The question for many when trying to decide between Cyprus or Greece, is what separates these Mediterranean holiday destinations from each other? The beaches beckon in both, and the crystal blue waters glisten in anticipation.
Yet while both nations have similar climates and are fantastic coastal destinations, each has it’s own distinct histories, cultures, sights to visit, and cuisines that set them apart.
Below is our honest comparison as we pit Cyprus vs Greece. We compare both before looking at the sights to explore, the food you can try, what natural attractions you can see in each, as well some amazing towns and cities you should visit.
Cyprus or Greece: Which is the better vacation destination?
Both nations have fantastic sun-soaked beaches, and countless ancient towns and cities that are packed with history.
Greece has over 6000 islands! Although only 227 are inhabited. Subsequently, most of the islands in Greece tend to be less touristy and far less commercialized than Cyprus – which effectively packs its tourist sector onto one island.
Whilst Greece does have islands that are quite built up with many hotel complexes (Crete and Rhodes for example), you will find that most Greek islands often have a real rustic regional charm to them. That’s a character that is not so prevalent on Cyprus which continues to have a noticeable British influence and feel. Although that’s not to say Cyprus doesn’t have charming villages and towns too.
However many of the islands in Greece have their own unique feel, different cuisines, and even mini cultures. Therefore Greece is the better holiday choice if you’re looking for a more adventurous vacation that involves island hopping with a rustic and remote feel. Mainland Greece is also a great hiking destination, with countless multi-day hiking routes that take you back in time and make you feel like you’re back in Ancient Greece.
Cyprus has many upsides too. For one, it tends to be a much cheaper destination than Greece.
As an island nation that sits close to the Middle East and Africa, the weather is some of the best in Europe too, and often warmer and less windy than parts of Greece. Therefore if you’re looking for a beach holiday during spring or autumn, Cyprus may be a better choice due to that favorable weather.
As a much smaller nation than Greece, Cyprus is probably the better choice for a shorter holiday as you can easily and cheaply tour the island with a rental car. That gives you the option to enjoy the beach in the morning, drive into the mountains and visit centuries-old villages in the afternoon, then have dinner in the capital in the evening. That’s the biggest advantage to Cyprus, how easy and accessible it is to enjoy all aspects of this island.
Cyprus or Greece: Alluring natural wonders
Both Cyprus and Greece have some of Europe’s best beaches, but these nations also have much more to offer than just sun, sea, and sand.
The sheer size of Cyprus gives nature lovers a lot of choice, from active breaks to tranquil beach escapes. This National Geographic map which highlights many places of interest is well worth bringing along to help navigate the country, especially if renting a car.
In Limassol, explore hidden sand dunes before heading over to the Salt Lakes of Limassol and Larnaca to visit the flamingos.
The Adonis Baths in Paphos are perfect for swimming in. At the same time, the Avakas Gorge offers unusual rock formations – a favourite with hikers.
Between Agia Napa and Protaras is a gorgeous national park called Cape Greco. There are two natural rock bridges, caves, and excellent diving spots.
Meanwhile, Cedar Valley is an idyllic pine forest with hiking trails where you can see Cypriot Cedar trees.
Up in the Troodos Mountains are the Millomeri Waterfalls that are really worth a visit. If you’re wanting to walk in the mountains – or elsewhere in Cyprus – this walking in Cyprus book could be a good buy.
Or if you’re craving white sandy beaches head to Nissi Beach which is arguably Europe’s best beach.
With so many islands, it will come as no surprise to hear that Greece is packed with natural wonders.
The Ionian archipelago is a popular destination for tourists, and one of the best places to see nature’s best work. Visit the Melissani Lake Cave on Kefalonia for an other-worldly experience. Situated 20 meters underground, you can explore this magical cave by rowing boat.
The island of Zakynthos has some of Greece’s best beaches, and is a popular destination because of that. Also named Zante, this island has a lively nightlife scene so is perfect for tourists who want to sunbathe and swim in the day, but dance and drink at night. Zante is also home to the Blue Caves, a series of underground waterways that wind their way into the coastline.
Of course Greece is packed with many stunning islands, and one of the best things about this country is the ability to island hop and discover your own favourite. One of ours is Milos, which is where the Venus de Milo was found! This gorgeous little volcanic island has dozens of beaches, breathtaking turquoise waters, and a friendly local population.
Mainland Greece also has some spectacular scenery that has to be explored. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Meteora in central Greece is well worth visiting. The atmospheric huge rock formations jut out of the ancient landscape, and on top are centuries-old monasteries. They used to be reached by ladders, but can now be reached by foot via stairs. It’s a place which transports you back in time.
In fact mainland Greece is full of fantastic hiking trails – many long distance – that take you between ancient villages that have existed for centuries. One of our favourites is the Menalon Trail, a 45 mile hike in south Greece that takes you between the picturesque mountain villages of Stemnitsa and Lagkadia.
Cyprus vs Greece: Fascinating cities and towns
Stepping away from package holiday resorts and into the cities and towns of Greece and Cyprus will give you a richer, cultural experience.
Starting near Limassol is the town of Omodos/’Ομοδος, best known for its wine production, and the Timios Stavros Monastery. In Limassol there’s an attractive marina, 16th-century castle, and an opportunity to do some boutique shopping.
While the port city of Paphos/Pafos is a tourist hotspot with lively bars and souvenir shops, it has another side. Paphos is full of historical gems, including medieval baths and churches. In the north is Ktima (Upper Pafos) where you’ll find locals going about their daily business, colonial buildings, and museums.
The capital of Nicosia/Lefkosia is a ‘divided city’. It is where you’ll find the Green Line (the UN Buffer Zone). Across the city, a labyrinth of streets, tree-lined avenues and a vibrant street life await travelers.
Finally, the city of Larnaca provides long stretches of golden sands, historic religious sites, and chic cafes.
Greece excels when it comes to towns and cities with the ‘wow’ factor.
One of the islands which has that in abundance is Santorini. The two biggest towns here, Fira and Oia, hang on to the cliff-face of this volcanic island, and the buildings within them – whitewashed and often with blue-domed roofs – stand strikingly against the backdrop. It’s a must-visit place in Greece, but also one of the most popular places throughout the country being visited by around two million tourists per year!
The historic and ancient capital of Athens is well worth a night or two, and is home to iconic buildings such as the 5th century BC Acropolis and Parthenon. The museum at the Acropolis is full of artefacts from Ancient Greece and a must for any history buff.
Situated beside the Acropolis is our favorite area of Athens – Plaka. The quaint streets in this neighborhood wind their way up hilly slopes and are adorned with flower pots and tiny independent shops selling jewellery and clothes. With family-run taverns and boutique coffee shops, this is one of the best places in Athens – and Greece – to grab a bite to eat and watch the world go by.
The title of Greece’s most picturesque town could go to Agios Nikolaos – a little port settlement on the island of Crete. Surrounded by the sea on three sides, this town has several waterfronts which have a great selection of shopping and dining opportunities. The infamous ‘leper island’ of Spinalonga – which was in use up to 1957 as a quarantine center – is close by and can be visited from the town.
Cyprus or Greece: Tempting cuisines
The traditional food of Cyprus and Greece is a Mediterranean cocktail of the various civilizations that have inhabited these nations.
Indulge in some meze dining. From kebabs to hummus, you’ll find all kinds of tantalizing delights that are a mix of Turkish, Greek, and Middle Eastern food cultures.
The stars of Cypriot cuisine are halloumi and the grilled sausage sheftalia kebab (şeftali kebap).
Cyprus is also home to the sweet treat Loukoumi, and prominent flavors include rose water, pistachio, and almonds.
If you fall in love with Cypriot cuisine and want to try it at home, then check out this award-winning Cypriot recipe book!
Like many Mediterranean cuisines, Greek food involves a lot of fresh vegetables, olive oil, grains, and a good dose of wine!
One of the most famous food exports from Greece is moussaka. This mincemeat and potato or eggplant dish is served everywhere in the country. It’s almost always guaranteed to be excellent in any family-run taverna.
Greece is famous for its dips, such as tzatziki – which is made up of garlic, yoghurt and cucumber – and fava, which is made from split peas.
To wash everything down, you must try Greece’s national drink, Ouzo. This strong liquor is made from aniseed, and is usually served with cold water which turns the clear drink a cloudy white.
Cyprus vs Greece: Which one should you choose?
Both make fantastic holiday destinations, and if time and money were limitless we would recommend both!
However if you’re looking for an island hopping adventure packed with culture, ancient history, and breathtaking beauty, then Greece is the better choice. With over 6000 islands, Greece is an adventure lovers paradise, and each island has its own unique feel.
Cyprus also has its charm, with a well developed coastline giving way to centuries-old villages inland. It also tends to be cheaper than Greece, and with favorable weather for most of the year, Cyprus is one of Europe’s best beach destinations. Furthermore, Cyprus is probably the better vacation destination if you’re looking for a holiday where you can reach all the main sights and towns quickly and easily.
Whichever nation you decide on, you will be guaranteed a Mediterranean climate, handsome coastlines, delicious food, and unique cultures.