The 10 Favourite 'Must Dos' in Cyprus
Cyprus is a beautiful island, whatever time of year you visit and there is something of interest for all the family. Whilst it is lovely just to relax by the hotel pool or on a beach in the shade of a sun umbrella, the magic of Aphrodite's Island will tug at your curiosity begging you to discover her many secrets...
Visit Kykkos Monastery and the ten UNESCO churches
Cyprus is steeped in history and it is fun to discover the Chalcolithic round houses at Chirokitia (near Larnaca) and her acclaimed Roman mosaics in Paphos and Limassol, the treasures of her museums and the wealth of her churches and monasteries.
Kykkos Monastery nestles in the Troodos Mountains and is said to be the wealthiest Greek Orthodox monastery. Visitors are captivated by its serene character and wealth of treasures in its Byzantine Museum and rising early to join the monks for their morning prayers is certainly a memorable experience. Situated in the mountains too, are the ten Byzantine painted churches with their steeply pitched roofs and marvellous wall frescoes, each one considered so special that it appears on the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage List.
Explore the villages
Away from the colourful bustle of the towns, many of the villages in Cyprus have changed little in generations. Life continues at a much slower pace, marked by the passing seasons rather than a ticking clock and there is always a warm welcome to visitors. The architecture in many is varied and a wander down the lanes reveals leafy avli (courtyards) where the family gathers for meals and village craftspeople producing rag rugs, silverware or icons in the same way their grandparents and parents did before them.
Get on 'the wild side' in the Akamas
The Akamas peninsula stands to the north-west of Pafos and is the perfect place to discover the diversity of the Cyprus landscape and wildlife. The Avakas Gorge lies on its southern fringes and is perfect early in the morning when the silence is broken only by goat bells. The gorge is steep and there are parts where sunlight never penetrates, yet the rocky crevices are home to small Maidenhair ferns and in the Spring, to the pretty pink wild Cyclamen. The Lara headland is where the successful turtle conservation project has been run by volunteers for more than 25 years. The project has successfully ensured the protection of the Green (Chelonas mydas) and Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) turtles that come ashore each summer to lay their precious clutches of eggs. North of Lara there are dramatic coastal features such as Karavopetres - 'the Sailing Ship rocks' and the tiny stone chapel of Panayia tou Vlou where many visitors with eye problems have been miraculously cured. For the enthusiastic there is a long drive/ trek to the furthest tip at Cape Aranouti and the northern coast with Fontana Amorosa and the Baths of Aphrodite where the island's colourful mythology is revealed.
Dive for it!
The crystal clear waters that surround Cyprus are perfect for scuba diving and if you have never explored 'life under the waves' there are PADI and BSAC courses available in all resorts. There are both day and night dives available including fascinating cave systems and shipwrecks - including one of the top ten wrecks in the world. MS Zenobia lies just off the coast near Larnaca and was a Swedish ferry that sank in 42 metres of water on her maiden voyage - taking her cargo worth £2 million with her.
The sadness of a divided island...
A wander around the old streets of the island's capital, Nicosia soon reveals that it is a divided capital - the only one in the world, following the Turkish invasion of July 1974. The event affected everyone and Turkish Cypriots relocated in the northern part of the island, the Greek Cypriots in the south as the island was divided by a single stroke of a green felt tip pen.
Situated on the corner of Ledra Street on the 11th floor of the Shacolas Tower above Debenhams the observatory offers panoramic views across Nicosia in all directions - including into the occupied part of the city and offers visitors an insight into the Cyprus problem, which sadly continues today...
Shakespeare at Curium
Sitting on a cliff top overlooking the Mediterranean, stands the remains of the Roman city of Curium (Kourion). It stands as testament to the sophistication of the Romans - their under floor heating, beautiful mosaics and their superb comprehension of acoustics .
The second century theatre perches on a clifftop and the sound of the waves below is just audible. The theatre has superb acoustics that have amazed modern specialists as it is possible to stand in the centre of the stage and to quietly speak and the words to be heard clearly throughout the theatre. Throughout the year, a variety of musical and dramatic performances are performed in the stunning setting of the theatre including an annual performance of a popular Shakespearean play which has taken place each June since 1961 to raise funds for local charities.
Enjoy the Limassol Coastal Walk
In recent years the coast at Limassol has been sensitively renovated with a broad new walkway that is wheelchair - friendly and used by families, friends and joggers as the perfect meeting place for a leisurely stroll. The walk begins near the town's castle and heads eastwards towards the archaeological site of Ancient Amathus and beyond, passing the gardens of many of the island's top hotels...
At the beginning of the walk there is a permanent display of modern sculptures and throughout the year there are various markets and exhibitions and along its length there are coffee shops to rest awhile over a cold frappé and sandy stretches where a quick refreshing dip can be enjoyed.
Cyprus is an island of contrasts, and whilst it a popular winter sun destination not so many people know that it offers good skiing too! Mount Olympus (1,952 metres) is the highest peak in the Troodos mountains. From the beginning of January through to March (sometimes April) the mountains are deep in snow and are transformed into a winter wonderland that is reminiscent of the Austrian Tyrol! There are four main ski slopes with six different runs all of Alpine standard and varying in length from 100 - 500 metres and there are also two cross country (langlauf) trails at Sun Valley, one of eight kilometres the other four kilometres and both offer spectacular views down to the Limassol coast and the Salt Lake on the Akrotiri peninsula.
Enjoy a traditional Mezé
Cypriot cuisine is a colourful blend of dishes from the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East the best way to taste most of the seasonal specialities is to order a Mezé (Mezédhes). Mezé is the traditional meal in Cyprus that has evolved over the centuries from when housewives had to present unexpected guests with a meal and they had to raid their larders in able to provide a delicious and tempting array. The modern Mezé is an array of about 24 seasonal dishes and in traditional Cypriot style, these dishes should be enjoyed at a leisurely pace so that the meal is much more an 'occasion' lasting most of the evening!
The Mezé begins with a large bowl of village salad (Horiatiki), a selection of traditional dips and some thickly sliced bread. The meal continues withy seasonal vegetables, some fresh fish including Kalamari (squid) and maybe marithes (whitebait) before proceeding to delicious oven-baked specialities including Macaronia sto Fourno (a delicious meat and pasta dish with béchamel sauce and grated cheese) followed swiftly by sizzling meat served straight from the charcoal - if you are wondering if the feast will ever end, the grand finale is always a bowl of chilled fruit.
Cheers to Cyprus wines!
A few years ago, scientific tests by a team of Italian archaeologists on stone jars uncovered in Erimi (west of Limassol) confirmed that the island was the first country in Europe to produce wine and that it has done so since 3500 BC. The history of the islands wines can be traced by visiting the Wine Museum in Erimi, the Commandaria Museum in the mountain village of Zoopygi and any of the wine producers which range in size from small family-run wineries to the 'big four' - ETKO, KEO, LOEL and SODAP and the Limassil Wine Festival which takes place every August attracts wine lovers from all over Europe.