Whenever someone asks me where I would recommend they go for their summer beach holiday, my answer is always the same: Cyprus.
Often overlooked by destinations such as Spain, Italy or the Greek Islands, I don’t believe it gets the recognition that it deserves.
Believed to be the birthplace of Aphrodite, Cyprus is a mythological island with a long history. With its crystal blue sea, fantastic culture and food – not forgetting its romantic sunsets – Cyprus is not one to be missed.
Cyprus was the first country I ever visited outside of England (apparently – at 18 months old). My mum’s love for the country resulted in her purchasing a second home on the west side of the island (Paphos region) when I was twelve, and from then onwards, I spent most of my school holiday’s returning; it became my home away from home and my little piece of Mediterranean heaven.
Since then, I have been fortunate enough to share this beautiful country with my close friends and I continue to return on a yearly basis, revisiting my favourite places whilst discovering new ones.
How to get there and which region to stay
With a flight time of 4.5 hours from London, Cyprus is one of the longest ‘short haul’ flights you can take. Lying just south of Turkey and west of Syria, its close proximity to the Middle East is what guarantees the island sunny and hot weather throughout their long summer (May through to September), with the occasional thunder storm.
Cyprus is actually divided into two sides; the Northern Turkish side and the Southern Greek-Cypriot side; the latter being where the majority of tourists visit. The capital city, Nicosia, lies just north of the middle of the island.The southern side is served by two international airports; Larnaca (which serves the East) and Paphos (which serves the West). Most of the major UK airlines (E.g. British Airways, Easyjet and Thomas Cook) fly to both airports in the summer period but services are reduced during the winter.
It is about a 1.5 hour drive between the two airports, and on occasions when the cost of flying to Larnaca has been significantly cheaper than flying to Paphos, we have chosen to do the drive. This is certainly manageable if you have taken a flight which lands in the afternoon.
Whether you are going as a family, as a couple or with a group of friends, Cyprus has a place for everyone. In summary, you can expect the following vibe from these top 4 areas:
- Ayia Napa (west): known for its great nightlife and arguably the best beaches on the island;
- Limassol (south): modern City life and the largest coastal resort, good beaches and local nightlife;
- Paphos & Coral Bay (southwest); historical area with a small harbour, home to the luxurious resorts, plenty of restaurants and bars;
- Akamas (northwest): rural and rugged with less-spoilt beaches, less touristy, location of the Blue Lagoon and Cyprus’ turtle hatchery.
Best time to go: June and September. The days are still warm (reaching up to 30 degrees) and the nights are cool, giving you plenty of sunshine without the touristy crowds which arrive in July and August.
The food: You cannot come to Cyprus without having a traditional Cypriot meze. This consists of various small plates ranging from pitta and dips, to fresh salads, to a range of vegetable, meat and fish dishes, not forgetting my absolute favourite: halloumi and lountza.
Things to do: As well as enjoying the warm weather and the beaches, you can do anything from horse riding in the mountains, to off-roading in buggies, renting a boat for the day, or visiting the country’s archaeological sites full of excavated ruins and preserved mosaics.
Where to stay: There are plenty of hotels and resorts throughout Cyprus, ranging from hostels, to boutiques to 5* all inclusives. If budget is not something you need to worry about, both the Annabelle and the Anassa offer 5* luxury, gourmet dining and spa facilities.
There is also an abundance of villa rentals in all regions, which can certainly cater to everyones needs. A popular rental site is HomeAway which can search through hundreds of villas based on your criteria and budget.
Getting around: If I could recommend anything, it would be to rent a car; this is the best way to see Cyprus. Cypriots drive on the same side of the road to the UK, making it much easier for us Brits. Whilst I have always been advised that the driving standards are pretty poor, I have never had any issues; just keep your wits about you! The quality of the roads have significantly improved over the last 10 years. However, there are still some roads further a field which have not been tarmacked. Don’t let this put you off – there are some beautiful rugged and rural areas of Cyprus which can only be reached this way; just take it slow or rent a buggie/jeep if that puts your mind at ease.
I always book our car through Zest Car Rentals. It provides offers from various small and big named companies (e.g. Europe Car and Sixt) and a second named driver is free!
Visiting outside summer?
If you are not a fan of the heat and you would prefer to explore the island’s history and culture, then visiting Cyprus outside of June – September is still a good time to go. However, it is worth noting that many of the touristy areas close up outside of the summer months.