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Travel to Cyprus: idyllic bays and buzzing resorts

By Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin Section editor Profile
Land of ancient legends, Cyprus is the ideal destination for those wanting to mix culture with beach time for an exceptionally beautiful trip. Hop from medieval fort to ancient ruin, from pristine beach to excellent restaurant, all under an azure blue sky.

Travel guide

Birthplace of Aphrodite

Legend has it that Greek goddess of love Aphrodite was born on this stunning island, half way between heaven and earth. But history has not always dealt this island the same love-tinged hand. Partitioned since 1974, Cyprus has also been the source of a bitter dispute between Turkish Cypriots to the north and Greek Cypriots in the south. A UN buffer zone remains in place between the two sides, dividing a wealth of Greek Orthodox monasteries, Byzantine churches, mountain villages and cedar forests.

Tourist invasion

On the Greek side, Ayia Napa is an attractive seaside resort boasting magnificent, fine-sand beaches and turquoise waters. Perhaps disappointingly, it has been overtaken in recent years by gaudy bars and package holiday companies who have morphed the sleepy town into an indulgent tourist haven. Young groups of holidaymakers now find their paradise here, surrounded by sun, sea and cheap drinks.

A little world of discovery

That said, the island also offers a wealth of peaceful countryside for those yearning to escape the waves of sun-hungry British tourists. With a pair of sturdy shoes, you can climb one of the island's many remaining medieval castles or wander the white-washed walls of idyllic villages. Larnaca, with its palm tree sheltered bay, is also worth a visit. Small picturesque fishing ports, archaeological sites by the sea and small quiet houses are characteristic of the old capital of Paphos. Limassol is the island's second largest city, which, with its high-rise concrete architecture, is much more modern than its neighbours.

A city divided

The north of the island is only open to the public at certain times, and Nicosia remains one of the world's last divided capitals. Ancient ruins hug the mesmerising beaches and the imprint of the Turkish/Greek conflict is still apparent. The demolishment of the wall that divided An attempt to break down the walls dividing the city in 2008 has not changed anything politically as the act was not officially recognised.

Our Editorial team's advice

The south coast of the island is bordered almost entirely by an excellent motorway - running all the way to Nicosia - which means car hire is a great option if you want to explore more than one area of the country. A week's holiday will allow you to see all the most reputed sites, including the ancient cities of Paphos and Kourion. Tour through charming monasteries, orthodox churches and the pretty villages of the Troodos mountains. The real draw of a trip here is the perfect balance of cultural outings, sublime beaches, charming hosts and great food.

Though the south coast holds most of the island's attractions, a visit to Nicosia is just as important to factor in. Sat on the border between north and south, the city is still littered with the marks of recent conflict, not least its famous dividing wall. A trip to the north of the country can be difficult to organise, especially for those crossing in a hire car. You should not have any problems getting through but some companies don't provide insurance for travel to the north.

If you visit during the summer, follow the lead of the locals and head for the beach early in the day. Once the sun reaches its peak, temperatures can become unbearable, with most Cypriots shutting up shop and keeping to the cool interiors of their homes. In mid-winter however, even though the weather generally remains mild, water and air temperatures are a little cool to really make the most of the beach and sea.

Before leaving for Cyprus, check the current political situation with the Foreign Office, who will warn of any tensions between the north and south zones.

pros

  • +You can combine a seaside stay with cultural visits.
  • +Cyprus can be visited in all seasons.
  • +Its closeness to Asia and Africa makes Cyprus an exotic holiday destination without leaving Europe.

cons

  • -Sandy beaches are rare to come across.
  • -The underlying tension between the north and the south can result in unrest.
  • -Every year there is an overwhelming influx of British tourists, particularly in high season.

Traditions

Never refuse an ouzo, coffee, or a glass of water: it would be perceived as a slight or sign of rudeness. Dress properly off the beaches, whichever is closest to the places of worship. Some monasteries are forbidden to women.

Food

Cyprus' cuisine is an aromatic fusion between that of continental Greece, Turkey, Italy and the Middle East. A Cypriot mealtime is a feast of pulses, beans, grilled vegetables and spices. Wherever you eat, you'll almost always be guaranteed a substantial meal with an assortment of tarama, sesame salad, couscous and halloumi (Cypriot cheese). If you want to get a flavour for everything, order a starter of mezze - a selection of Cypriot specialities such as olives, skordalia (potato and garlic dip), humus, taramasalata and tzatziki.

Despite the Greek-Turkish conflict, their cuisine is very similar. Both in the north and in the south you will find delicious goat and lamb kebabs, served with vegetables. Surprisingly, fish tends to be quite expensive and is not generally available outside of coastal regions. Fried squid, often served with a hint of fresh lemon, is a great option for fans of seafood. Desserts often take their inspiration from Middle Eastern traditions, made extremely sweet with honey or almonds. Make sure you try a Greek coffee, served with its dregs, and finish off your meal with a glass of ouzo - the local aniseed-flavoured spirit (served straight or with water).

Beware of 'tourist trap' restaurants, which try to compensate for a very average cuisine with an unauthentic folklore.

Ideal Weather Search

Find weekly weather forecasts for Cyprus . Different criteria make it possible to predict with precision the best time of year to go to Cyprus . A comprehensive weather score, made up of temperature indicators, bad weather predictions, sunshine levels and wind speeds, will allow you to choose the activities best suited to the weather conditions and therefore make the most of your holiday in Cyprus .

Reviewed hotels

Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin

Our journalists' reviews for you 96 hotels Cyprus . Take a look at our hotels, their facilities or their value-for-money score according to your departure dates so that we can find the best offer to suit you Cyprus . Book a hotel Cyprus it's never been so simple !

Souvenirs

The tradition of beautiful craftwork dates back centuries. In Lefkara, you will find embroidery, fabrics, and traditional pottery. The island as a whole is also a good place for buying gold jewellery - often well-priced and exceptionally made. As in most popular tourist destinations, you'll find a lot of over-priced and shoddily made souvenirs so don't get sucked into bad deals. Shops are open from 8.00 AM to 7.00 PM all week, except in summer, when they open from 8.00 AM to 1.00 PM, and then from 4.00 PM to 7.00 PM.

What to see

Package holidays in Cyprus

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