Lets be honest if there was ever a time when I should have been blogging regularly, it was probably the last few months. So much has been going on! A book, filming stuff, writing… There is a backlog. BUT you’ve all been asking for Cyprus recommendations and I’m aware the summer season is very much upon us so I’m going to start with that. I’ll bombard you with the videos and Taverna chat later. I have to say though, when we go, we’re very much local – eating at our aunts and uncles houses. Staying at my grandparents apartment. I stayed at a hotel there for the first time this year, but hopefully there is some useable stuff in here for you!
- My biggest tip is to hire a car. It’s a small island, and unless you are hell bent on staying by the pool all day the best thing really is to hire a car and explore. All the good, less touristy stuff is inland.
- If you are there on a weekend ask a local if there is a paniyiri nearby. These are religious festivals, which can take over an entire village. Stalls, food, music – lots of fun and worth seeking.
- Try the local wine. Cypriot white and rose is GOOD.
- Drink like a local: frappe! All Cypriots love an ice coffee in the heat. When they ask how you like it, start with half and half (half water/ half milk) and one sugar and go from there.
- Try the local bakeries. If you are a fan of tahini get a ‘tahinopita’ – a tahini, honey and cinnamon swirl. My achilles heel.
Until I grew up and began to drive, Limassol was where I spent most of my time and I have a real soft spot for it. The city isn’t picture postcard like other parts of Cyprus but there has been some real investment going on and it’s really transformed. Also it has a lot of history and I would say is the quirkiest/ least touristy place (which I love). The sea front has an urban promenade, play parks, eateries along the beach and a sparkly new marina which is the current hot area. The old carob mill is just brilliant, the shopping and university areas are very hip – lots of cool coffee shops and graffiti (my favourite part). This is all to the west of the city. The east of the city is all large hotels and can feel a bit unloved. The west of the city definitely has a more vibrant scene.
- Carob Mill – In a beautiful part of town, the carob mill overlooks the castle and is filled with restaurants. While we haven’t tried all of them, we do love Karatello for a modern, but authentic take on Cypriot cuisine.
- Saripolou Square and the Old Market – an area brimming with bars, local, students, and real nightlife. But not just aimed at tourists either, there is something for everyone around Saripolou Square. Walk the streets and fine quirky and quaint little shops. And check out the old market which is currently having a refurb.
- Uluwatu Coffee – I love a Cypriot coffee or frappe when its hot. BUT if you want proper coffee, great filter, perfect flat white – then you have to head to Uluwatu. These guys know their stuff. Very cool. And the prettiest handmade ice lollies you’ll ever see.
- Lab Bar – a little haven of a spot in the shopping area. An enclosed garden, great bar, it’s really special. I’ve never eaten here but definitely worth a pit stop and a drink.
- Galette Bakery – bakeries are ten to the dozen in Cyprus. And I love a 24 hour Zorbas as much as the next girl! But this recent discovery was a revelation. Galette make artisanal breads. And their tahinopita with pistachio is worth the trip alone.
- Taverna Agios Epiktitos – we never made it here on our last visit, but I’ve been told by various trust worthy sources that the food here is great. And the view over Limassol bay is stunning.
- Syrian Friendship Restaurant Limassol – I always make a beeline for this place. Amazing Syrian food, inexpensive meze and really good vibe late in the eve when everyone is chilling, eating and smoking a shisha.
- Beaches – the beaches around Limassol are ok. Like I said before they’re not idyllic (mostly black sand or pebbly) but they are clean. Even the city beaches are not bad for a swim and coffee. However ask any British Cypriot and they probably grew up going to Lady’s Mile! Technically within the British army base, it does feel a bit industrial. But there are lots of cafes to make a home at, the sea is crystal clear and it’s great for kids as its shallow for ages. With our toddler in tow, our favourite is Captain’s Cabin, as there is a play park for all ages, large inflatable adventure playground in the sea, the water is very shallow. The restaurant food is good and very child friendly, and it tends to be filled with families. If thats not your bag, there are 6 other cafes to choose from. Another recent discovery was Kalymnos Fish Tavern on Governors beach which is to the east of the city near Zygi. Again, the view isn’t the best to the east of the beach, there is a Naval base in the distance which is pretty unsightly, but I liked the set up here. It felt private, small. The taverna is large, impressive, well manicured. There is a little coffee and ice cream stall on the cliff, and a kids playground. Then down some steps you come to a small secluded bay. The water is warm and shallow and the water is crystal clear. None of the beaches have particularly soft sand, but it was quiet and peaceful.
LIMASSOL WINE DISTRICT AND TROODOS
We adore the area around Limassol, and discover new places every time we go. Here is a list of some of our favourite areas:
- Lofou is one of the prettiest villages in Cyprus, filled with traditional buildings and brick. It really feels like going back in time, and even though it is well equipped with a few eateries and hotels, it actually doesn’t feel too touristy. We haven’t stayed at Apokryfo but would love to one day, it looks gorgeous and feels sympathetically decorated. Or do as we do and go for a drink by the pool side bar, gorgeous.
- Omodos might be touristy, but it’s a lovely pit stop on the way up to Troodos with a beautiful church, sweet shops, traditional buildings and lots of cafes. Nearby Vasa is v sleepy but has amazing vineyards.
- Trimiklini was where we would always stop on the drive to Platres, and in the summer the street is lined with stalls selling fresh cherries, watermelon, strawberries, jars of homemade glyko and anything else in season. The cafes are traditional, and for me it is filled with happy memories of my grandparents filling the car with fruit before the last drive up.
- Platres is a great place to stop in Troodos. A few tourist attractions, interesting shops and nearby waterfalls make it a real destination place. If you are lucky enough to be in Cyprus on 15th August (Virgin Marys day) then the streets here are shut and lined with food stalls, games and celebrations go on all day and night. There is lots of choice with where to eat, but we really loved Agios Dimitrios in the bottom party of Platres (Kato Platres). The food was authentic, fresh and the family really cared. Nearby Phini is where my grandfather is from, and is a small sleep village. But the view is great for a drive through.
- I’ve never been but I’ve only heard amazing things about Casale Panayiotis, which is further north towards Mt Olympus. Check it out if you want to stay in the heart of Troodos, it looks amazing.
- Agros is a new discovery for us. We went solely because there was a rose festival on when we last went and we knew we had to visit. It is on the Limassol-Nicosia boarders and is a stunning drive, especially if you are headed there from the wine region. Because of the festival we didn’t get a feel for the village, but it was beautiful, and there was a good choice of tavernas. If you happen to go in May when the festival is on, it is worth the detour. Lots of food and craft stalls, live music and dancing throughout the day. Also you get to go inside the distillery where rose water is made, which – for a food lover – is fascinating. Be prepared to come home laden with rose flavoured/ scented goods.
NICOSIA + SURROUND
It feels weird to write a Cyprus blog post and not talk about Nicosia. It is the very cosmopolitan capital, with lots of cool cafes and designer shops, and most importantly lots of history (it is also where you go if you want to visit the north part of the island). And despite having been many times, I am usually visiting relatives so I don’t have any specific recommendations. Soz. I’ll make more of an effort next time. I do have it on good authority that Aelia Wellness Retreat is a stunning place to stay, especially those who like a holistic base. Also if you are visiting/ driving to Nicosia consider a stop at Lythrodontas which is where my maternal grandparents are from (and we shot most of Taverna). It is a beautiful village, famous for its olives, and is surrounded by stunning scenery. There are some great tavernas, and keep an eye out for the gentleman selling his homemade triantaphyllo (rose) ice cream from a wooden cart in the square, almost every afternoon.
PAPHOS + SURROUND (inc Hotel recommendation)
I haven’t spent much time in Paphos but I have a couple of recommendations which I had to share. One being my favourite restaurant, and the other being ‘the best hotel on the island’ (this is what everyone told me when I said I was staying at Anassa, and I quickly realised why).
- Seven St Georges is probably my favourite restaurant in Cyprus. Big claim? Yes, I still have countless to try but as I write this it is my number one. Traditionally decorated, the staff are incredibly welcoming (and helpful with kids) and the best thing is you don’t get a menu. Meze is what you come for and be prepared to just sit down and for plate after plate of seasonal, local ingredients beautifully cooked, to turn up. I have never had such an interesting meze in Cyprus, while still being true to Cypriot methods and styles. And if that wasn’t enough, it is €17.50. WHAT. Crazy.
- I haven’t been to Ta Perix (in Paphos) but I have also heard great things, including game and wild produce. Def worth checking out.
So this year, we stayed in a hotel for the first time ever in Cyprus and it was truly unforgettable. First up I want to be totally honest and say this stay was mostly gifted. However, if you follow me on IG you can probably tell I dont accept a lot of gifted dinners or stays etc, because unless I can be sure (through peers or research) that the place will be good, why go? You’re in a tricky position of having to talk about it when you don’t want to. Anassa was a generous and easy decision. Every Cypriot I mentioned it to labelled it the ‘best hotel on the island’ and I would say that is most definitely true. It is outstanding. I am going to bullet point my thoughts so it is easier to read, who doesn’t love a list?
- It is BEAUTIFUL. Remote, breathtaking, it feels like a secret. The buildings are sprawling, the gardens are lush. It is much larger than I thought it would be, but you never feel crowded. The spa has won countless awards including being voted one of the best spas in the world by Conde Nast Traveller.
- Staff and service is impeccable. Arrival drinks are made with ingredients from the garden. Nothing was ever too much trouble – milk for the baby, a tour of the grounds, and when we left our car had been turned on for us so it was cooled down with air conditioning, as it had been very hot (and they had placed bottles of cooled water in the doors for us).
- The rooms are incredibly comfortable – beds you never want to get out of, a large bathroom which isn’t common in the Mediterranean, slippers and robes for the whole family. They left us all treats too, and even made Persephone sea themed biscuits.
- The kids club was a revelation. We’ve never used one before, but we met a gentleman there who only stayed in hotels where Scott Dunn had a kids club, as he said they were the best he had found. I have nothing to compare it too, but we put Persephone in for 2 half days and she LOVED it. The nursery nurses were all fully trained, and had so much energy, the room was immaculate and well equipped. We saw them take the kids swimming and it was so sweet. We totally understood what that guy meant afterwards.
- The food: Breakfast was incredible with in-house made Cypriot products including their own homemade cheese! Pete and I even got to learnt how this was done and spent the morning making halloumi and feta, amongst other things, which was truly unforgettable (the hotel can arrange different experiences and excursions for you). The ladies teaching us were brilliant and it is a day I’ll never forget. And as well as these, and all the classic, they also have lots of interesting health conscious choices too. One of the best buffets I have experienced.
- We visited out of season so not all the restaurants were open in the evening, and meant we dined in the fine dining restaurants mostly. The food is beautiful, and made with such care, but it did feel a little indulgent whilst dining with a child, and can also be a bit on the pricey side.
- Basiliko restaurant serves some of the best Asian food on the island, if not the best. And the Greek taverna style restaurant next to the chapel wasn’t open during our stay but looked great.
- The pools are perfect, and the sea is wonderful, remote and quiet. They even have a chest of beach toys for kids if you forgot to take your own.
- Most importantly we will be back, a very special hotel and place indeed.
As is the way for most places, the best beaches tend to be in the touristy areas which aren’t that near where we stay. However if you do want white sand and turquoise sea (who doesn’t?!) here is a list of some of my fave on the island.
- Konnos Bay and Cape Greco. Two of the prettiest bays on the island. Cape Greco is a cliff over looking stunning sea and popular with love birds taking romantic photos. Konnos bay is truly gorgeous, busy in the summer, worth visiting out of season.
- Fig Tree Bay, like the other beaches I am writing about, is very busy during the summer period, but is busy for a reason. It is big, wide, crystal clear water, soft white sand. You could be in the Caribbean. It is one of my favourites on the island, despite being busy and built up. It is less about partying and more geared up for families.
- Nissi Beach is eye wateringly busy. Potentially the busiest in Cyprus? And in July and August it is filled with young party dwellers, foam parties, watersports etc but they flock for a reason. Nissi is incredible, and before it become ‘Ayia Napa – party central’ it was were we would go as kids. The water is heaven, but like Fig Tree Bay, be prepared for a backdrop of high rise hotels.
- Paphos and the north western coast is a stunning stretch, and compared to the rest of the places listed, pretty unspoilt. I’m not overly fussed about Paphos itself, but head north and you will come across stunning, rugged bays. Lara Beach, where the turtles nest, around Latsi and as far as Pomos. Dont forget to include a trip to the Blue Lagoon and Baths of Aphrodite while you’re there. Truly breathtaking.
And thats it! If you’ve read this, and are visiting Cyprus soon, hopefully there is something in there for you. And if I’ve missed anything blindingly obvious drop me a line! I’ll try keep this post going and update it every time we visit… think of it as a work in progress. Until next time. Yassas.