Ayia Napa, Cyprus

It has been called the “Island of Sin”, and Ayia (or Agia) Napa, branded as a clubbing resort where you can swim all day and party all night, is a must-visit during a holiday in Cyprus.

Hotels, restaurants, and bars line the waterfront, facing a vast, brilliantly blue Mediterranean where people can scuba dive, water ski, or sail on a pleasure yacht. At Pantahou Beach, twenty- and thirty-somethings in their bikinis and swimming trunks tread the warm sand while the sun is up. When the moon rises, they pop into places like Abyss, Club Insomnia, and The Castle Club to dance to mixes by world-famous DJs.

Tamer amusements are available. One of the most popular is WaterWorld, an Ancient Greece-themed water park which won 22 international awards for its ingenuity. Both children and adults will have fun in rides such as The Quest of Heracles, The Fall of Icarus, and Drop to Atlantis. Trojan horses, mythical serpents, and proud deities add to the atmosphere. Those itching for more of local lore can keep watch over Ayia Napa’s waters for a sighting of “to filiko teras” or “the friendly monster”, a half-woman, half-serpent with six dog-heads for a stomach.

Ayia Napa is known for its 16th century monastery, inspiring poets to compose beautiful verses, and couples to exchange vows of love and fidelity. A hunter once discovered an icon of St Panaya (Mary, Mother of Christ) in the cave inside.

The Makronissos Tombs from the Hellenic and Roman periods are another intriguing site, where the dead were buried in clay coffins. Surrounded by superstition, the monolith Agia Mavri has a hole in its centre through which the sick climb through to get healed. Spurned women also break jars here to win back their lovers.

Visitors can party for free at the annual Ayia Napa Festival in September, where local culture shines through song and dance.

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