Ayia Napa: from fishing village to holiday resort

Ayia Napa is famous the world over for its beautiful beaches and fabulous nightlife, and anyone looking for a good time with no stress could do a lot worse than this coastal town.
Generally seen as the party capital of Cyprus, Ayia Napa regularly attracts fun-loving people eager to blow off some steam and enjoy everything the resort has to offer, particularly in the summer months when tourism is at its peak.
But aside from all the beaches and nightclubs, Ayia Napa actually has a rich and interesting history, from its origins as a humble fishing village to the buzzing holiday destination that we see today.
Originally known as Agia Napa, the town is first mentioned in documents dating from around the 14th Century. Five ships carrying stolen Cypriot goods were shipwrecked just off the coast of the region, and accounts of the incident mention a wooded, green area that was popular with hunters.
In fact, the name 'Ayia Napa' comes from the Greek word 'nape' meaning 'wooded valley', indicating that the area once looked a lot different to the golden, sun-drenched landscape that we see now.
In the early 16th Century the Ayia Napa monastery was built into a cave along the coastline, commemorating the area where an icon of the Virgin Mary was found by a local hunter. The icon had been hidden and forgotten about; however, when it was discovered pilgrims began to flock to the area to witness the miraculous find. Eventually, a monastery was built around the cave; these buildings still survive today and are well worth a visit.
Although the monastery was regularly visited after it had been built, Ayia Napa didn't get its first residents until the late 18th Century. A group of people fleeing an outbreak of the plague in nearby Thessalonica settled in the town, and soon several rows of houses were built.
As the population grew, several trades began to flourish as the residents sought to establish an economy and means to survive. Due to the town's coastal location, fishing became one of the primary trades and soon Ayia Napa had a roaring seafood and fishing business. The Thalassa Museum in the centre of the town examines this heritage much more closely.
The boom in foreign holidays in the 60s and 70s saw a dramatic change in Ayia Napa's character, and soon the stunning beaches and weather were attracting plenty of tourists. Nightclubs began opening all over the town and it became renowned for its party atmosphere and fabulous entertainment.
Today, Ayia Napa holidays are perfect for those looking for great nightlife, cool clubs and plenty of beaches. Particularly popular with those who like the UK garage and urban scene, the town has often been compared to Ibiza; what's more, the abundance of cheap hotels means that the resort is great for those who want to holiday on a budget, making it popular with a younger crowd of holidaymakers.
Ayia Napa is doubtless one of the best places for anyone looking for fun and plenty of sun this summer but it's worth remembering that aside from sunbathing, partying and shopping, the town has a unique history with plenty of landmarks to explore should the mood take you.
The monastery and museum are both perfect options for when all that relaxing becomes too much, and the nearby sea caves are great for those who like to keep active. The resort may have come a long way, but remnants of the old town are still there to be discovered.

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