Get the insider's guide to Cyprus from those who know it best, says Katie McGonagle
To know a place is to love it, and nowhere is that adage more apt than Cyprus.
This Mediterranean gem already has a place in many a British holidaymaker’s heart, but would you know what to say if a client wanted tips on the best beach, busiest bars, or most scintillating sightseeing?
Make sure you’ve got all the answers at your fingertips with advice from the experts who eat, sleep and breathe Cyprus.
Tas Anastasi, sales and marketing director, Cyplon Holidays
Favourite view: Everyone thinks of Cyprus as a beach resort but, for me, the best scenery is in the mountains. The luscious pine forests of Troodos, the breathtaking valleys and the picturesque villages perched on the slopes are soothing for the soul.
Best beach: The sandiest beaches are in Ayia Napa but for something ‘off the beaten track’, head to Akamas national park (pictured below). The more adventurous – ideally with a four-wheel drive – can find unspoilt beaches such as Lara Bay, which is also home to endangered loggerhead sea turtles.
Favourite food: For a true Cypriot feast, visit one of the tavernas in the villages around Limassol and ask for meze. Each restaurant has its own specialities, but usually you’ll start with dips and salads, and end with a meat feast of lamb chops, souvla, sausages and sheftalia. Try To Kapilio or Salomis Taverna in Agios Tychonas, near the Four Seasons Hotel.
Ideal afternoon: Rent a bike and cycle down the scenic promenade in Limassol. Then treat yourself to a well-earned fresh fruit juice or icy frappé at the Four Seasons Colors Cafe, BlueBerry cafe or the Sailor’s Rest at St Raphael Marina.
Buzzing nightspot: The square around Limassol’s old castle has recently been developed and is always buzzing at night, with restaurants, cafes, ice cream parlours and bars all within walking distance.
Hidden gem: Polis and Latchi are the most unspoilt parts of Cyprus, near the nature reserve of the Akamas, although on second thought, perhaps we should keep this quiet a bit longer!
Alexis Josephides, Cyprus product, manager, Sunvil Holidays
Favourite view: The view from one of our villas, Stella Maris. It’s in an isolated spot on the cliff’s edge with uninterrupted views out to sea and over the Akamas peninsula, one of the most beautiful nature reserves in Cyprus.
Best beach: The stretch from Latchi to the Baths of Aphrodite. You can still find private bays to relax in, albeit by renting a small boat or a bit of off-road driving, and it has beautiful clear water for snorkelling and swimming.
Favourite food: I’m guessing I can’t say my grandmother’s cooking? It has to be meze, and lots of it. My favourite is spanakopita, spinach and feta pie. Nicosia is by far the best place to eat; it’s not an area that attracts many tourists so the food is authentically Cypriot. It’s also a fascinating city: the world’s only divided capital, with great museums and a Venetian inner-walled old town.
Cultural highlight: Driving around the churches in the Troodos, especially Agios Nikolaos tis Stegis, or St Nicholas of the Roof. It’s an amazing 11th-century Byzantine monastery in a stunning location with excellently preserved frescoes.
Lillian Panayi, assistant to director, Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO)
Favourite food: Nothing beats eating the ‘catch of the day’ at one of the harbour-side restaurants in Latchi, Zygi or Ayia Napa. Red mullet is my favourite with a delicious fresh salad, followed by whatever fruit happens to be in season.
Cultural highlight: I never tire of visiting the ancient site of Curium – sitting in the theatre and soaking up the beautiful backdrop of the sea is just amazing. The Roman mosaics in Paphos are a real highlight too.
Hidden gems: There are six wine routes that visitors can enjoy – check the CTO website for details – so I would recommend a visit to one of 40 boutique wineries, where you can sample some excellent local wines and enjoy fantastic views of the vineyards.
Top tip: I would recommend visitors hire a car for a few days and enjoy the sights. Explain how easy it is to get around with a modern road network, driving on the left, and English spoken widely.
Photis Lambrianides, commercial director, Olympic Holidays
Best beach: Fig Tree Bay at Protaras is a particularly lovely sandy stretch with clear water – a beautiful spot for swimming and sunbathing.
Favourite day trip: Head for the hills. With their fresh air and wonderful rural atmosphere, the Troodos Mountains make a marvellous day trip from the coast. Platres is a lovely mountain resort and the ideal place to sit and enjoy a meal in the pine forest. At the highest point, the peak of Mount Olympus offers fantastic views of the island.
Buzzing nightspot: With its wealth of restaurants, cafes and bars, Larnaca is an excellent place for an evening out for all ages. The promenade is particularly attractive at night and a great spot for a stroll after dinner.
Hidden gem: The monasteries of Cyprus are often overlooked by visitors, but they are full of history. Kykkos in the Troodos, Stavrovouni near Larnaca, and Ayios Neofytos close to Paphos are among the best – all in fascinating locations off the beaten track.
Top tip: Sell Cyprus for the right reasons – not just for the beaches and sun. It’s rich in history, culture and cuisine, with top-quality accommodation and genuinely welcoming people.
Mathilde Robert, managing director, Planet Holidays
Favourite view: The drive to Paphos, when you catch sight of Aphrodite’s Rock. It’s something I enjoy every time, no matter how often I visit. Between the colours of the sea, the curve of the bay and that rock, it’s timelessly beautiful.
Favourite food: Fish meze at any one of the local restaurants in Psarolimano, Larnaca. They are excellent value and superb dishes.
Ideal afternoon: Reading a book on a sunlounger by the infinity pool of the Villa Aquamarine in Pomos, western Cyprus.
Best day trip: Watching the sun set on a boat ride from Pissouri Bay or Paphos.
Cultural highlight: Visiting the villages, from Pomos in the far west to more central ones such as Lefkara, which now boasts a new winery.
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