This is a guest post by Lucia – a blogger, photographer and creative mind behind Viva La Vita, a lifestyle blog not just about life in Cyprus. Between a full time job and raising a little human, she is trying to get the most out of what life has to offer and document it visually on her blog. Read her insider tips about what to see and what to avoid in Cyprus.
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Cyprus is quickly becoming one of the hottest holiday destinations in the Mediterranean.
This year, it is expected to exceed the 3.2 million tourists from last year. With some of the cleanest Blue Flag beaches in Europe and almost 360 days of sunshine, it is an all year-round destination for a sunny getaway. Whether you’re looking to spend the days laying around the pool, beach or exploring the ancient monasteries, local wineries or villages, I put together some handy tips to save you time and possible disappointment.
After living on the island for over 4 years I am by no means an expert, but I had my fair share of nice surprises as well as bitter disappointments. Here are few tips to save some of your time:
What to see in Cyprus
1. Akamas Peninsula
Possibly the last surviving wilderness on the island, Akamas National Park in Akamas Peninsula is one of the prettiest places on the island. Located in the north west, it is most famous for Aphrodite’s Baths, hiking trails, donkeys and Blue Lagoon. Lush green hills are towering over azure blue bays and lagoons, with only donkeys and goats disturbing the peaceful scenery.
You can get to Akamas through a beautiful small town called Latchi with a pretty harbour and lots of fresh fish on sale in the local taverns. Right at the entrance to the national park is a botanical garden, and behind it are Aphrodite’s Baths (more on that below).
There are several hiking trails you can take, of varying difficulty. I’ve done them several times and the only advice I will have is to take plenty of water. The views from top of the hills are simply breathtaking.
2. Book a Wine Tasting
Cyprus is one of the oldest wine making countries in the world, if not THE oldest. They will tell you all about it at any wine tasting tour. Plenty of tour operators will offer you an organised one, but I would recommend venturing on your own.
My absolute favourite with the best wine on the island is Kolios Winery, also the highest located winery on the island. It’s in a small village called Agios Fotios and you need to book in advance to get in. They combine the wine tasting with mezze lunch, cooked by the owner’s wife from home grown ingredients. They will show you the wine making process, wine storage, wine cellar and let you taste as much as you want. The lunch also includes a free bottle of wine. Not bad, right? Oh, and I didn’t even mention the spectacular views from their restaurant.
For some other options, I would certainly recommend Vouni Panyia Winery (again amazing views), Tsangarides Winery (organic wine producer) and some smaller wineries around Limassol. In most places you can just show up and ask for wine tasting, but it doesn’t apply to all of them (some smaller ones might not be even open). Don’t forget to taste the local varieties that you can’t find anywhere else in the world, like Xynisteri or Maratheftiko.
There is also an annual Wine Festival in September in Limassol, where they let you drink as much wine as you want, free of charge, courtesy of the Limassol Municipality!
3. Visit a Monastery
There could be possibly as many monasteries as there are wineries in Cyprus. Monks were among the first wine makers and it is little surprise that some of them still produce their own wine. Monastery is not a place you would normally expect as a recommendation for a sunny holiday, but they are so impressive it would be shame to miss them.
In particular – Stavrovouni Monastery close to Larnaca. Perched at the top of a steep hill, it is worth the drive even just for the views. Only men are allowed inside, sorry ladies. Some of the other impressive monasteries include Kykkos Monastery, Macharios Monastery and Troodista Monastery. Pay them a visit and admire the old churches and chapels with their old paintings.
I think it would be a crime to visit Cyprus and not see at least one of the archeological wonders. There are quite a few to choose from but I think Kourion is by far the most impressive. What once was the most important city kingdom on the island is now a well preserved archeological wonder. There is also a magnificent Roman theater where you can still today see musical performances in summer.
There are plenty of things to see and thanks to its location at the top of the hill, you will also enjoy beautiful sea views. Kourion is located just short drive off the main highway between Limassol and Paphos.
5. Aphrodite’s Rock
This is a tricky one. Aphrodite’s Rock is most definitely one of the recommended places to see if you’re coming for holiday, which creates a little problem. It gets overcrowded. Aphrodite’s Rock (on local maps as Petra tou Romiou) is a beach with imposing rock formations short drive away from Paphos and what attracts people here is the legend that this site is the birth place of the Goddess Aphrodite.
Another legend says that if you swim around the rock, you will get a year younger. If you want to give a try, head there early in the morning before the crowds arrive, especially in summer. There is a small kiosk and a restaurant nearby. Just before you turn to Aphrodite’s Rock, you will see a small picnic area with access to a different beach. I would recommend heading there for sunset and enjoy a romantic picnic while watching the golden hues of sun melting in the sea.
6. Adonis Waterfalls
This is a recent discovery of mine. You will either love it or hate it. I happened to visit early spring when there was barely anyone around and it was amazing. The small waterfalls are on privately owned land, behind an old mill. The access road is not for the faint hearted, but you will make it there without any major issues.
You will see plenty of signs on the road so you can’t miss it – it’s located just off the main road before Coral Bay, but there is access from few different areas too. The water in the falls is refreshingly cold and they serve some cold drinks. With sunchairs, cold water and drinks, that’s all you need for a bit of happiness without the crowds on the beach.
7. Blue Lagoon and Lara Beach
Rent a quadbike and venture back to Akamas Peninsula and one of the most famous beaches on the island – Lara Beach. Forget about overcrowded Nissi Beach or Fig Tree Bay when you can enjoy stunning sandy beach and turquoise waters with surrounding wilderness just for yourself. Only thing keeping you company are the turtle nets around the edges of the beach.
From there, head right through the middle of the peninsula to the other side – to Blue Lagoon. Sure, you can also get there with a boat with other tourists, but why not access it from the beach and claim a part of it just for yourself? Blue Lagoon looks nothing like any beach you would see on the island. White sand on the bottom, steep rocky cliffs on the edge and turquoise waters anywhere you look. It tends to be a bit warmer than the sea in other areas, so it’s perfect even for those who don’t dare to swim in the middle of August.
What to avoid in Cyprus
1. Tourist Traps
If you think you’ll get to a Mediterranean country to enjoy amazing seafood, you will be disappointed in Cyprus. Most of the fish is grown on farms and if you don’t look closely on the menu in the restaurants, most of the seafood section is cooked from frozen.
Stay away from the most obvious tourist traps – restaurants around popular tourist locations. Biggest of them being area of Paphos harbour near the castle, Coral Bay main strip and Limassol castle. Do your research but please – stay away from Tripadvisor. I have personally ventured to some of the recommendations only to be bitterly disappointed. Seems like most people are satisfied with burger and chips and score the restaurant five Michellin stars if they cooked their chips to perfection.
The cuisine offering tends to be better in bigger cities like Limassol and Nicosia, but Paphos and Larnaca are still behind and nice places are harder to find if you don’t know where to look.
2. Limassol or Paphos Castle
Ok, it’s not actually a castle. More like a fortress with very little inside. I’ve been to Limassol Castle, but not the one in Paphos because frankly its even smaller. If you’re bored and want to hide from the sun, feel free to visit. You have been warned.
3. Aphrodite’s Baths
Where to begin with this one. The popularity of this location is based on the legend that the Goddess Aphrodite used to come here to take a bath. Well that could be true or not. In reality, it’s a tiny little puddle with water trickling from the rocks towering over it.
Today only pigeons seem to be the ones who bath in it. There isn’t much to see. If you want to take a picture, that might be tricky too because of the lightning and the dark shadows created by the trees hanging over the area. My advice? Skip it.
4. Turtle Beach
Often rated as one of top beaches in Cyprus, I cannot help but disagree. Sure, its remote and peaceful, but not so much anymore. On my last trip a boat loaded with tourists parked right next to us and unloaded the whole gang. With music and all that. The beach has really easy access to water and it’s perfect for swimming, but I think it’s worth travelling a bit further to Lara Beach.
What to see in Larnaca? Hmm…. The beach promenade? Personally, Larnaca is the least popular destination for me. There isn’t really any historic centre, the whole life is focused on a small stretch of promenade by the sea. The town looks like its falling apart with derelict buildings anywhere you look. What is it good for? Getting to the airport, that’s about it.
6. Ayia Napa
You might completely disagree with me, if you’re up for a party holiday, but Ayia Napa is a big NO for me, especially during the summer months. I might be getting old, but spending the night bumping into drunk teenagers while you listen to noisy howling of a live show from a local tavern is not very appealing. Sure, Ayia Napa has plenty to offer, but best enjoyed with a glass of wine and in spring or winter. When all the madness cools off.
Now you’ve done your research, all that’s left to do is to book your holiday and enjoy a bit of Mediterranean hospitality right in Cyprus! Have a safe trip!