Most of Famagusta is currently illegally controlled and occupied by Turkish forces ever since the 1974 invasion. Before the invasion, Famagusta was widely viewed upon as the island’s economic capital and also a haven for tourists with numerous luxury hotels, golden beaches and bustling nightlife.
In Greek it is called ‘Ammochostos’ which translates to ‘hidden sand’.
Within the Greek Cypriot-controlled part of the Famagusta lies the booming town of Ayia Napa, famous for its lively 18-30 clubbing scene; the more ‘family friendly’ tourist resort of Protaras; and Paralimni, which is now the temporary administrative centre and biggest municipality within Famagusta.
Ayia Napa received its name when, according to local legend, an icon depicting the Virgin Mary was accidentally discovered by a hunter and was named the Virgin Mary of Napa, eventually shortened to the name it holds today. Ayia Napa’s monastery, which was built in 1500, was constructed around the cave in honour of the Virgin Mary of Ayia Napa.
Attracting large numbers of tourists every summer Ayia Napa is better known for its beaches, all of which have received the Blue Flag and the most popular being Nissi Beach, its central square is filled with restaurants, clubs and shops, and Waterworld Themed Waterpark which is labelled as Europe’s largest waterpark. However, there is more to Ayia Napa that many tend to overlook such as its museums and historical sites.
Located just a ten-minute drive from Ayia Napa’s centre is the protected coastal nature park of Cape Greco, also known as Cavo Greco. Considered to be amongst the most beautiful places on the island offering sightseeing, cliff jumping and more, Cape Greco is also said to be home to the ‘Ayia Napa Sea Monster’ with locals claiming it resembles a cross between a porpoise and a dragon.
Located about eight kilometres from Ayia Napa is its modestly understated neighbour, Protaras which has seen similar development but has managed to remain low-key and a more favourable resort for families and locals.
Similarly like Ayia Napa, Protaras is well-known for its hotels, entertaining night scene, clear waters and sandy beaches – the most popular being Fig Tree Bay, regularly voted amongst Europe’s best beaches on TripAdvisor.
Paralimni, of which Protaras comes under the administrative jurisdiction of Paralimni Municipality, is perhaps best known for tourists for being home to Paralimni Lake which features the harmless Cyprus Grass Snake. Thought to be extinct, the Cyprus Grass Snake was re-discovered in the early 90s by Hans-Jorg Wiedl, better known by his ‘Snake George’ nickname.
IMAGE CREDIT: Tomasz Huczek