With a gorgeous coastline and balmy temperatures, Cyprus is a bit of a beach-break haven. Of course, lying poolside (cocktail in hand) is great – but this little island offers a whole lot more besides. From wine tasting and cooking lessons, to mountain biking and beekeeping, Cyprus is much more than just a pretty face. We uncover a different side to this Mediterranean island…
Cyprus isn’t typically renowned for its wildlife, but if you know the right places, there are lots of encounters to be had. Take Ecophysis, for example. Nestled in the Troodos Mountains, this family-run business offers one of the most unusual experiences in Cyprus: a beekeeping workshop. I spent a brilliant morning there, learning all about the flora and fauna of the local village (Lefkara) and getting up close and personal with the bees. Once the workshop was over, it was time for a picnic in the mountains. This is your chance to try the honey for yourself – team it with halloumi for an unexpected (but delicious) combination. If your luggage allowance will allow, take some of the honey home with you.
Another area to head for is the stunning Akamas Peninsula, a nesting spot for sea turtles. Glass-bottomed boats glide off from the harbour at Latchi, giving you the best chance of spotting them in their natural habitat. Many of these boats will end their trips by anchoring in the Blue Lagoon for a spot of swimming – the waters here are so clear you could forgive yourself for thinking you were in the Indian Ocean. Back on dry land, why not hire a 4×4 and drive along the rugged coast? The photo opportunities are endless.
Halloumi, kleftiko, calamari… Cypriot food is delicious, and there’s nothing better than taking home a bit of the local cuisine – in the form of new cooking skills. I visited local chef Roddy Damalis at his restaurant, Piatakia, in Limassol to learn a few tricks of the trade. With over 30 years’ experience in the food industry, his restaurant plays host to cooking workshops where he teaches you to make a variety of mouth-watering local dishes. And, of course, you’ll get the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of your labour at the end!
You can’t get more Cypriot than trying your hand at halloumi making. Half an hour’s drive from Paphos, in the village of Letymbou, you’ll find Sofia, a local cheese maker who has opened up her house to budding chefs. Her gorgeous courtyard is home to a large vat of sheeps’ milk waiting for you to make the much-loved salty cheese, plus a clay oven for your hand-made bread to bake in.
In the saddle
With such a beautiful landscape, one of the best ways to explore Cyprus is by bike. There’s a trail for all abilities, so whether you’re a keen cyclist or haven’t been on one since you were a teenager, it’s a fun experience. The Troodos Mountains provide the perfect setting, with trails leading through pine forests and traditional villages for frappé stops along the way.
If you’re not a fan of heights (or cycling up hills), there are tons of opportunities for cycling along the coastline. The town of Latchi’s promenade is a great place for a slow-paced pedal, with the blue Mediterranean Sea as your backdrop. Need a break? Stop for a fish meze at one of the restaurants lining the prom.
Back in time
If you can tear yourself away from the quaint harbour, charming tavernas and colourful ice-creams bars of Paphos, the town’s Archaeological Park is a must-visit. The UNESCO-honoured site really is remarkable – for just a small amount, you can view mosaics of Roman Villas, the impressive Forth Columns and monuments such as the Odeon and the Agora.
Also in UNESCO’s good books is the 11th-century Byzantine monastery of Agios Ioannis Lampadistis, in the Troodos Mountains. The monastery is made up of three churches and boasts some great examples of Byzantine art. Team your visit with an exploration of Kalopanayiotis village, opposite the monastery.