Ayia Napa, Cyprus for Visitors
It's hard to put a place like Ayia Napa (also known as Agia Napa) into words because of its incredible mix of cultural elements. Centered around a 15th century monastery the town is chock full of scantily clad Scandinavian and English young people (16-25 yr. range) from about May to August. Those months are generally reserved for that crowd though it is worth a look even if you're not there to party.
Most people stay around the downtown area in either a hotel or small "hotel/apartments" which have bigger rooms, and kitchens for cooking your own food. You can usually find one on your own by looking around (generally the best way to see if you actually like the place - instead of booking online without knowing what you are getting). We've tried to choose some of the better places to stay as well.
The town has row upon row of bars, restaurants, and discothèques/nightclubs which stay open all night long.
The typical Ayia Napa routine is to take a nap after dinner, go out to a club around 11pm or so, around 5-6am eat a burger or kebab at an all-night stand. Sleep for a bit. Wake up, go to the beach to sweat out all the toxins. Then start again.
Many people rent scooters, which are ubiquitous and can be dangerous. The cost is around 7CP (about $14) a day and you usually need a license (though this rule is often bent). Scooters can be useful, however, in taking short trips to nearby beaches.
Most of the restaurant signs and menus are either in Swedish, Norwegian, or English, there is very little Greek around the town. Ayia Napa hosts some of the world's best DJs in their clubs and there is currently something called an "Ayia Napa sound" in the techno world (though these trends tend to die out fairly quickly).
The town has some of the best beaches in Cyprus, Nissi Beach is by far the most popular. The water is crystal clear, and very warm, though some of the more crowded beaches are starting to get dirty with people leaving their garbage everywhere.
The vibe in town in decidedly European. The beaches, and many clubs after a certain hour, are topless, and Scandanavian young women mix with suited Egyptian businessmen and UK UN soldiers to form a decidedly strange mix. The town is very sedate, underneath it all, and still retains much of the Cypriot charm and small-town feel, which makes it very different from other "party" type cities like Cancun or Ibiza. You can still find yourself walking down an alley and come across a small tavern wherein an old Cypriot man is playing a bazouki and singing Greek songs to his family.
Despite the young techno crowd, drugs still remain a generally outside element. This is due to a number of factors, but primarily stems from very strict Cyprus laws against illegal drugs - offenders are dealt with very very harshly and can spend the rest of their lives in jail for just a small amount.
The negative elements, like the hordes of drunken young people, the off-duty militaristic soldiers from nearby war zones, and the opportunistic creepy dudes who lurk around with their digital cameras, are all just slight annoyances. There is also something to be said that the town's original inhabitants have for the most part been pushed out, and now live outside of town in the hills, when Ayia Napa was transformed from a sleepy Greek fishing village into the party capital of Europe.
You typically can't go wrong eating anywhere that sells Greek food. There are some not so good restaurants and these tend to be the ones that try to stray too far from local expertise (like Mexican, for example). Stick with pepper steak, kebabs, hamburgers, pizzas, or anything Greek or Italian. Several Lebanese restaurants are a good place for vegetarians to dine on the vegetable heavy "mezze."
A trip to Ayia Napa can either be your main reason for going to Cyprus, or an interesting side-trip where you suddenly feel very old. Either way, Ayia Napa is one of Europe and the Middle East's premier hotspots, and with very good reason.
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