When I began planning my trip to Cyprus, I didn't have a good understanding of the island; few friends had been and I hadn't read any travel stories about the destination. Naturally, some asked why I was going; well, I knew Cyprus was a popular vacation spot for Europeans, so something good had to be there, and I wanted to stop for a week somewhere that wasn't far from Greece, my next destination. So I landed on Cyprus.
My ultimate impressions? I really enjoyed my week in Cyprus and highly recommend it as a beach destination. There are also a few noteworthy cities. The people are as warm as the summer weather, in fact, I found them to be much friendlier than the Greeks. Despite sharing a common language, the Cypriots pride themselves on a stronger work ethic and general friendliness.
I chose to split my time between two main vacation spots: Limassol and Ayia Napa. Here's what you should do during your time in Limassol (and stay tuned for part two about Ayia Napa):
What to Do:
Take a stroll around the charming old town as well as the marina – built, no doubt, for the Russian wealthy class with their new yachts. Limassol is an upscale, picturesque town, which means you thankfully won't find the college party crowd here; visitors are mostly young adults, families, and older travelers. It's definitely a quieter scene than that of Ayia Napa and Protaras.
One of the main attractions is the Lemesos (Limassol) Medieval Castle, which sits in the old town and is said to be the place where Richard the Lionheart married Berengaria of Navarre, crowning her Queen of England in 1191. Surrounding the castle is a lovely pedestrian area to enjoy a stroll, have a meal, or grab a drink at one of the bars or cafes.
Where to Eat:
We had a fantastic, and very affordable, meal at Karatello. The seabream, a white fish, was just nine euros! I couldn't believe fresh fish was so cheap so I asked, "Do you mean nine euros per kilo?" (They often charge per kilo in Greece.) But no, it was in fact the whole fish. While Karatello is in a tourist area, it was a great pick for a very tasty dinner.
Another excellent place for dinner is Puesta. Situated right along the beach side walk, the lovely fish taverna was just a 10 minute walk from our hotel. Puesta offers a wide selection of fish, meat, and pastas, along with more oyster types than I have seen anywhere in the Mediterranean. If you want Maine lobster, they have that here, too! Stick around after dinner as it's a great spot for drinks as well.
Where to Stay:
We stayed at the Amathus Beach Hotel Limassol, which was truly a 5-star property – and well worth the splurge. While it's an ideal spot for families (there are plenty of kid-friendly activities – one evening there was a magic show – and there's a dedicated pool for the young ones), any traveler can be very comfortable here. The rooms are spacious, nicely appointed, and include Bulgari bath products (a big bonus). The view from our room was stunning – looking out across palm trees, manicured lawns, the beach, and best of all, the sea. End your day of sightseeing with some wine or champagne on your balcony at sunset.
Take a dip in either of the two outdoor pools (or the indoor lap pool). While the beach is much smaller than the ones you'll find in Ayia Napa, and the sand is dark gray, I was perfectly happy spending days both on the lawn and seaside. The hotel also has a gorgeously designed spa – it's definitely worth arranging a treatment here. To top it all off, the hotel's various restaurants were excellent – the Limanaki Fish Tavern was my favorite. If you're lucky (like we were one night) you'll get a table right in front of the beach.
Overall: If you're short on time and conflicted about which city to visit in Cyprus, I would choose Limassol. And while I didn't have time to visit, I've heard that Paphos, which sits west of Limassol, is a lovely town with and rich history. Or, you could travel north to the Turkish "occupied" part of the island. The region is less developed, which could make for quite an interesting trip.