When introducing Cyprus it's its very easy to fall into the old writing clichés, but it really is an island of contrasts, where old meets new, where the mountains meet the sea, where east meets west and where you can ski and swim in the same day — at least at certain times of year.
In terms of where to stay in Cyprus there really is something for everyone! The island has an enormous array of accommodation options, ranging from converted farmhouses in the foothills of the Troodos Mountains to luxurious beach resorts, where every suite has a private pool. I have some excellent family hotels to recommend too, as well as some honeymoon hotel delights, and some spots where you can book a great value beach break.
As well as its beaches, Cyprus is probably best known for its ancient treasures: the Hellenistic mosaics of ancient Paphos, the huge Roman theatre at Kourion, the medieval castles at Colossi, Limassol and Larnaka, and the wonderful frescoed Byzantine churches of the Troodos. Plus, we’ve found that the best places to stay in Cyprus to make the most of its cultural highlights can generally be found in the heart of the island’s Old Towns. So you might want to start by reading our break down of which parts Cyprus you might find the best places to stay in!
WHERE TO STAY? WHICH PART OF CYPRUS?
Nicosia, the capital, is the largest city in Cyprus and also happens to be its most beautiful. It is awash with gorgeous colonial architecture, surrounding numerous museums and art galleries, mosques and a brilliant variety of shops — from designer brands to independent craftsmen. It’s the ideal holiday destination for those looking to revel in the glory of the "real Cyprus”, and it's the world’s last divided capital: A UN buffer zone, ‘the Green Line’, divides the north and south of the island into the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the Republic of Cyprus. But it is possible for EU citizens to cross the border at certain checkpoints, like the Leda Street crossing. Leda Street also happens to be one of the most popular shopping precincts in the city, full of traditional jewellers and fabric makers and is a shopaholics paradise! As well as modern history, Nicosia also has its fair share of fascinating ancient history, and you can walk along its 14th-century Venetian walls and walk beneath the great vaulted passage, while close by is a Roman aqueduct.
Paphos is one of our favourite Cyprus resorts. Famed for its pristine beaches with their white sand and azure waters, and for its mountainous backdrop and long days of sunshine, but it’s more besides. Yes, there’s touristy Paphos, with its pubs and high street stores, waterparks and Blue-Flag beaches, but there’s also historical Paphos, one of the most archaeologically-rich areas of the Eastern Mediterranean.
Ayia Napa is a lively resort on the golden southeastern coast of Cyprus. Once a humble fishing village, it is now the clubbing capital of the island, a popular resort town ideal for a trendy seaside getaway. Yes, in Ayia Napa you can dance until dawn and then keep going, but it also has a wonderful sculpture park, two excellent museums, a fantastic street art scene and a spectacular headland. It’s also a great spot for divers. The town itself is picturesque, full of boutique designer outfitters and charming little seaside tavernas while the buildings are awash with bright and cheery street murals.
Limassol is the second largest city on Cyprus, and another attractive one, with a picturesque Old Town packed with historic buildings, and a sandy coastline, where you’ll find some of the most highly praised beaches on Cyprus. Limassol castle is where crusader king Richard Lionheart got married, there are numerous museums and several Roman sites, but also a slew of stylish bars and gourmet restaurants, plus some upmarket shopping opportunities. Our Gurus favour Limassol for romance and families.
Larnaca was built on the ruins of the ancient city of Citium, and it has a fascinating story. But it’s also the third largest town on Cyprus, and is known for its long, golden beaches, cocktail bars and the opportunity to scuba dive amongst shipwrecks. There are Byzantine churches and castles, and a palm-lined promenade cluttered with restaurants and bars. As well as attracting divers, Larnaca is also popular with families.
Our Gurus also like Kyrenia as a great family holiday destination in Cyprus. This town on the northern coast has all the great Cypriot features: a fantastic beach, a gorgeous harbour, an eclectic and interesting history, and some really great restaurants. It’s also the proud keeper of the world’s oldest shipwreck, which dates from the 3rd century BC. And, to contrast that you can expect to see some impressive superyachts in the harbour. The hills around the town are littered with churches and monasteries, which might be a hard sell to the kids, but some of them are incredible.
Small though Cyprus is, it still has its pockets of wilderness: the rocky and barren Akamas peninsula, where sea-turtles lay eggs on deserted beaches; the Troodos mountain range, which rises to the 1,952m summit of Mount Olympus; and the thickly forested hills of Tillyria where wild boar and mouflon roam. If you do want to experience the wilder side of this stunning island, some of the best places to stay in Cyprus are truly remote. Some boast stunning views, whilst others are perfect for those who want to do a spot of birdwatching or amble round country paths checking out the local flora and fauna.
Poli is a charming little resort town in the shadow of the Troodos Mountains on the northwest coast. There are plenty of gourmet restaurants and lively tavernas here, along with some really beautiful Blue Flag beaches. Poli is less touristy than Paphos or Limassol, but still has a colourful history and excellent museum. It’s also close to one of Cyprus’s most beautiful nature reserves, and, as part of the Khrysokou Bay area, it’s remarkably underdeveloped when compared to the rest of the island, and you can still see turtles nesting on the beaches.
Pissouri is a small, picturesque village on the Cape Aspro Ridge, and another less touristy option. This is the sort of place where time appears to have stood still for many years, and the welcoming tavernas and pizzerias seem to have been in the same families, and served the same delicious specialities for generations. Pissouri has a beautiful Blue Flag beach, and as you drive down towards it the main road is flanked by vineyards. Then, if you turn around as you enter you’ll see the snowcapped peak of Mount Olympus. Pissouri is a great escape for families, couples, divers, and anyone who’s looking for a picturesque beach escape.
Don't forget that as well as attracting tourists in the peak summer months, this island is one of the top picks for those looking for some winter sunshine. So if you want to ensure your bed in one of the best places to stay in Cyrpus, get organised and book well ahead.
THE BEST PLACES TO STAY ON CYPRUS
FOR A BEACH BREAK
Almyra is a chic, five star hotel on the coast in Paphos. It’s big, with 189 white-on-white rooms and suites, and the facilities to match its size: a choice of four restaurants, a cinema, tennis courts and coaching, a luxurious spa and gym, and a range of age specific kid’s clubs. They also run all sorts of watersports courses. What we really like Almyra for are the views from most of the rooms, but especially from the roof terraces. And we like the direct beach access.
Londa, which is in Palodia, just outside Limassol, is another chic, modern hotel, this time with 68 comfortable rooms and suites, also with white-on-white decor, and surprisingly large bathrooms. We like that the pool and terrace are directly overlooking the sea, and most of the rooms have private balconies which overlook the pool and sea. The spa here is excellent, with Elemis treatments and excellent facilities, and the restaurant is well regarded too.
The Thalassa Hotel is a sophisticated feeling beachfront hotel just a short drive from Paphos. There are 58 rooms and suites, decorated with cream and ochre hues, and most have a private balcony with views of the resort-style pool and the ocean. The Thalassa Hotel has restrictions on children under 12, which might help with the feeling of sophistication.
The Columbia Beach Resort is an elegant, low-rise resort on a beautiful bay. It has 95 rooms and suites, all generously proportioned, and tastefully decorated. As well as easy private beach access there’s also an enormous pool, great spa facilities and a super kid’s club, to go with the superb family suites. It’s romantic too, though.
FOR A COMPLETE ESCAPE
Apokryfo is one of the best places to stay on Cyprus if you’re looking for an escape. We love it because it’s a gorgeous character property in a pretty, but sleepy, village. And we love its exceptional restaurant, serving traditional authentic dishes. The accommodation is arranged in a collection of seven rooms and suites, and two villas, both which can sleep up to eight, so it’s extremely flexible, and the decor is simple and elegant: think exposed brickwork and creamy furnishings. There’s also a pool and a spa.
Head into the wonderfully unique, and peaceful Troodos Mountain region, and stay at the Casale Panayiotis, an elegant hotel with 28 rooms and suites, which are dotted all around this small village, all with stone walls, wooden beams, fireplaces and beautiful linens. Despite being tucked away in an idyllic, fairly sparsely populated spot, this unique hotel still has a central spa facility and excellent terrace restaurant. It’s very romantic too.
You’ll find the Paradisos Hills Hotel is a stunning spot close to the Paphos Farhan Forest in the hills above Poli. The setting is tranquil, and the hotel itself is a two storey stone building with wooden shutters and beautiful views. It has just fifteen simple rooms, all of them with private balconies or terraces, and a pool and restaurant.
The Amarakos Farmhouse is a small family-run guesthouse just up the road from the Paradisos Hotel, with a slightly higher elevation, but quite similar views. There are just seven rooms and suites, in a collection of stone buildings arranged around a charming courtyard, which doubles as the cafe/ restaurant come summer, serving home-cooked, locally sourced, traditional cuisine. The beach is only a few minutes drive away, but there’s a lovely hotel pool too. This is a good choice for families.