Chasing the sun in Cyprus

by Jessica Zen
Stripes Europe

The island country of Cyprus, located in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, is jam-packed with ancient history, crystal clear waters, fresh local food and glorious mountain ranges. If that hasn’t already peaked your interest, it gets better. Cyprus has mild, mostly sunny winters, with temperatures along the coast averaging around 55 degrees in February. Bust out the shorts and get ready to actually see the sun this winter during your hiatus to Cyprus.

History buffs shouldn’t miss the opportunity to check out the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Tombs of the Kings, a necropolis just outside of Paphos. Though there were no kings buried here, there are underground tombs dating back to the fourth century BC and hold high up officials. Some tombs feature Doric columns and frescoed walls, but all treasures that were buried here have since been looted. If being surrounded by ancient tombs just wasn’t enough, carry on to the Kato Paphos Archaeological Park. This area, once a booming Greek and Roman city, dates back to prehistoric times through the Middle Ages. Five Roman villas have been unearthed and include House of Dionysos, the House of Aion, the House of Theseus, the House of Orpheus and the House of the Four Seasons. Perhaps most important in these houses were the preserved mosaic floors.

If it’s an amazing hike you’re after, head to the Cape Greko nature trails. This national forest park has a network of trails leading past pine and juniper trees but also overlooks the sparkling blue waters from cliffs. For any easy hike lasting 45 minutes, check out the circular Agioi Anargyroi trail that starts at the Church. Views of Konnos Bay are particularly impressive, as well as the bridge on the trails that passes the ruins of Aphrodite’s temple.

Exploring ancient ruins and hiking can work up a strong appetite. The local gastronomy has rich influences from the Middle East, Turkey and Greece and certainly doesn’t lack amazing flavors. Don’t miss out on trying halloumi, a mild and salty cheese that has a bit of a rubbery texture. Strange as it sounds, it’s absolutely delicious grilled or fried. For Cypriot-style gyros, grab souvlaki, which are pitas filled with charcoal-grilled meats and fresh salad (onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.). The pitas here are thinner and larger than the Greek versions you may be used to. For a sweet treat, try loukoumades, bite-sized donut-like pastry puffs that are deep fried and soaked with honey or syrup and sometimes covered with cinnamon or chopped nuts.  

After sitting inside for what seems like forever, take a break from the gloomy weather and get a healthy dose of vitamin D in Cyprus. The history, natural beauty and fantastic foods will leave you satisfied, at least until you can visit again!  

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