Will it be Cyprus or Tenerife for this year’s adventure in the sun? To be frank, whichever you choose you’re in for a real treat. Endless rays, clear seas filled with turtles and dolphins, rugged mountain interiors, and just the array of fantastic hotels that you’d expect from two of Europe’s most coveted vacay hotspots – there’s loads on the menu!
Sadly, these two places are a whopping 2,700 miles apart at opposite ends of the continent. One is on the fringes of Asia while the other gazes west across the Atlantic, the next landmass being the Bahamas or Florida! That means doing both in the same trip is probably out of the question.
Thankfully, this guide should make picking the right one for you and your travel crew something of a breeze. It focuses in on seven of the main facets of each place to reveal where offers the top beaches, where has the most pleasant climate, which island is better for foodies and nightlife buffs, and a whole load more. Let’s get to it…
Cyprus or Tenerife for ease of travel?
Tenerife reigns as probably the easiest Canary Island of the lot to travel to. It is, in fact, the most visited of the bunch, drawing millions of folks to its sunny climes each year. Many will be drawn simply because of the abundance of flights in. They go to either the larger Tenerife South Airport (which serves 11 million passengers each year) or to Tenerife North Airport (serving just over five million). Travelers can pick from a range of seasonal charters and oodles of low-cost carriers to score flights from European cities like Madrid and Berlin for as little as $40 return when there’s a deal on.
Cyprus is by no means hard to get to. It also boasts two major airports, one in Paphos and one in Larnaca. Together, they are just a touch less busy than Tenerife’s duo, but still have a good range of premium and budget carriers running routes in. The bonus here is that you can also catch long-haul flights thanks to the links with hubs in the Middle East. The downside is that many connections to Cyprus are seasonal, meaning they only run for the peak summer months from May to October.
Winner: Tenerife but only just. It’s actually the easiest of all the Canary Islands to travel to.
Cyprus or Tenerife for beaches?
Beaches abound in Cyprus. The coast of the jewel-shaped isle is actually one of its strong points. We’d say the crème-de-la-crème sands await on the western coast just north of Paphos and in the far east, around the resorts of Protaras and Ayia Napa. The first hit a zenith with happening Coral Bay and the turtle reserve of Akamas. The latter give the Caribbean-esque lagoons of Nissi and Makronissos. All will be busy in summer, but you can always head north to more exposed beaches around Poli and Agia Marina to escape the crowds.
Tenerife isn’t the top Canary for beaches. That honor probably goes to white-sand Fuerteventura. However, it’s got some real class on the coastline if you’re willing to do some legwork. We especially love the bays of Playa de la Tejita near El Medano and the luxury enclave of Playa del Duque. Most travelers congregate in the resort beaches of the south coast, though. They are perpetually busy but cater perfectly to families who want amenities. That you? Check out the strip from Los Cristianos to Costa Adeje.
Cyprus or Tenerife for climate?
Calling all sun seekers – Tenerife is the place to be! Yep, this island – and the whole of the Canary chain beyond it – enjoys a fantastic blend of arid desert and subtropical Mediterranean climate. Basically: It’s never really bad weather. Average mercury readings stay steady between the 64 F (18 C ) and the 77 F (25 C) mark for the bulk of the year. More rain does hit in the winter, but it’s mainly on the higher ground. The only thing to really watch out for are the winds, which can blast over from the Sahara in summer and bring heatwaves (the unpleasant kind) in tow.
Cyprus is a story of more fluctuation from season to season. Winter is chilly here but rarely cold, unless, that is, you venture to the plateaus of the Troodos Mountains, where there are even ski slopes! Spring and summer start early, around mid-April and then things heat up quickly. Because there’s no Atlantic trades to cool things off like in Tenerife, thermometers will go into overdrive for June to August, regularly reading 100 F or more! That’s why we’d actually say that the best months are in fall, when things cool a touch for October and early-November.
Cyprus or Tenerife for nature?
Cyprus is cut through by the wild Troodos Mountains. They are a real playground for hikers, offering trails like the Caledonia route that links up evergreen forests and gushing waterfalls. It’s also possible to conquer the 1,952-meter-high summit of Mount Olympus here, which is perfect for escaping the scorching heat of the beaches in midsummer. Also check out the Akamas National Park in the north of the island, where you can seek out wild swimming spots like Aphrodite’s Baths and even rare turtle nesting beaches.
Despite being about just a quarter of the size of Cyprus, Tenerife manages to pack in some serious wonders on the nature front. It’s piece de resistance is the Teide National Park. That’s crowned by the highest peak in the whole of Spain, but also comes laced with rocky canyons and lunar-like plains where you can see lizards and strange wildflowers. The south side of the island gives the scented Pino Gordo forests, too, while the center is home to the more alpine reserves of the Parque Natural Corona Forestal. Basically, there’s loads!
Winner: Tenerife. It’s smaller but it’s more varied!
Cyprus or Tenerife for nightlife?
Tenerife is probably one of the only Canary Islands that can actually offer something to match Cyprus’s legendary nightlife pedigree (which we’ll get to below). That comes in the form of Playa de Las Américas. It’s the major resort hub on the south point of the isle, and it comes with a thumping strip of dance clubs and shot bars that’s staffed by reps and pub crawls throughout the summer season. It’s very much 18-30s stuff, but you can also get cocktail bars and coastal cantinas for more relaxed nightlife in nearby Cristianos and Adeje.
The trump card that Cyprus holds goes by the name of Ayia Napa. It’s pretty legendary stuff on the European EDM and DJ circuit, with just about the same credence as the White Isle of Ibiza. There are nine major club names there, including XO, Titanic, and Black & White, and they draw in some of the hottest names on the house and deep house scene each year. On top of that, there’s the Paphos Strip of Agiou Antoniou, which is more comparable to what Tenerife offers.
Winner: Cyprus, but there’s nightlife in Playa de Las Américas on Tenerife that’s pretty wild.
Cyprus or Tenerife for food?
The food in the Canary Islands is heavily influenced by the chow of the Spanish mainland, only there’s a touch of North African spice and Atlantic seafood thrown into the mix. The result? Dishes like salt-baked potatoes with hot mojo sauce, that earthy ropa vieja chickpea stew, and the hearty highland rabbit casserole. You’ll also get loads of fresh-caught fish in the seaside towns, which is usually cooked very simply on coals with just a touch of salt, pepper, and olive oil.
Cyprus takes its nod from the Greek kitchen but comes with hints of Asian cuisine to boot. The tavernas here are a real experience. They are often family owned and charmingly rustic. The food they serve showcases the bounty of the Med and the Mediterranean climate. We’re talking juicy tomato salads with goats’ cheese, souvlaki kebabs, and stewed highland greens sided with zingy lemon. The highlight of eating in Cyprus for most is the haloumi – the famous cheese originates from this island don’t you know?
Winner: Cyprus. It’s the Mediterranean kitchen that seals the deal!
Cyprus or Tenerife for price?
In our complete guide to the cost of traveling to Cyprus, we estimate the rough price of a seven-day trip to the island of Aphrodite and haloumi cheese to be somewhere in the region of $1,155 per person. That’s for travel in the peak summer months, and it includes a stay in a midrange hotel and all meals, along with a significant budget for travel to the island in the first place.
Tenerife is probably just a touch more than that overall. A good estimation for a trip to this mountain-carved Canary would be something in the region of $1,240 for a full week’s vacationing, which again includes hotels and travel and food.
The other thing that’s worth noting here is that Tenerife doesn’t really have a clear drop in prices during the low season. That’s mainly because there isn’t a low season! There can be dips in rates for shoulder-season months like May and September but it’s nothing compared to the bargains you can get in Cyprus at either end of the peak summer.
Cyprus or Tenerife – our conclusion
There’s no doubt in our minds that you’ll have a fantastic holiday on Cyprus or Tenerife. Whichever island you go for, you can look forward to stunning beaches and mountain adventures, great food and oodles of sunshine. That said, we’d put Cyprus up there as the top option if you’re after a more quintessential European holiday, mainly because it’s in the calm Mediterranean Sea. Tenerife is better for adventure seekers looking to hit Spain’s highest peak but also great for families looking for resort escapes with winter sun.