Long before Ayia Napa came to mean staying up until sunrise, water-based shindigs out in the balmy Med and British bars interspersed between the tavernas along the waterfront, the name of the place actually meant ‘Holy Valley’ in Greek. This once-modest fishing village on Cyrpus’ south-east coast still has its pockets of serenity however, if you know where to look. Here’s a look at the alternative side to the Cyprus holiday resort, where cocktails and foam parties are replaced with rambling rural walks, monastery visits and rock-pooling in quiet coves…
You don’t need to just stick to the ever-popular Nissi Beach in Ayia Napa resort; there are 14 Blue Flag shores to explore here.
Konnos Bay is only round the corner from Ayia Napa – around a mile up the eastern shore – but its craggy rocks, peaceful waters and ruined lighthouse could not be further from the much-frequented sands of the main resort. Look closely around the sea caves of Cape Greco and you might even spot the famed Ayia Napa sea monster lurking in the shallows!
To the west, Sandy Bay is a good one for family groups to spend the day at. Populated by a more relaxed crowd than the watersports enthusiasts at neighbouring Nissi Bay area, you can take a leisurely headland stroll to get to Sandy Bay and reap the benefits of island-wide views and child-friendly shallows once you get down on the sand.
Historic Ayia Napa
The old town of Ayia Napa itself too often gets ignored in the holiday brochures, but it, too, holds noteworthy sights if you fancy a more cultural day out. The Ammochostos district is where you’ll find the Venetian-built Ayia Napa monastery, dating back to the 15th century. Look for the Medieval well, the boar-headed fountain in the courtyard and the reputedly 600-year-old sycamore tree which shades the building.
Elsewhere in the town, check out the marble and onyx façade of the Thalassa Museum, meaning Museum of the Sea, which houses a model of an early Kyrenia ship, and tells of the prehistoric mammals that once roamed the Cypriot shores.
Hiking the coast
Head up towards Protaras beyond Konnos Bay for a walk along the Agioi Anargyroi nature trail, lined by fragrant juniper bushes and finishing up at the Palatia sea caves. This area is dominated by the rugged scenery of the Cape Gkreko National Forest, jutting out on the south-east promontory and spanning 385 hectares. Stop off at hidden church Agioi Anargyroi perched on the clifftop or if you’re a scuba fan, scramble down to the dive site off Protaras known as Cyclops Cave.
Have you exploited the quieter side of Ayia Napa? Let us know your alternative Ayia Napa tips in the comments below!