The Mediterranean is the go-to spot for summer travel now that the world’s border curbs have been lifted and travel has resumed fully.
Home to historic nations like France, Italy, Spain, and Croatia, the basin is best known for the turquoise-colored waters that lap the European coastline, its rugged, dramatic nature, and rich cultural wealth.
While it was expected of Southern Europe to bounce back stronger following the return of tourists, particularly along the continent’s over-touristed Western flank, it’s the lesser-known countries that are stealing the spotlight this year.
After Albania featured among the trendiest beach spots this year, yet another alternative Mediterranean state – and an island one, at that – has just been confirmed to be one of the top tourist destinations in the region this year.
Welcome to the ancient seaport and fast-developing resort zone of Cyprus:
Cyprus Fully Recovers From Pandemic Slump
The number of passengers arriving in Cypriot airports has soared this year compared to 2023.
Hermes Airports, which manages the two international hubs, announced this week that the country has officially recovered from the pandemic and could even be set to surpass pre-crisis levels.
So far, 4,808,431 passengers have landed on the island between January and June 2023, a majority of those crossing the state border at Larnaca Airport (3,252,612).
As the statement reads, this demonstrates ‘robust’ travel demand, and places Cyprus at the top of ‘revitalized’ tourism-based Mediterranean economies.
The European branch of Airports Council International (ACI) itself has recognized Cyprus’ place as a front-runner in the recovery race due to having achieved ‘full restoration’ of air connectivity and posting larger figures than the already-historic year of 2019.
But why is Cyprus so popular when so many other Mediterranean competitors have upped their game by opening borders and boosting the tourism offer, and why do visitors love it?
A Culturally-European Western Asian Country
A stone’s throw away from the Southern Turkish coast, Cyprus is Europe’s Southeasternmost country.
It is located so far east in the Mediterranean that it can be seen from the coast of Lebanon on particularly clear days, and its nearest neighbors are, in fact, Middle Eastern countries, firmly planting Cyprus geographically in Western Asia.
Despite its geography, the island is indisputably European, having closer ties to the Western continent. It is a member of the European Union, the national currency is the Euro, and a majority of the population identifies ethnically as and speaks Greek.
Cyprus is, in essence, a Greek island, having been settled by the Hellenes in immemorial times and later shaped culturally by other migration influxes coming from the Anatolian hinterland of Turkey, Armenia, Latin-speaking Europe, Persia (modern-day Iran), and other ancient powers.
In Antiquity, Cyprus was said to be the birthplace of Aphrodite, a Greek deity associated with the concepts of love and beauty, who was supposedly born out of sea foam just off the coast of Paphos, on the island’s West coast.
Vacationing in Cyprus, it won’t take you long to perceive why the Greeks associated this remote island with these attributes.
Here are 4 reasons why:
4 Reasons Why Cyprus Is The Perfect Sunny Getaway
In sum, Cyprus is the perfect sunny getaway.
A subtropical island where traditional coastal villages established centuries, or even millennia ago, are interspersed with development zones, sandy stretches, and cliff-side drives, and bounded by the azure waters of the Mediterranean, it is so beautiful it must be the gateway to Olympus.
1. Luxurious Resorts At Attractive Prices
The busiest resort zone on the island, Ayia Napa, is renowned for its lively social scene and electric nightlife, boasting an enviable collection of beachfront bars, nightclubs, shopping centers, and Maldives-like, white sand beaches, set to appease the extrovert sun-seeker in you.
Located on Cyprus’ Southeasternmost edge, Napa is where you should be headed if an all-inclusive vacation, where your sole job is to lounge by the beach and breathe in the oceanic breeze while you enjoy the resort’s five-star amenities.
If utter relaxation and do-nothing holidays are your thing, there are plenty of luxurious properties to pick from in Cyprus’ Eastern coast, from Napa’s gorgeous hotels all the way South to Cape Greco’s dreamy, whitewashed, upscale villas.
Cyprus is also known to be a cheaper all-inclusive getaway than its sister nation of Greece, Croatia, or Spain.
Nightly rates at some of the top-rated properties, including the Adults-only Leonardo Crystal Cove Hotel & Spa, start as low as US$198 this season on Booking.com.
2. Sand And Culture
If it’s both sand and culture you seek, then your best bet is to base yourself on Cyprus’ Southern coast, where the bustling cities of Larnaca and Limassol form a contiguous leisure zone.
Larnaca is one of the oldest cities in the Mediterranean, housing a medieval fortress, a Romanesque church in a perfect state of preservation, a Roman aqueduct, and the Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque, built following the Islamic incursions into the island, simply the third holiest place in Islam.
The municipal golden sand beach, lined by a modern promenade, is incredibly pleasant to stroll, and although the seas are not as clear as in Ayia Napa or Protaras, it is still warm enough to swim year-round, particularly in summer when temperatures in Cyprus soar above 100 degrees.
Limassol, on the other hand, is famous for its charming Old Town, built around a landmark fortress and full of traditional Greek-Cypriot restaurants, cute little, beautifully-adorned door frames, and charming Greek Orthodox churches.
Limassol’s main attraction, however, is the new marina, dotted with towering skyscrapers and a futuristic sea garden, so innovative it’s earned the city, the second largest in the Republic, the title of ‘mini Dubai’.
3. Ancient Greek Sites
On the island’s West Coast, Paphos is also a great pick to add a bit of culture to your beach escapade. Other than being the birthplace of Aphrodite, it houses the UNESCO-protected site of the Tomb of the Kings, a Hellenic underground necropolis dating back to the 4th century.
The archaeological zone in Cyprus also includes a Greek theater and remnants of other ruined temples.
Within short driving distance of Paphos, visitors can reach the stunning Akamas Blue Lagoon, where the waters are even clearer than the Mexican Caribbean’s, and hiking trails lead to rewarding viewpoints, and the Adonis Baths, where according to Greek mythology, Aphrodite and her favorite human lover, Adonis, would meet in secrecy.
The Adonis Baths are in fact a small, secluded waterfall culminating in a natural pool, and as it can get extremely busy in summer, you are advised to get there early to enjoy the reserve’s mystical atmosphere before the tour groups begin arriving.
And of course, there is Nicosia, the Cypriot capital.
4. The Last Divided Capital In Europe
You would expect Nicosia to straddle the Mediterranean coast as well, much like its counterparts, but in fact, it is nestled in the Cypriot hinterland, a short one-hour drive from the airport in Larnaca, and it’s perhaps the most fascinating European capital due to its unique status.
Cyprus may be a trendy summer destination, but many forget it remains a divided island.
To cut a long story short, the island is split between the internationally-recognized Republic of Cyprus, where a majority of the Greek Cypriots live, and the breakaway, Turkey-supported state of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), where most inhabitants identify as Turkish or Turkish Cypriots.
Both entities claim Nicosia as their capital, which has resulted in the city being split between South Nicosia, controlled by the Republic, and North Nicosia, administered by the TRNC.
Politics aside, the TRNC is every bit as beautiful as the Greek-speaking South, and it can be a lot cheaper, seeing that the currency in use is the Turkish lira, and prices reflect those in Southern Turkey, as opposed to Greek Cyprus’ Euroized, highly-developed economy.
Northern Cyprus has its share of development zones and resort strips, though they are not as prepared to host international tourists due to the ongoing embargoes, but the nature is absolutely breathtaking, and the beaches in the North are probably the most pristine, as fewer tourists visit.
On Travel To Northern Cyprus
Americans must beware, though, as visits to Northern Cyprus can only be legally fulfilled once they have ‘checked into’ the Republic of Cyprus first.
In other words, you must arrive via one of the official entry points into Cyprus. The most widely used are the airports in Larnaca and Paphos and the port in Limassol.
After being stamped in by Cypriot authorities, you are free to cross into the unrecognized North, which does have an airport, but only hosts flights from mainland Turkey.
Those arriving on the island via the Northern airport (Ercan) risk being refused entry into the Southern part should they attempt to cross later on, on the same trip.
Arriving in either Larnaca, Paphos, or Limassol, you can cross from the South into the North and back South again freely and with minimal hassle, as many times as you wish.
Visitors love Cyprus because it is warmer year-round, the beaches are beautiful, the waters a translucent aqua, and the cultural wealth is immense.
Visiting Cyprus this summer, make sure you book your accommodation and flights some weeks in advance, as it can get quite busy over the peak season, set to last until early September, and the earlier you get those reservations in, the better.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com