Steeped in legend and natural wonder, there’s much more to Cyprus than just another sun-soaked beach holiday. We recently sent the photographer James Grant to the Mediterranean island to capture the beauty of the holiday destination’s most renowned spots. James sent us some truly spectacular images that have inspired us to share some tips on how to best explore and experience Cyprus’s hidden magic.
Multiple myths surround this rock monolith. Legend states that Aphrodite was born from the surrounding waves and breezed ashore on a giant shell. Swim three brave laps around her namesake rock and be granted with eternal beauty and fertility—so the locals say. Head to the pavilion at sunset and try to make out the ephemeral human shape that appears in the pillars of souse and spray that crash against the rock. If not, the stars are sufficient enough.
This protected national park is the perfect blend of sea and coastline. Take a three-and-a-half hour hike along a trail lined with wild orchids and sand lilies past a giant rock arch and a Roman quarry to the tip of the cape where a lighthouse stands guard. The cliffs are marked by Palaces, domed sea caves, tunneled out by centuries of breaking waves. These turquoise waters are also said to be home to the Ayia Napa sea monster, which local fishermen claim is a multi-headed serpent with a penchant for stealing fishing nets.
Amidst crayon-colour umbrellas, this blue flag beach has some of the cleanest water in Europe. Wade waist-high in the crystal-clear waters or follow a white band of sand out to an uninhabited islet off shore.
Walk across a stone bridge over a moat to gain entrance to this spectral fort located on the harbor. Built in 1391, this castle changed hands over hundreds of years between the Lusignans, Venetians, and Ottomans. Every September during the Paphos Aphrodite Festival, the castle becomes a dramatic backdrop for the very best operas from Verdi to Puccini. Watch international opera singers perform arias in the open air of the night.
Year round this lake is a feast for the eyes. During the winter, pink flamingos stand in the shallow depths, feeding on brine shrimp. Each summer the water in the lake evaporates, leaving behind pockets of salt and disc-like indentations much like the surface of the moon. Go at sunset for an otherworldly viewing experience.
Church of St Lazarus, Larnaca
This byzantine church with its beautiful Latinate bell tower has an ancient gospel story for all who enter. St Lazarus was so beloved by Jesus, that upon his sudden death, Jesus performed one of his seven miracles and resurrected Lazarus from the grave. Lazarus fled to Cyprus where he was appointed bishop and lived thirty more years. Descend stone stairs to the catacomb, where St Lazarus was once entombed for the last and final time.
In the heart of Cyprus lies its largest mountain range. Hikers will happen upon medieval churches and operating monasteries tucked away among pine and juniper trees. Mt Olympus the island’s highest peak was the site of a Hellenistic temple devoted to Aphrodite, which mortal women were forbidden to see let alone enter. In winter months, skiers and snowboarders flock to the mountain’s snow-crowned vistas.
All images taken by James Grant – jamesgphotography.co.uk