Quick associations with Cyprus… tax haven, Mediterranean island, beaches, wine, meeting point of east & west. My association with Cyprus now is all this & more. The country has had some history since the neolithical times including it being the birthplace of Aphrodite.
Cyprus to us was an amazing blend of eastern mystique meeting western thirst for development from centuries. What is it today? It has beautiful monasteries, mosaic remnants of Greek mythology and history of kings of Greece, Persia, Turkey, Europe, Egypt in a backdrop of beautiful natural landscapes.
Cyprus got on my wish list in 2008 while I was making a list of 80 countries I wanted to visit in my lifetime. At that time Cyprus to me was just a pretty place. I finally visited Cyprus in August 2013 once we moved to Dubai as access got easier. Cyprus is a small island country divided in the middle of its capital, Nicosia. The Southern part has Grecian, Christian, Roman, Byzantine Landscape while the northern part has Turkish influenced architecture. The Island has a few UNESCO World Heritage sites like Paphos City and Painted churches of Troodos etc.
We landed at Larnaca International Airport and decided to keep Limassol area as our base. At the Airport we rented a car as it is pretty simple to drive around the island country. There is a peripheral ring road that connects the cities or pretty Bougainville fenced roads, which takes you there through the pretty towns. Weather anywhere in the world is better than Dubai in august, so we decided to hire a small VW convertible to go around the island.
We divided our stay in to 2 parts – living in a laid back villa on Governor’s beach (3 nights) & living in the heart of Limassol (2 nights). We had very packed agenda
Day 1: Chilling around the Governor’s Beach Area
Day 2: Paphos, Kykonos Monastry, Episkopi area, Amphitheatre, Aphrodite’s Rock
Day 3: Nicosia, Aiya Napa, Cape Greco
Day 4: Troodos, Mykkos Monastry, Kykos Dam, Carob Mill Area
Day 5: Sunrise at Aphrodite’s Rock, Limassol Area, Carob Mill (Yes we loved the Aprodite’s Rock)
Everything was just an hour or 2 away in Cyprus. We used to take the car for a drive and get off the highway in to the villages & road less travelled. These intentional wandering made us discover Episkopi (A Brit Area), Cape Greco (Near Aiya Napa), Kourion Dam (On the way to Troodos) etc. On the way there were quick frappe stands and people selling fresh fruit produce that would charge us for the journey ahead.
All cities in Cyprus have a culture of their own. But in general people were very friendly, approachable and laid back. Everybody knew English and was forthcoming to have a conversation and exchange experiences. Cypriots had great taste in music (we were constantly tuned in to some Cypriot Brit Radio Channels) and know how to let their hair down.
Nicosia (also called Lefkosia) felt like a university hub which we covered on foot. We did accidentally walk in to the UN Quarters an area which had access to the Turkish occupied part of Nicosia. We were politely asked to return as we didn’t carry our passports. It was affluent in general as it was the commercial hub with branch offices of all the Banks & Blue chip Companies as well.
Limassol & Paphos had modern life going alongside the places of Historical & archeological importance. A drive through these places will give gives a sense of time travel which is beautiful, eye opening and humbling at the same time.
Aiya Napa is a party destination second only to Ibiza. People come here with only 1 agenda – Party Hard. They have party boats that are full of music, madness and a place for people to meet up. The average age on the boat was 21. If you are looking for some wild fun – Aiya Napa is your place.
VB & I particularly enjoyed Aphrodite’s Rock (mythical Birthplace of Aphrodite) that lied between Limassol & Paphos. We went there at various times of the day (sunrise, sunset, mid-day) just because it was a beautiful pebbled beach where one could sit quietly undisturbed.
Food in general was of exceptional with Middle Eastern mezzes, halloumi & Feta Cheeses and Greco Moussaka and souvlakis (Grilled meat in skewers). Cypriot local produce wine, olive oil, feta etc was very good. I would especially mention an area in Limassol, which had breweries, good restaurants, gelato & Frozen Yoghurt joints with the Historical Carob Mill as the backdrop – An attraction for the tourists, locals & university students alike.
Cyprus has little something for every traveler – adventurer, wanderer, explorer, diver, beach bum, destination golfer, historians at heart, archeologists, wine trailers and one could tailor their travel anyway they liked.
Will we visit Cyprus again? Definitely…
- Access: Good Connections are available to the Cyprus part via Emirates, Gulf Air, Turkish Airlines, British Airways depending on where you travelling from. We landed at Larnaca International Airport as is a better connected city.
- Moving Around: Please plan in advance on your International Drivers’ License so you can rent a car fro the Airport. The rates are standard, but one could haggle a bit if you are planning to stay for a bit. Roads are well connected with English & Cypriot road signs. Good to know both Cypriot & English names of the places (eg: Lefkosia is Nicosia, Lemosos is Limassol, Pafos is Paphos etc). Cars in Cyprus drives on the Left side of the Road much like UK, India, Singapore etc.
- Stay: You could choose Paphos or Limassol as your base depending on what you would like to do more. If you are in to Hiking/Trekking you may choose to spend a night at Troodos as well. We stayed at Art By Praxis (found on Agoda.com) which worked out fine for us as we were out sightseeing the whole day. For the days we spent at Limassol we stayed at Hotel Grand Resort.
- When to visit: We visited in August the weather was in high 20 degrees C and afternoons were a little warm it worked our as the perfect beach weather but sight seeing was a little hot. But you could visit at the Spring if you like slightly cooler weather. http://www.smartertravel.com/travel-guides/page.php?id=102309
, Cape Greco
, UNESCO world Heritage Sites