Sonntag, 8. Mai 2016

10 Things to do in Cyprus



When we first decided to go on vacation in Cyprus in 2011 we didn't know much about it other than that it is close to home (the flight from Israel takes 45 minutes tops) and that it has beaches. We stayed in a seaside resort on the East Coast close to Ayia Napa, and divided our time between the beach, the pool, the coffee shops and the beachwear kiosks. Fun holiday, especially since our girl was very little at the time, but really only one of many aspects the mediterranean island state has to offer. If you're more of the 'explorer' type like me and want to make most of your stay, I recommend you choose an accommodation around Lemesos or even further to the West and rent a car to comfortably travel all over the place. Yes, driving on the left side of the road takes a bit of getting used to, but according to our experience, the Cypriots tend to be patient with tourists and traffic isn't usually very heavy anyway.

So without further ado, here's my shortlist of things to do in Cyprus. The best part is: Even if you don't manage to squeeze them all in one trip, you can always come back for more :)

1. Stay in a village instead of hotel 


When choosing this year's accommodation we didn't really know that not staying in a hotel is a 'Thing' but apparently it is. In Cyprus the locals call it Agrotourism and it's supposed to be a more authentic, sustainable option than your typical seaside resort. My husband was looking for a change from the full-service-scheduled-meals-pool-and-sunburn-routine so the Village Houses in Skarinou sounded like a good option. Well, it turned out to be the best choice we could've made and after this relaxed, simple and slow-paced experience we won't be able to do hotels ever again, I'm afraid. Having said that, there are plenty of good and reasonable hotel options and package deals if that's your preference. BookCyprus.com is a good place to start looking.


Skarinou is around 30 minutes from Larnaca or Lemesos.




2. Hike on a nature trail, Troodos


High up in the mountains, in a surprisingly dense and leafy forest as mediterranean forests go, starts an enchanted nature trail following a cool mountain stream down to one of the biggest water falls of Cyprus. You can either park at the bottom of the trail at the trout farm Psilo Dendro and just hike up to visit the Caledonia Fall for pictures. Or park at the top and hike the whole trail down to the village of Platres (around 3km) where you can catch a taxi back up to collect your car. That's the preferred option if you're not looking for a big challenge or have young kids with you as the trail is downhill all the way and you'll cross the stream plenty of times via little wood bridges and strewn rocks which is a lot of fun. There is also a bus once a day from Platres that takes up hikers to the beginning of the trail, ask at the Tourist Information for details. If you're hiking early in the year don't forget to take a sweater or jacket, the mountain air is quite chilly and the water freezing. Also look out for butterflies and wild flowers, Cyprus is beautiful in the spring.

Platres is around 50 minutes by car from Lemesos, the trail starts 8km up the road to Troodos, follow the signs.


water games
tiny blue butterfly

(Hiking is also great in the Akamas. Have a look at some of my pictures from the Aphrodite trail we walked last year here)


3. Wine Museum and Tasting


The Wine Museum in Erimi, just outside of Lemesos, is well worth a visit if you're interested in wine and the history of wine making in Cyprus. Who knew that Cyprus wine was considered one of the best in Europe in the Middle Ages? The museum is not big but nicely laid out and well maintained. We were lucky to be the only guests, so Maria the local ticketing lady and guide took a lot of time to explain and chat with us. There are different entry fees depending on whether you want to only see the museum or combine the tour with a wine tasting of the special museum wines which is also done in a tasteful and professional way. We had more sightseeing planned on that day otherwise we might have stayed for a coffee or two in the shady museum courtyard - time well spent and lovely experience overall!

For the full wine experience hop on the Cyprus Wine Route passing through Erimi and follow it into the hills and through the villages below Troodos. There are plenty of Boutique wineries that offer tastings.

The Cyprus Wine Museum is 20 minutes from Lemesos

Cat on (antique?) jug
Wine Tasting

4. Pay a visit to the monks


Drive up to Stavrovouni Monastery - the view is amazing. If you're female your journey ends at a strong wooden gate way below the actual fortress-like building as Stavrovouni has a strict 'men only' policy which to this day is enforced with no exceptions. If you're male and appropriately dressed however, you are welcome to visit the monks during their opening hours (check beforehand!) and admire the frescos. Females can visit a chapel outside the gates of the monastery in the meantime and enjoy the fresh breeze on the mountain.

If you prefer a place without gender restrictions there are plenty of other options in Cyprus - we were impressed by Ayios Neophytos, an ancient monastery hewn into the rock by a hermit monk in the 12th century.

Stavrovouni is around 45 minutes from Larnaca or Lemesos
Ayios Neophytos is around 20 minutes from Paphos


Ayios Neophytos
Stavrovouni Chapel

5. The Old, the Sea and the Fancy


Lemesos (Limassol) has come a long way since I first visited almost 13 years ago. What used to be a sleepy industrial harbour city with an old town centre has been done up into a sophisticated tourist magnet and makes for a cool day trip location:

Drop your car somewhere close to the medieval castle - there are metered parking spots alongside the main roads or use one of the car parks. Walk into the pedestrian zone around the castle and step in for a visit. It doesn't take long but is a nice glimpse into the history of Cyprus. Also, the view over Lemesos is pretty cool and there are a couple of 'secret' walkways children will enjoy.

Afterwards, stroll through the narrow streets, grab an ice cream and do some window shopping. Make your way to the promenade and onto one of the wooden piers to admire the ocean giants anchored out on the sea. Turn right and continue towards the new marina where you will feel like in Disneyland. It's renovated and done up so nicely it doesn't seem 'real' anymore and looking at the bright white buildings almost hurts on a sunny day. Fancy as it may be, you can still find original fishing boats alongside expensive yachts in the marina and the occasional fisherman. This is a great place to grab lunch. If you can agree on a restaurant that is: There's such a variety of international and local restaurants that it's not easy to choose and it might take a while until everyone is happy. If you care for a more authentic experience you could also just walk back to the old city and eat in one of the taverns there.

Lemesos is around 45-50 minutes from Larnaca or Paphos. 



(For more of my Lemesos pictures click here)

6. Stroll through a picturesque mountain village


Driving into the mountains upcountry makes for rewarding green mountain views in the spring. Plenty of small villages are nestled into the lush hills around Troodos (many with wineries, see #3) and invite for a stroll through narrow alleys and side streets. The most beautiful ones are done up to accommodate tourists obviously, but it didn't bother me that much when visiting Omodos as I could still feel and easily imagine the underlying original character of the village. We spent a pleasant couple of hours there, even though initially we only thought of stopping there en route to Laneia supposedly the "most photogenic" village of them all (according to Lonely Planet). Maybe one of you could visit Laneia for me and let me know if it truly is that beautiful?

Closer to Larnaca is Lefkara, a village famous for its original needlecraft art. We visited years ago and I don't really remember much other than the multitude of little craft shops at every corner.


Omodos and Laneia are around 30 minutes from Lemesos. 
Lefkara is around 40 minutes from Larnaca or Lemesos. 




7. Tombs of the Kings, Paphos



Actually, no real kings were ever buried in the ancient tombs of Paphos. However, the grave chambers in the necropolis which, due to its magnitude has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are so magnificent that they would have been fit for royal burials. You can easily spend half a day or more walking between the different tombs and grave chambers taking your time to explore all the morbid crawl spaces and just enjoy the flowers, fresh sea breeze and lush greenery in this gigantic 'archeologic fun park'.

Paphos and the Tombs of the Kings are around 50 minutes from Lemesos.

Tomb fit for a king
flowers on graves

(More of my pictures from the tombs can be found here)


8. Take a selfie with a baby donkey 


There are lots of donkey farms in Cyprus but not all of them are equally well looked after. The Golden Donkey Farm in Skarinou is, so if you're in the area, especially with kids, plan a visit. They take a small admission fee which is very reasonable for what you get: the place is huge with over 100 friendly donkeys and other farm animals to watch, pet and feed (riding is possible at an extra cost). When we went they had adorable baby donkeys ♡
 
There's a small wax museum on the premises showing all the different traditional professions of Cyprus and one of the oldest olive trees on the island. (Honestly I haven't seen one so massive even in Israel!).

The farm shop sells their own produce like olive oil and donkey milk products (soap, chocolate, cosmetics) which make for more unique souvenirs and gifts than the standard tourist fare.

In the evenings the farm hosts events so you might want to inquire beforehand if they have something going on that interests you.

Golden Donkey Farm is in Skarinou around 30 minutes from Larnaca or Lemesos.


newborn donkey
aaaaaaaw! 

9. Traditional Meze in a Taverna 


A Meze is a famous traditional meal in Cyprus where you get served tables full of an amazing variety of small dishes. Naturally, you'll want to taste and sample all of them until in the end you realise you can hardly pull yourself out of your chair anymore. 

As Meze is such a big hype you'll see it on offer literally everywhere but don't fall into a tourist trap. Instead ask the locals and go with their recommendation. Cypriots like good food and don't tolerate mediocre service so trust their judgment. 

We've only ever had one 'real' Meze, actually, on our very first Cyprus trip, when we were travelling as a couple. The local lady at the hotel pointed us to a place that we never would've found on our own as it was located in a side street in Lefkosia and looked rather unassuming. We sat outside on plastic chairs and had a meal fit for kings. They even included a dessert Meze with mainly fresh fruit - amazing! 


10. Go to the beach! 


(Even if you're like me and don't care much for beaches).

After all, Cyprus is surrounded by water and boasts excellent water quality at all its beaches.

One of the most famous stretches is the supposed birthplace of Aphrodite - Petra tou Romiou - which with its impressive rock formation makes for a great photo location especially before sunset. It's a rough pebble beach that can get a bit crowded because all the tour groups stop there for pictures.

Much less frequented (and that's an understatement) is Lara Bay way up in the Akamas nature reserve North of Paphos that can only be reached by dirt road. Rough and wild, it is a hatching place for sea turtles and a very rewarding location if you're up for the adventure to navigate bumps and potholes to get there.

Cyprus' East Coast is famous for its relaxing seaside resorts and long sandy beaches. Very touristy but possibly the most beautiful stretch over there is Fig Tree Bay in Protaras not far from the party capital Ayia Napa. Oh, and if you're in that area anyway and traveling with kids you might want to join a Pirate Cruise with Captain Jack Sparrow on the Black Pearl in Ayia Napa. So much fun!


Petra tou Romiou is around 30 minutes from Lemesos or Paphos 
Lara Beach is around an hour's drive from Paphos. Consider a 4x4 drive if you plan to explore the Akamas, it's worth it!  
Fig Tree Bay is 50 minutes from Larnaca and 20 minutes from Ayia Napa

Petra tou Romiou

Lara bay

Have you been to Cyprus?  What is your favourite spot? 






Liebe regelmäßige Leser,

dieser Artikel erscheint auf Englisch, weil sich nach mehreren Zypernurlauben bei meinen Freunden und Bekannten im Internet und Reallife die Anfragen nach diesem schönen Urlaubsland häufen. Die meisten dieser Leute können leider kein Deutsch, weswegen ich entschieden habe, diesen Artikel ausnahmsweise auf Englisch zu veröffentlichen. Als Referenz sozusagen, falls mal wieder einer nach Zypern fragt. Ich habe länger überlegt, ob ich ihn zweisprachig anbiete, mich dann aber dagegen entschieden, weil er dadurch sehr unübersichtlich und lang geworden wäre.

Vielen Dank für euer Verständnis und herzliche Grüße,
Hadassa


Kommentare:

  1. Liebe Hadassa, da hast du mich aber sehr neugierig auf Zypern gemacht!
    Du weißt ja, dass wir überzeugte Griechenlandurlauber, favorisiert Santorini sind. Wo es ja auch traumschön ist, aber ich würde ja gern auch mal was Neues "wagen".
    Zpern hatten wir vor einigen Jahren auch schon mal auf dem "Zettel", haben uns aber u a. wegen des sehr hohen Preises dagegenentschieden.
    Deine Tipps, vor allen Dingen, das Wohnen im Dorf spricht mich aber schon sehr an.
    Nun ja für dies Jahr ist es zu spät, denn... Du rätst es, Ende des Monats geht's auf die Kykladen. :-)

    Danke für deinen informativen post,
    LG,
    Monika

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    Antworten
    1. Hohe Preise? War das womöglich noch vor dem Euro? Ich höre auch immer mal von Leuten, dass Zypern teuer ist, aber ich kann es nicht bestätigen. Möglich, dass sich das ein bisschen geändert hat seit der Wirtschaftkrise. Aber auf die griechischen Inseln mag ich auch mal. Irgendwann. :)

      LG,
      Hadassa

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  2. Guck mal, da haben wir sogar viel Ähnliches oder sogar Gleiches gemacht :)! Und weißt du was: Bei uns in der Unterkunft waren auch viele aus Israel...

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    1. Oh, Israelis im Ausland ist immer so eine Sache - haben sie sich einigermaßen ok benommen? ;)

      Danke fürs Reinschauen und bis bald wieder, ich lese deine Reiseberichte echt gerne :)
      Hadassa

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