The Cypriot pace of life is as relaxed as a Buddha on a beach – pretty darn chilled. Situated in the sun-drenched Mediterranean Sea, Cyprus’ laidback lifestyle is quite the contrast to the island’s popular resorts of Ayia Napa, Larnaca and Paphos, where pot-bellied, sunburned Brits gather in force.
Don’t worry; a holiday in Cyprus doesn’t mean you have to hang out with the cast of Benidorm. Living like a local doesn’t mean learning the language (too much) or dressing in lace, but enjoying Aphrodite’s Island’s hidden gems and the glorious Cyprus weather, without the raucous riffraff ruining it for everyone.
My Destination has come up with a travel guide to Cyprus’ best bits, experienced like a local.
Where to go in Cyprus:
Nature trails crisscross the island more than the Spaghetti Junction, providing an endless supply of walks. Exploring the quiet town of Agros in the Troodos Mountains is a great way to see Cyprus through its flora and fauna, historical and cultural sights and spectacular views.
A communal meeting point for any Cypriot, day or night, is a local taverna (year round coffee houses). Less formal than a restaurant, these watering holes are shabby chic, donning rickety plastic chairs and lino tablecloths, where locals gather to discuss the day’s events, generating an authentic atmosphere that’s definitely worth a visit. Where to go can be tricky, as the best tavernas are the hardest to find. A great one to try is Pagratios Taverna in Milious, just south of Polis. Run by the Neophytos family, its superb grub and friendly atmosphere is a smash with the locals.
What to do in Cyprus:
Avoiding the tourist traps can be tricky, unless you know what to do. Take in a bit of history at the secret Venetian bridges dotted around Paphos or go wreck diving in Zebonia,
Horse riding in Cyprus may seem like a holidaymaker hotspot, but many locals enjoy admiring the sweeping landscapes atop a mountain and mare before cooling off at a little known sandy beach beside the Anassa hotel (by Aphrodite’s bath). To see turtles lay their eggs, Lara bay, above Paphos, provides a quiet, tourist-free setting.
Venturing inland, take a four-wheeled drive off the beaten track into the Pomos forest and onto Stavros tis Poska, where you’ll find the best halloumi and lounza sandwiches to munch on whilst looking out at the Moufflon wild sheep in the distance.
What to eat in Cyprus:
As you will see at a local food market, or ‘agora’, fruit and vegetables are available in abundance – and enormity. The supersized groceries provide beautifully fresh ingredients, a vital ingredient in Cypriot cooking.
Homegrown olive oil is another fundamental component and one that you can help produce yourself by picking from the many trees and taking it to the pressing factory in Goudi.
If Cypriot food is a foreign concept to you, the best thing to do is to experience it is with a meze. A mixture of the restaurant’s local delicacies; serving anything from hummus, Souvlakia (cubes of meat, charcoaled on a grill), Falafel (a chickpea patty), Halloumi (also known as ‘squeaky cheese’) to Tzatziki (a mint, lemon and yoghurt dip), a meze for three usually more than satisfies a party of four.
With the coast mere hours away, any menu has a wealth of fresh seafood available. Calamari (deep fried octopus rings) is a particularly popular dish and served with a drizzle of lemon or dunked in garlic mayonnaise.
Follow this how-to guide and you’ll be a livin’ la vida local in no time!