Summer is here! And with it, the urge to leave everything behind and go somewhere, near or far, road trip, long weekends, even longer holidays, it does not matter as long as you are not home. But where to? Where do you start and where do you end?
We’ll have to see about the end (there is never an end in traveling), but I know where I’ve started this Summer. In a place I’ve never been to, the kind of place that has always held a special place in my heart, secretly desiring to live in such a sunny, quite, warm piece of Heaven: an island, surrounded by deep blue lagoons, waiting for me to deep dive. And vacation for me, as a friend once put it, it is never real if I’m not wearing a swimsuit.
It was for a special occasion I chose to visit the beautiful island of Cyprus together with friends, mainly because none of us had been to the island before, but also because what we thought the place would have to offer: burning sun even at the end of May, sandy beaches, crystal clear blue water, fooood and fun of course. And the place did not disappoint. Not at all.
The trip was a first also when it came to accommodation since it was the first time choosing to stay in an Airbnb and we did not know exactly what to expect. Even if the place was a bit remote, situated in between Ayia Napa and Protaras, in the middle of a watermelon field, we had everything we needed at the house and restaurants, the sea, a supermarket, just walking distance away.
What stroke me at first, when the plane started descending on the island, was the fact that no green stripes were in sight, only yellow and gray stripes of land as far as the eye could see. Thinking about its localization one can easily understand why that is, looking at the map and at its proximity to countries like Lebanon and Israel, one understands and expects the arid climate, the thick hot air we felt once we placed our feet on Cypriot land. Even so, if you choose to visit Cyprus in April – May or in the late Autumn, you must expect windy chilly evenings and come prepared with at least a jacket or two.
But what can one do on the (not so) little island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea? Since we were residents only for 3 days, there was only so much we could do, but either way, I will share with you both my top things we have managed to do and also the things I will return to the island for. I will have to add here that most of the places we have been to were recommended by a local friend of my boyfriend’s, who was extremely nice and took the time to share with us an incredible “To Do” list for the island, places to see, restaurants and clubs to go to, making the trip a mouth of fresh air.
Start your day right with an incredible fully hearty Cypriot breakfast, preferably at a restaurant overlooking the sea. Cypriot yogurt, just like the Greek one, is thick, filled with protein and will fill you until lunch for sure. Add honey and seasonal fruit and you have the recipe for a great morning or brunch. If on the other hand, you are not a fan of dairy in the morning, you will surely enjoy grilled halloumi with lountza, fried eggs, and garlic bread. And if you have a sweet tooth, waffles are always an option here!
- Discover the many sandy beaches – and that is what we did right after breakfast, at least the ones in the Eastern part of the island. From Nissi Beach to Konnos, Makronissos Beach, Fig Tree Bay, Serna Bay and Sunrise beaches, Cyprus has a never-ending reserve of wide sandy beaches.
- Visit Cape Greco and the Sea Caves – just expect hot weather and walking in the sun, except you cam drive on the left side of the road 🙂 We did not. The view over the sea and shore is absolutely breathtaking and any distance is worth it, just come prepared with something covering your head and with a big bottle of water. Both landmarks are amazing and make you understand the power water has also over rock, making you realize that with consistency and perseverance anything is possible.
- Take a boat trip along the coast up to the ghost town of Famagusta – this is a relaxing and fun way of spending 4 hours of a day, blending in culture, sun, sea, and sightseeing for only 10 euros. The boat will take you really close where you will get to see the deserted town of Famagusta, which was once the most important Cypriot port city and also the most developed touristic one on the island. Unfortunately, in 1974 the city was bombed and invaded by the Turkish army, forcing the Greek Cypriot population to flee into the surrounding fields. The situation still lingers on and the city has been stuck in time with abandoned houses, hotels and supermarkets that can be seen only from distance.
Another highlight of the boat trip is that you will get to see how the water has “worked” throughout the years to build this incredible landscape with lots of caves on the shores of the island. You will get the chance to deep dive and do some snorkeling in the incredibly turquoise waters of the Blue Lagoon close to Cape Greco without having to jump from the cliffs if you are not into that (and I can understand that).
- Have a wild night of heavy partying in Ayia Napa – we were on the island for a bachelorette party and after choosing the destination we have come to understand that this is the perfect place just for that. Ayia Napa is well known for its many pubs, bars and clubs where people from all over the world (mostly Europe and Russia) come to party until the morning, just be aware that the party can end suddenly (as it did in our case) because most of the clubs are not registered as such and according to the law music can be played here only until 1:30 a.m. A good option for a fun club would be Black and White and The Castle Club .
- Wine and dine on the beach at one of the many traditional tavernas – Maybe my favorite part of the trip to Cyprus was actually the food part…oh and the wine part as well of course. Since you are here, you will need to try the specific meze, just keep in mind when you order that one portion is more than enough for two people and if you are in a bigger group bare in mind that you will always have to order for fewer people. The food here comes in large portions or better yet in a large number of small portions so that you will get to taste anything and everything. Hummus, tzatziki, roe, tahini, fried eggplant, halloumi and many many more, especially seafood will be served with good hot pita bread and you will never leave the table wishing for more. Add a glass of dry rose Cypriot wine and you will have the recipe for a great dinner. Only a few places where you can enjoy quite dinners overlooking the sea are here, here and here.
All the places that I did not have the chance to see but for what I will most definitely get back here for and if you have the time please add on your list:
- Paphos – the medieval fort and quaint harbor, Aphrodite’s Rock, the Turtle Conservation Station, Kato Pafos Archaeological Park & Tombs of the Kings are only a few of the sights that make this place filled with history worth adding it to your list of must-sees in Cyprus.
- Limassol – see the Castle, walk in the Marina and admire the yachts, or better yet imagine being on one of those luxuriant yachts sailing the whole wide world. Once you have woken up from day dreaming, head to the old center of the city and be prepared to discover the town’s old history, spend a few hours of intense shopping in the old market and let yourself seduced by the traditional shops.
- Nicosia – the largest city on the island, its capital, and the city belonging to two different countries: Cyprus (the Southern part) and Turkey (the occupied Northern part). The latter fact would make this city attractive to visit because I think it might be interesting (from the outside, don’t get me wrong) to be in the same city and yet in two different countries at once. Apart from that, the city sure holds a diverse and interesting culture and architecture to be discovered.
- Troodos Mountains – I find it incredible that during the winter you ca also ski in these mountains, even though I cannot imagine such cold weather on this almost tropical island. But even without snow, the mountains area is still a must if you, like myself, are drawn to picturesque villages, folk architecture, rich local cuisine and cobbled streets. Whether you discover the UNESCO Byzantine Churches, get lost on the nature trails or take a cycling route, this part of the island won’t leave you disappointed for sure.
A few things to know before visiting:
- driving is done on the left side pf the road
- the local currency is Euro
- have a UK type plug adapter with you if you want to be able to charge your phone