For northern Europeans generally and the British in particular at this time of year, the prospect of travelling abroad in search of some much needed Vitamin D needs little explanation, as the sun gives up any attempt at encouraging us to venture outside until spring. There are plenty of destinations available to the aspiring tourist that offer hot beaches and wild evenings, but one that warrants further consideration is Cyprus. The island lies in the Eastern Mediterranean, split between the rival claims of Greece and Turkey. But although Cyprus is well known for its hot weather, it has much more to offer than just being a slightly more interesting sunbed. Here are some of the attractions that await you.
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The waters around Cyprus are perfect for scuba diving and snorkelling, with a variety of different kinds of dive to explore. The most famous dive location is the wreck of the MS Zenobia. A Swedish-built ferry; the Zenobia capsized and sank just off Larnaca in 1979 with approximately 200 million GBP of cargo on board. Resting 42m underwater, the wreck is 178m long and was named by The Times as one of the top 10 diving spots in the world in 2003; from novice dives that merely pass along the starboard bow of the ship, to highly adventurous dives inside the ship’s dark depths.
2. The Green Line Walk
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Cyprus has hovered between the Christian and Islamic worlds for centuries and has at various times been under the rule of the Romans, Venetians, the Ottoman Empire and the British Empire. Its geographic location is such that it was the subject of disputes between Greece and Turkey for decades until, after various shenanigans on behalf of both sides, the Turks invaded in 1974. The invasion ultimately led to the establishment of a ghostly “Green line” by the UN, which split the island and its capital Nicosia, into Greek and Turkish segments on either side of a demilitarised zone, with the houses and dwellings in-between abandoned and now falling to ruin. Relations between the two countries are much less acrimonious now, but virtually every Cypriot still has vivid memories of the events of 1974 and the scars that it left behind.
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Cyprus’ capital has been a site of human activity for several thousand years and there are a number of things to do in its old streets. These include a walk around its Venetian walls (which failed to keep out the Ottoman invaders), the Roccas Bastion, that used to be the only point of contact between Turkish and Greek Cypriots and the Omeriye Hammam, a delightfully restored Turkish bath. Cyprus’ best museum is also to be found here called, somewhat unimaginatively, the Cyprus Museum. There are a number of artefacts from different periods in the island’s history, ranging from statues and figurines that date to around the 6th century BC, some classical mosaics and a large bronze statue of the Roman emperor Septimus Severus.
Paphos is a small coastal city on the west coast of Cyprus, the mythological birthplace of the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite. Perhaps even more so than other parts of the island, Paphos has traces of the many different cultures that have influenced and controlled it. As you might expect given its connection to Aphrodite, there plenty of places to visit that are associated with her myth, including a set of baths, a temple and a rocky cove, as well as a number of Greek, Roman and Byzantine ruins. As a consequence, part of Paphos is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been selected as the European capital of culture for 2017.
Some Tips Before You Go
This is just a small selection of the many hidden treasures Cyprus has to offer. To ensure you are able to fit everything in, it pays to plan ahead. Book your Cyprus airport transfer ahead of time and plan an itinerary of everything you’d like to see and do. Make sure you pack plenty of sunscreen and take advantage of some Cypriot culinary delights, such as Loukoumades (fried dough balls in syrup), Sheftalia (grilled sausage) and various other meze. And of course, sit back, relax and enjoy your holiday.