Southern Cyprus Holidays
Southern Cyprus Holidays – The realm of Aphrodite
The southern portion of Cyprus, largely Greek Cypriot since a 1974 war divided the island, is an enduring favourite with Brits who make up the largest contingent of tourists – no surprise as Cyprus was a British colony from 1878 to 1960, with a lingering home-from-home feeling. Beach life, top-class archaeological sites, and ever-improving food and wine are major attractions, as is wildflower spotting – the spring flora is prodigious – and specialist activities such as scuba, hiking and mountain-biking. Sacred to the goddess Aphrodite in ancient times, southern Cyprus has successfully banked on this association to become a major wedding and honeymoon venue.
When to go
Southern Cyprus is at its best in late spring (mid–April to early June) or autumn (which extends well into November). Summer is generally too hot to be tolerable anywhere except in the sea, or well up in the Troödos mountains above the coastal resorts. Late winter is also enjoyable, with the countryside at its greenest (wildflower displays peak in March) and swimming just about feasible at noon, but many beachside resort hotels close from about New Year's to early April. Cultural events, especially concerts and music festivals, occur across the year, with a concentration in late spring or autumn.
The weather in Southern Cyprus
Southern Cyprus has a markedly eastern Mediterranean climate, where daytime summer temperatures can approach 40° and rarely fall much below 25°C by night. The far west is usually a bit cooler, thanks to sea breezes at Latchi and Paphos. Recent years have seen freakishly rainy winters, with the first storms arriving in October, and the last ones as late as May. It can snow at higher elevations in the Troödos Mountains, though it rarely lingers. www.cyprus-weather.org gives current reports from seven stations across the island.
Getting the best deal
Peak season for southern Cyprus has traditionally been late June to late October, but each tour operator seems to have its own rationale for assessing this, and autumn departures in particular can be more expensive than spring or early summer. But 2012 – and very likely 2013 – are not typical tourist years for economically fraught southern Cyprus, which is badly exposed to the Greek crisis. With arrival numbers down sharply from historic 2-million-plus annual figures, it’s likely to be a buyer’s market in the near future; some of our best current deals are highlighted below.
Airports and transport need to know
Southern Cyprus has two airports: Larnaca (Lárnaka in officialese; LCA) and Paphos (Páfos; PFO). Both are relatively new (completed 2009) and adequate to demand, though Paphos doesn’t have quite as many luggage belts as it should.
From Larnaca airport, taxis to the city centre cost about €12; city bus No 22 is much cheaper but only runs Mon-Sat, 8am-5pm, with early stoppage Wednesday and Saturday. To reach Limassol or Nicosia, use those towns’ dedicated, long-hours shuttle-bus services (www.airportshuttlebus.eu; €8, to Limassol; www.kapnosairportshuttle.com; €7, to Nicosia).
From Paphos airport, inexpensive (€1) urban bus number 612 heads through the resort area as far as the main waterside terminal in Káto Páfos almost hourly from 7am to midnight (much less Nov–April).
Returning home, be at the airport at least 75 minutes before your scheduled departure. There are a dozen or so eating and dining options at Larnaca (all pricey), rather fewer at Paphos. Car-hire parking areas lie a reasonable distance from the entrances.
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A selection of top resorts in southern Cyprus
For young, single Brits, Ayía Nápa in the far southeast ranks as the most famous resort in southern Cyprus, thanks to its (in)famous clubbing scene. But lately the place has been trying to appeal to families and couples, with impeccable, sugar-white beaches and cutting-edge accommodation right on the sand.
Larnaca, by contrast, has never been as popular, with hard-packed, brown-sand beaches and a big-town feel (which is a plus for compulsive shoppers or museum-goers). The short, Finikoúdes palm-tree promenade is much touted, but the seaside quarter of Skála has more charm.
Limassol (Lemesós in Greek) is frankly a big city with a 17-km-long resort strip tacked on just to the east, behind rather narrow beaches. The old town centre, however, is increasingly attractive given an ongoing renovation programme, and Limassol is really the best choice in southern Cyprus for a winter break.
Otherwise, Pissoúri bay some 30km west of Limassol, with top-quality lodging options at the beach and an intriguing village inland to explore, is probably a better summertime option.
Nicosia, the capital near the centre of the island, isn’t strictly speaking a resort – with torrid summers, and limited accommodation other than businessmen’s hotels – but it too could make an excellent wintertime city-break, with the best museums, events and dining in southern Cyprus.
Between Nicosia and Limassol rise the Troödhos Mountains, where your best bases are not the traditional, rather faded alpine ‘hill stations’ of Plátres and Troödos, but the foothill ‘wine villages’ (krassohoriá) with stone-built restoration inns and fine dining options.
Paphos (Páfos) in the far southwest has long been a favourite with older Brits, whose resident expat numbers in the area reach five figures. Coastal resort development stretches from Yeroskípou in the southeast up to Coral Bay in the northwest, while other facilities are scattered between the little harbour of Káto Páfos and the original, inland, settlement of Ktíma.
Last but not least, the Pólis–Latchí duo in the far northwest rejoices in the some of the most stunning scenery, and best beaches, of southern Cyprus. Market town Pólis itself is rather sleepy, with almost all tourist facilities 4km west at Latchí and its fishing port.