Besides being my homeland, Cyprus is one of the most beautiful and popular holiday spots in Europe. Now, when hearing the island’s name, most people envision a beach, a pool, and a cocktail, but, trust me when I say that this Mediterranean gem offers a lot more than (gorgeous) beaches, that you don’t want to miss: from vast archaeological sites to beautiful hiking trails, and from charming, cobblestone-street villages to endless vineyards.
And what is the best season to enjoy all of Cyprus?
Shoulder season !!! (April-May & September-October)
Here is why:
1. It’s still hot (but you can, at least, breathe)
Not only does the island soak up more than 11 hours of bright sunshine daily, but weather is perfect as well, with the average coastal daytime temperature between 22°C and 32°C. Sea water is 18°C to 27°C, which is ideal for swimming (unless you are a Cypriot, therefore water is cold for you even in June).
Tip: If you visit the island in April or October, keep in mind that you may encounter the occasional rain shower, after which the sun is out again and you can go about your day. Also, in contrast to places like the UK, temperatures drop considerably at nighttime (to, on average, 13°C to 21°C on the coast), which means that packing some warmer clothes for the evening is a good idea.
2. You avoid the crowds (but islandlife’s still buzzing)
There’s nothing worse than arriving to the beach on a baking hot summer day, only to spend the next half an hour pacing up and down looking for space whilst your feet are sinking in the flaming sand. Shoulder season takes care of that as the island is considerably less busy, which is perfect if you are after a bit of peace, and the chance to enjoy Cyprus “all to yourself”. At the same time, restaurants, clubs, and bars are still very much open, so you still have plenty of options for food and entertainment.
Tip: It goes without saying that early April and late October are going to be the quietest as far as shoulder season goes, so if you do like a serious buzz, active nightlife (talking to you, Ayia Napa go-ers), and being surrounded by a good amount of people, then it might be better to avoid that period.
3. You save up on cash
Naturally, booking a flight/hotel to/in Cyprus, or any other sun-drenched destination (or Edinburgh, because, Fringe), for August is going to cost you a lot more than booking it for May! Accommodation prices are up to 30% cheaper during shoulder season, and you can stumble upon good deals even for high-end hotels. For a week in May, a room for two in a 4* to 5* hotel on the coast (+breakfast included) will cost you on average £70 – £80 pp/pn, whereas a 3* hotel room £30 pp/pn. Cheaper alternatives include renting villas/apartments for larger groups of people, and such options (including a private pool) can cost between £17 and £20 pp/pn (pp/pn=per person/per night).
4. There’s (still) a lot of things to do
Another perk is that you can do more activities than just getting tanned. As hiking or sightseeing (or even sunbathing) under the BLAZING sun is
nearly impossible (July 2017 reached a scorching 44°C), shoulder season is the smartest option for exploring Cyprus, especially for visitors used to colder climates (where my Brits at?!). Here is how you can spend your time (besides going to the beach).
• Dig into the island’s ancient Greek past
Cyprus is old. Like, really old. The Greeks were the first to colonise it around 1400 BC, and the island’s Hellenisation (=spread of ancient Greek culture) was completed after its capture by Alexander the Great in 333 BC. Today, many UNESCO World Heritage archaeological Sites stand all over the country, but the most spectacular (and my absolute fave) is the ancient city of Kourion. Built on hills overlooking the Mediterranean sea (charge yo camera coz VIEWS), the site is immaculately preserved and hosts a magnificent amphitheatre, a temple dedicated to god Apollo, house complexes with exquisite mosaics, bath complexes, a stadium, and more.
Other must-visit sites include the ancient city of Amathus, one of Cyprus’ 4 original kingdoms, in which (fun fact alert), the world’s largest stone vase was found (now at the Louvre), and the superb Paphos Archaeological Park, hosting remains of the ancient Greek/Roman city. There you can see the Tombs of the Kings, a grand necropolis in a desertlike landscape on the coast, and mesmerising mosaics that depict Greek myths and decorate villas such as the House of Dionysus (god of vino ♥).
• Hike and bike
The country’s best hiking and cycling trails are on the Troodos Mountains, on Limassol’s wine routes, and on the Akamas Peninsula. The countryside is unspoilt, the air is crisp, and the scenery is truly beautiful, composed by rugged mountains, pine forests, endless vineyards, and, at Akamas, dramatic cliffs towering over Cyprus’ most turquoise seawater. Amongst the most famous hiking trails is the Caledonia waterfalls trail on Troodos, which, (fun fact alert) was named by Scottish visitors (♥) that found a resemblance between the area and their native land (Caledonia is Scotland in Latin). The most beautiful walk on the Akama Peninsula is the coastal hike starting from the Baths of Aphrodite (a cavern with a natural pool in which the Cypriot goddess of love was believed to bathe in) and continuing 6km of breathtaking sea and mountain views to Fontana Amoroza (Fountain of Love), a natural spring and a stunning bay where, according to legend, Aphrodite used to hide with her lovers.
Cycling in Cyprus has really taken off during the past few years, due to the island’s ideal weather and beautiful views. In case you don’t want to take your bicycle with you, companies like Bikin’Cyprus and Cycle-in-Cyprus offer road and mountain bikes for rent, and organise cycling tours in wine routes (through traditional wine-making villages), coastal routes (with swimming stopovers), mountain routes (climbing up peaks like the Stavrovouni mountain), and city routes (sightseeing by cycling through Nicosia), as well as combinations of cycling adventures with accommodation in 5* hotels.
Tip: If you are up for such activities, then opt to visit the island during spring, as September/October
may carry a portion of the summer’s heat and humidity. In spring weather is cooler, not to mention that nature comes alive; landscapes are a luxuriant green, wild endemic flowers blossom, migratory birds fill the sky, and the air smells like lemon and orange blossoms.
• Stroll (and drink your way) through scenic villages
Villages in Cyprus are a true gem. They are steeped in tradition, preserve the rustic character of the island, and ooze charm, kindness, not to mention flavour (if you want to taste the wonder of authentic Cypriot cuisine, then step away from the restaurants across the cities’ promenades, and order a plate of afelia or kleftiko at a village tavern). Although it’s hard to choose, some of my favourites are Omodos (~300 people, famous for its “arkatena” bread rings), Lofou (~100 people, stay at “Apokryfo” if you get the chance), and Lefkara (~1000 people, famous for its lace handicrafts, and fun fact alert → in 1481 Leonardo Da Vinci allegedly visited the village and purchased a lace cloth for the main altar or Milan’s Duomo).
Tip: If you are in the Limassol area, then combine your visit to its “wine villages” (as they are called) with a wine tasting at the local wineries. Tsiakkas winery is one of the island’s most famous, and combines quality wine with killer views of its vineyards oozing over the surrounding mountain.
Have you ever been to Cyprus?
What is your favourite season visit the country?