In this personal blog, Nimesh Joshi writes about his experience while visiting Cyprus – the beautiful sights to behold, the amazing culture and food and what it was like to cross the line…
My first visit to Cyprus was in the summer of 2014. I was privileged enough to be asked to be a groomsman for a very close friend I had made during my postgraduate journalism course. An exceptional wedding and the accompanying festivities before and after the event aside, it was my first real taste of Greek culture and lifestyle (And yes, I’m very much aware it’s not officially one of the Greek islands!)
That visit was pretty much restricted to Larnaca, with the exception of a stag do in Ayia Napa! All in all, an amazing trip.
Naturally, then, while looking for a holiday destination to take my parents and aunt away to this year, it was the perfect opportunity to visit Cyprus again and build on the fantastic time I had in 2014.
We arrived in Paphos on a humid Sunday evening. (It’s quite frustrating that most flights from the UK seem to arrive and leave at night so no daytime aerial views of Cyprus, unfortunately!)
After collecting our bags, we quickly found our coach transfer and headed to our hotel – the Avanti Hotel. More on my experience there to follow (BUT it was a fantastic place to stay!)
A late night didn’t stop us getting up early the next morning, to start making the most of the sun (it’s quite potent so suncream an absolute must!) and heading over to Paphos harbour for a little explore. Our hotel was about a 10 minute taxi ride away and the hotel was able to facilitate our taxi request very quickly.
The harbour area is beautiful. Simple, no harassment from street vendors and generally, it felt very safe. As we strolled along the promenade, eventually through a line of restaurants (seafood, steak and veggie-friendly options all readily available), we couldn’t help but just take in the beauty. There’s something quite magical about the sea and its breeze here, with a trusty beer in hand.
We then walked back to the hotel. It’s a 45-minute walk but can be difficult for some people in the heat. All-in-all, a gentle, relaxing day to welcome us to Cypriot life.
I love being able to experience the history of whichever holiday destination I go to. I truly think it’s important to use the opportunity to learn and embrace the culture and the back story, if you like.
The next day, we headed to Nicosia to experience city life. We began our day in the Greek Cypriot side. It feels very European, with little boutiques to big brands around. Thankfully, it didn’t feel overly commercialised – there was still plenty of space for the local salesman!
Having a wander around the quaint alleyways and the main High Street was lovely. It reminded me, in parts, of Lisbon and Barcelona. It happened to be quite quiet, as August is a prime-time for Cypriots to head off on their holidays – good for us tourists, as it meant we had plenty of space. Again, lots of great dining options but the heat meant that we all ended up having ice cream for lunch!
We then crossed over to the Turkish Cypriot side of Nicosia. A surreal experience walking through a ‘No Man’s Land’, before reaching the other side. (Note: don’t forget to take your passport!) Again, the Turkish Cypriot side also had its quaint alleyways, street art and its own charm but it was amazing that in a matter of metres, we felt like we were in a different country. It definitely had a Turkish/North African vibe to it – markets, street vendors and so on. Quite a unique experience, crossing the line. Almost like two cities within a city.
The Turkish Cypriot side has its own authenticity but our tour guide explained the price of this authenticity – the division of places like Nicosia, people (both Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot) having to leave their homes as part of the partitioning following Turkey’s illegal invasion, and subsequent occupation, of the Republic of Cyprus in 1974… It’s not something many locals talk voluntarily about and while clearly there is peace, you could also feel the pain in the air – on both sides.
This trip was never going to just be a beach holiday for us. We love getting out and about. Another day, then, we set off on a tour which started by taking us to the birthplace of Aphrodite, before heading to the archaeological site of Kourion.
So much history to take in here and really worth the visit.
We then visited the Kolossi Castle before taking lunch at a family-run taverna in Apsiou. There was chicken, rice, hummus, olives, pitta and, perhaps most importantly, locally-produced wine. All beautifully prepared and presented, with specific vegetarian dishes prepared for myself and three others in the group.
Another huge highlight for me was our visit to the Kykkos monastery, via the village of Pano Platres. A truly enriching experience, with breathtaking views of the mountain range throughout. Well worth a visit.
Now to the hotel… and what an experience! First things first, the staff. They go out of their way to ensure you have everything you need. For example, three of the four of us were vegetarian. Staying on a half-board basis, we’re always a bit uncertain about what we will actually be able to eat. I can tell you that we ate heartily every single day.
Each night has a theme so it’s not repetitive and it gave us a fantastic opportunity to try local cuisine (I definitely had my fill of halloumi!) as well as other foods. The one night we were a bit worried about what might be available to us was the BBQ Night. The restaurant manager, who was fantastic, actually arranged for us to be given vegetarian lasagna that evening. We hadn’t asked for it but had just asked earlier in the day what the evening’s options might be like. As it turned out, we didn’t need the lasagna as there were plenty of options for us – but the lasagna was incredible and I definitely have no regrets about that!
The hotel facilities were fantastic – perfect for families and couples. Not an Adults Only place and there were lots of children. Equally, there were no stag/hen parties or big groups of friends – I think that would’ve spoilt the atmosphere massively. The pool bar is a must!
And finally, the beaches. The ones near the hotel are man-made. They’re not bad (the water was beautiful!) but I’d also strongly recommend a visit up to Coral Bay. Amazing golden sands to match clear, pristine waters.
All-in-all, it was a wonderful holiday – enriching, relaxing and all-round good fun. I’ll definitely be going back to Cyprus again. I could honestly write so much more about this holiday but that would take a lot of the fun out of it for you! All I will say is, if you’re looking for a holiday destination that gives you time to relax, time to indulge and time to explore, Cyprus is PERFECT!
P.S. If you were wondering, I did manage to catch up with my friend Mario out there. Once in Nicosia, where I got to meet his amazing, bubbly little son and then a second time when Mario came to visit me in Paphos.