Cyprus has been producing wine for almost 5000 years - small wonder then that the island is home to numerous grape varieties (some of which are indigenous) and delicious vintages to sample. Many of the island’s “wine villages” are found to the west, however if you’re interested in tours and tastings, the Ktima Dafermou Winery in the lovely Pomo Lefkara region is just over an hour from Protaras and combines the traditional art of winemaking with the latest innovative techniques in this ultra-modern facility.
Boat trips are a great way to take in the natural beauty of the Cypriot coastline, particularly around Protaras where the nearby Cape Greco – a protected national park – offers delightful, unspoilt views. Boat trips regularly depart Pernera harbour at Protaras, giving you the opportunity to enjoy this beautiful scenery from the sea and enjoy a refreshing swim in the process. If you have children to entertain, you could also take the short 15 minute drive to nearby Ayia Napa, which offers much more than its party image would leave you to believe. Glass bottom boat tours offer a glimpse of the underwater world, while a popular ‘pirate ship’ also sets sale for a day of fun and swashbuckling shenanigans. There are also views of the sea caves and dolphin spotting to be had, as well as lazy day cruises and perhaps a spot of snorkelling.
Natural areas of beauty
Cape Greco is the headland that lies between Protaras and nearby Ayia Napa. A protected national park and a haven for local wildlife, visitors here will find an idyllic sanctuary nestling between these two vibrant resorts. Walkers and hikers will be in their element with the various trails, all offering incredible views of the Mediterranean, coastline and surrounding sea caves. In fact the caves and then rocky seabed in general mean the waters around here are teaming with sea life, so snorkelling and scuba diving are likewise unsurprising popular. All in all there’s a unique charm to this unspoilt landscape which is only accentuated by its few man-made structures – particularly a delightful little chapel at the water’s edge, a gleaming white lighthouse and even some ancient foundations of a temple devoted to the island’s beloved Aphrodite.
As an island with a long, colourful and unique history, it’s unsurprising you could spend a good deal of your holiday looking around some diverse and fascinating museums, should you wish to.
In nearby Ayia Napa you’ll find the Thalassa Museum with six levels of exhibits displayed in a modern, unique and engaging setting which, chronologies the significance of the sea on Cyprus. Perhaps the most notable exhibit is the Kyrenia II – a life size replica of the classical ship dated to 400 BC, which was built in 1985 for research purposes. You’ll also find a marine life section, as well as amphitheatre for periodic shows or lectures.
Holiday history-buffs will find even more on offer approximately 45 minutes away in Larnaca, including the Pierides Municipal Museum of Palaeontology, which houses a fascinating collection of Cypriot fossils thought to be in excess of 500 million years old. You can also explore a small but interesting Museum of Natural History, a Medieval Museum situated at the impressive Larnaca fort and the Larnaca District Archaeological Museum – both of which display artefacts from Ancient Kition, as well as many other curiosities.
You’ll find a diverse selection of museums likewise in Nicosia, including the Byzantine Museum and Art Galleries with its rich and varied collection of icons and 6th century mosaics, and the Cyprus Museum – the largest of the island’s archaeological museums. Here you can view the finds of the island’s many excavations – don’t miss Aphrodite of Soloi – an iconic statue of Cyprus’ beloved goddess.
Churches / Cathedrals
Religion has had great importance in Cyprus over the years and this is evident in the number of churches and monasteries you can visit. You do not need to be religious yourself to enjoy these sites, which often combine great beauty with mythical intrigue and architectural splendour.
Just 15 minutes drive away in the resort of Ayia Napa for instance, you can explore a beautiful 16th century monastery. Architecturally striking - partially underground and constructed into the rock - the cave area in particular has an intense and resounding ambience that you just have to experience.
If your Cypriot travels take you into Larnaka 45 minutes away you can also visit the prominent Byzantine site of Agios Lazarus. This impressive 10th century stone church lies over the tomb of Lazarus – the saint miraculously restored to life by Jesus – which you can see inside the crypt. Approximately 9 kilometres outside of Larnaka you’ll also discover Agios Antonios – a 9th century church which houses a number of very well-preserved Byzantine frescos.
Just over an hour away in Nicosia there are also some fine religious sites. The Agios Ioannis Cathedral dates from 1662 in contrast to the modest exterior, the interior is highly ornate with rich paintings covering the walls and ceilings, an abundance of gold leaf, crystal chandeliers and fine icons carved out of wood.
The 14th century fort at Larnaca has an imposing stone façade which conceals an inner courtyard, where you can enjoy periodic cultural events throughout the year. You might chose to explore the Medieval Museum you can find here, or alternatively just amble the walls to take in the impressive views across Larnaca and the Mediterranean beyond.
Other Places of interest
Just over 15 minutes from Protaras you will find the village of Deryneia – located just a short distant from the “ghost town” of Famagusta. The latter was invaded by the Turks and sealed off from the rest of the island; now vantage points from Deryneia offer the best glimpse into its eerily fascinating, abandoned hotels and houses.
Larnaca marina & promenade
Amongst the many attractions of Larnaca – 45 minutes from Protaras – is its delightful marina and seafront promenade, perfect for a leisurely stroll under the palms and a lazy lunch at one of the chic cafes, while the yachts and boats bob up and down on the calm Mediterranean waters.
Larnaca salt lake
Home to a wealth of species of migratory birds, the impressive Larnaca Salt Lake is a particular attraction in January-February time, when scores of flamingos flock to the waters. By July-August time the lake has dried and in its place a thick crust of salt remains, forming a dramatic white snow-like landscape under the blazing sun. Also nearby you can view the sacred and beautiful Hala Sultan Tekke mosque – highly significant to the thousands of pilgrims who visit every year.
Explore the excavations of the ancient city of Kition in modern-day Larnaca – about 45 minutes from Protaras and dating back as far as the 13th century BC. Although much remains buried, visitors can see remains of the Phoenician Temple of Astarte, the city walls, a bronze-processing factory and a number of tombs and shrines – originally ornate in gold, ivory and bronze, but now just echoes of this fascinating period of ancient history.
Just over an hour from Protaras discover the city where Cyprus is divided, from the south to the Turkish occupied north by the “green line” – so named after the boundary was marked on a map in green pen. An organised walking tour is a great way to explore and learn about the fascinating history behind this city’s complex, often conflicted past and present.