The island nation of Cyprus is a cultural cauldron of influences from Europe, Africa and Asia. The land of hypnotic natural beauty, poised for its moment in time as a coveted Mediterranean locale.
Blessed with a rich tapestry of azure coasts, crystalline bays, rugged mountains, and fragrant forests, the island nation of Cyprus oozes Mediterranean seduction by the bucketful. The mind-numbing beauty of its natural treasures is balanced by the charms of unspoilt countryside, speckled with ancient ruins, enchanting villages, rustic vineyards and fresco-painted churches. Nothing less could be expected from the mythical birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. Move over mainstream Greece because low-key Cyprus is slated for a high.
Slip into the seduction, starting with laid-back Larnaca, Cyprus' oldest town, boasting a history of over 10,000 years. From the seaside castle-fortress to the golden iconostasis of the Church of Saint Lazarus and the 33 arches of the massive 18th-century Kamares Aqueduct to the white-washed houses of the Turkish quarter, there are antique finds everywhere. Once you have had your fill of the historic, lap up the aura of reinvention at the newly refurbished seafront. Then sit back to relax with the stream of locals at the palm-fringed Finikoudes Beach and breathe in the spirit of Cyprus.
Less than an hour from Larnaca, the stunning vistas of Ayia Napa beckon. Here you can swim in the crystal clear waters of the Blue Lagoon, laze at Nissi Beach, pose at Love Bridge and discover sea caves scattered across the coast. Carry on to Cape Greco for leisurely walks and cycling trails across jagged limestone cliffs, peek into sea caves and rock formations called Palaces that have been carved into the cliff face by crashing waves over centuries. Divers, snorkelers and curious adventurers can head to Musan, the world's first underwater forest, where over 130 sculptures are poised over more than 165 metres of sand.
The vibrant and cosmopolitan port town of Limassol is next on the list of pitstops. A spanking new yacht-lined marina has made it a unique hotspot of the Mediterranean. Legacy hunters can wander around the old quarter with a small market, tavernas, bars, and poke around the impressive medieval castle. Come August/September, the streets are a frenzy of festivities thanks to the Limassol Wine Festival, with traditional Dionysiac celebrations, Cypriot cuisine, song-dance and poetry-drama. That done, sidetrack into the thickly forested Troodos Mountains to gawk at the ensemble of painted churches inscribed on UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites for their exquisite Byzantine murals and icons. Stavros tou Agiasmati is the most unmissable of the lot.
Europe meets Middle Eastern in the ancient Cypriot capital Nicosia, an enchanting city enclosed in Venetian walls and divided by the Green Line into a Turkish North and a Greek South. Loiter around the old town, savouring rooftops views from the Ledra Street Observatory and people-watching in the Plateia Eleftherias square. On the Turkish side, hoard artisanal souvenirs at Buyuk Han, pay homage to the massive Selimiye Mosque and gorge on delectable Turkish delicacies.
Saving the best for last, arrive at Paphos, in the far southwest of the island, to soak up Greek mythological heritage and lap up at the gorgeousness of the finest Roman mosaics. The UNESCO World Heritage tagged town is a treasure chest for archaeological nerds with its underground 'Tombs of the Kings', Doric pillars from the Hellenistic and Roman periods, fortresses and palaces. Bookmark the UNESCO-listed Kato Paphos Archaeological Park for the mosaics of the House of Dionysus.
Paphos: Shoppers can satisfy their cravings for luxury goods at Nikodimou Mylona Street, Gladstonos Street, and Apoustolou Pavlou Avenue. Pick up favourites at elegant stores of international brands like Massimo Dutti, Mango, Marks & Spencer, Intimissimi and Bagatt before heading to the ultra-modern Kings Avenue Mall. If you are looking for superior quality handicrafts, stoneware and handmade jewellery, your go-to is the Folk Art and Handicraft Centre.
Nicosia: Stassikratous Street is the mecca for luxury shopping, with a wide variety encompassing fashion, accessories, cosmetics, perfumes, handmade porcelain, jewellery and antiques. Fashionistas can splurge on labels like Versace, Louis Vuitton, Max Mara and D & G. The largest mall on the island, Mall of Cyprus is also located here.
Limassol: The town is filled with contemporary shopping centres, but the destination of choice is Anexartisias Street for those who prefer boutiques. Agiou Andreou Street is the ideal place to buy original handicrafts and handmade jewellery. High street shoppers can spend hours on Anexartisias Street, where Bershka and Zara have outlets.
Larnaca: The best retail address in town is Zenonos Kitieos, where you can shop for popular brands like Hugo Boss, Burberry, Armani Jeans and Valentino. Locally made Cypriot products like handmade lace, silverwork, pottery and jewellery can be found in the shopping centre along Foinikoudes Beach.
Museums & the Arts
Folk Art Museum Nicosia: An impressive eclectic collection of Cypriot arts and design is exhibited in galleries over three floors. From weaving, pottery, basketry and leatherwork to embroidery, lace, costumes and agricultural tools, the museum covers a wide gamut of ethnic treasures.
The Cyprus Museum Nicosia: The most extensive collection of Cypriot antiquities in the world is displayed in the oldest and largest archaeological museum in Cyprus, located in central Nicosia. The gallery's highlight is the archaeological displays ranging from Neolithic to Roman times, including 2,000 terracotta figures from the 6th and 7th centuries BC and two sphinxes from approximately 475–400 BC.
Byzantine Museum Nicosia: Art lovers will enjoy the 230 icons dating from the 9th to the 19th centuries in the carefully curated galleries. Don't miss the displays of the 6th-century Kanakaria Mosaics stolen from Northern Cyprus after the Turkish invasion.
Cyprus Wine Museum Limassol: Conveniently located in Erimi village, about ten minutes from the town, this museum is a capsule course in the history of the grape in Cyprus, believed to be of the oldest wine-making regions in the world. Enrol in a short guided tour of the museum, which ends in a sampling of Cyprus wines.
Diving: Combine water sport with history at Cyprus's famous wreck diving sites, including the Vera K and the Achilleas (near Pafos) and the wrecks of HMS Cricket and Zenobia (from Larnaka). There are excellent dive schools in Cyprus that offer accredited courses to newbies, and scuba divers can get in touch with the Cyprus Federation of Underwater Activities.
Hiking: Troodos Mountains is a popular hiking destination with several well-marked trails of varying difficulties. One of the best general walking routes is located in the Kyrenia range and along the Karpaz Peninsula. Do-it-yourself or hire a trail guide.
Golf: There are four world-class golf courses located near Paphos. Tee off in style with scenic landscapes and sunny weather conditions at the Eléa Golf Club, Aphrodite Hills, Secret Valley Golf Club or Minthis Hills Golf Club.
Restaurants & Bars
Meraki Market Café, Paphos: A haven for vegetarians and fans of experimental cuisine, this restaurant is known for a creative vegan/vegetarian menu with gluten-free and dairy-free options. The signature Meraki Bad Boy Burger, made from black beans, mushrooms and broccoli, is healthy and delicious.
La Maison Fleurie, Limassol: Ruby painted walls, velvet chairs, crisp linens and wooden floors make this a delightful destination for authentic French cuisine any time of the day. The popular dishes on the menu include oysters drenched in Champagne and snails with garlic, scallops and lobster, wild boar, hare, veal and grouse. Grab a table in the garden.
To Pantopoleio Kali Orexi, Nicosia: Edgy and quirky is the theme of the interiors in this trendy restaurant serving Greek, Cypriot and Mediterranean food with traditional recipes. Try the Psefdokeftedes (meatballs) and local tenderloin pork, served with pita bread. There is a good selection of fine Greek and Cypriot wines.
Matsuhisa Limassol: This upscale restaurant located in the sea-facing Amara hotel sports subtle lighting and wood furnishings. Take a seat near the open kitchen and witness the live demonstration of Japanese-Peruvian fusion cuisine in progress. Signature dishes include black cod with miso and shrimp tempura, sashimi and sushi. Sake and cocktails accompany the meal.
Vivaldi by Mavrommatis, Limassol: This restaurant's sumptuous neutral decor perfectly offsets the views of the turquoise sea from the terrace. The creative Mediterranean dishes on the menu are replete with gastronomical perfection. Order the sea bass carpaccio with lemon confit and duck foie gras with Commandaria (Cypriot sweet wine) and follow it with veal or lamb.
The archaeological clifftop site of Kourion, located a short ride away from Limassol, was initially founded by the Myceneans in the Bronze Age and developed by the Hellenic Greeks and Romans. Besides the superb mosaics and ruins of Roman villas, it houses a restored amphitheatre overlooking the sea. Catching a concert or play here in the summer is one of the most satisfying experiences for cultural fiends. The acoustics are living testimony to the engineering genius of antiquity.
Cyprus is famous for being the home of the world's oldest named wine, 'Commandaria', produced in the high-altitude slopes in the island's southwest. King Richard of England described it as "the wine of kings and the king of wines." The thick liqueur with a sweet fragrance and herby aroma liberally epitomises the soul of the sun-kissed island.
A cruise to the north coast of the Akamas peninsula is your ticket to the famous Baths of Aphrodite. You can't possibly come back without swim in the waters…it is the promise of eternal youth after all! Later, consider exploring the sandy crescent of Lara Bay, where sea turtles lay their eggs. Let your love for trekking take you to the raw beauty of the 30-metre high Avakas Gorge, carved out of limestone formations. Photo opportunities are a dime a dozen.
The Rialto Theatre is a refurbished 1930s building and a prestigious cultural centre for music, dance and theatre, both local and international. It is also the venue of one of Cyprus' two annual film festivals. Book seats to a spectacular ballet or opera performance on one of your evenings in Cyprus.
As you would expect, Cyprus is home to some delightful hotels – including the Anassa one of the best in Europe. There are luxury hotels that suit all tastes – from those aimed at families to those specifically for couples.
The BusinessClass.com guide to the best hotels in Cyprus :
Most visitors land at Larnaca or Paphos. Larnaca International Airport is 4 kilometres from Larnaca, while Paphos International Airport is 6.5 kilometres from Paphos. Roads are generally good, and the best way to explore the island independently is by hiring a car.
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