There where Aphrodite herself, Goddess of love and beauty, rose from the waters of the Mediterranean, it can be nothing but plain dazzling, right?
Cyprus is a downright dream destination for the sun-hungry and the culture-seekers. I mean, this lil marvel is just patiently sitting there at the Mediterranean’s eastern edge, 1/1000 of the size of the US, with waters so turquoise they define a whole new pattern of colors –
– and still it’s not really present on anyone’s hard-fought top 10 bucket list.
Now, I’m not a fly and flop holiday gal – and Cyprus really does have some adventures up its sleeve that you don’t wanna miss. Plus: it’s pretty darn cheap *successfully dealt the budget traveler card to get all your attention*
So, here’s what happened: I was finishing my time in Jerusalem. Half a year of working more or less every day. I literally started to feel this knot in my right thumb from scrolling through Instagram and Facebook feeds and the occasional double tapping. Wondering whether anyone ever had to be medically treated because of too much smartphone.
So before heading home, I took a week off, took that trip to Cyprus, and went completely offline. (Why Cyprus? I never had phone service anyway. And wifi was as patiently available as I am when my favorite airline runs summer sale)
Big-time life advice guys: Do what’s good for you.
An Introduction to Cyprus
Cyprus. A divided country: The former Greek side of now independent Cyprus in the South, and the still Turkish side in the North. Since 1974, the island is split – but as a tourist, you will barely notice. Just make sure your rental car is properly insured before crossing borders or rent another one there. Personally, I decided to stay on the Cypriot side as I didn’t wish to support a political conflict by spending money on the Turkish side.
As an all-rounder, the country can be visited any time and anyone will find places and activities to suit them. Hiking, water sports, sunbathing – and the foodies among you will probably have to book an extra plane seat after indulging in Cypriot, Greek, Turkish, Arabic, Egyptian, Italian and British cuisine and their unexpectedly tasty combos.
The culturally interested better make their trip fast, as Paphos currently is the 2017 European City of Culture featuring an abundance of festivities, shows and events.
… aka, there’s so much to do, you won’t even care to look at your phone.
Transport in and around Cyprus
You’ll be most likely flying into Cyprus through Paphos or Larnaca. Next step, get a rental car. You’ll seriously enjoy the whole eye candy the country has to offer way better if you can get around independently (on the road’s left side!). Or if you wanna keep pressing your nose against the glass trying to absorb all of it, there is a regular bus system and taxis are not too expensive either. Or you pedal, of course.
But getting around in Cyprus will keep your eyes busy and your mouth aahh-sighing non-stop. Promise.
Find full documentation of transport in Cyprus here.
When best to visit Cyprus
Time to happy-dance: It doesn’t matter.
Long dry summers accompanied with fresh sea breezes, and mild winters with only little rain in the mountains is what can make any sun-addicted traveler’s heart overflow with tears of joy.
High season is supposedly between April and October, however I found beginning of July to be quite chill and I had whole beaches to myself (eeeh, can my bank account just never shrink and I stay here forever?!)
But even in busy touristy times, Cyprus so much more than a beach holiday – check it out!
Taste Cyprus’ History
I know this is what you’ve been waiting for, my fellow I-actually-just-travel-to-satisfy-my-taste-buds-friend.
Luckily, local kitchen offers something for everyone. Seafood is so good I repeatedly doubted its existence thinking maybe I ate something terribly wrong and hallucinated. Halloumi, a cheese from cow, sheep or goat milk. Incredible good wine. Local coffee. I can die happy now.
Plus, while the Spanish have Tapas, Cypriots have Meze – up to 30 dishes coming in small mouthfuls (no worries, it is humanly possible to finish them all. Personally empirically tested this).
Aaaaand *pulling out my joker and just slightly confirming German stereotypes*
They also have their own cute creative brewery! Aphrodite’s Rock Brewery produces craft beer just among the smooth hills of Paphos District.
By now you should be so bursting with local delicacies that you won’t even think of posting instagram pictures anymore (because we’re normal, sometimes tired human beings and not because we don’t fit in any of our pants anymore, naturally).
Now Actually Learn About Cyprus’ History
We can’t imagine these kinds of numbers, but culture in Cyprus in fact goes as far as 10.000 years back. That’s also about the time when first human settlement started. First domestication of animals. First evidence of agriculture. #funfacts
At the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa, the Greek first took advantage of the convenient geographic location, leaving their footprint on the island forever – followed by many others, like the Romans or the Ottomans.
For example, apart from the stunning well-preserved Mosaics of Paphos, dating back to 3rd-5th century AD, the entire area of Paphos is one gigantic space of ancient villas, theaters, tombs, palaces, castles…
Funnily enough, the famous Tomb of the Kings in Paphos never actually was a King’s Tomb. Just some high-rank officials. But thanks to its grandeur from 4th century BC, it deserves such name nonetheless.
Speaking of tombs: The name Larnaca comes from the word larnakes, translating into sarcophagus. Indeed the area is one huge graveyard considering the over 3.000 sarcophagi said to be buried here.
You’re a fellow history-nerd? Get more info here!
The Magic of Cyprus’ Countryside
So. I pictured an island with some pretty beaches and the constant availability of good tzaziki. Beaches, check. Amazing food, check.
But when I hopped in my car and drove towards the center of the island (after randomly looking on the map and thinking, well yeah let’s try that), I stumbled upon a vast beautiful mountain range so remote…
I could have offered free beer and nobody would have showed up.
Basically what I did is this:
And if you got time, a proper car and an indestructible desire for adventure, I’ll highly recommend it!
Fingers crossed your car won’t almost break down like mine did. When I was 20km from the next village, the last car had passed 35 minutes ago, and my phone was about to die #digitaldetoxalmostkilledme
Anywhere over the country you’ll find idyllic lil villages that will almost magnetically attract you with their charm. Stroll through their alleys, learn about local vineyards. visit a Kafenion – the Cypriot version of a gossip pivot. Older inhabitants will sit there playing cards. Noone actually cares about indoor design. Time stands still.
Nature in Cyprus
Stuffed with nature’s best palette of beauty, Cyprus’ landscapes stretch from sparkling coasts to rolling mountains, from intense forests to rugged headlands. Warm shore meets cool oasis of the Troodos mountains (literally cool in winter to go skiing). Couldn’t imagine sceneries meeting in a more appealing way, considering its glory basically killed my free will and I gave in to having to take a picture every 2 minutes.
No matter what you’re after – just a nature time out, art, photography, satisfying your explorer’s mind or some proper birdwatching – Cyprus’ gotcha. You’ve come to the right place.
You’re in hiking mode? I (as well as my friend Ariel, thanks again dude 🙃) recommend Avakas Gorge, an about 3km long walk through a valley of limestone up to 30m high – and pretty darn impressive. While somewhat difficult and only to be done in summer (due to the stream growing into a full river in winter), it definitely is an aah-worthy, eerie experience. I felt like walking straight through Jurassic Park. Do it as early as you can, when the sun is not gonna kick your ass yet.
Accommodation in Cyprus
What I did for the entire week: Get an airbnb. *most blatant invite ever coming up* If you sign up through this link, you’ll get a 35€ discount (that can directly go into your food budget!)
I lived in Neo Chorio, best choice of place up in the Northwest. Incredibly wtf-like cheap for a room, breakfast, pool and breathtaking view. Literally, cause I once tried walking up the hill. Don’t do that as a white Northeuropean in summer. You won’t look like a lobster, you’ll be one.
So, my dears. Happy? Not happy? Still unsure what to do? No worries, gotcha covered. You see, also bloggers need a digital break sometimes. And yep, pretty sure I found a slice of paradise right here. You’re welcome.