TRAVEL GUIDE: Cyprus
This week on Getaways we head to Cyprus to explore the benefits of going off the beaten track to compare green holidays, or what’s known as agro-tourism, with a bigger and busier resort holiday.
To get to Cyprus it’s a five-hour flight from Belfast to Larnaka. Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean and is three hours ahead of GMT.
We stayed in Tochni Village — half an hour from Larnaca Airport. Tochni is in the Greek-Cypriot south side of Cyprus. This is not your average package holiday resort; it’s what’s known as an agro-tourism village.
In Tochni you’ll not find high-rise hotels but instead traditional stone-built village houses which have been renovated to provide accommodation without sacrificing their original character.
Some of the apartments have private pools and there’s also a communal pool by the tavern where breakfast is served. It’s basic but comfortable and all the rooms are air-conditioned.
Most people come to Cyprus for the weather and the beaches but the sand on the beaches is black, so not everyone’s cup of tea but you definitely have plenty of sunshine. Although we stayed in a rural village, it’s only a 10 minute drive to the nearest beach, Governor’s Beach — if you’re staying at Tochni Village, sun beds and parasols can be used for free.
One of Cyprus’s claims to fame is that it’s the birthplace of the goddess Aphrodite. Aphrodite was of course the ancient Greek mythological goddess of love and beauty and the cult of Aphrodite has flourished here.
Aphrodite's Rock some 20km east of Paphos is where, according to legend, the goddess emerged from the foaming waves. There are still plenty of legends associated with the place.
Rumour has it that if you swim around the Rock naked, you will be fertile for life. Other people claim that to swim around the rock brings good luck, or if you swim round it three times at midnight, you will meet your true love and find perpetual beauty!
Less than half an hour away from Aphrodite’s Rock you’ll find one of the best historical sites in Cyprus — Kourion. This has to be top of your must-do list here. If ancient history is your thing then the island is like a large open-air museum. Cyprus has a strategic position at the crossroads between three continents, Europe Africa and Asia. It’s been long coveted by foreign powers who have left their mark and it’s a mosaic of different civilisations and periods.
Kourion was an important city kingdom and the main attraction for tourists today is the amphitheatre which was originally built in the second century BC. In the curved auditorium the spectators’ seating area accommodates around 3,500 people. There are regular opera and concert performances held here throughout the summer.
You’ll find supermarkets in the big towns and cities in Cyprus but if you’re looking for something a bit more interesting then shopping in the villages is much more fun. The village women in Cyprus have made lace for centuries but it is the Lefkara lace that is best known. It is called lefkaritika and made in the village of Lefkara.
The day we visited you could see many of the women sitting in their doorways practicing their trade. It’s said that Leonardo Da Vinci bought lace here in 1481 for an altar-cloth in Milan Cathedral. The local “Lefkara lace” is hand-made by local women using Irish linen.
At the start of our trip we stayed in an agro-tourism village but if you’re not so keen on green, then it’s likely you’ll head to one of Cyprus’s major tourist resorts. The main family resorts are in Limassol and Paphos — we went to Paphos. The city is divided into two parts: Ktima, the main residential district, and Kato Paphos, which is by the sea, is a port and contains most of the hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions.
Your first stop should be Paphos castle. It’s located in Kato Paphos at the harbour. The castle was originally built to protect the harbour and was a Byzantine fort and is a stunning stone walled castle. We also recommend you visit the Paphos Mosaics — 2,000-year-old villas with floors brilliantly illustrated with coloured mosaics depicting gods and stories from Greek mythology.