Families tend to come to Cyprus for a beach holiday but what is there to do in Cyprus with kids away from the beach? Plenty, we discovered, on our recent Easter holiday to this fabulous Mediterranean isle.
Some of the best things to do in Cyprus with kids are actually in the north of the island – Crusader castles, glorious scenery, exquisite Islamic art and the other half of a divided capital city. Northern Cyprus can be visited easily from the south if you do a bit of planning – take an organised day trip or book a hire car at the border.
Back in the south of the island, there are ancient ruins galore, vibrant harbour towns, remote mountain villages and some fantastic hiking trails. There are so many fascinating Cyprus attractions for families.
So whether you’re looking for culture, fun, or simply a charming town to amble through, I hope you find this list of family friendly things to do in Cyprus whets your appetite for your forthcoming trip to this sunny isle.
A word of warning – if your children are anything like mine, once you’ve arrived at a hotel with a swimming pool you might find it tricky to drag your kids away from the water. On our trip to Cyprus, we stayed in a few different places and left the main pool and beach part of the trip to the end. The last four days of our 12 day holiday consisted mostly of swimming and eating.
Want to know more about exploring Cyprus by car? Check out my article covering our Cyprus road trip.
When to visit Cyprus with kids
With its mild climate, Cyprus is a year-round destination. In winter temperatures remain well above European averages (although the island does see more rain than at other times of year). Spring and autumn are warm while summer sees temperatures which can exceed 40 degrees.
We visited Cyprus in April 2022 – it was warm enough to swim in the sea but cool enough for hiking and sightseeing to be pleasant rather than exhausting pastimes. I would imagine tackling an ancient ruin in the height of summer is not a fun thing to do in Cyprus with kids.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that the island attracts a lot of visitors in July and August so some of the Cyprus attractions I’ve listed here will be extremely busy in high season – visit them early in the morning or in the late afternoon to avoid some of the crowds.
If you’re interested in other early summer sun destinations in Europe, check out my guide to the best places to visit during the Easter holidays.
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Map of things to do in Cyprus with kids
Things to do in central Cyprus with kids
Learn about the history of this divided country
Learning about anything is far more interesting when you’re there experiencing it rather than sitting in a classroom. We crossed the border between south and north Cyprus a few times – the difference between the two countries is stark and the process of walking through the UN controlled no man’s land in Nicosia – complete with barbed wire and abandoned buildings – was eerie.
Stepping over the border from south to north, Orthodox churches are switched (or adapted) to mosques, the language goes from Greek to Turkish and the currency changes from Euro to Lira. The people were warm, friendly and welcoming on both sides – it’s so sad that the island remains divided.
Enjoy live music in Nicosia
Due to the timing of our arrival flight and the complicated nature of hiring a car on both sides of the border (you need to hire one in the north and a separate one in the south), we spent two nights in Nicosia. On both evenings we found bars with live music – traditional Greek songs accompanied by guitars.
Our children loved the novelty of being up and exploring a city so late at night (the two hour time difference definitely works in parents’ favour when it comes to eating out) and they enjoyed listening to the musicians.
Visit the Cyprus Museum in Nicosia
I wasn’t able to convince my boys to visit the Cyprus Museum. We were all feeling rather euphoric about being in a foreign country after several years in the UK and stepping inside a museum just didn’t appeal to them.
However, if you have more luck persuading your children, you’ll be rewarded with the immense history of the island all in one place from Neolithic to Roman and beyond.
Wander through Eleftheria Square in Nicosia
The highlight of Nicosia for our children was dashing about the newly designed Eleftheria Square – complete with play area – next to the Venetian walls at D’Avilla Bastion, where the seating looked like surf boards and ground lights acted as a playful pathway to follow.
The square – it’s actually more of an urban public space – sits in what was once the moat which surrounded the old part of Nicosia. The space has plenty of shady areas so it’s a perfect place to come in the heat of the day, as well as at night.
Go wine tasting
Between the Troodos Mountains and the south coast are slopes of vineyards – which in spring look quite comical with their stumpy vines only hinting at how the landscape will be transformed in a few short months.
I know this might not seem like an obvious family friendly attraction in Cyprus but I’ve found a quick trip to a winery is usually tolerated by my kids. Children often engage with a tour of the wine making process – seeing the machinery and the barrels. The key is to keep the visit brief!
Explore the villages of the Troodos Mountains
On our recent trip to Cyprus, the Troodos Mountains and the villages nestled within were without doubt my favourite destination. Springtime is beautiful with terraces of apple blossom, wildflowers poking out from every corner and cats languishing in the sunshine.
We spent several peaceful mornings sitting on our terrace in the Troodos village of Kalopanayiotis watching house martins performing barrel rolls across the spring sky.
Hike to a waterfall in the Troodos Mountains
There are several waterfalls of note in Cyprus. We weren’t very organised with our visit to Platres (where many of the hikes commence) so we didn’t leave time to hike the more extensive trail to Kaledonia waterfall – the island’s highest cascade – but we enjoyed a shorter amble to the Millomeri falls which we had mostly to ourselves at about five o’clock in the afternoon.
Despite the fairly steep walk back, the paths were sufficiently interesting for our kids to run most of the way – it’s a perfect walk for younger children.
Step inside a painted church in the Troodos Mountains
Back in medieval times, many Orthodox Christian Cypriots fled Arab invaders and headed for the hills. Refuge was sought high in the mountains, away from the coast.
Not only did these people manage to farm the land – a rocky and unforgiving landscape – but they also continued to follow their faith. Dotted through the mountains are small churches and monasteries with intricately decorated interiors quite at odds with their simple exteriors.
During our stay in Kalopanayiotis, we visited the Monastery of Agios Ionnis Lampadistis – the frescoes have been restored and the colours were incredibly vibrant.
Hike around Mount Olympos
We were amazed by how much the temperature plummeted – from 15 to 0 degrees as we drove from the mountain village of Kalopanayiotis up to Troodos village and finally to the snowy peak of Mount Olympos (or within a few metres of the military controlled summit). The ski resort had closed but there was still snow on the ground.
There’s a popular and relatively flat hiking trail – the Artemis – which encircles Mount Olympos, offering stunning views of the forested slopes below.
Explore the Troodos Mountains on a quad bike
It’s been about 15 years since I last drove a quad bike and I wasn’t quite as gung-ho about the whole idea of tearing along mountain tracks as the three petrol-headed members of my family. However, after some gentle encouragement from our guide (“if you go at this speed our tour will take five hours instead of three”), I got into the spirit of the journey and picked up a bit of speed.
Along with another family, our guides took us along slightly terrifying hairpin roads and deep down into the mountain river valley – and through the river too at times. Our kids loved this experience and my fear of driving next to steep drops was well and truly conquered by the end of it.
Visit the olive oil museum in Cyprus
En route from the Troodos to the Paphos coast, we stopped off at the little Oleastro olive oil museum. This is definitely best visited with little ones. There’s a rather old fashioned explanation of the historic pressing process but what stole the show for our kids was feeding carob pods to the resident donkey, pony and goat.
We sampled bread and olive oil while watching a video about the history of the olive – it was a handy lunch stop between central Cyprus and the coast.
Things to do in eastern Cyprus for families
Spot flamingos on the salt lakes in winter
If you happen to be visiting Cyprus between November and March, take a wander along the shore of the salt lake at Larnaka where thousands of flamingos gather to feed. The smaller lake of Akrotiri at Limassol also attracts these leggy birds.
Visit the Thalassa Museum in Ayia Napa
Since much of Cyprus’s history is bound by its position in the Mediterranean, the Thalassa – a museum of the sea – is a great destination in Cyprus for families who’d like to learn about the island’s past.
The museum features a replica of the ancient fishing vessel displayed in the Shipwreck Museum in Kyrenia along with various archaeological finds plus natural history exhibits too.
Spend the day at a water park
There are several good water parks in Cyprus and they’re a brilliant day out for any little person who has a love of water. The largest water park in Cyprus is the catchily titled WaterWorld Themed Waterpark Ayia Napa in eastern Cyprus.
If you’re staying near Limassol, head for Fassouri Watermania while visitors to the west of the island can visit Paphos Aphrodite Waterpark. Several hotels have smaller water parks which non-guests are welcome to visit too.
Snorkel through an underwater sculpture park in Ayia Napa
If you’re visiting Cyprus with teenagers or confident swimmers, the Museum of Underwater Sculpture Ayia Napa (MUSAN) sounds like an interesting project to explore. A series of underwater sculptures have been positioned off the coast of Ayia Napa in a bid to re-wild the area and encourage coral growth.
Created by UK artist Jason deCaires Taylor using environmentally sound materials, MUSAN seeks to draw attention to the depletion of marine life in the Mediterranean. Jason has created underwater sculptures across the world – take a look at his website to check if there’s one near you: Underwater Sculpture.
Things to do in western Cyprus for kids
Take in the views from Paphos Castle
If you can’t make it to any of the island’s more far flung castles, a trip to the waterfront castle in Paphos is a good alternative. While there’s not a great deal to hold your attention in the castle itself, there are lovely views across the coast and towards the hills behind Paphos.
Admire the Roman mosaics in Paphos
It’s hard to engage children with dusty history – particularly when the swimming pool is beckoning. However, if your kids have read about Theseus and the Minotaur you might just manage to summon some interest in the impressive mosaics on display in Paphos. These incredible works of art are some of the most significant archaeological finds in Cyprus.
Visit the Tombs of the Kings in Paphos
One to spark the imaginations of curious children – these tombs can be walked through as they were built in the belief that burial chambers should be akin to living spaces. Despite the name, the tombs where created for high ranking officials of the 3rd century BC to 3rd century AD.
Visit the weaving museum at Fyti
Located midway between Paphos and Latchi, the small settlement of Fyti along with its neighbouring villages, has a strong weaving tradition which dates back to the middle ages. At the museum, visitors can learn about how the cotton was grown and turned into yarn as well as watching the Fythkiotika fabric being woven on the loom.
Hike the Avakas Gorge
I always find that hiking with kids is easier if the trail has plenty to keep my children engaged. The Avakas Gorge follows the path of a river – now stream – through narrow limestone rocks. There’s plenty of clambering and water splashing to be had here. This is a good hike for kids in Cyprus in summertime as there is some shade from the high rocks and children can paddle in the stream.
Explore the wilderness of the Akamas Peninsula by all terrain buggy
Poking out of the west coast of Cyprus is the wild expanse of the Akamas National Park. It’s best visited in spring or autumn when the weather makes hiking and cycling popular pastimes. The contrast between the green scrubland and the bright turquoise sea is a mesmerising sight and having a dip in the crystal clear water is wonderful.
The Akamas can be reach by boat or by 4WD from Paphos in the south or Latchi in the north- the track is definitely not suitable for conventional vehicles.
We opted to hire a 4WD buggy – I was amazed at this vehicle’s ability to ramble over the most unforgiving “roads” in the Akamas. If you’re interested in driving through the Akamas to reach the Blue Lagoon, definitely hire one of these buggies – along with the quad bikes, our children loved this experience.
Explore the ruins of Kolossi Castle
If you’re not able to make it to the incredible Crusader castles of Northern Cyprus, set your sights on Kolossi near Lemesos (Limassol). Built in the 15th century, this is a great fortification for kids to explore – with spiral staircases to clamber up and turrets to peek through at your enemy below.
Explore the ancient city of Kourion near Limassol
The highlight of a visit to Kourion is its Greco-Roman theatre which has been well restored to offer a glimpse into life in this ancient Cypriot city. The theatre, which overlooks the sea, still holds cultural events during summer months. The remains at Kourion are mostly Roman and Byzantine – mosaics, dwellings, baths and a basilica.
Things to do in Northern Cyprus with kids
Explore North Nicosia
We visited the northern side of Nicosia – Lefkoşa – on a rather hot day so we lacked the energy to do the city justice. Fortunately, there was a free tourist train which took us on a very noisy tour of the area. We whizzed past Ataturk Square and Selimiye Mosque and our children were instant converts to Turkish pop music which bared out of our little vehicle the whole way round.
Visit the atmospheric Buyuk Han
Although parts of Lefkoşa feel somewhat down at heel, the beautifully restored Buyuk Han is a splendid example of Ottoman design and hospitality.
Once a travellers inn (Buyuk Han translates as Great Inn), today it is mostly given over to art galleries, shops and cafes but sitting in the central square looking up at the balconied corridors it’s easy to imagine weary travellers arriving at this splendid hostel.
Admire the architecture of Selimiye Mosque
A brilliant reminder of the island’s rich history, Lefkosa’s Selimiye Mosque was once a Catholic church. Dating back to the 13th century Lusignan era, the church was converted into a mosque during the Ottoman invasions of the 1500s. The building features intricate gothic windows as well as towering minarets.
Play at knights in one of the crusader castles
We loved clambering around the mostly 13th century ruins of St Hilarion Castle – along with the Troodos Mountains this was one of the highlights of our trip to Cyprus. The remains of St Hilarion sit atop the windswept rocky ridge of the Kyrenia Mountains with the odd tower and room hinting at how this castle might once have looked.
Heath and safety have taken second place to drama and natural beauty so this isn’t somewhere to bring an inquisitive toddler or anyone with a fear of heights.
Visit the harbour at Kyrenia
Kyrenia reminded me of Chania in Crete but a little more down at heel. We got the impression that this picturesque, perfectly shaped Venetian-era harbour, once lined with carob warehouses (now restaurants) was needing an injection of post-covid visitors. Its position is beautiful, backed by the Kyrenia Mountains and the streets leading away from the harbour were full of local life.
We arrived too late in the afternoon to visit Kyrenia Castle which houses the intriguing Shipwreck Museum featuring a 300BC fishing vessel.
Learn both ancient and modern history at Famagusta / Gazimağusa
While Famagusta has a characterful old town surrounded by Venetian walls, kids might find the ghost town – or resort – of Varosha – more intriguing. In a time when refugees are fleeing war-torn Ukraine, here in Cyprus sits an abandoned town with empty houses, hotels and shops. Varosha – which you can now visit – is a stark reminder of the ongoing battle between north and south. It has laid abandoned since the conflict of 1974.
Visit ancient Salamis
Not one to visit in the height of summer – it’s vast – Salamis, dating back to 1000BC, is one of the Med’s most important archaeological sites. Highlights of this once powerful city, built upon by Greeks, Romans and Byzantines, include baths, the hypocaust and an impressive theatre.
Explore Cyprus off the beaten track on the Karpaz Peninsula
The Karpaz Peninsula features miles of empty sandy beaches, in stark contrast to most people’s idea of Cyprus. Jutting out of the north east of the island, this mostly untouched wilderness is home to wild donkeys and nesting loggerhead and green turtles.
Visit Bellapais Abbey
If I was to commit myself to a monastery, I’d definitely head for the aptly named Bellapais Abbey. Located close to Kyrenia in North Cyprus, this perfectly positioned former monastery has expansive views across the coast – no doubt the inhabitants once looked down upon a more bucolic sight than today’s excesses of Northern Cyprus’s miles of casinos.
The 13th century ruins of Bellapais Abbey are beautiful and our kids loved exploring the dark rooms and airy cloisters – although I’m not sure their imaginary games were very holy.
Have you visited Cyprus with kids? Let me know in the comments below if you have any suggestions of things to do in Cyprus for kids which I’ve missed from this list.
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