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Channel your inner god or goddess on CYPRUS, where Aphrodite is said to have emerged from the sea here at Paphos, forever setting the bar relatively high for bucket-list travel sites. Cyprus, divided between Greece and Turkey (there are several entry points where you can easily pass from one side to the other), has always been popular with European sun worshippers, skiers, and art lovers but lesser-known among Americans. We're here to tell you: Go! The area around Paphos, in the southwest region controlled by Greece, abounds not only with transcendent beach experiences but also with ancient ruins and art works devoted to the cult of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love.

(Courtesy katsounas/myBudgetTravel)

A quiet world away from Cyprus's beaches, bustling towns, and ski scene, the island's monasteries and churches offer a glimpse of the intricate masterworks, such as frescoes and mosaics, created by medieval artisans to honor saints such as Nicholas, the Virgin Mary, and the evangelist Luke.

(Lonely Planet)

Street vendors and shopkeepers in Cyprus have been luring customers for centuries in towns and small cities such as Lemesos, where you'll find stylish boutiques, bars, and restaurants rubbing elbows with decidedly less modern, but altogether charming, enterprises. Stroll the Old Town for a delicious taste of old and new, and when you need a break from shopping, stop for a few plates of meze and sip a locally produced wine.

(Lonely Planet)

There aren't many places in the world where you can juggle superb mountain hiking with world-class art, but the Troodos range in southwest Cyprus offers both. When you stop by one of the region's churches or monasteries to ogle the frescoes and mosaics, ask if the resident monks make their own wine: You may go home with a "you won't believe what I picked up in Cyprus" memento.

(Lonely Planet)

The island of Cyprus, like some of its Mediterranean neighbors, has been a crossroads of cultures since prehistoric times. The Ancient Greek and Roman ruins here, not to mention archeological sites dating to neolithic, Bronze Age, early islamic, and Phoenician times, are among the finest in the Mediterranean, and will haunt you long after your return home.

(Lonely Planet)

Budget Travelers will love Cyprus's charming towns and small cities, with first-rate food and lodging at reasonable rates. (And remember that Greece's financial crisis and the historically low euro are currently on your side as well.) Meze is the culinary delight here, offering you the chance to sample small plate after small plate of hummus, fried fish, sausages, and kebabs., in the Greece-controlled southwest corner of the island, near the Troodos mountan range and Paphos, from $78.

(Lonely Planet)

The largest of the Greek islands, CRETE rewards travelers who are seeking a truly "civilized" trip filled with trips to the local taverna, a variety of architecture from ancient to modern, and a warm welcome. And speaking of "civilized, " Crete was the site of the incredibly advanced ancient Minoan civilization, destroyed by a still-mysterious volcanic/seismic disaster. Traces of the Minoans' structures can be found all over the island. In towns like Sitia, you'll enjoy access to beautiful beaches, with all the amenities of a comfy vacation standing watch from a hillside overlooking the sea.

(Lonely Planet)

We love the way Crete's villages perch along hillsides, boasting a variety of striking architectural styles dating back to the island's Venetian, Renaissance, and even more ancient eras. The Lasithi region, pictured here, has an even more ancient connection, being home to the mountain cave said to have been the birthplace of Zeus.

(Lonely Planet)

Don't get too carried away by the incredible art, history, and culinary delights of Crete: Relax! Sometimes it's best just to hit the beach and worship Appollo, the ancient Greek god of the sun.

(Lonely Planet)

Wind power may be on the upswing all over the world right now, but in Crete the practice dates back centuries, of course. The iconic stone windmills of Lasithi are being restored in imaginative ways.

(Lonely Planet)

A visit to the Crete village of Mochlos will afford you serenity and a chance to see the quieter side of this popular island. Drop by one of the village's handful of tavernas for a friendly welcome, and a short boat ride to a nearby island will bring you face-to-face with some of the finest archeological sites dating back to the mysterious Minoan civilization.

(Lonely Planet)
Source: www.budgettravel.com
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