Cyprus is a very underrated destination. While it doesn’t quite get the same level of fanfare as other Mediterranean locations like Greece, it certainly should. Although small in size, Cyprus is home to perfect weather, pristine beaches, and a long and interesting history. It also has a welcoming culture and some of the best food you’ll find anywhere on the planet.
Arrival and Exploration of Larnaca
Although not the biggest city in Cyprus, Larnaca is home to the country’s main passenger airport, Larnaca International. Even if you’re planning to spend most of your time in Nicosia or Limassol, when you look up flight options on a booking platform, you’ll see that the majority of them are to Larnaca.
For example, those choosing to fly to Larnaca with Opodo UK will quickly find many direct flights from well-known airlines like British Airways, Wizz Air UK, and easyJet. Given that the city receives so much passenger traffic, many modern resorts have popped up to cater to tourists. In addition, the city also has a really impressive Old Town that is well worth exploring, dating all the way back to the 1300s.
Another reason to stick around Larnaca for a while is to visit the Larnaca Salt Lake. In the past, this lake was relied upon for salt production, and today, it’s ecologically important for the local bird life. If you’re lucky enough to be here during the winter months, the lake will be filled with pink flamingos as part of their migratory patterns.
Located on the edge of the western side of the lake is something else that’s historically important: the Hala Sultan Tekke. This is one of the most important religious sites in Cyprus, and visitors often stop by to witness the architecture and surrounding garden.
The Many Beaches of Cyprus
Cyprus is home to some of the best beaches anywhere in the Mediterranean. Whether you want something peaceful and quiet or to participate in a packed beach party with live music, you can find it here.
Located in Ayia Napa, Nissi Beach stands out as a must-visit. This famous stretch of sand is known to draw visitors largely due to its crystal clear waters and lively atmosphere. Something unique about Nissi Beach is that it has a small islet that’s accessible by foot through shallow water, providing a prime spot for taking photos. During the summer months, Nissi transforms into a party beach with regular live DJ sets on show.
On the complete opposite side of Cyprus you’ll find another great beach, Coral Bay. This area is not far from the city of Paphos, and it’s ideal for families with small children looking to enjoy some calm waters. You can expect to find the shoreline dotted with sun loungers, making for a very relaxing beach experience. There are even other attractions nearby, like horseback riding and go-kart tracks, making it a good overall area for travelling families.
If you’d prefer to get away from the popular spots altogether, there are plenty of beaches in Cyprus that have fewer people around, but are every bit as beautiful. Lara Beach is one good example. Not only is this a more peaceful area, but it’s also a designated conservation area where you can see sea turtles nesting in their natural habitats. The Blue Lagoon in Akamas Peninsula is another example, where snorkellers can explore the diverse marine life in a secluded cove.
Embracing Cypriot Cuisine
Food is one of the best things about travel, and much like every country along the Mediterranean, Cyprus has a reputation for producing great food. Specifically, Cypriot cuisine is a mixture of Greek, Turkish, and Middle Eastern influences, all brought together to create something unique to Cyprus.
When you eat in Cyprus, you’ll definitely come across halloumi. This is a firm cheese that’s often grilled or fried, and generally part of salads or meze platters. It’s a staple of this region’s cuisine and you will easily be able to find authentic halloumi in local markets all over the island.
Another staple to try is souvlaki. You might have already eaten this if you’ve eaten at a Greek restaurant before, but it’s skewered and grilled meat served with fresh vegetables wrapped in pita bread and topped with garlic sauce. It’s hard to go wrong with that combination. In addition to popular restaurants like Pyxida in Nicosia, souvlaki is an extremely popular street food, so you’ll be able to find it in small food stalls all over the country.
Other popular Cypriot dishes you should try include moussaka and baklava. The former is a hearty minced meat meal with layers of eggplant, while the latter is a traditional dessert made up of filo pastry filled with nuts and honey. Both of these dishes are staples in Cyprus and will be easy to find.
If you fancy yourself as a wine connoisseur, you’ll feel right at home. This is another area where Mediterranean countries stand out. Incredibly, it is said that the winemaking history of Cyprus goes back as far as 6000 years. More than that, the island is home to indigenous grape varieties that are not found anywhere else on Earth. Take the time to visit local wineries, and you’ll be introduced to popular reds like Maratheftiko and whites like Xynisteri.
The Cultural Festivals of Cyprus
Another great way to make the most of Cyprus is to immerse yourself in the local culture. The island has a calendar brimming with events and celebrations that showcase its history and culture, and planning your trip around one of these events can make your trip even more enriching.
One of the most notable festivals each year is the Limassol Carnival, which takes place in February or March before Lent. The carnival is a two-week extravaganza that fills the streets with colourful parades, creative costumes, and live music performances. It's a time when locals unwind and lower their inhibitions to dance and feast ahead of the fasting period over Lent. As a visitor, you can get involved by dressing up in a costume or simply wearing a mark. It’s the perfect way for you to connect with local customs.
In late spring through summer, Cyprus celebrates several wine festivals. One of them is the famous Limassol Wine Festival, typically held from the end of August into September. Attending one of these festivals serves as a nice complement to visiting the local wineries. You can expect to find many local wines available for tasting, while folk artists wearing national attire and playing traditional music take place in the background. This type of festival is all about winemaking today, but also about how that ties in with Cypriot heritage.
A different kind of festival is the popular Anthestiria Flower Festival, which takes place in May each year. This month is chosen as it’s known as the Flower Month, and it’s supposed to symbolise rebirth and new beginnings after winter. The festival is filled with parades that feature floats adorned with flower displays, while participants carry fresh flowers themselves. This is a tradition that links all the way back to Ancient Greece, in honour of Dionysus, the god of wine, pleasure, and fertility.
Cyprus is a country with a bit of everything. It gives visitors the choice of simply having a relaxing beach holiday combined with incredible food, or the chance to dive into the region’s long history and its importance to the culture of modern-day Cyprus. The climate of the island is such that there’s never a bad time to visit, so why not start planning today?