Though it may be best known for its beaches, the Republic of Cyprus offers more than the summer pleasures of sea and sunbathing. Cyprus guidebook author Jessica Lee gives High Life the lowdown on how to make the most of this Mediterranean island, whatever your budget
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High: Day-long excursions with Cyprus Taste Tours delve into the island’s food heritage, visiting wineries and food producers in the Troodos Mountains. Stick around in the Troodos to marvel at Byzantine fresco finery inside the Unesco-listed churches of the Marathasa and Solea valleys. Top off the art history lesson by bedding down at Kalopanayiotis village’s rural spa-retreat, Casale Panayiotis.
Low: Discover the local seafaring heritage of resorts Larnaca and Paphos on free walking tours run by the tourist office. Ticket prices for major historic sites in Cyprus are a snip. Both the rambling, hilltop city-kingdom ruins of ancient Kourion and the haul of Greco-Roman mosaics at Nea Paphos are a bargain at €4.50 each.
High: Loosen your belt for Cypriot meze feasting. In Omodos village, Stou Kir-Yianni shines a spotlight on local flavours with meze dishes of honey-soaked halloumi and pork crackling cooked in the island’s sweet Commandaria wine. For traditional blowouts, Nicosia’s Zanettos taverna has been serving up classic spreads of sheftalia (fat-wrapped sausages) and snails since 1938.
Low: Head to Laona, in Paphos, for Cypriot home cooking where the menu stars stick-to-your-ribs rabbit stifado (stew simmered in red wine and vinegar). You’ll find budget souvlakeri restaurants on every corner, but Nicosia’s Piatsa Gourounaki offers a modern-dining take on the classic street food with a host of sides, from pickled peppers to mushrooms in chimichurri sauce, accompanying skewers of succulent charred meat.
High: In Pissouri Bay (opening image), Columbia Beach Resort is a serene getaway, secluded by gardens of jasmine, citrus trees and palms, fronting Pissouri Beach. This low-rise resort is all about laidback modern Mediterranean living – something easily achieved with a visit to its award-winning Hébe Spa and some time spent on your suite’s terrace taking in the vistas across the sea to Cape Aspro’s limestone cliffs.
Low: With water temperatures hovering between 20°C and 27°C from May to October and free entry, there’s a Cypriot beach for everyone. Nissi Beach’s white sand and turquoise sea are summer-party territory, Fig Tree Bay’s golden sand cove and shallow water is a family favourite and the Akamas Peninsula’s Lara Beach is a wild shore where turtles nest. Some 26 of Cyprus’s most popular beaches are fully wheelchair-accessible.
High: Local legend tells that Leonardo da Vinci headed into the island’s steep hills just to get his hands on a piece of Lefkara lace. This intricate lacework is still coveted today. Like Da Vinci, go to the source in the village of Pano Lefkara, where the lacemaking workshops sit amid cobblestone alleys lined with old limestone merchant houses.
Low: For ceramics, stroll along Larnaca’s seafront Scala district where workshops Studio Ceramics and Emira Pottery create contemporary pieces riffing on ancient Cypriot designs. For foodie gifts, Nicosia’s Agios Antonios Municipal Market sells fresh cheeses, pickles and produce direct from the farmers. After browsing the stalls, head to the market’s restaurant, Limoncello Deli-Bar, for craft beers and artisan burgers.
High: After a day on the beach, take to the saddle as a family to soak up sunset coastal vistas on a horse-riding hack with Eagle Mountain Ranch in Mesogi. Nurture budding marine biologists on the Atlantis Turtle Watching Cruise from Paphos Harbour. The boat’s submarine room provides a seabed tour with prime turtle and stingray spotting and a shipwreck, to boot.
Low: The free nature trails stretching across the limestone sea cliffs of Cape Greco are easy going ambles that won’t wear out young hikers. For the more adventurous, there are sea caves to scramble down to along the way. Cross the headland and follow the trail to Konnos Beach to finish off your family hike with a swim.
High: Paphos-based Cydive runs diving trips to the MS Zenobia, one of the world’s top wreck-diving sites. Day-long boat trips for qualified divers cost €140, including two dives penetrating the eerie innards of the ship. After delving below the sea surface, take to the sky to sightsee from above by parasailing over Fig Tree Bay with XS Watersports in Protaras.
Low: The rolling hills of the Akamas Peninsula host wildflower-rimmed dirt trails leading up to summits overlooking the forested headland before curving down to hidden, lonely coves. Base yourself in Polis and hire a mountain bike from Wheelie Cyprus to explore, or pull on your hiking boots and trek the peninsula’s Adonis or Aphrodite trails for free.
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