Country number: 87
Territory number: 95
When? May 2008
How? By car
Who? With Alex
‘Lying at the meeting-place of the sea routes leading to Syria, Asia Minor, and Greece, Cyprus seemed the inevitable first stage of a missionary venture.’
St. Paul’s Journeys in the Greek Orient
Our base is in Polis, an unspoiled small town to the north of Paphos. Polis means city in Greek, but fortunately this is very quiet resort and in this case it is short for Poli Crysochous. There are a few very upscale eateries and hotels and some quaintly rustic buildings. There’s easy access to the wildly gorgeous Akamas peninsula, but the beaches (though quiet) are grey and pebbly.
The whole of Paphos is a UNESCO world heritage site. It’s a much more bustling area with a whole spread of different historic sites – mosaics, Tombs of the Kings, the Sanctuary of Aphrodite to visit. Most of the tourists are more interested in the string of fish restaurants along the harbour’s edge and the increasing number of bars. It’s definitely lively (and pretty noisy) at night.
Taking a rental car is straightforward, once out of Paphos. Cyprus is one of the few countries in the EU that drives on the left and most of the roads are in good repair. It’s a fairly easy sweep south and east to Limassol and Larnaca, past Aphrodite’s Beach. There’s a legend saying that the goddess of love, Aphrodite, was born and rose from the foam (‘afros’ in Greek) near a rock off here. We dip in and out of the UK at Akrotiri; it’s fairly dull. Most of the countryside here falls into the same category, it’s a very dry and rocky country (all that sun comes at a price) and many of the buildings complement the surroundings. Limassol, though, is an interesting town, worth an explore, with a string of tourist shops and restaurants and a pleasant esplanade. And Larnaca has a great beach, Finikoudes, a sandy strip covered in straw beach umbrellas, backed by another palm-lined seaside promenade. We decide to abjure the delights of Aya Napa, further east, which has even more bars than Paphos.
The Troodos Mountains offer a more rewarding drive with really pretty scenery. There are ten Byzantine churches and monasteries to visit, listed together as another UNESCO world heritage site. (We don’t quite make them all). There are road signs warning of the Cyprus mouflon, a rare variety of sheep, only found here. This is quite exciting, but sadly we don’t get to find one at all.
Most of the food is well known in the UK- there are a lot of Cypriot restaurants now and the traditional foods kleftiko, koupepia, souvla, sheftalia and loukanika are served on every corner. The Cypriots like their food. Other than the harbours there’s not much fish. Maybe surprisingly for an Island nation, meat based foods definitely dominate
The island of Cyprus is divided into the Republic of Cyprus and (in the north) the partially recognised Turkish Republic of so called Northern Cyprus (the occupied territory)
The city of Nicosia, lies in both, the only divided capital in the world shared by two nations. It is separated by ‘The Green Lin’, also known as the UN buffer zone.
Cyprus is a former British colony. Great Britain still owns about 3% of the island, at Аkrotiri, the southernmost point of the European Union in Cyprus
There are about 800,000 Cypriots living in Cyprus and up to 50,000 English-speaking inhabitants out of 200,000 foreigners living on the island.
Cyprus has more sunny days per year than anywhere else in the Mediterranean area -more than 300.
To see more of my photos of Cyprus, visit this page.