Ayia Napa Sights
Ayia Napa is not just holiday beaches and bars. Behind the noisy facade are a number of good tourist attractions that make a break from sizzling on a sunbed and drinking the night away.
The monastery is an oasis in the heart of clubland mayhem and there are a couple of remarkably good museums for those that take an interest in the local culture and history.
Walking trails follow the coastline both west and east, with the latter leading to the spectacular coastal caves on the Cape Greco peninsula.
Local holiday travel firms offer everything jeep safaris to champagne cruises and there is even a day trip to Egypt for the more adventurous. Most attractions, it has to be admitted, are aimed squarely at the young and fun-loving.
Themed water parks and noisy fairgrounds are in full flow throughout the Cyprus summer holiday season and watersports of every imaginable kind are available on the beaches.
Luna Park Fair
As though all-night clubbing wasn't enough on a Cyprus holiday, the Luna Park at Ayaia Napa beach resort boasts a clutch of expensive fairground rides to entertain the youngsters.
The main rides at the huge fairground are the Skycoaster, which drops you from a great height; the Aerodium, which offers free-fall parachuting; the Wall, where you try not to fall off and the Slingshot, which does exactly what it says.
It's not a good idea to mix drinks and rides and don't expect to have much left in the wallet when the fun is over.
Atlantis Water Park
Those who tire of being thrown about in the Luna Park can glide from a great height at the Atlantis waterpark which lies about 3km west out of Ayia Napa and which boasts of being the biggest themed waterpark in Europe, a title easily lost as other waterparks get built or extended.
There is a huge range of water rides, including some extreme chute and funnel slides for the foolhardy. Greek mythology has been heavily pillaged to provide names for the rides and there is everything from Posiedon's Wave Pool and Aphrodite's Bath to the Midas Gift Shop and Homer's Fast Food. To complement the mega-rides there are the usual mega queues in the high season.
Ayia Napa Monastery
An oasis of serene calm in the commercial bedlam of the Ayia Napa holiday beach resort, the beautiful cloistered monastery is sited next to some of the loudest and most vulgar clubs in the town. Tradition has it that a miraculous icon was found in a cave and became a shrine to Ayia Napa — saint of the wooded valley.
A well was found in the cave and a marble fountain built in 1530 as the shrine became a church and later a monastery. The fountain is there today, covered by a pillared dome. The oldest part of the monastery is to north-east where there are four cells with cross-like ceilings.
It is no longer an active monastery but is still beautifully preserved with gates to the north and south. Outside the south gate is an enormous fig tree said to be 600 years old. The rather dark and gloomy church is sunk below courtyard level and the monastery is surrounded by a stout wall that once kept marauding pirates at bay but now serves to keep out the street drunks.
Marine Life (Thalassa) Museum
It hardly competes with the other entertainment highlights but the small, private Thalassa museum is very good, with displays of fossil shells, stuffed fish, sharks, turtles and sea birds as well as a particularly good reconstruction of an ancient Mediterranean sailing ship.
The museum opened in 2005 and housed a three story building with six layered levels so you can seen the many of the exhibits from all angles, including above and below. Some exhibits are hung from the roof.
The main exhibit, the life-size replica of the ancient (400BC) ship of Kyrenia is on level four. The museum has a pleasant cafe, a gift shop, an open-air amphitheatre for periodic shows, lectures, seminars, and workshops.
Ayia Napa Sea Caves (Palaces)
The Sea Caves of Ayia Napa are a big tourist attraction on Cyprus and are easily reached by road to the east of the beach resort or along the coastal walking trail from the holiday resort centre. The caves are named after the striking rock formations and the rocky cliffs that have been sculpted by the waves to give this part of the Cyprus coast an almost architectural appearance. White rocks and crystal waters give the sea an ethereal blue and green glow.
The sea caves are a favourite target of holiday excursion boats that chug by in an almost endless stream in the high summer. There is access down a rough track from the main road. Visitors can climb down the cliff at the eastern end on calm days and scramble over rocks along the shore to explore inside many of the caves, some of which are very deep. Visitors should take great care on the slippery rocks as it is not a place where rescue is easy.
Cape Greco lies at the south-eastern end of Cyprus. The area behind Cape Greco was designated as a National Forest Park in 1993 and is relatively unspoilt with great natural beauty. Covering 385 hectares the area was once dense juniper forest but most trees were cut down to power the former steam power mills at Paralimni. The protected area is now recovering with some rare orchids and rare plant species found only on Cyprus.
Cape Greco itself has a string of spectacular sea caves and large rocks. A British Army radar station bars visitors from much of the cape but on the headland of Cape Greco is a lighthouse and visitors can visit the ruins of an ancient temple to Aphrodite.
A small white chapel in the park is a popular spot for wedding photos. Below the cape is a hermit's cave mentioned in several local legends and further east is a spectacular cave known as the Cyclops' Cave. A Cape Greco visitor centre was opened in 2011 for holiday visitors and has lots of information on the park.