Georgia, Jordan, Lebanon, Sri Lanka… these are the first countries that spring to mind when considering a quick getaway from Dubai.
Cyprus may not get a look in, but this sunny isle, just over four hours direct flight from Dubai is very much worthy of your attention.
Steeped in a mix of cultures and influences from European powers Turkey and Greece, the island country in the East of the Mediterranean has its own distinct charm. It looks green like Ireland, coupled with the weather and white sandy beaches the Med is famous for, with the added value of thousands of years worth of history, welcoming locals and food… Cyprus is BIG on food.
Here are the top ten reasons Cyprus should be on your 2019 bucketlist
10. Beautiful, beautiful beaches
Cyprus has 52 Blue Flag beaches (a nod from Foundation for Environmental Education, meaning the beach meets strict cleanliness standards) and the water is as clear as day.
Cyprus has a party-destination reputation, but as the dust settles and you slightly remove yourself from the party scene, you’re left with miles and miles of pretty coastline, with open beaches perfect for a relaxed family holiday.
Check out Nissi Beach (a beaut!) Makronissos or Landa Beach, all not far from Ayia Napa.
Where to start.
There are limitless options of quaint cafes, bistros and restos, all simply oozing with local charm. Fresh fish is big in Cyrpus and it’s not unusual to order a heap of dishes for the table to share that come direct from the kitchen as soon as they’re prepared. A lot of the restaurants we visited were family-run, with a focus on homemade traditional dishes with mainly Turkish/Greek influence.
3 restaurants to try:
In Larnaca, hit Stou Rousias, a charming brick-walled, window-shuttered spot complete with chequered tablecloths, a tiny courtyard and amazing food… it doesn’t get more idyllic than this.
Try Vrakas tavern in Pissouri Square. This restaurant is picture perfect to match the picture perfect village its located in. Find it in the Limassol district, the views on the drive to reach the town are stunning and the town is popular with hikers and cyclists (there are plenty of routes in the area). The owner is welcoming, like he’s welcoming you into his own home, before serving you up helpings of amazing food, which is truly is in a league of its own.
Dionyous Mansion is the pick of the lot. Located in Limassol, it’s the most modern of the restos listed here complete with hanging swings for chairs in some cases, but the food was the true star of the show. It’s a topped ranked resto in the small city for good reason. You couldn’t pick a star dish, I would probably go back to Cyprus for this restaurant alone.
8. Pretty streets
This may seem like a dippy reason, but winding cobbled streets and pretty doorways give me life and Cyprus is littered with them… every town you pass through is a photographer’s dream.
Special attention must be paid to Lefkara village, it boasts about one coffee shop, a few shops vying to sell you lace, linens and silver which are all made locally and for which the region is know, tiny, hilly streets where all the houses are built on white stone and one church with an amazing viewpoint of the hills beyond.
This is everything…
A seafront town complete with a yacht harbour, Limassol is dubbed the ‘Paris of Cyprus’. The promenade is filled with buzzing sea-front restos, there are modern gym, spa and retail options… this is definitely the new Cyrpus.
Here you’ll find Dionyous, one of the top restaurants in Cyprus and nearby the Parklane hotel, a gleaming new hotel that wouldn’t look out of place on the Palm Jumeirah. Think five star Dubai luxury coupled with the insane beaches of Cyprus and you’re there.
6. Culture… heaps of it
Cyprus was once under Greek rule, so you’ll find many references to Greek heritage.
You can visit the Kourion archaeological site and the ancient Roman theatre. Both overlooking the coast line the remains date as far back as 1200 B.C. Within the ruins you can see where people would convene for public baths and the incredible Roman amphitheater which still hosts concert to this day.
5. White Rock
About 25 minutes outside of Limassoul you can pull in at a view point overlooking a dramatic cliff edge that stretches far beyond. And in the distance you’ll spot White Rock, that was once the home of Aphrodite, the ancient Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, passion and procreation.
A tourists’s favourite, from a distance the huge white rock looks like its bursting out of the sea and if you’re feeling adventurous you can climb to the top in about 15 minutes.
4. Nissi Beach
The 52 sparkling Cyprus beaches get a mention, but Nissi in particular deserves a point of its own. No other beach we saw was quite like it, with little inlets making each section feel private with fun rockery to explore; Nissi is your spot to rest up with a book and forget about life.
Enjoy it best from Nissi Beach Resort, just a stone’s throw from Ayia Napa but a world away in terms of relaxation and chill. The hotel sits in a bay facing the beach with lush private gardens just for hotel guests.
And no, I’m not just going to tell you to eat this cheese which IS at its best in Cyprus. You can be part of the whole process… from farm, to plate, to your mouth. Halloumi comes from goats milk and some of the finest halloumi in the world is produced on the island.
A tour, in the hills of Pissouli, takes you to a goat farm where you can milk (yes, physically milk) the goats before taking part in the process of making the halloumi. When you’re all done, and hands effectively disinfected, you’ll tuck in. The farm owner claims it’s the best halloumi in the world… and he’s not wrong. Visit Antonidaes Farm for a halloumi experience unlike any other.
2. Cycling trips
If you spend your weekends at Al Qudra, but want to up your terrain-game, turn to Cyprus for a cycling va-cay. With a warm climate, stunning scenery, plenty of routes and a growing number of bike shops and services for cyclists in case you get in a jam, mark this down as a country to visit for a cycling trip.
1. Four hours direct from Dubai
The country is just over fours hours from Dubai on an Emirates flight and the journey is simple as.
Catch an early morning flight and you’ll be sipping Cypriot wine, (Cyrpus is one of the oldest wine producing countries in the world and has been producing the adult nectar since 4,000 BC!) by lunch. Dream!
The important bits
Cyprus summer runs from mid-May to mid-October when you can expect hot, dry days where temperatures average between 18C and 33C – this is busy season.
Winter season lasts from December to February when you can expect mild to rainy weather.