So, it’s going to be Cyprus or Lanzarote for your vacation this year? That’s not a bad decision to have to make if you ask us. Both are sun-splashed islands with fantastic beaches and wild backcountries. Both are hailed as two of Europe’s major R&R destinations, with oodles of top hotels, resorts, and activities to keep all sorts of travelers busy from touchdown to departure.
On the one hand, there’s the jewel of the eastern Mediterranean. That’s Cyprus, where tavernas sizzle up haloumi cheese and ancient relics sit near sparkling lagoons. Then there’s the raw and rugged volcanic rock of Lanzarote, out on the eastern edge of the Spanish Canaries with its surf breaks and whitewashed villages.
This guide can help you home in on the one that’s right for you and your travel crew this year. It will do that by focusing on several individual aspects of each destination, to offer an idea about where boasts the finest sand stretches, where offers the best weather at different times of the year, where’s top for history lovers, and a whole load more…
Cyprus or Lanzarote for ease of travel?
The vast majority of travelers that head to Cyprus for their holiday will choose to jet into one of the two major international airports that sit on the south side of the island. The smaller is Paphos International Airport, which mainly hosts arrivals on budget carriers that originate in Europe. Then there’s the Larnaca International Airport, which sees upwards of eight million passengers pass through its concourses each year and has longer-hail connections to the EU and Middle Eastern hubs. You might find that a lot of flights heading here are seasonal, but there’s still a good mix that go all year round.
Lanzarote only has one airport. Cue Lanzarote Airport (ACE). Located on the eastern side of the island just outside of the capital in Arrecife, it is actually up there with the busiest aviation hubs in the Canaries. However, with just seven million annual passengers, it’s not quite a large as the major airport in Cyprus. Plus, it mainly hosts short-haul links coming from mainland Europe and the UK. The good news is that you should find that there are flights to Lanzarote all throughout the year, since there’s never really a time when these isles are out of season!
Winner: Cyprus – it has the larger airport.
Cyprus or Lanzarote for beaches?
Let’s face it – many a traveler who comes to either Lanzarote or Cyprus is likely to have beaches on their mind. The good news is that there are pretty spectacular options in both places. We’d say get ready to be bowled over by seriously striking coastal landscapes in Lanzarote. It’s not always pretty. It’s wild, rugged, smashed by waves, and beset by black volcanic stone. But there are diamonds in the rough, like the pink-hued beaches of Papagayo in the south and the resort stretches of Playa Blanca. You can also find untamed beaches, like the surf-washed scythe under the mountains at Caleta de Famara.
Cyprus leans more to the travel-brochure sort of beaches you see on postcards from the Med. The south coast is a medley of long, uninterrupted sands; places like Pissouri and waveless Mazotos. That turns into a more Caribbean-esque run of lagoons and white-sand spits with the Capo Greco in the east, which is where resorts like Ayia Napa offer access to Nissi Beach and Makronissos. The west coast is also wonderful, offering turtle-stalked Coral Bay and the diving-snorkeling hub of the Blue Lagoon.
Winner: Cyprus, but Lanzarote does have some corkers!
Cyprus or Lanzarote for climate?
Cyprus enjoys an ever-so-slightly-hotter climate that Greece, though it’s still firmly within the Mediterranean zone. It really does get warm here in the peak of the summer, though. We’re talking slather-on-the-sunscreen 100+ F (37.7+ C) warm from June to August on occasion. Things crank up properly around late April and stay good for beach bums until around November time, which means a long season from start to finish. The sea temp in Cyprus ranges from the mid-teens to the upper 20s – swimmers rejoice!
Thing is, Lanzarote has to win this one because it doesn’t really have a low season. Temperature averages range from around the low 60s in December to the upper 70s in July and August, and even the rainiest month only clocks up a total of four days in all (that’s December). The upshot? Snowbirds looking to escape the cold north for winter sun will enjoy this Canary just as much as sunbathing enthusiasts looking for the scorching days of midsummer.
Cyprus or Lanzarote for nightlife?
Lanzarote has some nightlife. However, we wouldn’t say that this Canary is an out-and-out party place. The main action once the sun has set over the vast Atlantic blue happens in the resort towns of Playa Blanca and in the buzzy capital of Arrecife, where it’s a largely local affair. You can also get stuck into a medley of karaoke bars and beer bars in the coastal towns of Puerto del Carmen and Playa Honda on the east side of the isle, along with surfer shacks that have live music in the wave town of Caleta out west.
Cyprus can trump that with one particularly hedonistic resort: Ayia Napa. Every EDM buff anywhere will know the name since the town has a rep for electronic and house clubbing that’s akin to that of Ibiza before it. Ayia Napa is heavily seasonal. The parties begin in late May and shut off again in early September. The main clubs are XO, The Castle, and Titanic Club. Paphos, on the western side of Cyprus, also comes with a short strip of lively pubs, sports bars, and karaoke places.
Cyprus or Lanzarote for history?
Cyprus is brimming with pretty incredible history. Take the capital, Nicosia. There’s an old town there that’s riddled with Ottoman-era mosques, medieval churches, and carevansai buildings from the age of the Old Silk Road. Paphos, a resort on the far southwest coast, is right next to a sprawling archaeology dig – the Archaeological Site of Nea Paphos – where you can see ancient Roman ruins with preserved mosaics. That’s also the site of the legendary Tombs of the Kings, which are more than 2,000 years old.
Lanzarote, being a bit more remote in the Atlantic Ocean, doesn’t have the same ancient history that recalls that of Greece and Italy. It does have history sites. They come in the form of the Castillo del Aguila o de las Coloradas (an 18th-century fort that was built to rid the coast of pirates) and the old town center of Teguise (a town that was actually the capital of the Canary Islands for a large part of the 15th century). Overall, though, these spots aren’t of the same caliber as the ones you get in Cyprus.
Cyprus or Lanzarote for price?
We’d say Cyprus is somewhere in between the bargain-friendly destinations of the Balkan Peninsula and the pricier places of Western Europe when it comes to travel costs. Our guess for the total price of a seven-day trip is something in the region of $1,155 per person. That includes all accommodation (in midrange hotels), food (eating out twice, not self-catering), and even the price of flights to the island in the first place.
For Lanzarote, we think a budget of about $1,220 is about right for a week-long trip. Again, that includes your hotel and food, along with a couple of activities and travel to the island and back. The thing to remember here is that Lanzarote doesn’t really have a major low season, so prices remain relatively similar from December to December. That’s not the case in Cyprus, where rates for everything will plummet as the summer nears its end or is just beginning.
Winner: Cyprus, but really only just, so don’t make this the deciding factor.
Cyprus or Lanzarote for nature?
If you’re keen to get away from the Rat Race for a spell, then we think Lanzarote is an amazing prospect. Look, this isn’t the Alps. The interior of the island is raw and untamed, it’s carved up by jagged volcanic lava fields that are frozen in time and looks more like Mars than planet Earth. There’s hardly a tree in sight. There are wonderful hikes to be had on the Risco Cliffs and scenic drives in the Timanfaya National Park. Oh, and you can head out to see dolphins and whales in the Atlantic from the ports here.
The headline act in Cyprus is the coast. It’s easy to see why. From the Blue Lagoon to Nissi Beach, it’s a stunner with turtles and coral gardens galore. However, the inland here is beset by the soaring, 2,000-meter-high summits of the Troodos range. They are seriously wonderful, high enough to get snow in the winter months, but hiking meccas by spring. Head in to walk groves of oak and cypress trees between long-lost villages. Also don’t miss the waterfalls and pine-ringed beaches of the Akamas Peninsula in the north.
Winner: Probably Cyprus thanks to the Troodos Mountains, but Lanzarote is an incredible place for nature lovers.
Cyprus or Lanzarote – our conclusion
You might think that we’d say Cyprus without a doubt given that the Mediterranean island wins six of our seven showdowns here. But it’s not really that simple. These are very close-run things, and the truth is that these places are both very different. We love Lanzarote for its raw and wild environs, its Mars-like demeanor, and family friendly resort towns, not to mention the uber-reliable surf of the west coast. It’s mainly that Cyprus is probably more of an all-rounder, where you can laze on beaches and enjoy sumptuous mezze lunches, but also scale high peaks and delve into rich European history.