Our Cyprus island road trip itinerary – the best of Cyprus for a week

Time for another detailed road trip itinerary! Islands are magic and we were naturally attracted to Cyprus as it’s also not so far from where we live. The map showed us it’s quite big so we decided to rent a car and explore at our own pace. One island, two countries, 8 days of road tripping, and almost 5 years later – here’s our full itinerary for a week-long road trip on Cyprus island. With all the surprises behind every corner, culinary delight, and sunny encounters!

Our Cyprus island road trip itinerary - the best of Cyprus for a week

Our Cyprus road trip itinerary

Day 1: Land in Larnaca – Pano Lefkara – Choirokoitia – Tochni village – Governor’s beach

We have to say that Cyprus is a country full of nice and smiling people.

So far we have spent 2 days here and everywhere we go we see friendly faces. We can feel the calmness from the moment we landed in Larnaca. It is not that calmness that can make you mad because everyone is just lazy. Instead, it is that calmness that gets things done quickly without any stress. We got our car from the rent-a-car place in no time. We are heading for the Eastern slope of the mountains, toward the village of Pano Lefkara.

So far, the landscape looks Mediterranean. As we are going up, it starts to get a little bit of a desert. There are long stony fields with olives, and lots of limestone rocks. Every new turn we make awards us with a new view of the valleys or a hidden village. In the distance, we can see the sea.

Pano Lefkara

We reach Lefkara. It must be the friendliest village in Cyprus (that we have visited so far). Our GPS map is not accurate enough so we enter a shop to ask for directions. There, a nice lady literally took us up the steep streets to our stone house. We knock on the big wooden gate, but no one is answering. The people from the next house are nice enough to call the owner of the house. He starts walking really quickly from the bottom of the street as soon as he sees us. We had told him that we will arrive late but we actually got here pretty fast. His house is a wonderful example of the quality stone architecture in the area. It has an inner courtyard and a high ceiling. We get some great advice about what we can do and some homemade cookies.

It is cloudy outside and this gives us the strength to keep going. We are going up and down the stone streets of the village. The main things that people do here are connected with silver and lace. Some smiling ladies are inviting us to explore their workshops. However, we need to get some food.

We conquered the small village pretty fast. We even ran into our host a couple of times. He had that ability to be everywhere.

Choirokoitia village

We decided to visit one more village – Choirokoitia, in search of some recovered stone houses in the shapes of mushrooms and some bomb shelters.

This time the narrow streets tricked us. We couldn’t even find some of them. In the end, we stopped at the main church at the top of the hill and decided to keep on going on foot. This is how we got totally lost. However, the cute narrow pedestrian streets have a charm of their own. We even reached an eco-trail, but it was getting late and we decided against going on it to find out what is behind the next hill. In this village, the elderly people were gathered in the evening in the big pub next to the church. We said hello.

The cars in Cyprus go on the left side of the road. This was a reason for some comic situations even on the wide streets of the villages. However, you can get used to it in a day.

Tochni village

We visited Tochni village as well. It is quite popular for accommodation in Cyprus.

The buildings are made with dark beige stones and are looking over the dried basin of the river. In the church’s yard, there was a wedding. Some people were admiring it from the restaurant next to it. We decided to leave. We weren’t invited to the wedding anyway.

Governor’s beach

Our last stop for the day was the Governor’s beach. Even though it was dark our first encounter with the sea was nice. The rocks are entering the water and there is a long promenade on a stone alley. It looks like we might visit this place during the day, too.

We were feeling confident that at 8:30 p.m. there will be lots of places in Pano Lefkara to grab some dinner. We were wrong. Everything was already closed and the streets were empty. At the last moment, we found an open restaurant with a garden. It looked like it served only friends and family. Good catch!
By the way, today we were asked at least three times where we are from. And that was from people who could take no advantage of that information, whatsoever. We felt really special!

Day 2: Limassol – Akrotiri Peninsula – Aphrodite’s Rock – Paphos

We slept for 10 hours! This newly set record helps us start the day with a smile on our faces. We decide on our itinerary on the spot. The only thing we know is that we have to reach Paphos. Which road to take and what to see on the way will be decided on the go.

Limassol

Limassol (or Lemesos) will be our first stop for the day.

There we couldn’t find the right place to leave the car. So we will have to walk along the beach. Poor us. It is Sunday and people are laying lazily on the beach or on the grass under the trees. In the old part of the city center are the Medieval Castle, some churches, a mosque, and restored streets. It is a big city that looks great for living in. We met lots of other Bulgarians there. This should only prove that the place is great indeed. They would never make the mistake of going to a bad place. In Cyprus as a whole, there are a lot of Bulgarians. We will see what Northern Cyprus is like. In the Southern part of the island, it is said that in the north there are lots of Turks.

Akrotiri Peninsula

We are heading for the Akrotiri Peninsula. There we hope to see the famous salt lake.

It turned out to be not that interesting in comparison to the desert around it. There we accidentally ended up having an off-road adventure. First, we were attracted by the turquoise color of the sea in the distance. Then we decided that our jeep will be able to handle the bumps. The result was a few times getting stuck, ears full of sand, and extreme downhill driving. Everything ended well. We haven’t brought back the car yet so we are about to see how much this adventure will cost us if at all. [Update: It cost nothing.]

The other interesting thing about the area is that is a military zone for the British special forces. On our way, we encountered some interesting training. We even caught a special British radio.

Aphrodite’s Rock

They have chosen a picturesque place for a military zone. We noticed this on the curvy B6 road on our way to the birthplace of Aphrodite. We reached the rock of Aphrodite, too. The story is unclear about whether she has chosen it herself for a birthplace after her birth. It was too full of tourists. There were lots of Aphrodites hopping on the stones…

Our Cyprus island road trip itinerary - the best of Cyprus for a week

Paphos

Before sunset we reached Paphos. It was important to finish at the upper side of Paphos, so we would be able to see the down part of the city (Kato Paphos) and the sunset over the Mediterranean. Welcome to Europe’s Culture Capital for 2017. We were led to Paphos by our desire for a unique sunset. It turned out our stomachs’ desires showed us the best place to capture the sunset.

Our Cyprus island road trip itinerary - the best of Cyprus for a week

Day 3: Polamitissa – a hike in Troodos

From the shore, we are heading back to the mountains. There is something very attractive there. The villages are hidden and ordered steeply and like in an amphitheater. The streets are bidirectional but only according to the road signs. Most of the villages look asleep, although if you look carefully you will notice that everyone is working over something…

A few villages later we reach Polamitissa where we will stay at an agrohotel. It looks like this is the only fully awake place in the village. We are happy with what we get. The food is tasty, we have a fireplace and a view of the valley. We are advised on which one of the hundreds of eco paths to take. It also passes near Olympus. We reach a parking lot, where an older man is selling fruits. From there we take the wrong path. Instead of the easy one that is 3 kilometers long, we take the hard one that is 14 kilometers long… However, the views are worth it. At some point, we reach the mist. I think it is time to go back. We buy some bananas from the man and go back to our agrohotel before it gets dark.

Our Cyprus island road trip itinerary - the best of Cyprus for a week

Day 4: Nicosia

We are going to Nicosia (a.k.a. Lefkosia or Lefkosa in Turkish). Yes, this is the capital, and yes, it is between two countries. How do past and future meet in it? It is built like a circle with 11 fortress gates from Venetian time. Many peoples have lived there – from Cyprus, Venice, Britain, Greece, and Turkey. This complexity of the population can be felt even nowadays. Unfortunately, some places in the city look pretty bad and even scary. With time the city has expanded beyond the original circle. Even inside the circle, though, there are some buildings that seem abandoned. They are right next to some traditional nice houses. It is great that there are some pedestrian streets. Welcome to Nicosia!   🇨🇾🇨🇾🇨🇾

Our Cyprus island road trip itinerary - the best of Cyprus for a week

It is funny how you might walk on the main street named Ledra and just like that you are crossing a border. Just 5 minutes and you are in a different country. It is the last divided city in Europe. Accurate saying. The conflicts there are not from yesterday. Even the green line that should separate the Greek from the Turkish neighborhoods is not very effective. For the tourists, however, this is just an attraction that connects some beautiful churches and mosques on the one side with some other beautiful churches and mosques on the other side.

Nicosia is so strange and weird that you might be scared to walk alone on the streets late at night. However, exactly in the evenings, the streets are full of life. During the day it is way too hot to do anything. This is what the last divided capital of Europe looks like. I hope one day the many unused buildings in the buffer zone get their chance to be brought back to life. I hope the same thing happens with the people there, too, who are trying to make it work in this stressful city. The feeling in the air is some strange combination of Istanbul, Mombasa, Delhi, Sofia, and a few more cities…

Our Cyprus island road trip itinerary - the best of Cyprus for a week

Day 5: Nicosia – Buffavento castle – Kantara castle – Alagadi beach and Caplica beach – Ozonkoy neighborhood (Girne)

People from the Republic of Cyprus say Turks took the best part of the island. We wanted to check if that was true so we left the capital Nicosia in the morning. With our car, we headed to one of the 5 border control points.

We are going north, to a neighborhood of Kyrenia or Girne. We are warmly welcomed at the border. This is the legendary Turkish hospitality. Enormous flags, carved into the mountain, greet us. We have no GPS but the good old paper map comes in handy and navigates us to the cabins we are about to stay in. The hosts recommend we visit the nearby castle Buffavento.

Buffavento Castle

We enter the kingdom of huge rugged mountains. As you come closer they become not so scary. In the last 6 kilometers, we are accompanied by an abyss on one of the sides. But that is nothing compared to what awaits us. The castle walls are carved into the top of the cliffs. There are very steep stone stairs to take you up the trail. We pace ourselves to break a record so in no time we are out of breath. 20 minutes later we are at the castle’s remains. If you climb to the very top you will see the sea, Girne, the shore, and even the coastline of mainland Turkey if the weather allows. On the other side, you will see Cyprus all the way to Nicosia. 360-degree view at its finest.

Buffavento Castle is the highest castle on the island and was built during the reign of the Lusignan family. There is a system of three castles – Buffavento, Kantara, and St. Hilarion Castle – it was used for patrolling the area. If you start a fire in one of the castles, the other two can see that clearly. This high-altitude communication strategy was not a priority for the Venetians, who came later. They relied on towers along the coastline and left „the Holy Trinity“ behind. Later some kings, including ones defeated in battles and ones who escaped, took care of the castles. That included Richard the Lionheart who is also popular on the island for other things. He is most famous for taking over Cyprus when his wife and daughter were kidnapped.

Kantara Castle

Let’s get back to another castle. After some kilometers towards the Akamas peninsula, we reached the second castle Kantara. You need to climb a hundred or so steps to reach it and enjoy its prolonged location along a ridge.

Alagadi beach and Caplica beach

It’s beach time! Beaches here are so huge and so empty!

We visited Alagadi beach and Caplica beach (the latter had a sign saying „the most beautiful beach“). Beautiful and totally empty. Maybe it wasn’t high season (it’s the end of September).  The waters are warm and the sand feels like silk!

Driving along the coastline

We took the secondary bumpy coast road and found a real treasure – hidden beaches, cliffs with amazing shapes, and fortress ruins.

Driving along this road was a shaky and at the same time calming experience. On one of the sides, you see the asphalt deteriorating from the salty waves. On the other, you see the distances being lit by the soft September sun… It was time to swim in the pool right next to our cabins and enjoy the sunset from the second floor. We realized why the Ozonkoy neighborhood is so attractive for all people on holiday – the combination of the grey sea on the right, the sun falling asleep over the rugged mountains on the left, and the lower neighborhoods of Girne in the distance. We were lucky to be there and we found this place accidentally. Sometimes the best places and moments find you.

Day 6: Girne – Lapta – St. Hilarion Castle

We decided today we wanted to relax. On our way to the resort town of Lapta, we wanted to take a look at the castle, the old harbor, and whatever interesting we can find in Kyrenia (Girne). It was so hot that only the light breeze near the sea could save us.

Our Cyprus island road trip itinerary - the best of Cyprus for a week

This was also our second attempt to visit the third of the three big castles. On our first attempt, we missed the exit from the highway. Today’s attempt failed due to military training. Our third attempt would be the following day on our way back to the Greek part of the island.

The sunset for millions – Lapta

So we reached our hotel in Lapta just in time for lunch and a nap. When we woke up the seas were furious, flooding the inner swimming pool and the sunset was near… Pictures were painted in front of our eyes and asked the camera to snapshot them in our photo memories.

In those romantic circumstances, it wasn’t hard to progress to our dinner while enjoying the Turkish hospitality and service.

Our table was filled with delicious dishes in no time. We practiced our sommeliers’ skills to indulge in Turkish fresh and light white wine. We had to taste the specially prepared for us shisha mix. So we were smiling and walking back to our hotel, just in time to catch a women’s volleyball game between Bulgaria and Turkey.

It was late but still very hot, so we open the door facing the sea and listened to the waves. Calmed down we fell asleep to gain strength and good karma so that maybe our third attempt for the St. Hilarion Castle would be successful.

St. Hilarion Castle

And it was! This time the military training was still on, but they let us in. We finally saw the castle. Our first impression was: „Are we in Cyprus? Why do we see the Great Wall of China then?“. The castle is so well-preserved after centuries of battles, glory, and knights leaving their marks on it. To us, the most intriguing part was those views that revealed themselves with every step climbed. The castle is 732m above sea level and shows you tremendous views of the area.

Our Cyprus island road trip itinerary - the best of Cyprus for a week

Day 7: Stavrovouni Monastery – Kato Drys – Pano Lefkara

We had no problems going back to the southern part of the island of Cyprus.

While we were looking for a gas station, we noticed a sign directing us to the Stavrovouni Monastery.  We had seen pictures of it in our guide and our first host told us about it. We thought we were going near it anyway, so why not go and see it? It is definitely more impressive from afar, sitting on the top of the mountain. From up close it is a closed complex, that is forbidden for women. Men have to be properly dressed if they want to enter.

Kato Drys

We made some photos of the landscape and Larnaca and left for Kato Drys. This is going to be the last village where we will spend the night.

The complex is beautiful. It is a great mix of ancient and modern that results in functionality and comfort. This is what happens when you let a Swiss person into a lonely village in Cyprus. In the afternoon we had some rest.

In the evening we decided to close the circle by having dinner in Pano Lefkara. This was the village where we started our journey through Cyprus. The last time we were there and the blue pastry shop closed a few seconds before we could enter. Today we managed to get there on time and it was totally worth it.

On the next morning, we made a cool fruit breakfast for ourselves. We enjoyed the garden in front of our house one last time and left for the airport.

The road trip around Cyprus

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So even if you have a week in Cyprus, you can explore some of the most amazing highlights of the island. Just rent a car, fuel it up and be ready for adventures! We stayed at all those amazing places and met wonderful smiling people! We enjoyed our road trip so much that we’re ready to board a plane and hit the roads of the Republic of Cyprus and Northern Cyprus in a heartbeat!

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Our Cyprus island road trip itinerary - the best of Cyprus for a week

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