5+1 ways to enjoy Cyprus in the winter – a local’s guide

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And I use the term “winter” loosely, especially when comparing it to the winters of most other European countries. In fact, before I continue any further let me drop some numbers regarding February’s weather in my home country: 
  • Average number of sunshine hours in Larnaca: 209h (compared to 67h in Copenhagen, 74h in Berlin, 78h in London, 168h in Athens and 186h in Santa Cruz-Tenerife)
  • Average number of rainy days in Larnaca(compared to 7 in Santa Cruz-Tenerife, 8 in Athens, 9 in Berlin,  10 in London and 11 in Copenhagen).
  • Average daytime temperature in Larnaca: 17°C (compared to 3°C in Copenhagen, 5°C in Berlin, 9°C in London, 14°C in Athens and 21°C in Santa Cruz-Tenerife. Ok, Tenerife, you won here).

Need I write more? 

Now, if you are heading over to Cyprus for a wee winter getaway (omg how Scottish am I?! → clarification: “wee” in Scottish slang means “small”, not to be confused with the synonym for “pee”) and to escape the frozen horror that was winter 2017/2018, then…

 

here are 5+1 ways to enjoy the island, even in its “coldest” of days:

 

1. Soak up the winter sun by the beach

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Ok, let’s not get carried away here; it may be Cyprus, but it is still winter. Meaning, when I say “beach” I don’t really refer to swimming (having said that, February sea temperature in Larnaca is around 16°C, which matches the sea temperature of Brighton in August, so to my friends coming from a colder climate I say swim away!). However, what I really want to focus on is that not all ways to enjoy the sun and the beach in Cyprus involve splashing around in the waves. In fact, strolling on the waterfront promenade in Larnaca or Limassol on a sunny winter day is – trust me – pretty wonderful. Not only is the sea no longer filled with people (just the occasional chap whom I mention a couple of lines above), which guarantees absolute serenity, but, also, soaking up the warm sunshine in the middle of winter has to be one of the most soothing feelings in the world. I recommend it!

 

2. Enjoy a good night out 

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The experience of going out in Cyprus during the winter is certainly miles away from the over-the-top summer party extravaganza. In fact, the gradual drop in temperature in the island says “au revoir” to the beach clubs, bars and huge number of tourists, and offers a refined (and certainly less sweaty) nightlife experience. Winter venues include, amongst others, award-winning cocktail bars nestled in renovated old buildings, cool wine bars that offer a pretty chilled atmosphere and modern and sleek clubs in which you can dance until the early morning.

 

3. Eat your heart out

 

Cypriot cuisine is truly splendid, and I’m not just saying this because I’m a native. One of the joys of this season is that you can literally stuff your face without worrying that you will be in a swimsuit in some beach in Ayia Napa the next day. And the fact that it is winter means that you can even indulge in a bit of heavier food, which you may not really go for if you visit the island during its hot summer months. So enjoy all the sea bass and calamari you want in July (although seafood restaurants in the island are packed with customers – and cats – all year round), but come winter all the stews and the roasts and the soups and the meats are the obvious options to satisfy one’s appetite. Whether we are talking about ofto kleftiko (roast lamb dish  translates to “the stolen meat”, see below for name origin explanation), afelia (pork cooked in dry red wine with crushed coriander seeds), sieftalies (charcoal grilled meatballs made of pork mince, onion and parsley, wrapped in caul fat), stifado (beef and onion stew) or avgolemono (egg, lemon and rice soup), make sure you enjoy at least a few of the island’s hearty delicacies. Why am I starving all of a sudden?
Fun fact: The name of the Greek dish “kleftiko” originates from a few centuries back when kleftes (the Greek word for thieves or bandits), not having flocks of their own, would steal lambs or goats and slowly cook the meat in a sealed underground pit to avoid the smoke being seen and giving away their hiding place.

 

4. Visit the mountainsIMG_20171231_132824 mmm

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Whether it’s for a day trip or a weekend roadtrip, driving up Troodos’ mountain range (which accommodates Cyprus’ highest peak, mount Olympus) is very popular during the winter and a fantastic way to enjoy the island like a local (most tourists tend to stick to the coast)! At Troodos you can absorb the surrounding scenery, inhale the fresh, earthy smell of pine trees and experience the tradition, hospitality and picture-perfect beauty of the country’s tiniest (and very instagrammable) villages scattered  across the region. Do make an effort to visit the UNESCO Byzantine churches, some standing front and centre in the heart of villages (such as the Timios Stavros” / “Holy Cross” monastery in Omodos village, establishment year unknown), whilst others hiding in remote locations and only found if you know where to look for them (such as the church of “Agios Nikolaos tis Stegis” / “St. Nicholas of the Roof” in Solea village, 11th century)

 

5. Ski (provided there is adequate amount of snow)

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I’m not gonna lie, this one depends on each year’s weather conditions. Some winters it doesn’t really snow at all, some winters it snows enough to cover the mountains with a thin white layer that lasts long enough to barely allow for a few pretty snowy snaps to happen, and some winters it snows enough for Cyprus’ ski centre on Mount Olympus to open up, hurrah (don’t know why I am hurraying, I absolutely suck at skiing)! Once you are done skiing, warm up by the fireplace at a nearby café or hotel (or by the beach since Limassol is less than 1h away), tuck into some comfort food at a local tavern (for instructions on how to operate scroll up and read title of point no.2) and don’t forget to pack your camera because the views are pretty awesome. And if you are someone like me who doesn’t really care about skiing, you can just enjoy the ambiance of the snowy mountains and build a snowman (and no, I’m not too old to build a snowman at 28 years old).

 

6. Enjoy the island, no matter the weather

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vill pint
If living in Scotland for the past 5 years has taught me anything (besides the fact that there are probably more castles than people in the country) is to not let non-ideal weather stop you from enjoying all that a place has to offer. Therefore, if you come across a grey or rainy day in Cyprus (it is winter, after all), please don’t panic (and act like my family who describe a grey day – even if it’s completely dry – as “bad weather”). Chances are that with a bit of luck clouds will clear soon and you will go back to soaking up the sun. Now if you do encounter a rain shower in Cyprus, find shelter asap. I repeat, find shelter asap! In contrast to the most common “type” of rain experienced in the UK (aka drizzle), rain in Cyprus means that for a few minutes the sky splits open, enormous amount of the thickest rain drops you’ve ever seen pour down and no umbrella can save you. However, even rainy days have their perks, such as beautiful rainbows and the smell of rain (also known as “petrichor” → see below for explanation). Be careful of the paddles. 
Fun fact: The earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil is also known as “petrichor” and comes from the Greek word for rock/stone “petra” (πέτρα) and “ichor” (ιχώρ), which, according to Greek mythology, was the fluid that would flow in the veins of gods and immortals. 

 

Have you ever been to Cyprus?

What is your favourite season to visit the country?

| More Cyprus posts here and here.

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