Highlighting 10 top #attractions of the #Mediterranean island of #Cyprus. Learn why #Cyprus is the #destination of the #perfect family #holiday, and check out our video Cyprus #Gastronomy at the end.
Beauty of the Beach
There is a beach for every day of your holiday in Cyprus plus long season swim from as early as April to late November. Cyprus, has 35 beaches that have successfully qualified for Blue Flag status. The majority of beaches fall in the east, in Famagusta, and in the south-westerly areas of Limassol and Pafos. Paphos, another favourite with European visitors, has six flagged beaches.
Some things on Cyprus never change. The Troodos mountains – with their orchids, sensational views, cool breezes in summer and skiing most winters – is always deserving of a day or two visit. The major hill resorts of Platres, Pedoulas and Prodromos rarely get crowded and the smaller villages hardly see any visitors. There are plenty of nature trails and waterfalls, and sublime car touring through somnolent villages, monasteries and Byzantine churches. Old Kakopetria is being restored slowly and it is well worth strolling through after a delicious seafood lunch. Omodos is another old village, recently restored and with plenty of artisans.
Rich in History
The third-largest island in the Mediterranean, Cyprus is geographically closer to the Middle East and North Africa than it is to Europe. The history of Cyprus is compelling, and Pafos, is one of the most captivating areas for archaeology, particularly as it is famed for the cult of Aphrodite. According to legend, the Goddess of Love was born out of the glimmering azure sea, between a cluster of rocks by the cliffs of the Pafos coast.
Visitors, conquerors and kings have been passing through Cyprus for thousands of years and traces of the past make for some interesting tourist attractions. For a small island, Cyprus packs some mighty history. It holds three Unesco World Heritage Sites, the top ranking of historical treasures. One is the entire city of Paphos, listed for its remains of ancient villas, palaces, theatres, fortresses, tombs and Roman mosaics. The other sites include the Byzantine Painted Churches in the Troodos mountains and the Neolithic settlement of Choirokoitia.
One of the greatest joys in discovering the real Cyprus is sampling the local food. The traditional Cypriot meal consists of meze, about 20 or so dishes that may look light at first but will leave you struggling to finish at the end. Typical dishes include pita bread and dips. greek salad, haloumi, pickled vegetables, lamb, pork, and calamari. Cyprus is an intoxicating island from one sniff of the fresh lemons and delicate citrus blossom, to the wholesome smell of baked bread, and the fermenting grapes of the wine harvest.
Cypriots are naturally hospitable people and generous to the extreme, in a way that is so much part of the Mediterranean. It is easy to relax and let yourself slip into the Cypriot pace of life with a brandy sour, a handful of sunflower seeds or smoked cured pork on home baked bread. The Cypriots cook with less oil than their Mediterannean counterparts meaning your holiday here could be a healthy one apart from the offering of syrup and pastries. It’s also worth noting that Cyprus remains relatively cheap for eating and drinking and the quality of wine and food is excellent, from the hamlet villages right through to the larger resorts.
The Wine Route
Cyprus has been making wine for centuries, and its people have certainly perfected the art. The southern slopes of the Troodos Mountains north of Limassol (Lemesos) constitute the main wine growing areas of the island, with wine areas also scattered near Paphos. There are several designated wine routes where visitors can see the vines and vineyards, admire the various natural landscapes, and enjoy the local production.
In all of the wine-making regions, visitors can sample the local delicacies in villages, wineries, monasteries, and shops, each place offering its own brand of charm. Three of the most interesting are the Kilada Diarizou Wine Route, the Krasochoria Lemesou Wine Route, and the famed Koumandaria Wine Route. Luckily, the wine routes provide visitors a way to taste the local delicacies in their traditional settings, and to take in the amazing and varied scenery, all at the same time.
Not a month passes by in Cyprus without a festival celebration of some kind or another. There are music and dance festivals, flower festivals and religious festivals – all offer a colourful and exciting glimpse into the traditions and lives of the Cypriot people. Kicking off the festival calendar in January are the annual Cultural Winter Festivals at Ayia Napa and Paralimni. The Limassol (Lemesos) Wine Festival is about more than just the juice of the vine.
Around harvest time the city fills a two-week programme with cultural events loosely linked to the glorious theme of wine. A fireworks display gets things off with a bang from which point visitors can expect plenty to eat and drink in the grounds and pavilions of the Municipal Garden. Grape treading, Greek dancing and singing, and copious amounts of free wine are enjoyed by up to 15,000 visitors who attend the festival each year.
Another major attraction is the Anthestiria Flower Festival in Paphos. This wonderful event celebrates the arrival of spring as the streets are filled with flower displays and a magnificent floral parade. Other attractions include delicious fresh food and drink stalls.
Landscape and Nature
Not too many people seem to know about the area known as the green heart of Cyprus. An hour’s drive from the string of sun-soaked, high-rise beach resorts, you can find yourself in the beautiful Troodos Mountains. It is a different world: a terrain of lush pine forests, hillside villages set among orchards, walnut and almond groves; well-marked walking routes, traditional old inns and sleepy villages. It’s food for the soul to potter from village to village dipping into the various Byzantine monasteries and churches that cling to the impossibly steep hillsides, stopping to sample an ouzo or the locally smoked ham.
If you want a real challenge, why not follow the European longdistance path E4. The Cyprus section connects Larnaca and Paphos, traversing the entire Troodos mountain range. The tourist board produces excellent literature detailing the route. The Troodos has unique fauna and flora in its five Nature Protection Areas, which cover 1,408 hectares. Machairas Park, in the Pitsilia Region, contains an incredible 600 plant species, including 27 indigenous to Cyprus. One walk not to miss is the Caledonian Falls. From Platres, it’s an easy four-mile trek and is clearly signposted as are all the trails in the Troodos.
Cyprus is a year-round destination with 340 days of sun. Even in January, the temperature seldom drops below 60F. Most people favour May and October, leaving July and August to those who like to bake in the hot sun. Scour all the Mediterranean and you won’t find a more perfect place to rest in the shade with a cool drink on a hot day than in Cyprus. There are numerous hilltop villages where you can sit in the tranquil shade of a lemon tree.
Apart from sun-worshipping opportunities, there are myriad special interest holidays: diving, cycling, walking, agro-tourism breaks in rural villages, and even skiing on Mount Olympus (yes, we’re talking the white stuff, not water skiing). Spa breaks and Turkish baths are also synonymous with holidays in Cyrpus. Omeriye Hamam is a famous old Turkish bath in Nicosia’s old town. Lie back in these ornate rooms and relax in a centuries-old tradition. The hamam is loosely based on the sauna principle but with added perspiring, exfoliating, splashing in cold water and pummelling. You’ll feel improved inside and out.
Finally, another handful of reasons for holidaying in Cyrpus: Cypriots are extremely hospitable, virtually everyone speaks English and they drive on the left. Cyprus also uses the euro exclusively and even the same plugs as Ireland. For the ultimate in soaking up the Cyprus atmosphere, you can’t beat a lazy afternoon reclining in a deck chair by the sea, listening to the waves gently crash against milky white rocks, inhaling the fresh salty air and asking a waiter to bring you a Limassol sunset (the local cocktail) or two.