Exploring Southern Nicosia

Cyprus is another interesting destination in the Mediterranean whose rich culture is a melting pot of European, Asian and African influences. The island offers many appealing facets that draw all kinds of visitors to the area. The long sandy shores provide a haven for the beach-loving tourists while the archaeological sites fascinate the history enthusiasts. Its thriving nightlife is a treat for those who love to party but those who seek laid back tranquility can find refuge in the island’s idyllic small villages.

Cyprus really offers something special for everyone and its capital, Nicosia, is just one of the many worthwhile destinations to explore when visiting the area. Unlike most other capitals in the world, Nicosia is not as popular among tourists compared to its more famous neighbors. Perhaps, it has something to do with the fact that the city does not have the stunning beaches and legendary party atmosphere of Agia Napa or the spectacular landscape of the Karpas Peninsula. However, what the city lacks in natural beauty it makes up for in glitz and glamour as well as in rich historical attractions. So, it is worth giving it a chance to make a good impression because there is much to discover, experience and enjoy here.

Nicosia is located right smack at the heart of the island and is considered to be the last remaining divided capital in the world. The existing division between northern (Turkish) and southern (Greek) Cyprus is fortunately not that conspicuous to tourists – aside from the Green Line border – thanks to the somehow cordial relationship between the two governing groups. However, visitors coming from non-EU member states should enter by way of the southern entry points to freely roam around the island. It is also highly recommended to get up-to-date information from the locals on the condition of border crossing before you visit the Turkish side of the island.

Southern Nicosia is also referred to as Lefkosia to distinguish it from its northern counterpart, which is called Lefkosa. This part of the island is oozing with a cosmopolitan vibe brought about by its chic restaurants, fashionable shops and avant-garde atmosphere. The bustling stretch of Makarios Avenue, in particular, is popular among those who are looking for a bit of retail therapy because of the extensive selections of designer and luxury goods on display.

On the other hand, those who are passionate about bygone eras should start exploring within the Lefkosia’s Old City whose 16th century Venetian wall – shaped like a snowflake – is one of the most recognizable landmarks of Cyprus. Strolling around the delightful historical site is one of the more pleasant ways to pass the time in Nicosia.

Also, go ahead and hit the museums for a more insightful look into the island’s past. You do not want miss a visit to the Cyprus Archaeological Museum to experience its impressive display of 2000 terracotta figures of warriors and demon-servants dating back to the 7th century B.C. Other exhibits worth seeing include the limestone lions and sphinxes from the Tamassos necropolis south of the capital and the sculpture of Aphrodite, among others.

If religious icons are of interest to you, make sure to visit the Byzantine Museum and the remarkable 15th century church of Panagia Chrysaliniotisa. But, if folk art is more your passion then the Ethnographic Museum is a better fit for you. Art loving tourists will be glad to visit the Makarios Cultural Foundation to admire its vast collection of 16th-19th century artworks from European masters such as Rubens and Van Dyk, to name a few.

You can also spend your time getting pampered at the luxurious Turkish bath of Omeriye Hamman – just make sure you are visiting on the day designated for your gender to avoid disappointment. If you do not want to miss out on something touristy, check out Laiki Yitonia, which is a rather lovely village and makes for a wonderful sightseeing stroll if you don’t mind the abundance of tacky restaurants with overpriced food.

Finally, for a good view of the city, head to Ledra Museum-Observatory. It is located above Ermes Department store and offers sweeping views of Nicosia as well as Cyprus’ infamous Green Line.

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City of Limassol

The town offers a distinctive cool vibe that is a hit for those who simply want to chill out but, at the same, it also offers a wide range of attractions for those who want to see the sights, immerse in history, or party till daybreak.

The coastal city of Limassol in Cyprus deserves more hype than it is actually getting at present. Don’t be put off by its industrial image because there is a lot waiting to be discovered underneath its bustling facade. It is located on the south coast of the island where the beaches are stunning, the food is great and the nightlife is fantastic.

Limassol, also known as Lemesos, is about 44 miles from Larnaca Airport. You can take a taxi or an airport shuttle bus and get to the area in approximately 45 minutes. If you are coming in by boat, berthing should not be a problem because there are several marinas to choose from onsite.

An exploration of Limassol will lead you to discover the rich historical backdrop of the area. Although the city looks quite modern at first glance, you will be pleasantly surprised to know that there are more than a few medieval treasures to check out.

The centuries-old Limassol Castle takes the top spot, not so much for its unimpressive appearance but for its historical importance – that is, as the venue of Richard the Lionheart’s wedding to Berengaria of Navarre and the latter’s crowning as the queen of England in the 12th century. The castle now houses a medieval museum that makes for a worthwhile visit.

A short distance from Limassol Castle you will discover the picturesque Old Harbour. Walk around the atmospheric area with your camera in tow because there are plenty of photo opportunities on the waterfront and its myriad display of colourful fishing boats. There is also an abundance of charming seafood restaurants in the area where you can sit down for a great meal and enjoy a wonderful view.

After your scrumptious fare, burn the calories off with a mile-long stroll at the City Park. This lovely green space features a small zoo and if you are lucky, you just might chance upon a charming performance at the site’s open-air theatre.

Continue your walking tour of the area at the nearby Limassol Archaeological Museum. History enthusiasts will find an interesting exhibit of various artefacts from different periods, most of which were taken from the nearby archaeological sites, Amathous in particular.

Other attractions worth seeing in the city centre include the Folk Art Museum and its remarkable display of Cypriot crafts. There is also the Silks Gallery which is truly a superb treat for the art enthusiast. It features works from both famous and up-and-coming talent from different parts of the world.

The Limassol Sculpture Park, strategically located at the waterfront, is also a must-see. Its 20 medium to large-scale sculptures from renowned local and international artists are remarkable creative expressions that inspire both mind and spirit.

Of course, there are several exciting shopping opportunities in the area. Check out the cobbled streets of Ayios Andreas and Anexartisias for their traditional shops as well as the Saturday Market for some great finds.

Finally, party-loving tourists will delight in the bubbly nightlife of Limassol, which is usually the most popular night-time destination in Cyprus when Ayia Napa hibernates during low season. Two of the most popular spots for an all-nighter include the Yermasoyia Strip and the old medieval town centre.

A few kilometres from Limassol, there is a fortress, known as the Kolossi Castle. This castle is a former Crusader stronghold on the south-west edge of Kolossi village 14 kilometres (9 mi) west of the city of Limassol. It held great strategic importance in the Middle Ages and contained large facilities for the production of sugar from the local sugarcane, one of Cyprus’s main exports in the period.

As well as its sugar. the area is also known for its sweet wine, Commandaria. King Richard allegedly declared this wine as “the wine of the kings and the king of wine”. This wine is considered to be the oldest ever-produced and named wine in the world.

Half an hour drive from the city centre, there is a fantastic ancient Kurion town. Situated on a cliff on the coast, the view over the sea and the surrounding places combined with the amount of history here is amazing. All this place is like an open-air museum, and what you should not miss is the ancient Greek-Roman Amphitheater and Eustolius House, where there are several well-preserved mosaics.

The archaeological site Amatus is located about 11 km east of Limassol. This was one of Cyprus’s centres in the antique period. It was one of the main royal cities, as it was the neighbouring Kurion. Here you can also see the ruins of the Aphrodite temple and the graves of the Iron Age.

The city of Limassol has the longest coastline of all the cities in Cyprus. The town offers a large number of public and private beaches. Some of them are Ladies Mile, Guverner’s Beach, Kurion Beach, Pissouri Beach, and others.

One of the most popular beaches is Kurion, and it is especially popular among surfing and sailing lovers. The closest is Ladies Mile, a beautiful beach with white sand and crystal clear water. Restaurants, cafes, nightclubs, all this completes the ever-diverse offer of this city.

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Exploring Larnaca Salt Lake

When visiting Larnaca be sure to visit the city’s biggest natural attraction, the Salt Lake. It is located near the airport just outside of the city centre. What makes the site a big favourite among tourists is not only its rich natural diversity but also its proximity to some of the most important historical monuments in Larnaca. Those who love to take long exploratory walks will surely delight in the abundance of attractions that can be found in the area.

Start your exploration at the Kamares Aqueduct, accessible from the highway going to Limassol. The aqueduct dates back to the 18th century and features remarkable stonework inspired by traditional Roman craftsmanship. Its 10-mile stretch is simply a visual treat for those who appreciate lovely architecture with stunning vistas at the background. Not far away from the Kamares Aqueduct, you will find the 12th-century church of Agios Georgios Makris and its ancient wall paintings. This Byzantine beauty is strategically situated on a hilltop which also makes it a perfect lookout point to take in the surrounding panorama of Larnaca.

Next stop is at the modern structure of Chalkidos Street Residence. The edifice will surely delight the architecture enthusiast for the rare feat of creating a harmonious blend between the unpretentious material of concrete and glass with the open and sun-drenched landscape of the island. It is then followed by the Salt Lake Park, which makes for a dramatic contrast. The verdant area often hosts open-air musical events and also serves as the gateway to the scenic area of Larnaca Salt Lake.

The Salt Lake is composed of several smaller lakes which dry up during summer leaving nothing but a thin layer of salt. The area is a beloved haunt among birdwatchers because it is home to several dozen bird species. The regal and vibrant flamingos, in particular, gather by the hundreds during autumn until winter when the lake is filled with water. The flocks of flamingos happily scampering around the lake area is truly a magnificent sight that will surely take your breath away. Timing is of the essence, so make sure you are visiting when the area is transformed from a salt-pan to a lush natural retreat for migratory birds.

From the Larnaca Salt Lake, continue along Artemidos Avenue taking a few turns towards the shore to get to the palm-lined MacKenzie Beach. It is the perfect place to rest your weary feet and enjoy a pleasant meal from one of the many waterfront restaurants scattered around the area. The beach stretches for about half a mile, which is just perfect for those who would love to spend a few minutes to take lazy strolls or building sand castles!

Finally, after a pleasant amble along the shore, head in the direction of Tekke Park where you will discover the extraordinary Hala Sultan Tekkesi Mosque. From a distance, the site looks like a very charming oasis surrounded by swaying date palms and olive trees. This imposing Muslim Shrine dates back to early 19th century and its idyllic setting perfectly complements its reputation as a holy site. There are various structures to explore in the area, from the imposing mosque to the mausoleums so take your time and bring your curiosity and your camera.

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