Cyprus

Our trip to Cyprus took place in June 2012. Jonathan’s parents have a place in a little village near Larnaka called Trulloi so we decided to vacation there. Before this trip I knew little of Cyprus. I did not know what to expect when we arrived so it felt like a true adventure. As usual, I bought a trusty Lonely Planet in order to do some research and took some time on the flight there to read-up on Cyprus’ tumultuous history. Being the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, offering many great resources such as copper, and being centrally located between Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Egypt, many attempted to posses the island have been made. Cyprus has seen Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Lusignans, Genoese, Venetians, Ottomans, British and Turks attempting to take a part of the island for themselves. Cyprus is currently divided in two with the Greek Cypriots in the south and the Turkish Cypriots in the north. There is a demilitarized zone separating the country however it is possible to travel to the Turkish side at specific checkpoints. Our trip only took us to the southern part of the island…the north will have to wait for the next visit. With all this diversity, Cyprus offers tons of history, beautiful ruins, and great food…not to mention the breathtaking scenery and a sort of hedonistic lifestyle!

Larnaka & surrounding area

There is much to do in and around Larnaka. We focused on visiting the town of Larnaka where you can find wonderful restaurants, places to shop, beaches, and hedonistic night clubs and lounges. Getting around Larnaka was very easy by bus however I would recommend renting a car if you plan on travelling around the island. Since most of our trip was in and around Larnaka, travelling by bus and taxi was perfect and we only rented a car when we went to the Troödos Mountain range (more on that later!). Cypriots are very friendly and helpful, and many speak English so communicating is not an issue. Our first encounter with Cypriot generosity was when we first arrived in Troulloi. We went searching for food in the small village on Sunday only to find the corner store and restaurant closed. We were hungry so decided to walk around the village and try to find something. We came across a sort of community club and noticed people inside drinking beer… hurrah, perhaps there was food! We sat at a table next to older gentleman playing backgammon and waited. After a while, we asked one of the gentlemen if they served food and he told us to wait and he would get the owner. Moments later the owner arrived with cold beer in hand however told us the kitchen was closed. We explained our situation to him so he offered to prepare something for us. We were expecting some leftovers or some bread and butter but what came next surprised us both. His wife had cooked up a storm and the food kept on coming until the entire table was covered! Not only that but he joined us for some great conversation, gave us food and drink on the house, and Jonathan and me played some backgammon. At this point, we were already feeling full of food and drink and were about to pay and leave when he came out with more food on the house and this clear liquid in a shooter glass. It only took one sniff of the stuff to know it was deadly – a homemade drink called Zivania. I had a sip of mine and could not finish it so forced Jonathan to finish it so we would not insult the owner! All in all it was a great first day and I felt our vacation was off to a good start. Larnaka’s city centre offers everything you need – beach, restaurants, shopping, banks, tourist information, rental car companies, etc. You can spend hours wandering the streets discovering new areas or simply sitting in an outside lounge enjoying a cold drink. Larnaka feels more like an authentic Cypriot town with its historic churches and fort, handcrafted items, and authentic taverns and restaurants. Of course, you will also find modern boutiques, hotels, and bars so there is something for every taste.

There are wonderful restaurants and one that I would definitely recommend is Militzis for a traditional meze by the sea. Ask for a table on the outdoor patio and make sure to order some grilled haloumi! The view on the sea is amazing and the outdoor patio is breathtaking with the arch and flowers. Another Cypriot specialty is also the Frappe – one of the most popular drinks on the island! It is a delicious blend of coffee, milk, sugar, water, and ice. What distinguishes an excellent Frappe from another is the foam and the ratio of milk and water. I cannot tell you how many I drank during my vacation but I could not get enough! With the temperature often in the 30C range, the Frappe keeps you cool and refreshed and provides an adequate dose of caffeine to keep you going. If you continue walking along the sea (or you can take a bus), you will eventually get to MacKenzie beach. It is an interesting beach as it is right next to the airport so it sometimes feels like the planes will land on the beach. No one seemed bothered by the planes taking off and landing. You can rent a parasol and lounge chairs for a minimal cost on most popular beaches in Cyprus so that is always handy when trying to get some cover from the hot sun. MacKenzie beach also has its fair share of restaurants, clubs and lounges. The clubs and lounges give off a very hedonistic feeling with the large white couches, white curtains, and men and women walking around in bikinis and tanned fit bodies. The first time we visited MacKenzie beach we went for a drink at XS Night & Day Club. The lounge had these long flowing curtains, aqua blue lounge seats and a small lazy river that looped around the lounge. Men and women were lounging around drinking fancy cocktails in their swimwear and it was so different from any lounge I had seen before! If you are looking for a great place to relax and read a book on the beach or dance the night away, I would recommend MacKenzie beach. Another great beach to the east of Larnaka is Protaras. I found this beach to be more family oriented with vacation resorts, little shops and restaurants, and a great boardwalk to go for a stroll by the sea. There are many water sports and activities to keep you busy as well.

If you have rented a car and are willing to drive approximately 35 minutes to the west of Larnaka, you will find a small fishing town called Zygi. Jonathan heard of this town on our flight to Cyprus from the girl sitting next to him. They struck-up a conversation and she recommended many places to visit during our holiday – one was Zygi. We only went there for dinner so did not have a chance to visit the town however dinner was great! We went to a restaurant called The Captain’s Table. The restaurant is a little pricey but the food is tasty and very fresh – you can select the fish and they cook it for you. The restaurant is located directly on the little harbor and the view is spectacular. I would recommend making a reservation for a romantic sunset dinner!

The area of Larnaka is amazing and I really enjoyed every moment there!

The road to Troödos

During our vacation, we decided to venture out of the city and take a road-trip to the Troödos Massif. Our plan was to take a scenic trip stopping along the way whenever we found something interesting. Our final destination was the town of Pedoulas near Mount Olympus. We departed Larnaka with our rental car and headed along the coast. Driving in Cyprus was quite the adventure for me as I had never driven on the left side before. I did well and only drove on the wrong side once during our entire road-trip!

Our first stop was meant to be Kourion however it was closed for some big UN conference so we only stopped for a few minutes to take in the view of Kourion beach from above before continuing our journey. As we drove, we came across a sign for the Sanctuary of Appollo Hylates and decided to stop. We were happy we did as there were beautiful ancient ruins to explore. As I walked around the ruins I realized how young Canada’s history is in comparison to these ancient ruins. Though much of the ruins have fallen or deteriorated over the centuries, it is amazing that some still stand today and that we are given a chance to have a glimpse into the lives of an ancient civilization. We spent quite some time walking around the sanctuary and admiring the beauty it still holds.

After this amazing visit, our adventure brought us to Aphrodite’s Birthplace. As we drove along the coast, the road suddenly turned and an amazing view unfolded before us. The crystal blue waters of the sea splashing against white rock – it took our breath away. We found a small parking area and decided to stop there for lunch and relax on the beach. We spent a good part of the day at the beach. I had never been on a beach such as this one – there was no sand! The beach is made up of medium-sized rocks smoothed over by the sea over time. It is great for those who hate the feeling of sand however makes for a somewhat uncomfortable walk or when trying to get in and out of the sea! To access the beach you must take a stairway down that leads you under the road to the beach. It makes the journey to get there that much more exciting! On one side of the beach you have a strong  current and the waters are rough. On the other side is a calm lagoon where you can float in the water for hours and get lost in your thoughts. There is a big rock in the middle of the lagoon that you can climb and jump off if you are willing. This is definitely a beach you should not miss during your stay in Cyprus.

We continued our journey to the Troödos Massif from the beach. Along the way we stopped at a little roadside cafe for a Frappe and took in the fresh cool air. Getting away from the coastline gave us a break from the hot and humid weather. The drive to the Troödos was amazing with beautiful views and a road that shoe-laced up steep and narrow roads. There are many look-out points along the way to admire the view. We arrived at our hotel late afternoon and explored the small town of Pedoulas. The tourist guide recommended the Elyssia hotel and we were not disappointed. It is centrally located and has a traditional look to it with its blue and white colours. Our room was clean and comfortable and even had a little balcony with two chairs and a table.

Pedoulas is a great town to explore. You can walk around the main streets or lose yourself in the small alleys that twist and turn – we chose the latter. The tourist guide had also recommended a great restaurant in the town but we only had a name and were not sure where it was located. The only information he gave us was to walk down some stairs and we would find it! We decided to explore the town and try to find it on our own. Just as we had given up hope, we found the restaurant and decided to have dinner there. The restaurant is actually part of the hotel Two Flowers and as we later found out also has entertainment. Like many European countries, Cyprus enjoys a late dinner. Since we arrived quite early, we were almost the only ones dinning. The real party started as we were leaving and continued into the wee hours of the morning…we could hear the party all the way to our hotel. I would definitely recommend visiting Pedoulas and enjoying a great dinner on the beautiful outside patio at the Two Flowers. We woke early the next morning and headed for the village of Troödos to enjoy some hiking on Mount Olympus. As this was more of a relaxing vacation, we opted for the easy route and drove up the mountain and hiked the Artemis Trail at the summit. The hike was great with amazing views at almost two kilometers above the sea and no one in sight. The hike is a very easy 8 kilometer circular trek around the summit offering a wide variety of trees, ancient walls, and soaring birds of prey.

After the hike we continued our journey to the little village of Kakopetria. Again, the tour guide recommended this small village and since his recommendations had been good, we decided to make a visit. The village was amazing. There is a village centre with restaurants, shops, and hotels however the real magic is the pedestrian village. I was so amazed by the beauty of this village. We walked around for quite some time admiring the ancient architecture, beautiful flowers and small alleys until we came across the Linos Inn where we stopped for a KEO (popular beer in Cyprus). We sat in their small back garden and I felt like I was sitting in a tavern dating back hundreds of years – it was so authentic. This concluded our time in Kakopetria however I would definitely return to the village and stay a night at the Linos Inn!

We left Kakopetria and headed home. On our return, we realized we had not visited a vineyard so we stopped at the first vineyard we came across and took a chance it was open. We did not know how far it was and after several minutes of driving on a dirt road I almost turned the car around but saw more signs for the Tsiakkas winery so continued. We arrived just in time and the owner allowed us to come in and taste some wines. The wine was amazing – we purchased six bottles! This concluded our road-trip and I would recommend visiting a Cypriot vineyard during your stay.

Tsiakkas vineyard and winery
Tsiakkas vineyard and winery

Cyprus is an amazing country!!! I would definitely return again.