The Republic of Cyprus is culturally Greek but partially owned by Turkey. It’s an Eastern Mediterranean island country known for its mountains, waters, and forests. Within its capital, Nicosia, are some archaeological finds as well as historic buildings that make it a strong attraction to visitors. With more than 300 days of annual sunshine, you’ll find turquoise blue waters and sandy beaches, but there’s a more natural beauty in the mountains and parks that give the breathtaking views more context. Between May and November, you can enjoy plenty of water sports, hiking, swimming, and even kayaking. Winter has its own appeal—you can go skiing, climbing, or just have a more laid-back vacation where you tour vineyards or get a taste of the village life.

01Avakas Gorge

canyon of Avakas in Cyprus Cameris / Getty Images

It’s taken thousands of years of raging streams to carve Avakas Gorge. Between the amazing stony landscape and magnificent flora and fauna, visitors will appreciate just how beautiful the site really is. This hike is considered difficult because of the slippery rocks and narrow passages, but there hasn't been anyone who's regretted the trip. The best times to go are in spring and autumn, since summer is incredibly hot, and the stream is too torrential for a pass during winter.

02Cape Greco National Forest

Cyprus Ayia Napa, Cape Greco peninsula, national forest park Evgeniya Biryukova / Getty Images

Cape Greco is a picturesque peninsula that’s perfect for a day trip. The park is over 950 acres of natural beauty that’s home to hedgehogs and foxes as well as over 80 bird species. If you love to hike, there are nine trails that will give you plenty to see and explore for a few hours or a whole day. If you want to snorkel, the water is so clear it sparkles in the sun.

03Akamas Peninsula

Bench overlooking Akamas peninsula on Cyprus trabantos / Getty Images

Located in Paphos, the Akamas peninsula is filled with Mediterranean vegetation, cliffs, and sandy shores such as Lara Bay, a protected turtle hatchery. Check out Regina’s Tower on the coast of Pervolia, a structure that goes back to the 15th and 16th centuries when Cyprus was ruled by the Venetians. Then, there are the Baths of Aphrodite, a somewhat secluded natural pool with a lightly cascading waterfall, which, legend has it, was a favorite bathing spot of the goddess.

04Kykkos Monastery

the courtyard of the Kykkos monastery generacionx / Getty Images

Founded during the 11th century, Kykkos Monastery is a well-known holy place in Cyprus that has few legends regarding a hermit attached to it. The original church was home to the icon of the Apostle Luke, which is covered in silver gilt and displayed in a precious shrine. The monastery is one of the wealthiest in the country, probably because it produces a variety of alcoholic drinks, including Ziviana spirit, a type of brandy.

05Paphos Castle

Paphos Castle (Cyprus) jfens / Getty Images

This medieval-style castle was originally a Byzantine fort that was dismantled, rebuilt, and restored over the last 1,500 years. It has been used as a prison and a salt warehouse over the centuries. These days, it is primarily used for the Paphos Aphrodite Festival that puts on artistic performances for a few days during late August and early September.

06Mount Olympus

Moody Skies from top of Mount Olympos, January, Cyprus David O'Brien / Getty Images

Standing at over 6,400 feet, Mount Olympus is the highest spot in the Troodos mountain range and the country. In the winter its snow-covered mountains look like deep blue glaciers along the Cypriot skyline. It’s home to a variety of ski slopes that offer opportunities for beginners and experts. There are also year-round opportunities for climbing and hiking for anyone with the desire to discover the beauty of these mountains.

07Kyrenia Animal Rescue

walking dogs in kyrenia animal rescue in cyprus

Kyrenia Animal Rescue is a charity that takes care of over 350 dogs and cats with the help of local and international donors. Not only is it a great place to get to know and enjoy animals looking for homes, but the backdrop is also a mountain with plenty of trees, flowers, and a spectacular view of the Mediterranean. When you go, bring lots of water and wear comfortable shoes to prepare for a tour of knowledgeable staff and playful animals.

08Zenobia Wreck

Zenobia Ship Wreck near Paphos, Cyprus Rostislavv / Getty Images

During her maiden voyage in 1980 from Sweden to Syria, the MS Zenobia had its last stop in Larnaca, Cyprus. In June 1980, the ship capsized taking £200 million worth of cargo with it. The Zenobia Wreck has been a popular recreational dive site, and a few divers have even lost their lives exploring the challenging site. While it can accommodate both newly certified divers, dives to the lower decks and engine room require more experience.

09Kolossi Castle

Medieval castle of Kolossi, Cyprus alexalexl / Getty Images

A massive rectangular building surrounded by verdant bushes and trees, Kolossi Castle was built in the 12th century during the time of King Richard the Lionheart. During the Third Crusade, his ships were shipwrecked in Cyprus, and his men were taken captive by the island’s ruler, Isaac Komnenos. In response, he captured Limassol port and then the rest of the country. Since then, it’s had several purposes and is now the manufacturing headquarters of the sweet dessert wine, Commandaria.

10Tomb of the Kings

Tomb of the Kings, UNESCO World Heritage Site. Paphos, Cyprus. Kirillm / Getty Images

Established as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Tombs of the Kings is an archaeological site that’s part of the larger Kato Paphos Archaeological Park. What makes it special is the size and splendor of the tombs, some of which boast Doric columns and look like actual homes, instead of solemn crypts. Not all who are buried there are kings. Some resting places belonged to high-ranking officials and members of the aristocracy.