An enjoyable 40-minute flight from Tel Aviv, Cyprus is the place to go if you want to leave the country but stay close to home.
And thanks to the new UP service from El Al providing friendly and comfortable service several times a week, a getaway to the third largest and most populated island in the Mediterranean is easier than ever.
As a guest on a recent four-day visit, I was surrounded by the history and cultural traditions of Cyprus while diving into everything there was to offer: golden sandy beaches, breathtaking views, adventurous nature trails, archaeological sites, nightlife, family activities (and halloumi cheese). Here are some highlights: Fun in the sun, and nightlife in Ayia Napa Our first destination was Ayia Napa, located on the eastern part of Cyprus. It was one of my favorite cities and it is mostly known for its nightlife. But no worries, families can also find their own activities.
We stayed at the Capo Bay hotel, which offers a variety of water-sport activities including jet-skiing, water-skiing, parasailing and banana boating. It is great for all ages and reasonably priced. The vibrant nightlife includes a wide choice of restaurants, bars and shops. We enjoyed a nice meal in the Alati by the Sea restaurant, a great place if you like traditional Greek food and awesome sea views.
An intriguing stop at Kourion
The most fascinating archaeological site on the island is probably the city-kingdom of Kourion. I surely won’t soon forget the impressive Greco-Roman theater that constitutes one of the main monuments at the site. Originally built in the 2nd century BCE, the theater is nowadays used for musical and other performances. Among all the treasures of Kourion, I cannot forget to mention the House of Eustolios, a complex of baths and several rooms with gorgeous mosaic floors.
Dive into Greek mythology at Aphrodite On the way to Paphos, you will find your top “picture moment” in all of Cyprus.
From a site called in Greek “Petra tou Romiou,” which means “Rock of the Greek,” you will enjoy a unique view of natural rock formations. The popularity of this place is related to Aphrodite, the mythological Greek goddess of love and beauty, who according to the legend was born in one of these rocks. To this day the belief persists that Aphrodite’s rock is like a fountain of youth and that swimming there will make your beauty last forever.
Jeeping in Paphos
Jeeping in Paphos was not only a fun and adventurous experience, but also a very educational one. One of the cool parts of the trip (for those not used to it) was simply driving on the left side of the road.
Cyprus inherited this from the British period of its history.
During the excursion we also got to see banana trees, strawberry fields, lemon and olive trees. We learned a lot about the local agriculture, which by the way is based on innovative Israeli techniques, and the lifestyle of Cypriots. The journey also included several viewpoints of mountains, sea and historical sites.
Promenade of Paphos’s Old Harbor
One of the main attractions of Paphos is the picturesque Old Harbor promenade.
This is the spot to pick up some souvenirs, or just walk along the harbor with an ice cream in hand. The city also offers many modern hotels and restaurants. The Constantinou Hotel, which we stayed at, was right on the water and conveniently located close to many small shops and bars.
Near the harbor, there is an archaeological site that was uncovered by farmer in the 1960s. The ruins are from the Roman period of Cyprus. There are many still-intact mosaics here that tell an interesting story.
Chilling in Limassol
Without a doubt, Limassol is the most sparkling city in Cyprus. Centrally located, close to all major cities, Limassol offers year-round cultural events. In the spring you have the flower festival, while summer offers wine, music and comedy festivals.
The biggest festival of all is the carnival, which lasts 10 days. During the carnival, the locals all don costumes, and there are many colorful parades. In downtown Limassol you’ll get a taste of the local lifestyle and discover one of the most trendy and vibrant districts on the island. You can expect to run into many students in the cafes and bars that seem to be on every corner here.
Cheese tasting in Anogyra
For all the cheese lovers among you, the village of Anogyra offers a tasteful experience.
We were warmly welcomed at The Anoirkatiko, a family-owned dairy factory.
We went on a tour of their farm and discovered some of the secrets behind their successful traditional cheeses. Following the tour, we sat down outside the family villa, surrounded by walnut and carob trees, and enjoyed a tasting of homemade halloumi cheese.
Relax in Vasa and Omodos Vasa is a cute village in the mountains north of Limassol. On top of the calm and pleasant atmosphere, the village’s limestone architecture gives to the place a special look. This is a popular spot for Israeli travelers. There’s a comfy bed and breakfast close to Omodos village, which is a new and up-and-coming tourist location.
There are many beautiful hand-crafted items and delicious traditional Cypriot sweets to be had here, and the village is another great place for souvenirs.
Nicosia is the capital of Cyprus and the largest city on the island. In the city center is Ledra Street, the busiest shopping area.
The street is historic because it is divided between the north and south of the city, the north being occupied by Turkey. There are many Cypriot shops as well as international ones, selling everything from the basics to high fashion.
The writer was a guest of El Al UP and the Cyprus Tourism Organization.