About an hour's scenic drive from Nicosia or Limassol, are Troodos and Prodromos Mountains, which peak at 2,000 metres above sea level, two historic hotels nearby are the Jubilee Hotel and the Forest Park Hotel in Platres. You may want to carry a couple of empty bottles with you, because along the way, you can stop and fill them with some of that healthy mountain water. The village of Kakopetria boasts a lovely restaurant and hotel, the Old Mill, where a trout lunch is highly recommended. In Vouni village, the Donkey Sanctuary is an animal lover's paradise, a place where unwanted and old donkeys can be cared for.
East of Limassol, Governor's Beach and Ayios Theodoros offer relatively unspoiled stretches of coastline, Governor's Beach is sandy, while Ayios Theodoros is rocky, but the pleasant ten minute drive from the highway down to the sea is naturally splendid. Once in Ayios Theodoros, and wearing plastic sandals, older children and adults can enjoy a search to find the most unusual stone, before lunch at a fish taverna. Limassol boasts a beautiful promenade along the sea, where, on a windy day, you could fly a kite (available in most kiosks). One of the cultural centres of the island is the refurbished Rialto Theatre, originally opened in 1933, and beautifully renovated in 1999. The theatre offers both Cypriot and international theatre, dance and music. In Paphos, ancient mosaics of mythological gods can be viewed at the House of Dionysos, the House of Theseus and the House of Aion. These works of art were actually floors of the homes of noble families who lived here between the third and fifth centuries AD. For an up close look at colourful marine life, check out the Aquarium, next to Theoskepasti Church, in town. About 15 kilometres north of Paphos, along the coastal road to Ayios Georgios, George's Snake Farm is an impressed stop for reptile fanciers.
Being at the crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe, this island has attracted people to its welcoming shores for thousands of years. With so many places to see, and its tradition of warm hospitality, no matter where the family roams here, children should find their visit to Cyprus an awesome experience.
National Parks Of Cyprus
Troodos National Forest Park, with an area of 9,307 ha; was declared as such in 1992, while four areas within the N.F.P. (with a total area of 220 ha) were declared as Nature Reserves. Troodos National Forest Park hosts not only the largest number of plants compared to any other area of Cyprus but also the largest number of endemic plants. Moreover, it has been designated as one of the 13 "Plant Diversity Hot Spots" in the Mediterranean.
Cavo Greko, in the south-east part of the island, is a National Forest Park and occupies an area of 390 ha.
Athalassa National Forest Park with an area of 840 ha, with manmade vegetation, is situated near Lefkosia (Nicosia) town, and offers many recreational facilities.
Paedagogical Academy National Forest Park with an area of 45 ha, with manmade vegetation, is situated near Lefkosia (Nicosia) town, and offers many recreational facilities.
Polemidia National Forest Park, near the town of Lemesos (Limassol), occupies an area of 125 ha and offers recreational facilities.
Rizoelia National Forest Park, near the town of Larnaka, covers an area of 97 ha and it is under development concerning recreational facilities.
Tripylos Natural Reserve, with an area of 823 ha, including the famous Cedar Valley is the first declared Nature Reserve.
Akamas peninsula, the north-westernmost tip of Cyprus, has been managed up to now as a National Forest Park. In the areas of Akamas, Lara-Toxeftra is a Marine Reserve.
In the near future several other forest areas will be declared either as Nature Reserves or as National Forest Parks. Such areas are Platis Valley, Mavroi Kremnoi, Madari, Larnaka and Akrotiri Salt Lakes etc.
The camping sites in Cyprus are licensed by the Cyprus Tourism Organisation. Facilities available in camping sites include: showers, toilets, washing facilities, mini-market, and usually a snack - bar or restaurant.
The opening period for each camping site is indicative and customers are advised to confirm whether the sites are open by contacting either the camping sites or any Cyprus Tourism Organisation office in Cyprus or abroad.
The Picnic Sites are all equipped with car parking, toilets, piped drinking water, tables and benches, barbecue facilities and children's play area.
As they grow in popularity the various sites are maintained, improved and enlarged every year by the Forestry Department, in co-operation with the Cyprus Tourism Organisation. To assist in keeping them at their most attractive, and to ensure that the level of service is maintained, visitors are asked to respect the environment and co-operate with the Forestry Department's regulations.
Fires should not be lit anywhere except in the areas provided for barbecues and grills, make sure that any fires still burning in the barbecue areas are properly extinguished before leaving, Portable barbecues or grills should not be used anywhere except in the areas provided.
Never throw lighted matches or cigarette ends into the forest, Children should not be allowed to play with matches in the forest.
If you see a fire in or near the forest put it out if you can. If you cannot, inform the Forestry Department or Police immediately. There is no charge for telephone calls advising of a fire.
Please do not cut branches from trees or carve names into tree trunks.
Please respect the wishes of others for peace and quiet, and try not to disturb them with loud noise and music.
Don't throw away litter in the forest or in the picnic sites. Litter bins are provided at all sites.
Please take care not to damage the sites or facilities in any way
A must for nature lovers, Cedar Valley in Tilliryan Troodos is aptly named. However, the cedars in this secluded valley are no ordinary trees, but the indigenous Cyprus cedar, Cedrus brevifolia, a close relative of the famous cedars of Lebanon. There are thousands of them in Cedar Valley. It's not the easiest of places to find, but for that reason you are almost guaranteed peace and quiet when you get there. It can be reached via a winding unpaved road from Pano Panagia on the Paphos side of the mountains, or from the Kykkos side along a signposted (unpaved) road along the route from Kykkos to Stavros tis Psokas.
And if you are really lucky, it won't be only cedars you see. Cedar Valley is in the heart of the habitat of the moufflon, a species of wild sheep native to Cyprus, and the national symbol. They are very shy animals - those who want a guaranteed viewing will need to go to the enclosure at Stavros tis Psokas.
Panayia tou Araka
It is almost impossible to pick just one of the painted churches of the Troodos - they are all little gems of craftsmanship set in breathtaking scenery. Panayia tou Araka - the church of Our Lady of the Pea - is a superb example and one of ten painted churches on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. It is to be found on a terrace near the village of Lagoudera, surrounded by trees and wild peas from which it takes its name, with a superb view down the valley. The church itself is tiny, and is dwarfed by its snow-proof roof and the wooden trellis that surrounds it. However, when you walk inside, the vibrant colours and the number of the frescoes takes your breath away. They date from the twelfth century and are brilliantly clear, having been cleaned relatively recently.
If the church is locked the caretaker priest lives in the adjacent house - admission to the church is free but donations are welcomed. As in all churches in Cyprus, visitors should be modestly dressed and photography is not allowed.
To those in the know, Lefkara means only one thing, lace making. The exquisite Lefkara lace is one of Cyprus' most famous exports - Leonardo da Vinci is said to have bought some to take back to Italy. As you wander around the streets, you will be invited into the many shops to see and buy the local lace. Lefkara is in fact two villages, Pano (upper) and Kato (lower) Lefkara. Pano Lefkara is the home of the Museum of Traditional Embroidery and Silver Smithing in the house of Patsalos - ideal for the visitor who wants to know more before they buy. Opening house 9.30am to 4pm Monday to Thursday, 10am to 4pm Friday & Saturday, closed Sunday.
Ancient Curium and the castle at Kolossi are both in the Limassol area and can be visited together in a day. They are just two examples of the wealth of history to be found in Cyprus - the Curium sites dating from the second century AD and Kolossi from the thirteenth century.
The ruins at Curium are to be found in breathtaking scenery overlooking the sea - this is probably the most spectacular archaeological site in Cyprus. There are actually two sites, the old city of Kolossi and the sanctuary of Apollo Hylates - they are a few kilometres apart. There is also a museum in the nearby village of Episkopi. As it is one of Cyprus' most popular tourist attractions, it's worth arriving early in high season.
Kolossi castle was the Commanderie of the Knights Hospitallers - the name later given to the Commanderia dessert wine. Despite changing owners a number of times, the castle is inextricably linked with both the Hospitallers and wine making.
Both Curium and Kolossi are signposted from the Limassol-Paphos highway. Curium is close to Episkopi village, Kolossi to the village of the same name.
Opening hours Ancient Curium winter daily 8am to 5pm - summer 8am to 7.30pm.Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates October to April daily 9am to 5pm - summer 9am to 7.30pm. Kourion Museum September to June Monday to Friday 9am to 2.30pm - Thursday only 3pm to 5pm - summer 9am to 7.30pm.
Paphos Harbour And Castle
The harbour at Paphos attracts visitors all year round, who take the opportunity to walk along the quay and maybe visit one of the fish restaurants, tavernas or cafes. The view is superb, with lots of colourful fishing boats bobbing in the harbour. The castle is in fact all that remains of a much earlier castle dating from 1391, which was demolished by the Venetians. The Ottomans used it as dungeons and the British as a warehouse for salt! It can be reached via a small bridge over a moat and is worth a visit for the view from the top. Opening hours - winter daily 9am to 5pm - summer daily 9am to 6pm
The harbour is also a good place to take a boat tour of the surrounding beaches and coastline.
The Paphos Mosaics
Last but by no means least, the colourful and intricate Roman mosaics to be found in Paphos are a must for all visitors to Cyprus. They were discovered by accident in the 1960's - further excavation revealed a number of Roman houses all with spectacular mosaics, depicting scenes from ancient mythology.
The mosaics give a clue to the wealthy and opulent lives of some of the Roman Paphiots. The main sites are the House of Dionysos, the House of Aion and the House of Theseus. The mosaics can be found near the lighthouse and fortress of Saranda Kolones situated in close proximity to Paphos Harbour. Opening hours October to March daily 8am to 5pm - April/May and September 8am to 6pm. June to August 8am to 7pm.
Of course, if after all that you still have time and energy, there's always the Akamas peninsula, the Archbishop in Nicosia, Panagia Chrysoirroyiatissa monastery, Petra too Romiou, Agios Lazaros in Larnaca ….. And so the list goes on
"The island has in its midst a fair city called Nicosia, which is the capital of the kingdom, well walled, with its fine gates, which are three, to wit the gate of Paffo, of Famagusta, and Cirina. That of Famagusta, is the most beautiful, and in my judgment the city of Barcelona has none to match it"~ P. Joan Lopez, 1770
During the Venetian expansion eastward in the 1500's, Nicosia (Lefkosia) was fortified with imposing stone walls and massive gates. The famous Famagusta Gate still stands today, proudly protecting the still ancient town within from the modern city.
Through the Gate lies Laiki Geitonia, an old section which has been lovingly restored.
Wind your way through narrow stone streets where crimson flowers cascade from window pots and the aroma of traditional baking wafts through open doorways. Explore jewellery and handicraft shops, dine in charming tavernas, marvel at churches centuries old.
Those engrossed in history and art will make their way directly to the Cyprus Museum, which holds the island's priceless treasures from the first stirrings of the Neolithic Age through the Roman period. At the Byzantine Museum, encounter a dazzling collection of early Cristian icons from the Mediterranean's Golden Age. The State Collection of Contemporary Art takes a newer perspective, focusing on Cyprus' modern artists, some of whom have gained note on the international market.
Come full circle in time and visit the Cyprus Handicraft Center workshops, where traditional arts are practiced today much the same way they were in ages past. Relax and enjoy a splendid Cypriot meal, enhanced by one of the island's famous wines.
Later, the night life beckons near Famagusta Gate, giving expression to the Cypriots' legendary spirit of celebration.
On the outskirts of the capital city, Nicosia, visit the National Forest Park, also known as Athalassa Park, which actually has two major parts and several entrances. One part offers a lake with ducks, the other a wooded picnic and play area. To get to the lake, go to the Aglantzia area of Nicosia and ask locals to direct you to the lake entrance. You could also find St George's Church, which is on the same road as one of the park's marked entrances. Another entrance can be found from the highway as you leave Nicosia, towards Latsia. The park has over twenty kilometers of track, amidst 500 different kinds of trees, herbs and shrubs. While the park is open through the daytime all year round, summer visitors are advised to go early morning or late afternoon, to avoid high temperatures.
Shopping is one of the highlights of any city, and Nicosia is no exception. There are two notable areas. Markarios Avenue is lined with cafes and shops, as is its parallel - and more upscale - Stasikratous Street. Within walking distance is Eleftheria Square, which is the top of Ledra Street, a mostly pedestrian area, where little ones can drop your hand while you stroll in the old city. About midway down Ledra Street, at the corner of Arsinois Street, look for the tallest building, the Shakolas or Woolworth Tower. Take the elevator to the eleventh floor observatory to view the city with a 360 degree panoramic view. For toy shopping, try Mavros, on Ledra Street, or Jumbo, in City Plaza on Makarios Avenue. Please note that shops close from 1pm until 4 pm.
A fascinating collection of Cypriot treasures can be found in the Cyprus Museum. The leaflet from the ticket counter guides guests through fourteen rooms of artefacts that date from 8000 BC to the end of antiquity. Plan to spend at least one hour there. Point the children towards the lion statues, silver coins found in a vase, the early Cypriot alphabet, helmets, and an awesome collection of statues, some smiling.
Nicosia 'within the walls' and the House of Hadigeorgakis Kornesios
Look at any map of Nicosia and you will see the distinctive shape of the walls of the old city. The walls and their eleven bastions were built by the Venetians in the 1570's - most of the historic monuments of Nicosia can be found in the winding streets within the walls. It is also the site of the famous tourist quarter, Laiki Yitoniak, which is full of gift shops and restaurants. The best way to see what is on offer is on foot - for a bird's eye view of the city old and new go to the Ledra Museum and Observatory on the eleventh floor of the Shakolas Tower (next door to Woolworths on the corner of Ledra Street and Arsinois Street).
Opening hours winter daily 10am to 7pm - summer 10am to 8pm.
One of the most beautiful buildings in the old city is the house of Hadigeorgakis Kornesios - also known as the House of the Dragoman - built in the fifteenth century. It is a wonderful example of a combination of Venetian and Ottoman building styles. The position of dragoman was a powerful one - he served as translator to the Turkish governor and liaised between the Ottoman authorities and the Orthodox Christians. He was an immensely powerful man and, as was common for such people in those days, was beheaded in 1808. The house can be found at 20 Patriarchou Grigoriou near the Omeriye mosque.
Opening hours 8am to 2pm Monday to Friday, 9am to 1pm Saturday
To go right back to Cyprus' earliest history, you need to visit the remains of stone-age settlements at Choirokitia, better preserved than most other Neolithic sites in the eastern Mediterranean. The settlement dates back to the sixth or seventh centuries BC - although the site was discovered in 1936, serious excavation did not get underway until the 1970's. It is perhaps one of the earliest human settlements on the island and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The people of Choirokitia lived in beehive-shaped one storey houses - more than sixty such houses can be seen at the site, as well as the original streets and lanes and a larger chieftain's mansion.
This site can be found approximately half way between Larnaca and Limassol, signposted off the highway. Opening hours winter daily 9am to 5pm, summer 9am to 7.30 Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm Saturday and Sunday.
Larnaca Salt Lake and Hala Sultan Tekke
For those of you arriving at Larnaca airport, one of Cyprus' most impressive places to visit is right under your noses! As you turn left out of the airport you will find the road running along a causeway. On either side you will either see two lakes, or two salt flats, depending on the time of year - this is the Larnaca Salt Lake and site of the mosque or Tekke of Hala Sultan. Salt has been extracted from the lake since ancient times and this continues, on a small scale, to this day. If you are visiting Cyprus in late winter or early spring, look out for the visiting flamingos and other migratory birds. Another salt lake can be found further along the coast of Akrotiri.
Peer across the lake and you will see the Hala Sultan Tekke mosque surrounded by palm trees. This is a wonderful place to visit. Opening hours Hala Sultan Tekke winter 9am - 5pm - summer 7.30am to 7.30pm.
Paleontology Museum, Larnaca
Larnaca's best kept secret (and especially for children who are interested in the prehistoric creatures of Cyprus), the Palaeontology Museum is located on the seafront promenade at Europe Square (adjacent to the Larnaca Municipal Art Gallery). The first signs of life here date from about 500 million years ago! Aside from all the bones and neat stuff that has been unearthed on the island, children can participate in the Amateur Shell and Fossil Collection by adding any prize shell, (thereby obtaining a certificate).
With a decent camera, try an hour or two at the Salt Lake. To get there from Larnaca town, drive toward the airport, and after the roundabout, proceed toward Kiti. Not far from the roundabout is a sign for a right turn-off to the Salt Lake and mosque, knows as Hala Sultan Tekke. If the island has recently had rain, this can be one of the best natural studios for photo shoots.
For those who enjoy riding, a good half-day outing can be had at the Camel Park in nearby Mazotos village. Families can also enjoy seeing other, smaller animals, the use of a swimming pool, and a restaurant.
Ayia Napa and Protaras
If you like entertainment of the non-stop variety, then Ayia Napa should be top of your list. It was once a small fishing village, but not anymore. It boasts some of the best beaches on the island, lots of opportunities for watersports and is a popular destination for package tours. Arrive on a summer's morning and you will find a quiet, almost eerie place - but only because most of the visitors are sleeping off the excesses of the night before! This is Cyprus, however, and in the midst of all the fun and noise in the very heart of the town, you can find peace and tranquility in the monastery with its fountain, flowers and quiet cloisters.
Opening hours 8.15am to 2.30pm and 3pm to 6.30 pm Monday to Friday, closed on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons.
The nearby resort of Protaras is said to be more family orientated and like Ayia Napa, has good beaches and lots of watersports. South of Protaras is Cape Greko, the easternmost point of this end of the island