more than a beach holiday: a local’s guide to Cyprus during shoulder season

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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)

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Sea Caves, Ayia Napa
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

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Grecian Park Hotel, Protaras [5*]
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Grecian Park Hotel, Protaras [5*]
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Amphora Hotel & Suites, Paphos [4*]
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 hotelsFor 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

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Ancient Kourion archaeological site, Limassol
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The amphitheatre of Ancient Kourion archaeological site, Limassol
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The amphitheatre of Ancient Kourion archaeological site, Limassol
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 

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Hiking near the Arminou Dam, Paphos
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The Akamas peninsula, composed by a dramatic mountain range and crystal clear waters
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.

 

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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

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Traditional coffee shop at the square of Vouni village (population: 136 people)
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Lofou village (population: 100 people)
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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?

| More Cyprus posts here and here.

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7 thoughts on “more than a beach holiday: a local’s guide to Cyprus during shoulder season”

  1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, thank you so much 🙂 I hope you do visit soon, it is worth it ! And when you do, let me know if you need any more tips and/or advice!

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  2. It’s a REAL shame that tourists found Cyprus ..
    We lived in Limassol in the early 70’s for several years, when there was only one (business) hotel in the town. It was a wonderful place, such an easy, lazy, layed-back lifestyle. Our youngest daughter was born there.
    It was such a beautiful island, even after it got divided; we did experienced several hairy times before the split came though. (e.g. machine gun on top of the house shooting at the police station)
    When the citrus orchards were in bloom, I’d just totally disappear in that wonderful scent. What a wonderful time of the year that is.
    A number of years ago we returned to the southern Greek part with the kids and we just couldn’t believe what we saw .. it’s become a BENIDORM all along the coastline. Tourism has completely ruined that part of the island. We just had to get away from the masses so spent much of our time in the Troodos hills and surrounding villages.
    Going to Limassol, it took an hour to find the bungalow we lived in on Sofokleous Street. It was then the very last house outside Limassol looking over the fields to Berengaria village… now it’s in the MIDDLE of the town.
    Two years ago we decided to go to the northern Turkish part of the island and found to our relief that there it had changed very little over all the years. It was like going back in time. Although there are tourists, they have not taken over that part of the island. Kyrenia has stayed very much the same. (except for host’s of speed camera’s enhancing the country’s income)
    It’s a place we have on our “return to again” list.

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    1. Hello! First of all, thank you for visiting terrific wanders and for your comment.

      I am sorry for all the bad experiences you must have gone through during the mid-70s, it was a very difficult time, to say the least, for the island. I had not been born yet, but have listened to countless heart-breaking stories from my family and people who experienced the war and can still see how the aftermath is affecting everyone, which is very very sad. Cyprus is my homeland, I love it so much and I hope it keeps prospering because the island surely deserves it.

      I must say, the way you describe the country is beautiful and I wish I could have also experienced it back then even for a minute (I have heard lovely stories from my parents and grandparents who describe a more “romantic” time in Cyprus back in the day, which does sound lovely). But I believe that even today, Cyprus is one of the most laid back and peaceful countries, offering a pretty awesome holiday to its visitors. Yes, it became busier over the years, but so has most of Europe and the world. I am sure London or Vienna or New York (or Tenerife or Crete or Santorini or every Croatian island – to compare it to something more similar) had a different and more laid-back vibe back in the 70s, but they are still considered amazing places to visit in 2018 and would not use the word “ruined” to describe the effect of millions of visitors in them. Yes, tourism and development have taken away some of Cyprus’ “innocence”, but this is not synonymous and far from the word “ruined” when referring to the south of Cyprus, which is where I come from. In fact tourism, as the number 1 source of income for the island, offers a huge financial aid to Cyprus and helps a great portion of Cypriots make a living, including my mom who works at a hotel in Larnaca 🙂 And what I find great about the island is that it can accommodate everyone; whether it’s someone like yourself who prefers (from what I gather 🙂 ) a peaceful holiday, or someone who is after luxury, great hotels and a good night out (all possible thanx to tourism’s contribution to Cyprus’ economic growth after the war).

      I can also see that famous beaches along the coastline, like Fig Tree bay or Nissi Beach, are now packed with people in July and August, but if peace and relaxation is what you are after then you can visit those exact same places in May or September and I guarantee you will find them a lot more quiet 🙂 Not to mention that there are “less known” places along the coastline that you can enjoy yourselves at without the noise of other visitors. And, of course, you can always go to Troodos and its super pretty surrounding villages (which you already have), for a super laid back atmosphere (even villages that are not in Troodos are great. My dad comes from Agios Theodoros, which is a super cute village in Larnaca district, and if you visit it in spring you will for sure smell the citrus orchards you were referring to!).

      In conclusion, It is unrealistic, in my opinion, to expect any single destination (especially one blessed with year-round sun and beautiful beaches) to stay completely under the radar and not be discovered by tourists, more and more every year. So this is why countries like Cyprus now promote agro tourism etc, to accommodate visitors who prefer a more tranquil time in the island!

      P.S: I haven’t visited the north of the island yet, because for me it’s actually deeply hurtful to have to show a passport to travel within my own country (which is the reason that myself and many Cypriots won’t mention Cyprus as having a “Greek” and “Turkish” part, we just mention Cyprus as one), but I absolutely want to. I have heard that Kyrenia is gorgeous, I am really looking forward to visit it one day and I am glad you enjoyed yourself there 🙂

      I hope you have an ever better time next time you visit Cyprus, looking forward to hosting you again!

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      1. Tourist have got a lot to answer for for what they have done to MANY beautiful places all over the world .. not just Cyprus
        It is a shame that you were too young to know Cyprus the way it was .. it was totally different to how it now is, you’d have loved it. Even on a weekend morning we could go with the children via a dirt track go Ladies Mile beach near Akrotiri and there was no-one to see for kilometers .. all you would hear was the lapping of tiny morning waves and the bleating of goats behind you the other side of the sand dunes. We’d go to villages such as Kato and Pano Platres or Prodromos and we would be the only non-Cypriots .. Go walking in the Troodos forests and we’d see no-one for hours. Visit monestries and ruins and we’d be the only ones there. Larnaca was really the only place with a few tourists and Paphos was still a quaint fishers village with not a single hotel. Everyone was so friendly and most people didn’t see much difference between Greek or Turk .. just a few Nikos Samson followers making all the troubles. Such a shame to divide such a beautiful island..

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  3. I also see how tourism has negatively affected many destinations, with many places now being overcrowded and a lot of a country’s natural beauty often being affected by the vast development to accommodate the constant rise in this industry. However, as a part-time traveler (aka tourist) myself for a good part of the year, I will still defend the sport 🙂 I believe that had I not been a tourist I would not be the person I am today; the world is there for us to see. Of course we MUST respect every place we visit, which is not the case for a vast amount of tourists that travel to destinations particularly known for partying, like Cyprus. Nevertheless, I find something beautiful in our need to travel, to see, to explore, and I am glad that this is growing! People don’t just stay in their little bubble anymore!

    Wow, you are painting such a beautiful picture of Cyprus 🙂 I have been to all the places you are referring to and I can only imagine how it was back in the day (I love Lady’s Mile by the way). And I am so happy you got to experience a peaceful coexistence of people in Cyprus, I hope a similar picture is somewhat still possible.

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