A Week in Cyprus: Exploring Limassol and Beyond

Our trip to Cyprus in July 2022 saw us revisit the pandemic, with mask-wearing in enclosed spaces mandated again. Though not everyone strictly adhered to the rules that had been re-introduced just a week before our visit, a week during which Nigel had his first experience of COVID. Aside from that inconvenience, travel was back to normal with the country having no entry requirements whatsoever. You could enter completely unvaccinated, or even whilst still testing positive for the virus. Nigel was by now testing negative, although a few symptoms remained, this was real-life “learning to live with COVID.”

In many ways, this was a very different style of travel for us. Gone were the separately booked flight, accommodation and adventure, instead, we took a very rare package holiday. Flight, decent hotel and all transfers laid on and we were set for a relaxing week. We soon realised a mistake we had made that was going to affect our level of enjoyment of Cyprus; I forgot my driving licence, Nigel forgot his driving glasses, so the plans to hire a car and explore the island were immediately hit. We would still make the most of our week ahead though!

The 4-star Atlantica Bay Hotel near Limassol did not disappoint. It’s a beautiful hotel, the food was of a good standard, especially the desserts, the all-inclusive alcohol was plentiful and the service could not be faulted. Our room was spacious and well-appointed, with all the amenities we needed for a comfortable stay. The hotel was just perfect – a gorgeous pool area, a good standard of evening entertainment and delicious food. It was the perfect base for exploring the island.

The area around our resort in Limassol was also nice for a walk; We spent a bit of time during our week getting to know the locals (the cats of course!) and had a lovely sunrise walk one morning along the beach and also along to the marina.

We met with Ged, the Tui tour guide, and agreed to 3 excursion packages, quickly parting with >£330 in the process. Although we are never a huge fan of organised trips, we decided to go with the flow as we had limited our own exploration options.

A Day Trip to Nicosia

Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, is known as the last divided city in Europe. With a border into the Turkish Republic we were excited to learn more about the rich cultural heritage and vibrant street life. Not everybody on the trip was aware we would be crossing an international border, and hadn’t been told they would need a passport to do so. Luckily for us we were informed and were well prepared for the day ahead.

We ordered a packed lunch from the restaurant and had a 9.45am pick up from the hotel entrance. We drove for 50 minutes and had a brief stop for coffee at a remote orchard which had donkeys – a little bizarre but welcome anyway. It was a hot day!

We hit the road again towards Nicosia, driving for another hour or so before reaching St John’s Church Cathedral. Despite its small size this is the main church of the Church of Cyprus, built on the site of the 14th century chapel of the Benedictine Abbey of Agios Ioannis, the Evangelist of Bibi. Archbishop Nikiforos rebuilt the monastery chapel from its foundations in 1662. Dedicated to Agios Ioannis the Theologian, it remained a monastery until the 18th century when Archbishop Sylvester converted it into a cathedral, establishing it as the seat of the Orthodox Archbishopric in Cyprus. The church is located in the Walled City of Lefkosia.

Next was the The Liberty Monument which is located within the city walls of Nicosia’s old town, close to the Archbishopric. It was crafted by I. Notara in 1973 during the presidency of Archbishop Makarios III. The monument was erected to honour the Greek Cypriots who fought for their independence against the British colonial rule, the Cyprus Emergency of 1955-1959.

We parked up near the Old Town and made our way to the crossing into the Turkish Old Town. The crossing was quite trouble free but it was clear from the signs that the Greek Cypriots were keen for Turkey to leave Cyprus!

The Old Town itself was quite charming; we were taken to a restaurant to sample some local pastries before being allowed free time to wander on our own and to do some souvenir shopping.

We had a little bit of time to kill before our pick up so we headed back out of the Old Town and visited the Shacolas Tower Museum and Observatory. The tower is 11 floors up overlooking the Nicosia suburbia. There are great views of the occupied Northern area of Cyprus towards Kyrenia and around the surrounding old city walls. For only 2.5 euros entry it was worth the visit for sure.

Our day was coming to an end and we headed back to the coach and returned back to our hotel. It was a good day though, we learnt a lot and was great to visit the capital city and the occupied Old Town.

The Troodos Mountains

Our second and probably our favourite trip was to the Troodos Mountains; somewhere we had never really heard of but were interested in visiting after we read more about the trip on offer. The region is located in the central part of the island and is known for its stunning landscapes, rolling hills, and charming villages.

We were collected on time at 9.45am and drove for a short time to the Kantou Lake. The Kuri is a man made lake which is fed from three rivers, Kuri, Limnatis and Krios. It also has a dam which is 110m high and 550m wide. It was a very picturesque stop.

Another hour and 15 driving brought us to Lofou Village, a traditional village in the hills at an altitude of 780m. The village dates back to the 1300’s and has restored houses in the village with their beautiful wooden balconies, the narrow cobblestone streets, the neoclassical school, the magnificent church, the traditional olive and flour mill in the rural museum and taps and cisterns.

A bus ride and short walk to see Meso Potamos Falls was next The falls are found in the Troodos National Forest Park. There was also a waterfall which Nigel walked down.

Time for lunch and we headed to the Skylight Restaurant, located high up in the mountains. The view from this restaurant was breathtaking, and the food was equally amazing. It was the perfect place to take a break and enjoy the stunning scenery that surrounded us.

Fully fuelled from our lunch we moved on to the next village of our tour, Omodos. It was a popular destination for those who like homemade wine, walks around ancient streets, visits to the traditional rural homes that have been turned into museums and shopping for original art and crafts (e.g. silver jewelry, glass objects, lace-work, sweets and famous Arkatena pretzels). The village’s main attraction is the True Cross Monastery, which houses a piece of the True Cross together with other relics.

We only had a brief stop here and it was a pretty, but very commercial with many vendors trying to get us into their store to try their goods or buy lace. The one thing that was really memorable was the noise of the cicadas. For those who aren’t familiar they are insects which make a hell of of a lot of noise and we had encountered them previously in Costa Rica; although never actually seen one. A man managed to pick one up and let me take a photo.

Our final stop of the day was the Lambouri Winery, where we were able to sample some of the finest wines the island has to offer. This family-run winery is known for its passion for wine, and it was evident in every sip we took. The downside of travelling light with just hand luggage like we do is that we can never take any liquids home with us. There were some nice ones here though and the store did well with sales.

All in all it was a lovely day; a long one but a really good tour and worth the pennies we spent. The Troodos Mountains and villages were definitely well worth the visit.

Boat Trip

Our last excursion was a boat trip around Limassol. The unlimited alcohol which was part of the package, only partly made up for the fact we really didn’t go very far, saw no wildlife, and only a handful of fish when snorkeling. We have no doubt been spoilt by some previous snorkelling and diving adventures, but the Mediterranean around Cyprus was very disappointing in this respect. Despite that we had a nice day; chilling on the sea and they even gave me sea sickness tablets so I could make the most of it.

Cyprus Final Thoughts

We’ve noticed on our extensive travels that many places fit very easily into one of two categories; one is the sort of place that is very exciting to visit, in terms of climate, wildlife, culture, language and people all being very different to home, but you wouldn’t necessarily want to live there. The other being so similar to home that it would be a very comfortable place to live, but actually offers very little to the casual visitor. Cyprus for us, fits perfectly into the second category. It was evident that Cyprus is very much a ‘British’ island. From driving on the left side of the road to the prominence of green grass lawns and the use of English traffic signs, it was clear that the island still has a strong connection to its colonial past.

Overall, our week in Cyprus was a lovely experience and we felt relaxed, I think however we are more free spirited and prefer a less organised and a more ‘go with the flow’ holiday option at our own pace. We like to visit places a bit away from the main tourist trails and get a real feel for local culture and that felt somewhat diluted on this trip. Can’t win ’em all. We wouldn’t however, want to dissuade anyone from visiting. From the unusual capital city, and stunning mountain landscapes to the charming villages and wineries, there was never a dull moment, unless of course we wanted one, just chilling by the pool. We would recommend visiting this island to anyone looking for a relaxing and beautiful, English-style getaway.

Carol & Nigel xx
July 2022

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