Ayia Napa has the reputation of a hedonistic party town – an alternative to Ibiza where the UK garage scene migrated and took over the beach bars and clubs in the summers of the late nineties. The clubbing scene is still going strong in the summer – it’s now all about dubstep – but there’s so much more to Ayia Napa than raving and cheap fishbowl cocktails…
Out of the high season, Ayia Napa is peaceful, quiet and warm without being blisteringly hot. There are few tourists, so it’s a chance to enjoy the uncrowded beaches, get a decent table at the best restaurants and chat with the ever-so-friendly locals.
The main strip on Nissi Avenue is very commercial and not the prettiest resort centre I’ve visited, but there are plenty of hidden gems and picturesque spots to be found in Ayia Napa…
Ayia Napa Monastery is a must-see for its beautiful, historical architecture and tranquil courtyards. Originally built around 1500AD, the monastery is dedicated to ‘Our Lady of the Forests’, referencing the ancient Greek word for wooded valley – ‘Napa’. A newer church was built around a cave where an icon of the Virgin Mary was claimed to be found and the ancient sycamore tree in the grounds is believed to be 600 years old.
For an exhilarating yet easy walk with breathtaking views of the coast, try the Agioi Anargyroi-Konnos Trail at Cape Greco. Discover sea caves and vegetation such as wild asparagus and Phoenician juniper along the 1.4km route – a leisurely 30 minutes walk. Finish with a picnic of traditional Cypriot delights at Konnos Bay, prepared by the nearby Grecian Park Hotel.
A stay in Ayia Napa wouldn’t be complete without a Boat Trip. Of course there are the typical ‘booze cruises’, as seen on Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents, but our half-day on board the Agia Trias III was a much classier affair.
We set sail from the Golden Coast harbour in Protaras and cruised, with ice-cold beers and Cypriot coffee in hand, to Cavo Maris for watersports, followed by a barbecue lunch on board. Sailor Lambros is a real hoot and looked after us well. If you’re lucky, you might see dolphins jumping out of the water alongside the boat.
Watersports are a must in Ayia Napa, as the jewel-coloured water is so inviting and calm. I loved zooming across the waves on a jet ski followed by chilling in the sun on a pedalo. The braver ones in our group tried parasailing and held on for dear life on a Flying Fish. I was coaxed into joining the others on a Crazy UFO and found it terrifying yet thrilling – not for the faint-hearted (here I am, second from the left).
Back on dry land, a fun, educational activity for the family is the Thalassa Municipal Museum of the Sea. Located in the centre of Ayia Napa in a cool, contemporary building, the museum explores the importance of the sea in Cyprus.
Visitors can marvel at ‘Kyrena II’, a life size exact replica of the ancient ship of Kyrenia, of the Classical period. Also on display are Cypriot antiquities, fossils and taxidermy models of seabirds, fish and enormous sharks.
If you’re feeling limber, climb the steep 153 steps to Prophet Elias Chapel in Protaras, where you will be rewarded with stunning views over the region. Look out for the tree of remembrance and visit later in the day to watch the sunset.
For more ideas and things to do in Ayia Napa, visit: www.visitcyprus.com
All photos by Chérie City
Chérie City was a guest of Visit Cyprus