Best Beach in Cyprus? Ayios Yeoryis tis Peyias
What is the best beach in Cyprus? That depends on your criteria, of course. If you seek an intriguing coastline that offers stunning aquamarine waters, privacy, and close proximity to the best hike in Cyprus, then my recommendation will have appeal.
Cyprus is known for its ancient archaeological sites, but it’s also a beach-lovers paradise, and has pristine wild landscapes for those who crave a Cyprus adventure. As a resident of this Mediterranean island for more than forty years, I have my favorite spots that are off-the-beaten path. Let me share what I consider to be the best beach in Cyprus and the coolest geological wonder–and the story behind my own discovery of Ayios Yeoryis tis Peyias and Avakas Gorge.
Most visitors to Cyprus believe the sandy coves of Ayia Napa are the crème de la crème of Cypriot beaches. I say these eastern beaches are too soft, too wimpy to even consider. You see, I, like the prehistoric beach connoisseurs before me, am a rock person.
Others say the so-called “Coral Bay area” just north of Paphos is the best Cyprus has to offer in the way of beaches. But here again, I find cause to disagree. First, where’s the coral? And anyway, I don’t want to waste my time wading into the sea. I want to get it over with fast by diving off a rock platform. I want to feel the Med’s warm blue water all around me right away.
Now, having found fault with two of Cyprus’ traditional best, you may think me extremely picky — even arrogant. But please understand that some of us get very offended when we see people treading water with brandy sours in their hands.
Ayios Yeoryois tis Peyias | The Backstory
So where do people like me go to get away from it all on a hot August day? Do we go to Limassol? No-o-o-o. Do we drive up to Polis Bay? No way, too many people everywhere. Here’s a tip: we go to Ayios Yeoryois tis Peyias.
The pristine bathing grounds of Ayios Yeoryis tis Peyias comprise a five-kilometer stretch of coastline about half-way up the western coast of Cyprus, just north of Coral Bay. Swimming in these immaculate waters, along a stretch of coastline that locals call Thalassinies Spilies (“Sea Caves”) one can understand why Neolithic man first came to Cyprus.
The settlement of Ayios Yeoryios tis Peyias is actually no more than a hamlet standing on a high cliff overlooking a small fishing harbor. It cannot be considered a proper village, for it lacks its own post office and the population–now dwindled to a mere handful of people–has hovered at 20 people or below during modern times. But in previous centuries, the settlement was undoubtedly larger and more important. The hamlet partly overlies the ancient city of Drepanum and there are ruins of several old churches, including a 6th century basilica. Hellenistic/Roman tombs have been cut into the cliff overlooking the modern, man-made fishing harbor.
Today, Ayios Yeoryios possesses two modern landmarks. First, there is a massive and ultra-flamboyant church–dedicated to Ayios Yeoryios (“St George”) of course — which dominated the entire headland. It was built in 1928. Then there is the St. George Restaurant, which serves some of Cyprus’s freshest seafood. Harris, the proprietor claims, “The local fishermen bring their catch to me first, before they go to the market in Paphos.” The restaurant commands a panoramic view over Lara Bay and the offshore island of Yeronisos.
Head to Cape Drepanum for Best Beach in Cyprus
Technically, Ayios Yeoryois sits on a point called Cape Drepanum, so-named because the coastline here supposedly resembles the shape of a sickle (drepani). North of the cape, the beachfront curves like a giant sickle blade all the way up to Lara, whilst, on the south side, a series of elaborately carved and eroded chalk formations extend uninterrupted to Keratidhi and Coral Bay. It is here, along what would be the sickle’s handle, that some of Cyprus’s most impressive coastal locations can be found.
From the center of Ayios Yeoryios, a small road leads past the towering modern church and continues down to the small fishing harbor. Turning south, away from the harbor, it degenerates into a rocky dirt track. The land is sparsely vegetated except where banana groves and other recent attempts at villa construction break the otherwise rocky landscape. The soils are clay-rich and very red, classic examples of the so-called “terra rosas,” which form throughout the Mediterranean on limestone topography of this type.
Let the Spectacle Begin!
About 1.5 kilometers south of Ayios Yeoryios, the track finds a small inlet where occasionally a few fishing boats are moored. This appears to be one of the few natural harbors in the area, and the presence of many potsherds on the ground suggest that a settlement-cum-harbor installation existed here long ago, perhaps during the Roman period. This is also where the chalks start in earnest, for on the far side of the inlet, chalk cliffs rise majestically from the sea. Here the spectacle begins.
Because the track quickly merges into bare rock and the coast becomes jagged and extremely precipitous, it is best to explore the region on foot. One can either follow the cliff edge high above the sea, or pick one’s way along the watermark by following the natural contours of the chalk. Either way, you’ll be rewarded with superb scenery and unparalleled swimming locations.
For the next few kilometers southward, one enters an awesome zone of chalk sculpture, beauty which only the hand of nature can create. Wave-cut staircases cascade down to the water like giant escalators. Straight columns of chalk shoot like saplings from the sea. Dark hollows in the pale rock mark the location of underwater grottos, and perfectly symmetrical arches stand as gateways to a swimmer’s paradise.
Charm, Power and Peace
And at the end of the day, the sunset’s multi-colored refraction is reflected vividly across the face of the chalk, which changes from white to cream to yellow to orange and finally to red. Luckily this place is not that well known, so, especially towards the end of the day, one can experience all the serene charm and power of the place in an environment of peaceful solitude.
Although Cyprus has been inhabited by human beings for over 12,000 years, there has never been much agreement over where the island’s best beaches are located. The earliest visitors to Cyprus, the Neolithic colonists who arrived in primitive sea craft during the 10th millennium B.C., certainly enjoyed some of the Mediterranean’s cleanest, most untainted beaches. But sadly, these have been either eroded away or covered up by tons of recent soil material, so we don’t know exactly where the prehistoric Cypriots spend their seaside holidays.
However, there is a theory — not very popular in traditional academic circles — but widely bandied about amongst groups of “new archeologists” (these are the ones who think they understand the thought processes and behavioral patterns of ancient peoples), that the major stimulus behind Cyprus’s initial colonization was, in fact, the presence on the island of the attractive beaches.
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A true “hunter-gatherer” of the off-the-beaten-track exploration experience, archaeologist and guide David Pearlman has logged countless hours in close contact with the history, culture, and landscapes of Cyprus. Find out more about David on his website.