Cyprus, the third largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily and Sardinia, has Syria to its east and Turkey to its north. It’s had an eventful history because of its position on the great Mediterranean trade routes and has been fought over by all the regional powers at one time or another, including the British, but now it’s a great destination for sun, sand and culture in this part of the world. The road network is a good one, and car hire in Cyprus is probably the best way of getting around the island’s numerous attractions.

Bear in mind that since the island was divided between the Greek South and the Turkish North in 1974, if you’re holidaying in Turkey and feel like hopping across to Cyprus for a day trip you’ll probably not be allowed back in to Turkey if you also took in the Greek part of the island. Despite outwardly cordial and stable relations, the Turks frown on visits to Greek Cyprus from the mainland so if you want to go there it’s better to do it on a separate holiday….

Both parts of Cyprus have many sites of cultural and historic interest that go back to prehistoric times, but the Classical and medieval periods are especially well represented. If you prefer to head for the beaches, the best of these is probably the one at Pissouri Bay between Paphos and Limassol on the south coast, though there are also good ones at Nissi Beach in Ayia Napa, Fig Tree Bay on the east coast, Lara Bay located on the Akamas peninsula and Coral Bay near Paphos. At Larnaca there are excellent scuba diving opportunities, and you can dive around the wreck of the Zenobia, one of the major wrecks of the Mediterranean, sunk in 1980 on its very first voyage. There are established dives for all levels of ability around the exotic coral reefs here.10 miles to the west of Limassol you’ll find the ancient city of Kourion, perched on a bluff overlooking the sea. An earthquake flattened it in 365AD but there are still plenty of fine mosaics at ground level and a spectacular amphitheatre to walk around.

Paphos is a Mecca for anyone interested in archaeology or ancient cultures in general. This town was the birthplace of the Goddess of Love, Aphrodite, and the Myceneans built a tower here in her honour in the 12th century BC. As well as a fabulous coastline and sweeping landscapes there are loads of historic sites. Explore tombs of ancient kings, beautifully preserved mosaics, a medieval fort and three super museums: the Byzantine Museum, Paphos District Archaeological Museum and the Ethnographical Museum. These are nice places to get in out of the blazing sun and explore the fabulous history of Cyprus and its palimpsest of cultural influences. You can easily get to Paphos on the coast road going east by car from Limassol, or southwest past Kedares and Platres from Troodos.

In terms of natural beauty and historic interest, Cyprus is hard to beat. The well-honed tourist destinations are in the south of the island, but get to see the northern part as well if you can as the landscapes here are generally more rugged and undeveloped and have their own peculiar charm.

-David Elliott is a freelance writer who loves to travel, especially in Europe and Turkey. He’s spent most of his adult life in a state of restless excitement but recently decided to settle in North London. He gets away whenever he can to immerse himself in foreign cultures and lap up the history of great cities.