Most people visit Cyprus during the summer, but you shouldn’t avoid this charming Mediterranean island during low season. Known for being the birthplace of Aphrodite: the Goddess of Beauty, Cyprus has much to love – even in winter.
Winter Sun in Cyprus
Hours after leaving snowy Slovakia, I walked off the plane comforted by the warmth of a welcoming sun. For our February break, a colleague and I had booked into a fancy hotel on the seafront near Paphos Harbour. I wanted to make Cyprus memorable as it would be my 60th country. We compromised between my companion’s taste for five-star luxury, and my more modest backpacker preferences by choosing a hotel complex with a sea view and pool. As it turns out, the pool was optimistic due to a persistently chilly wind blowing off the sea.
Upon arriving, it became clear that the hotel’s winter clientele is comprised mainly of septuagenarians escaping another miserable British winter. They were enjoying the usual range of cheesy entertainments; glitzy lounge room singers, belly dancers and bingo nights. Not really my scene, but, nevertheless, it was a lovely hotel in a great location. The breakfast buffet was pretty amazing too.
The Sights of Cyprus: Beauty And Pleasure
Every morning, I ran along the seafront to Paphos Harbour. I was going through a personal transformation at the time and hoped that being in the home of the goddess of love, beauty and pleasure would have an effect on me. It did, but that’s a story for another time. We visited the House of Dionysus – the god of wine and having a good time. The House has beautiful ancient mosaics depicting Theseus and the Minotaur in the Labyrinth of Knossos.
We drove around the island, stopping at Aphrodite’s Rock – the alleged spot where Aphrodite came ashore. After that, we admired the crashing waves at the sea caves and photographed Edro III Shipwreck. We tasted wine in the mountain vineyards, drove through villages, ate gorgeous greek food in the tavernas, and pulled up at the fabled ‘Kissing Tree’ – a magnificent 800-year-old oak tree. Near Paphos, we explored the Tombs of the Kings – a large burial site from long ago.
A Divided Island
Cyprus is an island occupied by two nationalities: Greece in the south, and Turkey in the north. You can cross the border in Nicosia: it is a hard border, so you need your passport. I live on the (soft) border of three countries: Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary, but I can cross easily on my Saturday run. I wrote about it in my last post. In contrast, a hard border divides Nicosia’s main street – one minute you’re browsing Zara or H&M, and the next you’re facing armed border guards.
Crossing the border was quick and easy with my British passport, and the American crossing with me had no problems either. I don’t know about other passports – you would need to check Turkey’s immigration requirements (or Greece, if you are travelling in the other direction). A few steps later, I had entered another world. No more gyros, tzatziki or moussaka, no more Zara, no more unpronounceable Greek beer. Here it was kebab, shisha pipes, and Efes. Mosques replaced Orthodox churches, their calls to prayer sounding out as the sun exploded glorious orange light across the brick walls.
Two worlds divided by bricks and guns.
Hire a Car and Take a Look Around
Cyprus is a lovely island. Personally, I prefer other Greek islands – particularly to the areas of Cyprus where British influence dominates, but there are some beautiful parts. I’d much rather eat Kleftiko at a family-run Tavern than Pizza Hut by the harbour. Car hire is relatively cheap, and the roads are accessible. GPS is unpredictable, as we discovered when it sent us up a narrow mountain road, rather than down the next junction of the motorway, but at least we got to enjoy a spectacular view!
Thank you, Cyprus, for being my 60th country! Now, onwards to number 70.