The single most important thing to remember about Cyprus is that the tiniest scratch of the surface will reap great rewards. The tourist trail is well trodden here but there is so much to uncover to make the most of the rich cuisine, the archaeological sites, the beaches, mountains and countryside. You will need a car and an adventurous spirit. You will, without doubt, stray from your intended route but Cypriots are extremely hospitable and there will always be somebody willing to help with directions. See the journey as part of the Cypriot experience and your visit will be all the more rewarding.
Things To Do
With a car in Cyprus, you can cover plenty of ground in a long weekend, taking in the antiquities around Limassol, the pine-scented Troodos Mountains, the wine-growing districts and the capital, Nicosia. A week on the island gives enough time to combine the most important antiquities with some leisurely drives through the mountains, visiting wine-growing villages and nature reserves. Allow plenty of time for impromptu stops in small villages for coffee, walks and admiring the many uninterrupted views of hills, vineyards and forest.
Cypriot beaches vary from stretches of soft, white sand to pebbles or slabs of flat, sun-bleached rock on which to bask. Many of the best beaches are the least accessible, on the remote Akamas Peninsula to the west, while for families, the eastern resorts of Ayia Napa and Protaras have the finest sand, combined with clear, aquamarine water.
Limassol’s shops are spread along Anexartiatis and Agiou Andreou (St Andrew) Streets and Makarios III Avenue, which encircles the centre of town. All the usual international brands are represented, but local talent is more interesting. Check out the floaty, sequinned eveningwear, spangled tops and pretty trousers in Mitsu Mitsu on St Andrew Street and the intricate handmade jewellery from local designer Tonia Theodorou at 30 Agora Anexartisias.
Nicosia is particularly good for shoe shopping but for a better souvenir of Cyprus, visit Chrysaliniotissa Crafts Centre on Dimonaktos 2 (tel. 22 348 050). It’s a cluster of workshops around a courtyard in the style of an old-fashioned inn, housing some talented craftsmen and women; you can buy stunning icons here, painted by Taliadorou Kalliopi, one of Cyprus's leading iconographers. For authentic Cypriot food, try Anemoessa (23 Pindarou Street, www.anemoessa.com.cy). You’ll find island honey, jams, sweets, olive oils, dried fruits, quince, grapes, figs, all beautifully packaged.
Paphos is a bustling holiday resort and as such seeking out the real gems takes effort. All around the harbour there are shops selling lace from the village of Lefkara, as well as leather bags, pretty ethnic sandals, designer sandals, belts and wallets. Leather is generally cheap here, as is gold jewellery. A more unusual purchase is a goatskin rug; the skins are a byproduct of the meat for which goats are raised here.
Restaurants and Dining
A blend of Greek dishes with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influences, Cypriot food is delicious. Even in the most basic taverna, food is fresh, often organic, and slow cooked with herbs, spices and home-grown olive oil. The island has a 2,000-year history of vine cultivation and produces some fine wines.