My trip to Cyprus was totally spontaneous, unplanned and therefore absolutely casual. The reason was simple – I am fed up with winter in Poland and I need to remind myself, what sun looks like! Don’t you think that it’s one of the best reasons to travel, isn’t it? ;)
You can find lots of various information in the Internet about Cyprus being one of the most sunny island of Europe, with its 300 sunny days per year. It sounds engagingly enough to experience it first-hand.
And one thing led to another… a week before the Easter we started the Monday by booking tickets, we also quickly booked an apartment and on Tuesday we were already sitting on a plane, taking us towards spring sun!
The rest came out in the wash… and came out really well! So I want to share with you my tips on how to do a spontaneous, 3-day trip to Cyprus. The goal was simple: it was to be a real gateaway, so roving wherever where it takes us, sipping coffee looking at the sea and stuffing ourselves with fresh seafood.
We were lucky to find cheap flights from Warsaw to Larnaka and we decided that the southern part of the island was going to be our focus.
It happened to be an evening flight, which was good, ‘cause we had one day more to work and at the evening we were already flying towards Cyprus. We landed late at night, that is around 11 PM, so the next day started in a totally different, spring reality.
How to organize a trip to Cyprus – practical tips
Flights to Cyprus from any place in Europe are convenient and quite affordable. Especially off-season you can hunt discounts and one-offs. We bought our tickets overnight, so they were more expensive than they should be in this season, c. USD 200, there and return. If we had bought them in advance of, let’s say 2 or 3 weeks, they would have been half that price. Remember, that cheap tickets mean hand luggage only, so called “carry-on”. But it’s the perfect amount of luggage for a weekend stay. It’s a warm island, so you only need several lighter clothes and something warmer for the evenings, plus miniature cosmetics. Voila, all set and ready! I packed my bags in 15 minutes ;)
GETTING AROUND THE ISLAND
Cyprus is a small, insular country and it’s most comfortable to explore it with a car. Especially, if you have only a few days. Of course, there are buses running between the cities but if you wanted to go towards Akamas peninsulaor to Troodos mountains without a car, it might be time-consuming.That’s why I did not even hesitate to rent a car, especially that off-season it’s not that expensive and it’s quite cost-effective.
What you have to remember, thought, that on Cyprus you drive on the LEFTand that is the main source of panic for drivers who try this for the first time. At the beginning you need to focus more and it takes a while to switch that in your head. But it’s not the mission impossible.
RENTING A CAR
I always rent a car online, before I even get to the place. You can search Google with „Car rental Cyprus”, „Car hire Cyprus” and you will surely get results with lots of car rentals but from my own experience I recommend using Rental Cars search engine. You choose your desired trip period, car type etc. and you get results with the best options for these dates. Then you book the car at the website and do a secure payment with a credit card. The search engine is easy to use and intuitive.
We rented a car a day before our arrival, in Enterprise company (a Kia Cee’d, which is ok for a 3 days stay) for USD 45 total. I think it’s a good price for the comfort of choosing when and where to go.
We paid more or less the same price for the gas.
Off-season it’s not a problem to find a place to stay, even booking day-today we had a wide choice. We started like usually, from Airbnb, cause we wanted to find a cozy apartment with sea view. It was meant to be intimate and far from huge hotels. Anyway, the plan was not to stay in it for long but to enjoy all that the spring island could give us, so the standard was not the most important factor. We had no time to be fussy and we’ve chosen an apartment that looked nice, with opened windows through which you could hear the waves (that’s what it was all about!) and had lots of good comments (check it HERE).
We were happy with our choice but believe me, we could quickly find at least 15 other places. That’s the beauty of travelling off-season, no need to wage a war to get a place to sleep :)
Cyprus is a very popular destination for Russians, Poles and Greeks, so you can expect hordes of tourists during the peak of the season. During the summer (July-August) the heat is immense, even 40 degrees, which for me is absolutely unbearable both for laying on the beach and for sightseeing.
AlthoughCyprus seems perfect to visit off-season, so in periods March-April or October-November, when the temperature stays about 20 degrees, sometimes drops at the evening to c. 15 degrees. The sea is colder, though, but you can swim and dabble. For me, spring is the prefect moment. This time I was not expecting to lay on the beach, so it was enough that the sun woke me up everyday and I could seat in a cafe-garden, savoring idleness in warmth.
Besides, we’ve hit the perfect weather, on the last day it was almost 30 degrees! And it was only the end of March.
WHAT TO TRY?
The Cyprian cuisine is a mix of Greek, Turkish and Arabic influence, what makes it absolutely unique. One of the most popular dishes is meze but frankly it’s more than just a dish. It’s more of an event and a way to spend time.
Meze means various snacks, served hot or cold on small platters. One meze might consist of 15 to even 25 different meat, cheese, vegetables and seafood meals! Typically you order meze with seafood or meat meze. And in the package comes also bread, French fries, rice, salad and dessert (never without a dessert!).
It’s important to know that the dishes are not served all in the same time but they are gradually brought by the waiters. At the beginning I didn’t know about this and I experienced a mild shock, when we were sitting at the full table and they started bringing more and more plates. I swear, we were eating for 2 hours.
A typical meze might consist of famous tzatziki, caviar puree (tarama), tahini paste and hummus. Then the grilled octopus comes in, accompanied with squid, olives, typical Cyprian grilled sheep cheese (halloumni), mushrooms, Cyprian barbecued sausage, shrimps, clams, chicken fricassee, Cyprian ravioli, meatballs, etc. etc. It NEVER ends and is absolutely great J
Best places where I had Meze: Merblue Restauranto and To Kazani Traditional Tavern Aradippou
Off-season the prices are much more affordable than during the season, which is a huge plus. Typical prices you may expect:
Americano coffee – 2.5 euros
meze (for two) – 35 euros
Cyprian breakfast (eggs, haloumi cheese, vegetables, coffee, juice) – 8 euros
freshly squeezed orange juice – 1.5 euros
ice-cream – 1 euro
WHERE TO HANG OUT?
Of course it depends, what you like. Cyprus is so versatile, that it offers a little of everything – you have interesting architecture with lots of history, plenty of trekking places among flowering hills and pretty bays, where you can stare at the sea forever.
This time we didn’t have a strict plan, so I tackled it chilled-out and at ease. We woke up in the morning and figured out our mood, what we wanted to do that day, with no rush to “cross off” things. All in all, it was meant to be a stepping stone from work and a really pleasant trip.
We had a car, so we also had much freedom to choose and to drive to the places that got out attention.
So, during our three-day stay we reached:
We were just passing through and probably would try to avoid the place, cause it’s one of the most popular resort in Cyprus, considered the center of entertainment, full of pubs, cafes, discos, bars, hotels and local shops. So totally not my thing. And you know what? Off-season it’s all quiet and deserted, so even here you can find some peace and just take a walk. The bay is scenic and the water color was beautiful.
Anywhere you go, you will be accompanied by cats, that roam the place literally in packs. Cyprus is often referred to as the “cat island”, as they dominated the local landscape. Brining them here was very practical, though. They were imported here by the Saint Helena – mother of Constantine the Great (4th century AD) to help the locals deal with the adder plague. They were brought on ships and the peninsula, where they were let out was named after the cats (Kapok Catha – the Peninsula of Cats). By the way, until the moment, when they have reproduced to the hard to handle amount, they were taken care of by the monks of the monastery, which was founded nearby. And which got the very serious name of the St. Nicolas of the Cats :)
Those were our first sunny hours on Cyprus and the coffee sipped in the sun, sitting in the harbor, tasted delicious :)
It was the closest place, because that’s where the biggest airport of the island is and that’s why we booked the apartment nearby. We began the first day with Larnaka, which has a really interesting history related to famous figures.
Citium or Kition (the first name of the place) was founded by Phoenician colonists in 12th century BC and, next to Cadiz andCarthage, was one of the oldest Phoenician colonies. It was also a Phoenician habitat and anchor on the Cyprus, which was colonized mainly by the Greeks. That’s where one of the most famous ancient Greek philosophers comes from – the creator of stoicism, Zeno of Citium.
The modern name comes from Greek word larnaks,which means a vessel/sarcophagus used to keep the earthly remains of the diseased. Here the Lazarus of Bethany was supposed to be buried, as after being resurrected by Jesus, he reached the Cyprus and founded a Christian community.
In the place where his sarcophagus was found, the Agiou Lazarou church was built. The city changed its name from Citium to Larnaka.
It’s worth to visit the city also because of the Larnaca Salt Lake, where over 80 bird species live, including flamingos. There might be sometimes thousands of them! At the beach, among the palm trees, towers a mysterious Hala Sultan Tekke mosque, with the tomb of Umm Haram, so the aunt of the Muhammad. It’s a pilgrimage destination for Muslims.
In Larnaka you can also stroll on maritime promenade, with lots of cafes and restaurants along, among which you will find, unfortunately, lots of popular fast-food companies. But you can also eat something local and if you like seafood, I recommend the “Ocean Basket” restaurant – great place to have a lunch.
Cape Greko National Park
The afternoon was spent wandering through the Cape Greko National Park, which has a nine strolling trails (HERE you have the maps).
One of the trails is a part of the European long-distance route E4, from Cyprus to Gibraltar. There is also a nature path of the Aphrodite, which is over 2 km long, stretching alongside the northeast coast of the Cape Greco Peninsula, considered a place where the mythical goddess was born. Well, some Greekislands around have a fight, trying to decide, where she could be born.
Anyway, she had a nickname Kypris (Cyprian), so it’s the Cyprus that seems to be the most probable place. Near the Pafos city there is, so-called, Aphrodite’s Rock, indicating the exact place, where she was supposed to emerge from the sea foam. According to the legend, swimming around the Aphrodite’s Rock should bring lifelong luckin love (if someone tested it – give me a call! :) )
The time spent in Cape Greko National Park confirmed my idea, that visiting the island during the spring is a perfect choice. At this time of the year, the nature started waking up and bursting with doubled powers, the hills were literally covered in yellow flowers and lush grass. It looked magnificent.
The cape is well managed, all the trails have benches, where you can sit in peace and savor the views of cliffs and intensely blue Mediterranean Sea.
We decided to end this day looking at the sunset at Cavos View Point (at the end of the cape). You can drive there and leave your car at a small parking lot, then it’s only a few minutes of walk to reach the cape.
It’s a small, mountain town, with only about 1000 inhabitants. It’s situated about 40 km away from Larnaka and surrounded by beautiful Troodosmountains.
In 16th century, Lefkara was one of the biggest cities in Cyprus. It all changed when the island was taken over by the Turks. The city was destroyed. Years later, only thanks to the British people, Lefkara was rebuilt, regaining its unique climate.
I strongly recommend visiting it, because such a town, lost in time and space, is a really interesting escape. The time flows here more slowly, no one is in a hurry, people are smiling and approach visitors for a small chat.
Lefkara is situated less than 40 km east of Larnaka. There are many picturesque alleys, archaic houses, museums and charming churches.
Our attention was drawn by women, sitting in front of their houses and embroidering doilies and cloths. The town is also famous for its goldsmiths, who create unique handworks of arts and crafts. You can buy them in various small shops.
Walking along the shady alleys and admiring old houses, surrounded with citrus and orange trees, is a huge pleasure itself. But if you wanted to get to know the culture of Cyprus, you can visit the Folklore Museum showing how life looked a hundred years ago or the Museum of Traditional Embroidery and Silversmith.
Over the city towers the church of the Holy Cross, which suits perfectly the climate of the sleepy, stone town.
Golden Donkeys Farm
That was a great surprise! Driving towards the mountainous Lefkara we saw signs leading to a donkey farm. To be honest, I haven never been to such place, so my first thought was: I need to see it! The road was picturesque and it wound between green hills and small towns, so it was a fun trip by the way.
The entrance fee on Donkeys Golden Farm costs 4 euros and we were all alone there. It’s the biggest donkey farm on Cyprus.
What can I say, they are hilarious animals and I recommend to drop in, to watch them, caress them and laugh at their behavior, which is totally disarming.
At the entrance there is also a shop, where you can buy, for example, donkey milk, liqueur based on donkey milk, donkey milk cosmetics and lots of other local products. Quite a good place to buy an unusual souvenir from Cyprus.
I hope that I inspired you to organize your own spring gateaway :)