When most people envision a holiday in Cyprus, flopping on the beach or by the pool is generally the first (and last) thought. But, as I found out on my recent research trip, this Mediterranean gem has some wonderful culture, activities and scenery up its sleeve. There is so much to do and learn here and it's all on the proverbial doorstep (for us Brits, at least). Now, I love a fly and flop holiday as much as anyone but there are some secret adventures to Cyprus you don't want to miss.
My first stop in Cyprus was Limassol and if you ever find yourself here, a cooking class with Roddy Damalis at Piatakia is an absolute must. Food is a big part of the Cypriot culture and, having been in the food industry for years, Roddy now creates delicious traditional Cypriot dishes with a twist. The workshop is located at his restaurant - a modern yet homely place and as soon as you step in, you are hit with mouth-watering smells and when you leave, you'll be clutching a handful of recipes which are easy to recreate at home, and having tasted them there - you'll be eager to head home and try it for yourself!
The Troodos Mountains
When you hear Cyprus, your first thought is probably beach, which isn't wrong, there are some lovely beaches around but make sure you don't miss out on the mountains. The Troodos Mountains are a great place to visit all year round - in winter, head up for some great skiing (I know, who knew!) and during the rest of the year, head up for some spectacular views. There are plentiful hiking and cycling trails but also quaint little villages to drive through and stop off in, as well as the Byzantine monastery of Ayios Ioannis Lambadistis. The exact founding date of this monastery is unknown but there are paintings dating back to the 11th century, hence its UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site status.
Keeping with the history theme, be sure to make time to visit the mosaics in Paphos. Once homed in a Roman Villa dating back to the second century AD, these archaic mosaics (now located near the harbour) are a lovely culture fix for anyone with an iota of interest in history. The mosaics depict lots of ancient Roman stories and once you have soaked them all in, head to the harbour for a well-deserved ice-cream and refreshing drink.
Cyprus on Two Wheels
Cycling may seem terrifying in London (I personally prefer to have two feet on the ground at all times rather than risk a bike on those busy streets), but in Cyprus cycling is an altogether more leisurely affair. We headed north from Paphos to a town called Latsi and once there, enjoyed a gentle bike ride through the streets, down country lanes and along the promenade for more stunning views. And once you've worked up a hunger with all that activity, enjoy some food at one of the many tavernas on the promenade. Also in Latsi, make sure you take a boat trip around the coast. There are some wonderful views to see along the coastline but the highlight by far is the Blue Lagoon. With crystal clear turquoise water, don't forget your swimming costumes so you can jump off the boat and head for a swim in the surprisingly shallow water - and even swim to the shore for a quick sunbathe on the beach.
If you are flying back to the UK from Larnaca airport and have time, make a pit stop at Eco Physiscy and get all dolled up (in the correct gear provided of course) for some bee-keeping. Here you will learn all about the fascinating job these little guys do and back at the shop, you will be able to purchase some honey made there. Top tip, make sure you wear covered shoes and not sandals!
All in all, if it's a beach destination you're after, make sure Cyprus is on your list. If it's history - may I introduce you to Cyprus. And finally, if it's excursions galore you're looking for, don't forget Cyprus!