Ayia Napa: The good life

On its surface, Ayia Napa is exciting, cosmopolitan, enticing and buzzing with life. But, aside from the tourist extravaganzas, there is a veiled, esoteric world rich in history, culture and rare, restful experiences.

Text: Charalambos Nikopoulos

Ayia Napa’s rare beauty and successful tourist developments have transformed this picturesque fishing village from the previous century into a first-class travel destination today. It began in the 90s when scores of bars, clubs and hotels opened on its idyllic shores. Under an endless blue sky, the village became a beacon for youths searching for non-stop parties.

However, Napa, as locals call it, is so much more than a party town. In recent years, the municipality has successfully worked to balance the nightlife with culture to promote more family-oriented tourism. We journeyed to the southeast of the island and discovered a host of incentives for all travellers.


A Taste of the Tropics

With white sands and shallow, azure waters reminiscent of Seychelles, Nissi is the busiest, most bustling, and photographed beach on the island. Parties with famous host DJs are a regularity. Nissi gets its name from a sandy islet just offshore that is easily accessible by wading through shallow water. However, Napa has other beaches. East of Nissi is Limnara, perfect for families or those preferring the serenity of golden sands, crisp waters, and plentiful sunbeds. An alternative is Makronissos, an exotic and cosmopolitan beach that draws folk of all kinds. Geographically, the last beach in the greater Napa area before Protaras is Konnos Bay. The waters here are always calm and enjoyable, making it a tourist favourite. An honourable mention is WaterWorld, one of Europe’s largest water themed parks. It thrills with impressive slides, swimming pools and other water features for the entire family.

Nissi, the jewel of Ayia Napa, is known for its white sands and turquoise waters. Makronissos is a cosmopolitan beach for everyone.

Photo: Romos Kotsonis

A Cypriot Fjord

The Nordic reference is to Liopetri, a picturesque and unexpected topographic river setting that proves the uniqueness of the landscape in Cyprus. Lying to the west of Napa, formed centuries ago, it is an 800-metre-long waterway fed by the sea, 15 at its narrowest. Colourful fishing vessels moor on its shores, supplying nearby tavernas tucked away into the landscape with fresh fish from their daily hauls. The delicious seafood and other local delicacies combined with the tranquil environment make for natural repose for fishermen, boats, and travellers alike.

The Liopetri river is a fishing haven west of Napa.


Immersed in Modern Art

The Museum of Underwater Sculpture (MUSAN) and the Sculpture Park are proof that Ayia Napa is swiftly transforming into a first-class travel destination. The museum’s underwater exhibit lies on the seabed 200-metres from the shore featuring a collection of about 100 works by Jason deCaires Taylor, a famous sculptor. The works depict human, animal and plant figures. Visitors, be they scuba-divers or snorkelers, can take in the sculptures along with the marine life of the adjacent reef. The Sculpture Park lies a few minutes inland and is a focal point of culture in Cyprus, not to mention the unbound views of the coast nearby. The historical, mythological themes captured in 250-plus works by renowned international artists compliment the region’s topography, flora and fauna and the sea – all conducive to uplifting spiritual experiences and lasting memories.

The Museum of Underwater Sculpture is located on the seabed and includes 100 famous works by sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor. The Sculpture Park has hundreds of famous sculptures.

Photo: Jason deCaires Taylor


Excursions into Christian Orthodoxy

Visit the medieval monastery of Ayia Napa in the heart of town and become one with history. Dating from the early 16th century and dedicated to the ‘Holy Virgin of the Woods’, the monastery resembles a fort. According to Emmanuel Kriaras, a noted academic and author of the definitive ‘Greek Dictionary of the Modern Demotic Language, Written and Oral’ (1995), the town’s name is derived from the ancient Greek word Napa (forest-covered valley). Hence, Holy Forest or Ayia Napa. Stop to rest at the chapel of Ayii Anargyroi built above the cave where, according to Orthodox legend, Saints Cosmas and Damian practised asceticism. Feel ecstatic and muse over humankind’s destiny as you gaze over the deep blue sea to the horizon from the edge of a plunging rock face before the tip of Cape Greco.

The small church of Ayii Anargyroi and the sea caves – small miracles of nature.


Photographic Moments at Cape Greco

A kilometre past Ayii Anargyroi is a towering natural archway indicative of the overall grandeur of the Cape Greco peninsula. The Kamara Tou Koraka (Crow’s Arch) appears suspended in the air above the trepid void below – a breathtaking postcard image and cautionary tale! This is the best spot to watch the sunrise. Walk to the tip of the cape via the well-marked trails and admire the rare plants that thrive everywhere. Search the horizon for dolphins and observe migratory birds. Remember to visit the spectacular caves, accessible only by sea, which lend themselves to diving.

Photo: Romos Kotsonis


For Vows of Eternal Love

Ayia Napa is a sensual and erotic place where excitement is unavoidable. Hedonism and good times are omnipresent, but there are romantic aspects too. Lovers flock in droves every year to the Love Bridge to embrace in photographs and exchange vows of eternal fidelity. The bridge is steeped in romance – a magical place where nature, the land and the sea unite in a symbolic gesture to everlasting love that has withstood the test of time for centuries.

In surroundings of unspoilt beauty is the oft-photographed Love Bridge.

Photo: Romos Kotsonis


Gastronomic Fusion

Ayia Napa has restaurants and tavernas that cater to all tastes: traditional, contemporary, international, adventurous, vegetarian and vegan. Cyprus is a balance of culinary contrasts. Its cuisine has always combined Hellenic, Ottoman, Lebanese, Syrian and other culinary influences from the Middle East. Do not limit yourself to the main streets or seafront eateries. Hidden in rustic corners of backstreets are gastronomic wonders, local favourites where Cypriots will gladly share their recommendations. All you need to do is ask.

Exceptional Travels in Time and Space

Every year in autumn, the Medieval Festival transports the island back to the fascinating-historical epoch of the crusades. Performances, exhibitions, workshops, food and beverages recreate a fairytale experience complete with chivalric knights, jesters, acrobats, dragons, witches and royalty. The Necropolis of Makronissos reaches further into history, back to the time of Roman occupation. In the area of Makronissos beach in Ayia Napa, the ancient underground tombs testify to the existence of a Roman settlement that prospered until the 7th century CE before it was overrun and destroyed by Arab raiders. The site is in good condition and can be combined with a dip in the sea.

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