a bit further down to Protaras and Ayia Napa, now probably the top touristic destinations for Europeans of all ages. One can go to relax on the exotic blue beaches of Protaras (Vrissiana/Sunrise area or Sirena Bay) or party in Ayia Napa, the islands biggest party place especially for House and Trance music lovers, as it hosts some of the most famous DJs of the world.
A day or two on Protaras beaches (Sirena Bay, Vrissiana Hotel area, Konnos Bay or Green Bay) followed by fish at Kalamies or traditional Greek food at Kiklos, and drinks at Alati by the beach or Guru Bar is a must.
Even though one of the prettiest, (if not THE prettiest), cities of the island, that together with Ammochostos used to be the top attraction in Cyprus, it is now Turkish occupied, and for this reason we are unable to enjoy the fantastic landscape on the Pentadaktilos mountains leading down to the beautiful, exotic Kyrenia beaches, the oldest shipwreck ever found, the old castle by the port, the best fish restaurants on the island and many many more.
On the east side of the island and the home of the international airport you can find the third largest city with population of around 75,000. The main tourist attraction is the Phinikoudes, which is a long strip by the sea full of cafés and restaurants, and the Makenzy beach where the hippest bars and beach clubs are can be located.
The capital and largest city of Cyprus with around 250,000 citizens is the only divided capital in Europe. Over history, the city was conquered by several rulers, hence the need of protection with walls, within which the old city is situated. Even though Lefkosia itself is not a top touristic destination as it is in the center of the island (with no beach), it attracts a lot of cultural visitors, especially for its interesting history, the “green line” (or buffer zone) that divides the old city that reminds a modern Berlin Wall, the contradiction of the modern and developed center (around Makarios Ave), and the traditional town. Its cosmopolitan nightlife is worth trying out if one wants to party amongst the locals and away from the tourists.
A visit in the capital is a must, mainly to walk in the old town* and feel the history, to shop in Makarios Ave for high street shopping and Stasikratous st for more upmarket tastes, to have lunch at Mattheos by the Faneromeni church, have coffee at Diosmos & Kanela in Onasagorou, aperitif at Caraffa Bastione, dinner at Aigaio and party at Mo or Aperitivo clubs. Other places not to miss around the area would be Serreoi for traditional Mpougatsa (sweet pastry), Avo for Armenian Lahmatzoun, 3 Fanaria for a coffee and Galaktobourekko (traditional cream sweet) and 7 Klidia for coffee or drinks.
* Start at Eleftherias square, walk down to the end of Ledras through the shops, then walk to the Turkish occupied side (it takes 2 minutes to cross), to experience the diversification of cultures yet the similarity in the local people. When you come back walk torwards Faneromeni church parallel to the buffer zone and into Onasagorou (through Kala Kathoumena café pictured above and Mattheos restaurant), into Laiki Gitonia, a touristic part of the old town but worth seeing. Other attractions in the area are the Ethnological Museum in the Hadjigiorgakis Kornesios Mansion and The Archibishop’s home.
The second largest city of the island with a population of around 220,000 citizens, the largest one in terms of area, and also the most upcoming city in terms of lifestyle and economy, mainly due to the large amount of Eastern European and other investors. Even though there is no airport, it is the home of the largest port of the island where all the international trade occurs.
Traditionally it hasn’t been the top tourist attraction, but this has changed over the years with a lot of visitors coming to see the archeological sites (Amathus area and Kourion), the fantastic beach clubs (Plus Sea, Blueberry), the amazing night clubs by the beach (Dolce club, Breeze), and the luxurious hotels (Four Seasons, Londa, Amathus). If one wants to experience the local lifestyle more closely the old town is fantastic, especially for an elegant dinner at Beije, drinks at Library or Guest. Other places not to miss are The old neighborhood for the best fish in town (and probably on the island), Fat Fish for people watching and scenery, Columbia Steak house, and Lokatzis for the best grill in the city.
Despite its population of merely 60,000, Paphos is one of the most popular attractions of the island, mainly for its unique landscape. The city itself is by the sea with a long strip of shops, restaurants, bars and luxurious hotels like Almyra, Amathus and Annabelle are worth visiting even though not the highlight. What is special about Paphos is the fact that it is the home of Akamas, a national park where you can find, not only the best hotel in Cyprus (and one of the best in Europe), Anassa, but the prettiest landscape of the island, unexplored and untouched combining green hills with blue beaches. Since the area of Akamas is not yet developed, there are not a lot of accessible streets to the beaches, therefore renting a boat at the port of Latsi* to visit the fantastic beaches is a must.
For the ones that have time, renting a car and driving around Latsi (Aphrodite’s Baths), Pomos and Polis Chrysochous is definitely worth it, with a stop over at Old Town in Polis for dinner. Y&P (or Yiangos), on the port of Latsi is also good for fresh fish but be careful not to get tourist prices and service. You can try saying you were sent by a local in Paphos called Andreas (chances are Yiangos will know about a thousand of them)!
*Speed boats for 4-8 people can be rented to anyone above 18 at an estimate of 40EUR per person all in.