Legend has it that Aphrodite was born in Cyprus. Out of the sea foam on a lovely stretch of Mediterranean island sand, the goddess of love emerged to inspire the ancient Greeks. But the ancients are not the only ones she inspired, and even now her mythical beauty lures people to the country of her birth to fall in love. I am one of them.
After the fall of the Ottoman Empire Cyprus refused to become part of Greece. From 1878, Cyprus became part of the British Empire, and was used as a strategic military base occupied from 1914–1925, and a Crown Colony until 1960. Cyprus applied for independence and became an independent nation in 1960’s. The South of the island has a huge British military base near Dhekelia, with a very heavy military feel.
Some Useful Information
ℹ️ Travel: There are two major airports to fly into on Cyprus. That is Paphos in the West and Larnaca in the the South. Flying time from The UK is roughly 5 hours. Arriving through Larnaca airport (LCA) takes around an hour from landing to walking out of the terminal building. As with most car rental places the arrivals hall is awash with offices. Renting a car is easy and you can away in no time.
ℹ️ Currency: The Euro (€). Cyprus is a member of the European Union (EU).
ℹ️ Credit Cards and Banks: ATMs are common place in almost every shopping street. Every retailer accepts Visa, Mastercard and American Express.
ℹ️ Weather: Cyprus has one of the warmest climates in Europe, with 14 hours of sunshine and temperatures over 30°C in the Summer months. In the Winter months temperatures drop to around 15°C on average with cool nights. But December and January see the highest rainfall. If you want to explore, Spring and Autumn are a great time to visit, with plenty of sun and temperatures in the low to mid-20s.
What Can Cyprus Offer?
Larnaca is Cyprus’ Capital city and the European Union’s furthest Eastern Capital. Larnaca is a very easy-going coastal town with a peppering of historic sites to wonder. Its a great place to base yourself on the island. It is within easy commuting distance to Limossol, Nicosia and Ayia Napa, and, close to one of the crossing points into the North of the island.
The promenade in Larnaca is a great place to go for a morning stroll or a wonder after that evening meal. The whole promenade is lined with cafes, bars and restaurants to grab a bite to eat or sup a coffee or beer.
The entrance fee inside the fort costs €2.50 (GB£2.20). The fort stands at the waters edge and separates the promenade from the old Turkish quarter.
The courtyard is home to some medieval tombstone exhibits and old cannons, and you can climb up onto part of the ramparts. The room on your right as you enter was where the British carried out executions during their rule over Cyprus.
The old Turkish neighbourhood of Skala is quaint district adorned with white-washed cottages, coloured window shutters and flowerpot studded doorways.
Europe Square is located on the promenade in Larnaca and consists of the Municipal Art Gallery and the Government buildings.
Municipal Art Gallery
is housed in one of the old 1881 Colonial buildings on europe Square and regularly hots exhibitions featuring a wide range of artists from around the island, as well as abroad. Exhibitions are displayed across four interconnecting halls and often include sculptures and paintings.
Located in Europe Square adjacent to the Municipal Art Gallery will find the Government house of Cyprus.
Still known as Limassol, Lemesos is one of Cyprus’ most beautiful towns on the South coast. From Larnaca head West in the car for 50 minutes along highway ‘A1’. For a more scenic route drive along the coastal road ‘B1’ that will take you into the Marina at Limassol. Although fringed on its Eastern edge by a ton of bland looking developments, the core is full of character.
Wrapped around a castle, the historic centre spreads out in a web of lanes where old, shuttered houses and modern boutiques meet. The Marina is an area buzzing with cafes, bars and restaurants that are as popular with locals as with visitors.
With haute-couture boutiques, world class art galleries, gourmet restaurants, stylish bars and, if that is not enough, a place to park your luxury yacht, Limassol Marina provides a visual feast of unabashed opulence and is worthy of a wander around.
This 14th Century structure, built over the remains of the old Byzantine castle, has been utilised by conquerors throughout Cyprus’ turbulent history. The Venetians vandalised it; the Ottomans gave it an update for military use; and the British used it as a colonial prison.
It is said that Richard the Lionheart married Berengaria in the chapel of the original castle in 1191, where he also grandly crowned himself King of Cyprus and his wife Queen of England.
To enter the castle costs €4.50 (GB£3.95)
At the centre of the old Turkish quarter, the Grand Mosque is surrounded by palm trees. It is used by Limassol’s remaining Turkish Cypriot population and resident Muslims who have come from the Middle East. Visitors are allowed to visit the mosque but are asked to dress conservatively; ladies covering their shoulders and leaving shoes by the door and avoid visiting at prayer times.
Anyone who knows about Cyprus also knows about Ayia Napa. This is the equivalent to Spain’s Ibiza; A party town brimmed with loud, brash bars, fast food joints, bar crawls, foam parties, tall hotels and late night clubbing going on into the morning hours. During the ‘party season’ of the Summer months this town becomes the party capital were the bars and clubs do not even open until 11pm. However, visit out of season and you will discover a surprisingly quaint place were the pace of life is far slower.
From Larnaca take Highway A3 East until you can drive no further. The drive will take roughly 45 minutes.
You know when you have arrived to Ayia Napa, either in or out of season, when the upmarket hotels on the towns fringes open up to one long road lined on both sides by bars, tacky souvenir shops and fast food places. Despite all the hype and rowdy atmosphere the ‘main drag’ is surprisingly clean.
You can walk down this road for about 10-15 minutes where it will come to a junction – turn right to head to the beach and the marina, or, turn left to head out towards The Hard Rock Cafe or the ‘Origins of Ayia Napa’, old rustic buildings around Ayia Napa Square.
On the same road as the ‘Origins of Ayia Napa’, carry on walking straight down the main road passing all the bars and you will come to the marina and beach area. Its a very compact area but worth hanging out over cocktails whilst watching the yachts passing by.
Cyprus is a beautiful island of many contrasts. Its a great place to visit in or out of season, although in-season does become stifling hot and drones of mass tourists from around Europe descend on the island.
Hire a car and get away from the tourist traps and head inland towards the mountains for a change of scenery and pace. Why not head over the border into Turkish Cyprus to a town called Famagusta?