If Cyprus is anything, it’s a place of conversion, where ancient meets the new world and where the East dramatically collides with the West. The island nation located in the far east of the Mediterranean Sea is seeped in history, and coupled with its dramatic natural beauty, has been drawing tourists in for as long as traveling has been a leisurely pursuit amongst humans. With so much to explore, we count down the top five unusual things to do in Cyprus:
A popular dive site for experienced scuba divers, this sunken modern ship, which perished in 1980, is a worthy destination for any tourist. Because of Cyprus’s clear waters, the abandoned ferry is visible from the surface for both snorkelers and those cruising on a glass bottom boat. From a distance, the wreck may be even eerier as the views of semi trucks and the ship slowing being consumed by underwater plant growth make it seem like a blue graveyard. To add to its credibility as an unusual place, the accident that sent the Zenobia to the depths is shrouded in mystery. Many people claim foul play as the company never attempted to collect the insurance on the millions of dollars worth of cargo to avoid an investigation.
The Kyriazis Medical Museum
This seemingly tiny museum, located off a back alley in Cyprus’s third largest city of Larnaca, is a medical museum that started as a private collection and now features bizarre medical equipment from ancient times up to the 20th century. Most displays are medically related, however, the items that often get the most attention are a collection of ancient stone “toys” which, let’s just say, are of a phallic nature. The city of Larnaca has other appealing destinations like a large salt lake, which often attracts unusual and crowd-pleasing flamingos.
Varosha and Famagusta
Famagusta makes the list for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s arguably the most important city of the northern Turkish Cypriot portion of the island, and tourist visits to the north are starkly below the numbers seen in the south. The city’s walled streets also receive some notoriety, being the location of the Othello Tower, of Shakespearean fame.
Famagusta borders Varosha, a once famous beach holiday destination that was completely abandoned when attacked by Turkish forces. The history surrounding the ghost town is harsh, but these days, tours take tourists as close as possible to view the ruins of the once thriving city. While some argue tours unfairly take advantage of a troubling history, others say the tours offer a good reminder of the work still needing to be done to unite the country. Modern ruins are everywhere in Cyprus, from forgotten mines to abandoned railroads, and even the crumbling Nicosia International Airport, closed to tourists but home to UN Peace Forces.
For nature-lovers, adventuring off the literal beaten path is highly recommended. Away from the famed resorts of the Southern Coast, Cyprus hides wooded hills, mountainous peaks, and turquoise coves. It’s no accident that according to Greek mythology, Aphrodite, goddess of beauty, was born on Cypriot shores. Trekking through the gorges of the Akamas Peninsula on the northwestern coast, the Artemis Trail that traverses Cyprus’s own Mount Olympus, and wandering in the Troodos Mountains amongst ancient Venetian infrastructure, are all favorites for passionate outdoorsmen. Plus some physical exertion justifies a huge sampling of classic Cypriot cuisine, combining Turkish and Mediterranean influences. Try the beetroot dip — the bright pink color alone is worthy of a mention on our list.
Explore the North
Although previously mentioned, the north of Cyprus rarely sees significant numbers of tourism. Many outsiders look at Cyprus and see unrest, and since the south is more in line with the ideals of the Western EU powerhouse, the north can seem like an intimidating portion of the country. Some northern locals pride themselves on the lack of tourist traffic, but will regardless greet any visitor warmly. Besides Famagusta, other northern destinations make a name for themselves. Kyrenia’s old harbor is as picturesque as any in the country.
The northern reaches of the divided capital, Nicosia, feature glimpses into Ottoman influence, while Pyla’s coastal beauty is on par with anywhere in the South.