Perennially confused with its neighbour Greece, Cyprus has been an independent state since 1960 and a member of the EU since 2001. As the majority of Cypriots do speak Greek, it’s easy to understand why this island can be considered as an extension of its popular neighbour. It's okay, we all make mistakes, one of us here thought cats were just female dogs until the age of 13!
If you're planning a Cyprus holiday soon and want to get to grips with the island country, then you're in the right place. Scroll down for suggestions on what to expect, where to visit and what to keep an eye out for. From temperatures and food, to resorts and sightseeing, we've got you covered. And if you’re using this guide simply as holiday inspiration, we have a number of deals in this amazing country down the side - with resorts like Paphos, Limassol and Larnaca – meaning you’re one step closer to visiting this incredible holiday destination.
Should I go to Cyprus in winter? Almost definitely yes because this is one of our number one winter sun destinations, but really, it depends on what temperature is right for you. Blessed with sunshine most of the year round, the average temperature rarely drops below 13°C annually. The warmest months are July and August which have averages of 25°C and 26°C respectively, while some resorts inland, like Nicosia, can rise to between 33-37°C. The end of the year is slightly warmer than its start with average temperatures of 22°C and 18°C in October and November respectively, making it the perfect place for an autumn trip.
And where better to experience this weather than on one of Cyprus' many beaches? The most famous one is Aphrodite Beach - legend has it that Aphrodite, the goddess of love and fertility, once rose from the waters that surround Aphrodite’s Rock. A truly spectacular sight, it can be found just off the old road between Limassol and Paphos.
Though firmly a member of Europe and the EU, Cyprus is at a mesmerising culinary crossroads of Europe, Africa and Asia, meaning the island's palate has evolved steadily over time to encompass a mixture of all these. You'll be pleased to know that Cypriot food is close in many ways to more well-known Greek cuisine. One dish they share is the wonderful halloumi (hellim), though popular in Greece, the Middle East and the Mediterranean, it was originally a Cypriot dish. It's eaten in a number of ways in Cyprus, from the more standard appetiser form to a cold starter served alongside sliced watermelon.
Cyprus-style souvlaki is a delicious spin-off from its neighbour's version and features a thinner pita bread that you can use as a pocket for the meat, rather than as a wrap-around. A final meat dish to try is the sheftalia, these sausage parcels are composed of parsley, onion, salt, pepper and either minced pork or lamb. Traditionally grilled and partnered with that old favourite of pita bread, it's a taste you won't find anywhere else.
If you're not staying in a wonderful all-inclusive resort which offers these treats in abundance, it's good to know a place or two for the best eats. We present three of the best places to eat across Paphos, Limassol and Larnaca; we'd say be careful if you're currently functioning on an empty stomach, but it still does things to us even when we're full.
In Paphos, visit To Steki Tou Thanasi for authentic dining. Full with locals on most nights of the week, this is a great sign to look for when scoping out a place to dine on any holiday. Booking is recommended if possible, but Cypriot hospitality will mean you won't have to wait too long if not. While the salmon in pesto and champagne sauce is a favourite, those wanting to try a bit of everything should go with the meze option as it has a seemingly never-ending conveyor belt of treats.
Building on the idea of meze, those visiting Limassol could do worse than Meze Taverna. This family-run restaurant has remained open for a number of years, giving it a well-honed style of hospitality that is unrivalled. Not only do you get to try everything that looks appetising on the menu through the small side-dishes, but it will more than match any amount of hunger you're experiencing.
In Larnaca, the food culture is a little different due to it being on the coast facing Lebanon. And to capitalise on this unique mix, we recommend visiting a restaurant which blends the two cultures very well, Maqam Al Sultan. A change from traditional options available throughout Cyprus, this restaurant is within close distance of Larnaca Pier, making it a perfect place to rest up. Aubergine dips, citrus-flavoured tabbouleh and amazing falafel make this a great change of pace.
A mixture of interesting historical sites and beautiful beaches, there are many things to see when in Cyprus. Starting with a primary sightseeing landmark, Limassol plays home to ancient ruins of Kourion. Romantically situated across a coastal cliff that offers gorgeous views of the countryside and Mediterranean, the site is vast and has a number of well-preserved mosaics on offer. The Byzantine Basilica is also something to seek out as you wander through this amazing archaeological site.
Paphos is a hotbed of culture when it comes to the island's best restaurants, bars and nightlife, but it also has a fair-share of history too. The House of Dionysus is the most famous of these historical sites, being home to an incredible collection of mosaic floors that are lauded for their excellent preservation and vibrant coloring. Part of the larger Paphos Archaeological site, the House of Dionysus is a wonderful example of the intricate artistry of the Byzantine period.
Larnaca is known as being one of the most easygoing places in the country and nowhere is this vibe better personified than the Salt Lake. A beautiful spot which has been a protected area since 1997, it is one of the most important habitats in Europe for waterfowl. Flamingos stay here from November to March, and there is a whole host of avian life outside of these months too.
We hope this blog has you feeling a little more prepared for your Cyprus getaway, but if you haven't got it booked up already, at least now you know who it is calling your name. Hint, it's Cyprus. Cyprus is calling your name.