Unearthing the history and heritage of a destination is often part of the fun of a holiday for many people. Sounds like you? You’re reading the right blog post. In Cyprus, there’s a smorgasbord of exciting cultural gems just waiting to show off, alongside a whole host of fascinating historical sites.
Between the areas of Larnaca in the east and Paphos in the west, you’ll have a vast landscape of top must-sees to get around. Palaces, castles, tombs… you name it, Cyprus has got it! So come on, let’s take a closer look at what to expect.
The ancient city of Amathus, near lively Limassol, has left its stamp on time. What stands there now are just ruins, with some columns and remnants better preserved than others, but it’s still an intriguing visit! When the Romans were in Cyprus, the temples of Adonis and Aphrodite were founded, which are two of the more renowned relics of the site. If you’re into history that spans back as far as 1500 BC, it’s well worth pottering around here.
The old Archbishop’s Palace is one of the treasures of Nicosia, Cyprus’ capital city. It’s a two-storey building that the archbishop and his archdiocese offices call home. Pay this place a visit and you’ll see there’s much more going on nowadays. There’s a Byzantine Museum, Folk Art Museum and the National Struggle Museum, so you’ll easily get your steps in while you peruse the exhibits! And if that’s not enough, the Library of the Archbishopric is here as well. Why not set aside a few hours and then duck into Nicosia for a bite to eat?
In another part of Nicosia is Famagusta Gate. Back when this area was Venetian Lefkosia, it led the way to the bustling harbour, which was the city’s most important spot for trade and business. But this gate isn’t your average open-and-close affair – oh no, it’s massive! You’ll first spy the large façade, but the more you explore, the sooner you’ll find the vaulted passage in the middle, plus the rooms for the guards. If you’re dot-to-dotting around Nicosia’s historical sites, get this boxed off while you’re at it.
Aqueducts are pretty impressive as they go, and Kamares is no exception. Standing proud, this 18th-century marvel is an unmissable structure en route to Limassol another resort in the Larnaca region. More than 20 whopping arches make this such a knockout, and it was built in the traditional Roman style too. In 1939, the aqueduct’s functionality was replaced with pipes, but it’s still a key piece of the Cypriot skyline. Why not pack a picnic or pick up some local treats to nibble on and sit on a bench to admire it? There are plenty of footpaths as well, if you’ve got your comfy shoes on.
The archaeological site of Kourion is epic. Not only is its Greco-Roman theatre (which is also used for amazing open-air concerts in summer) the showstopper, the views are jaw-dropping too. Park up by the visitor centre, grab some leaflets, see small-scale models and then wander out among the excavations. This is one of Cyprus’ most significant historical sites, largely due to the number of columns, mosaics and buildings still intact. The houses of Eustolios, Achilles and the Gladiators are there for you to see too, while the Stadium of Kourion is one of the most remarkable features closer to Paphos.
Like to hear all the old tales a place has to tell? You’ll be in for a treat at Kolossi Castle. Richard the Lionheart was married at Limassol Castle and then came here to celebrate. As many parties do, that led to wine. And that’s where the second tale comes from. That’s right, Commandaria, the world’s oldest manufactured wine, is produced here and has been for centuries. This deliciously sweet tipple is the ultimate pairing with a dessert, so it’d be rude not to try it while you’re in town…
Tombs of the Kings
There’s a bit of an eerie twist to this next suggestion. The Tombs of the Kings aren’t as spooky as they sound though, thanks to the underground burial places being mostly open-plan. The actual graves were looted many years ago, so not much remains, but the place is still a marked and important must-visit on Cyprus’ historical sites circuit. From there, you’ll be able to gaze out to sea or even pop by neighbouring Paphos Archaeological Park, which is home to some enchanting mosaics that have been well preserved over all these years.
Ayia Napa Monastery
Okay, so most people know Ayia Napa as the party hub of Cyprus – and they’re not wrong. But it’s got some historical sites to its name too. Ayia Napa Monastery was built back in 1500 AD and resembles an idyllic yet modest castle. Head there and you’ll find that it’s often used as a conference centre now, plus there’s a dainty newer church tacked onto it. Keen for some holiday snaps? Legend has it that the ancient sycamore tree in the courtyard is around 600 years old, so don’t miss it!
Posted: 9th Nov 2020. Updated: 7th Jun 2023.