Often overshadowed by the more well-known Greek islands, Cyprus offers the visitor discovery, adventure and possibility. Your trip can be slow and relaxing or fast-paced and frenetic. The soulful villages dotting the coast offer a lesson in mindfulness. Time just slows. Antiquities appear in unusual places, calling to the passer-by to stop and reflect. White beaches and azure blue waters beckon to relax and unwind. Then, for those who are searching for excitement, Cyprus delivers.
On The Road From Larnaca To Limassol
To find your version of the perfect vacation in Cyprus on your own terms, consider renting a car. If you are comfortable driving on the left, set out on four wheels to explore the island. Cyprus is considered one of the safest places to visit and, for the most part, the drivers obey the rules of the road.
Heading southwest from Larnaca, the city housing the main airport on the island, towards Limassol, the Stavrovouni Monastery is only a twenty-minute detour off of the road. Although females are prohibited from entering, it is still worth a trip. Stavrovouni, meaning ‘Mountain of the Cross’ is 668 meters above sea level and is said to be home to a piece of the Holy Cross. Suspended on the edge of a rocky cliff and blending into its surroundings, it offers breathtaking views of Larnaca and the surrounding area. For males who are allowed to enter, the inside of Stavrovouni is decorated in a rich array of artwork.
Take a short detour up winding roads and you will come across the village of Lefkara. Locals will tell you that their lace is famous because Leonardo da Vinci purchased lace in this village in the late 1400s to use in the Duomo di Milano. Sure enough, the village is populated by lace shops and local women can be found basking in the sun while crafting new lace items. It is a glimpse into a past way of life.
Getting lost exploring the narrow cobblestone streets of Old Town Limassol, where generational shopkeepers conduct business much the way their grandparents did, was an enchanting experience. Arrive early to watch black-clad older women shop at the local market and greet their neighbours, while the older men gather for coffee and gossip. The area is bustling with cafes, restaurants, and shops. It is a popular place for locals and visitors alike. Limassol has recently made significant renovations to the area by adding a much-enjoyed walking area along the beach, a new fish market, and a shopping mall. Upscale boutique shopping is also available such as First Boutique (IakovouTompazi 1, Limassol) and CONELLE Boutique (Arch. Makarios III Avenue 184, Limassol).
If you are exhausted from all the walking and shopping, sit at an outdoor café with the locals and try some traditional Cypriot coffee. Like other Mediterranean countries, Cypriot coffee is brewed in a small copper pot that has a long handle. It’s basically a mixture of coffee, water and sugar (if desired). Angel’s Cup (Kanari 20, Limassol) makes an exceptional cup of coffee and offers delicious bakery items as well.
Limassol is the gastronomic capital of Cyprus, and there is a wide variety of top-quality restaurants that offer mouth-watering cuisine. Meze Taverna (209 AgiouAndreou St), a family-run, sit-down restaurant serves traditional Greek meze; Pier One Café Restobar in the marina with stunning views and an ambience that evokes the feeling of a super yacht; Kipriakon also in the marina provides traditional Cypriot cuisine with a modern twist all while dining among boho-inspired décor.
Historical architecture such as the Limassol Castle and various monuments can be found scattered throughout Old Town Limassol, making it one of the island’s richest areas for exploration. It is rumoured that casinos will soon be available for those inclined toward gambling, so go now before the charm of the city is lost.
There are many choices of accommodations in Limassol, but Sir Paul Hotel (5, IfigeneiasStr, Limassol 3036; +357 25 755454), an upscale boutique hotel located in the heart of the historic town, offers the visitor a charming stay. The stone building dates back to the 18th century and was used as a Town Hall. From its olive tree centrepiece to its stone arches and marble staircase, the ambience of Sir Paul Hotel did not disappoint. Even the history of the hotel is astonishing – the building was part of the owner, Natali Martini’s inheritance, and she named it as a tribute to her great-grandfather, Sir Paul Pavlides, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1955.
Nightlife abounds on the opposite end of Limassol. Guaba Beach Bar (Amathountos 7) is one of the most popular nightspots. Well-known DJs frequent this outdoor, ocean-view club making for a lively dance-filled night.
Meandering slowly from Limassol westerly to Paphos affords some of the most breathtaking views on the island. Located just outside the city, on a cliff, you will find a remarkable archaeological site known as the Ancient Kourion. An earthquake in 365 AD devastated the complex. What remains is an open-air Greco-Roman amphitheatre, the intricate mosaic floors of an extensive villa, bathhouses and a stadium. The Kourion is still in use, with performers showcasing their talent during the warm weather season. Imagine watching an ancient Greek play performed under the stars with the backdrop of the Mediterranean Sea with a bottle of wine in hand. It promises to be an evening you will not soon forget.
Continuing on the drive, you will come upon Aphrodite’s Rock– the mythical birthplace of the Greek goddess of love and beauty. The stunning rock formation can be found along the shore just off of the road from Limassol to Paphos. Cliff jumping, as well as swimming, is prohibited as the sea is usually rough in the area. However, I was able to enjoy a breathtaking view from the top.
Further along the drive is the Tombs of the Kings, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was the burial place used for local nobility from the 4th century onwards. You can get lost wandering the maze of caves and sandstone chambers.
If lunch is needed on the drive, Muse Café Kitchen Bar (Mousallas, Paphos), located at the top of a hill, provides a large outdoor seating area with views of the city and harbour. Additionally, Oniro by the Sea (GlykouNerou St, Paphos) is a restaurant located in the middle of basically nowhere, and the only sound you hear is the soothing sound of the waves crashing below. Suite 48 Grill & Lounge Bar (Poseidonos Ave 48, Paphos) has generous outdoor space with day beds, an outdoor bar, a playground for kids and views of the sea. They play live music here during the summertime.
Continuing along the route, you will pass the town of Paphos. If diving is on your agenda, the crystal-blue waters of the Sea Caves of Peyia is a popular scuba diving spot. The spectacular natural caves can only be entered by sea, via swimming or boat. Not far from the caves is Edro III, a cargo shipwreck that only dates back to 2011. It’s an excellent place for a photo opp.
At the end of a long day of driving and walking, Louis Ivi Mare (CY 8210, Poseidonos Ave 12, Paphos), a luxury seafront hotel offers a welcome refuge with two pools and a pool bar.
If you are interested in breathing in cool and clean mountain air, wandering through the Troodos Mountains is the perfect option. Driving from Paphos to the capital city of Nicosia, there are several stunning scenic spots, quaint churches and monasteries to explore. There are ten UNESCO-listed monasteries scattered throughout this region. In the mountains, you will find skiing, nature trails, walking paths and cycling lanes. For those seeking libations and culinary delights, there are various winery routes and traditional tavernas which give you the chance to mingle with the locals and to taste the region’s speciality dishes. A favourite stop is Cyprus Taste Tours (www.cyprustastetours.com), which offers a highly-rated afternoon of wine exploration.
Nicosia is the world’s last divided capital. A UN buffer zone, the Green Line, divides the North and South of the island in two: the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the Republic of Cyprus. Talking with older Greek Cypriots reveal that the division also divided their hearts when they lost the upper part of their island. This is a topic to tread carefully with the locals.
On the Greek side of this divide, sixteenth-century walls surround the heartbeat of Nicosia, the old city. Alive with vibrant street life, centuries-old restaurants, cafes sprawled into the sidewalks, mosques, churches and colonial buildings. Within these walls is also the island’s largest museum, the Cyprus Museum, which houses the world’s most comprehensive collection of Cypriot antiquities.
Join the locals for lunch and savour the fresh fish at Pyxida Fish Tavern (5 Menandrou, 1066 Nicosia), a restored 1930s house. Additionally, Fanous (7C Solonos Street, Nicosia) is a delicious eatery option in Nicosia. The contemporary Arab restaurant is decorated with pillows and throws and hosts belly dancing performances.
For the travellers who love to shop, Stasikratous Street, as well as on Makarios Avenue, will provide you hours of upscale boutique shopping. For women’s clothing, try Bojo Boutique (Promitheos 2, Nicosia).
If the walking and shopping have exhausted you, why not try an unusual treat, a spa package at Hammam Omerye, located in a restored 14th-century Turkish bathhouse.
To pamper yourself even more, sleep at the charming 3 Rooms Boutique Hotel, located in the heart of Nicosia’s Old Town.
Located on the southeast coast of Cyprus, Ayia Napa has a reputation for being the hippest place on the island. Known for its water sports and nightlife, hedonist-seeking crowds have come to this city from all over Europe. The city has responded with party-till-dawn nightclubs, long stretches of cultivated beaches and energizing beach activities.
However, there is another side to Ayia Napa, which includes the natural beauty found at Cape Greco National Forest Park. This national park has numerous trails and cycling paths, sitting areas, cliffs and sea views. The blue waters at AgioiAnargyroi Dive Site (non-divers are welcome as well) is a secret spot where the locals go to escape the crowds.
Most visitors to this region are in search of beaches and nightlife. You won’t find a town full of archaeological sites; however, the Venetian-era Ayia Napa Monastery is the anchor of the main square and worth a visit.
If Instagram photos are your thing, visit The Bridge of Loved Ones at sunset. Legend has it that if you kiss your loved one on this beautiful natural bridge and make a wish while standing in the middle of the arch, it is guaranteed to come true. It has become a tradition for newlyweds and couples to come here. Wedding ceremonies have even been held on this bridge!
While there is an endless option of places to visit, Nissi Beach provides perfect spots for people watching. The beach stretches 500 meters and hosts a number of water activities and beach parties.
If you need something to eat, the Cypriot cuisine at En-YevoTavernaki (DionysiouSolomou 16 Famagusta, Ayia Napa 5330); the pizza at Quadro Italian Restaurant (OdosKryouNerou, 7, Ayia Napa 5330); and the unique dishes at Fiji Polynesian Cuisine (Makarios Avenue 23, Ayia Napa 5340) won’t disappoint.
The Liquid Café N Bar (KryouNerou 8, Ayia Napa), Pepper Bar Lounge (Makariou 12, Ayia Napa 5343) and Jello(ArchiepieskopouMakariou III, Ayia Napa) are quite popular and offer a lively action-packed nightlife adventure!
To end your road trip around Cyprus, try Cape Serenity Resort ( E307, Protaras), an adults-only luxury hotel located within Cavo Greco natural park. ◼
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© This article was first published in Feb-Mar 2020 edition of World Travel Magazine.