Ayia Napa is considered the premier nightlife location of Cyprus, small enough to be considered just about walkable. Greek for “Saint Napa”, the patron saint of the town, whose Venetian-era monastery is in the centre of the town, next to the square which today is clubbing central.
Located in the far eastern end of the Cypriot Republic, adjacent to the UK Sovereign Base, Ayia Napa has changed its image over the years, from a fishing village to an all-ages family holiday destination to a “dance party capital”. British tourists are by far the most prevalent here, as elsewhere on Cyprus.
After I arrived at the hotel and set out to walk around and get a taste of Aiya Napa my first impression was a big YAWN and 'oh dear' realising nothing pretty about the place, nor is it cultural in any way. The main strip has nothing special, you don't have to worry about spending your money here on shopping. Only souvenir shops, useless trinkets are the most common shops.
You would imagine this small island in the far med would have influences of Greek, Turkish, Arabic or eastern flavour, instead it delivers little or nothing at all. The food is generally bland. This is the only island destination I've been to where fish on the menu is frozen.
The town is dull, has no personality or character, nor any sign of culture. Possibly the least interesting island in the Mediterranean that has no spirit or soul about it. Which is why it's regarded as a clubbing paradise in the right season, being intoxicated lessens the fact it has so little.
Packages, resort holiday maker that cares for nothing more than sand, sun and beach, this may be for you. Unlike Greece, nudist sunbathing is illegal, though it exists one must find discreet ways of finding a place and not getting caught. ?Too complicated and conservative for a perfect holiday destination - so best avoided - unless of course your into the family friendly don't offend sort of thing, but in reality we're born naked anyway and if you have something to hide or offended by nudity, maybe it's not a bad place after all. ?Just count me out.
Nissa beach is a nice bay but to travel hundreds of miles to enjoy it is such a waste of time and transport, not including the money it costs to get here. Instead focus your resources to explore the islands of Greece which are so much more characteristic of the Mediterranean.
In Cape Greco many locals claim that there exists the Ayia Napa sea monster, reported to resemble a cross between a porpoise and a dragon, of which there have been only a dozen or so reported sightings and photographs. Some suggest that it is a direct descendant of a creature of prehistoric times.
I don't consider myself part of the 'everybody' crowd so always looking for something genuine, cultural, unique, and inspiring. Aiya Napa definitely doesn't deliver in any of these.
Video of Aiya Napa, Cyprus 2012 © Joe Mendonca
Ayia Napa Monastery is the best known landmark of the Agia Napa area, the present building dates to around 1500. It has a charm that represents a time when Agia Napa was a sleepy fishing village. It seems that in ancient times, the location where the monastery and the village exists today, was covered by thick forest, visited only by hunters from the neighbouring villages.
Nissi Beach the most infamous, in the height of the summer you need to get there early to reserve your patch.
The name Ayia Napa is derived from a Venetian-era monastery of the same name, located in the centre of the town, next to the square that today is the clubbing centre. The word “Ayia” (Agia) means “holy” in Greek. “Napa” is archaic and means “wooded valley” or dell. In ancient times the area surrounding the town was covered with thick forest.
According to local legend, the now renowned original icon was accidentally discovered by a hunter in hot pursuit of his prey. Upon discovery, the icon of the Virgin Mary was called Virgin Mary of Napa, eventually shortened and now known as Ayia Napa. The present monastery, built in 1500, was built around the cave, in honour of the Virgin Mary of Ayia Napa. According to local tradition, until 1790 no-one lived within close vicinity of Ayia Napa. The first inhabitants who actually appeared and settled were twenty men from Salonica, Greece.