This Underrated European Island Nation Is A Great Spot For Your Next Beach Vacation

Nestled in the eastern corner of the Mediterranean lies the third largest island in the region, a nation that, while known to many, remains undiscovered by many travelers, especially beach enthusiasts: Cyprus. With a history dating back to the Stone Age, this ancient island boasts a cultural tapestry as rich as its turquoise waters and offers some of Europe's most pristine beaches. Though often overlooked in favor of Greece and Croatia, Cyprus should be on the list for your next coastal escape.

With over 320 days of sunshine annually, Cyprus literally has some of the best weather in the world. Whether you're planning a summer trip or looking for a warm winter getaway, the island offers endless sun-kissed shores throughout the year. Famed for its golden sands and party atmosphere, Ayia Napa is perfect for those who want a mix of sunbathing by day and dancing by night. Coral Bay is a family-friendly favorite, with soft sands and shallow waters. Golden Beach in Karpas is a remote and serene escape. If you want to see the birthplace of Aphrodite, check out Petra Tou Romiou in Kouklia — a mythical yet touristy beach.

Divers, rejoice! The Cypriot waters offer a dazzling array of marine life, caves, and underwater formations. The island is home to one of the world's best wreck dives — the Zenobia, a ferry that sank in 1980 and now rests off the coast of Larnaca. For shore-access snorkeling, check out Green Bay in Protaras. Green sea turtles, schools of fish, and underwater statues await.

Flamingos, UNESCO sites, and Cypriot food

While beaches and crystal waters are a primary attraction, Cyprus offers so much more. For those who enjoy hiking, the Troodos Mountains are perfect. They're home to picturesque villages, ancient monasteries, and scenic trails that stretch across a third of the island. During winter, the Larnaca and Limassol salt lakes are a haven for flamingos. It's a surreal experience to watch these majestic birds with the backdrop of ancient mosques and modern cityscapes.

Cyprus is steeped in thousands of years of history. There are sites underwater, next to beaches, inland, on mountains — everywhere. An UNESCO World Heritage site, Paphos holds archaeological monuments that date back to the 4th century B.C. After a day at the beach, explore the ancient ruins or visit the famous Paphos mosaics. Or, head to Choirokoitia, a Neolithic settlement and one of the most important UNESCO-designated prehistoric sites in the Mediterranean, to discover how civilization spread through the area.

No vacation is complete without indulging in the local cuisine. Cypriot food is a delicious fusion of Greek, Turkish, and Middle Eastern influences. Post-beach, savor dishes like moussaka, souvlaki, and the delectable halloumi cheese, best enjoyed with a glass of local wine. Residents like to eat late, and most restaurants don't open until 7 p.m. for dinner. The Cypriots are known for their warmth and hospitality, so you're in for a good time. Couple this with a deep-rooted respect for traditions, and you have an island culture that's as enriching as it is embracing.

Sustainable and affordable beachside travels

Cyprus is increasingly focusing on sustainable tourism. The Cyprus Sustainable Tourism Initiative, Terra Cypria, and the Cyprus Environment Foundation are making efforts to preserve its beaches, marine life, and archaeological sites. You can even volunteer for the Marine Turtle Conservation Project if that aligns with your travels. By choosing Cyprus, you're supporting a destination committed to protecting its natural and cultural treasures and, of course, beautiful beaches, for future generations.

With its international airports in Larnaca and Paphos, reaching Cyprus is easy. Numerous European budget airlines have regular flights for as low as $21 (Ryanair), with an average price of $150 (depending on the destination and booking time). With its strategic location, flying in and out of Cyprus is quick and convenient. Unlike some of its more renowned European counterparts, Cyprus is the spot for a high-value beach vacation without the exorbitant price tag. From affordable accommodations to reasonably-priced dining, it's one of the best budget-friendly tourist destinations in the Mediterranean.

In the wide array of options for a European holiday, Cyprus is totally underrated. It promises not just picturesque beaches but an all-in-one vacation experience, blending classical history, multicultural cuisine, superb hospitality, and natural beauty. It's a place where ancient legends meet modern comforts, where every sunset over its azure waters gives way to yet another perfect day. For those seeking a beach vacation with a difference, let the shores of Cyprus be your Mediterranean sanctuary.