The story of Cyprus tumultuous past is told through its historic sites
The story of Cyprus’ tumultuous past is told through its historic sites, Roman ruins, multifaceted museums and dusty urban streets. This sense of living history is highlighted most vividly in Pafos, with extraordinary archaeological sites like the Tombs of the Kings, which sprawls like an ancient theme park next to a pack-in-the-punters tourist resort. Digging into the island’s past has unearthed fascinating relics, including neolithic dwellings, Bronze Age and Phoenician tombs, and exquisite Roman mosaics, while, on the streets, keep your eyes peeled for Venetian walls, Byzantine castles and churches, Roman monasteries and Islamic mosques.
Experiencing Cyprus’ intrinsically different Greek and Turkish societies is increasingly easy, with seven access points linking the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides, including two pedestrian crossings in Nicosia (Lefkosia). There is something evocatively appealing about dipping into two very different cultures so effortlessly. Even if you only have time to visit the respective capitals, Nicosia or North Nicosia (LefkoÅŸa), be sure to cross the line, then complete your experience by sampling the local cuisine, visiting the museums and shopping for that one-off souvenir to impress the folks back home.
The landscape and overall mild climate mean that outside is where it’s at – and where you should be. First, there are the beaches, from the wild and windswept to the family-friendly and packed. Every conceivable water sport is also on offer, from scuba diving the watery depths to skimming the surface on a kite- or windsurf board. And if you tire of all that blue, just head to the interior where pine-clad mountains, sweeping valleys and densely planted vineyards offer hiking, biking, wine tasting tours and, yes, even winter skiing.
Meze is a delicious way to acquaint yourself with the local cuisine, tantalising the taste buds with a feast of small dishes, ranging from creamy hummus to spicy grilled sausage, and everything in between. Heavily influenced by Turkish, Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine, Cypriot food includes some culinary stars unique to the island, including haloumi (helimi in Turkish), and the kebabs are also in a league of their own. And the desserts are irresistible, flavoured with almonds, rose water and pistachios and ranging from creamy rice puddings to gloriously sticky baklava.