Winter Cyprus. Practical information
Cyprus is an island in the Mediterranean Sea, mostly known as a summer holiday destination. In summer it is very noisy and crowded. In the off season the island lives its quiet rhythm in the shade of ripening citrus fruits and the capital, divided by a wall for 40 years. Cyprus is also a very good place for a winter trip . When there is frost and snow at home, the weather is usually sunny and the temperature is approaching 20 degrees Celsius. The oranges are ripening on the trees, the beer gardens are easy to find and prices are much lower than in season. For those who miss the sun in winter, and who want to see all the most interesting and valuable things on the island, without the crowds and noise, I recommend a visit to the island in January or February . A summer trip is mostly a beach vacation . But in this article you will find recommendations on what you can see in the three main cities of Cyprus – Larnaca, Limassol and Nicosia – during the winter. It is worth remembering that the island of Cyprus is not the same as the country of Cyprus . After the Turkish invasion in 1974, the island is officially divided between the independent south (culturally linked to Greece) and the Turkish north, recognized only by Turkey as an independent state. Although unification talks began in 2004, before Cyprus joined the European Union, they have progressed very slowly, and the border between the zones of Cyprus is still controlled by the UN. The vast majority of tourists visit an independent Cyprus, so let’s start there.
Kition or Larnaca
Kition or Larnaca
Larnaca is one of the oldest cities in Cyprus . It was founded around 1600 BC and appears in many sources under different names. As Kittim , it is mentioned in the Bible . In the Phoenician period it became an important trading center. In those days it existed under the name of Kition. In 333 BC the philosopher Zeno was born here. In Larnaca there are several places where we will see ancient ruins . One of them is the Temple of Aphrodite. Legend has it that the first Christian to reach the island was St. Lazarus . He is the patron saint of Larnaca. He is also worshipped in the city’s oldest church, Agios Lazaros. The first temple was built at the turn of the 9th and 10th centuries. Its present appearance dates back to the 17th century, when it was completely restored. In the nineteenth century attached a bell tower . It’s not the only interesting place of worship in Larnaca . There is an interesting church of Panagia Chrysopolitissa or Agia Feneromeni, which is underground. There are also two mosques, a remnant of the Turks who lived here until the 1970s: Jami Kebir and Hala Sultan Tekke.
Port of Limassol
The international nomenclature has adopted the Turkish name of the city – Limassol – ironically given the political tensions. This name is even used in official tourist brochures. The Greek version of the name, Lemesos, is not often used. It is the largest seaport of the island. During the Iron Curtain days, the city was known as a place of transmission of information and a meeting place for spies of all nationalities.
Port of Limassol
The history of Cyprus is inseparable from the two peoples that inhabited the island: the Greeks and the Turks. Their relations were relatively good until the island came under British rule. It was then that the old Roman principle of “divide and rule” was realized. Relations between the inhabitants deteriorated considerably. The climax came in 1974. After that, the Turkish army disembarked in Cyprus (in the region of Karaoglanoglu) and gradually occupied new areas, annexing nearly 40% of the island. The civilian population was in a worse situation, since mass resettlement began in 1963. The Turks were expelled from the south. The Greeks, in turn, fled from the north. The refugees occupied the areas abandoned by the other refugees. Thus, the division was fixed. So, in the southern cities, there was a Turkish quarter, with mosques and low houses, often with terraces, which served as workshops.
Port of Limassol
The old Turkish quarter of Limassol was centered around the bazaar. It is now a square filled with gardens and cafes. Streets to the east of the bazaar are lined with charming, low buildings with modernist elements. In some places, traces of a British presence can be seen in the uninteresting modernist concrete blocks of outbuildings or hotels. Nevertheless, we can find here some interesting churches, such as Ayia Napa or the charming Agios Andronikos. The castle of Limassol remembers Byzantine times. According to archaeological research, there was an early Christian temple on the site . There are also traces of the location of the first city cathedral. The first castle was built by Guy de Lusignan in 1193. Its present form goes back to the 14th century. Now within its walls is the Cyprus Museum of the Middle Ages, which will interest not only lovers of that era, but also numismatists, ceramicists and lovers of military (especially Ottoman). For the wine lovers of Limassol we recommend a visit to the nearby vineyards. This town is considered the capital of this noble drink in Cyprus . A visit to the city’s gardens and archaeological museum nearby is also recommended.
Nicosia: life in a divided city
Nicosia: life in a divided city
Life in a divided city must have some inhuman dimension, something incomprehensible. The inhabitants of Berlin know this. But Nicosia was divided into two zones by a wall longer than the wall that divided the German city. Since 1974, the state and financial capital of Cyprus (it’s the 5th richest city in the world per capita due to its huge financial sector) has been divided by a border patrolled by the UN. Nicosia, as should be the capital, is a fairly prosperous and constantly developing mini metropolis. Its climate is primarily felt in the southern part of the city. Shiny modern office buildings are being built here. There is also a big transport center with buses to different parts of the island. Poverty is more prevalent on the Turkish side. Traces of the first settlers can be traced back to 3900 BC. The city, especially the city walls with their eleven bastions, owes its present appearance to Venetian defence thinking. Inside is an unusual Old Town with a tangle of narrow streets and many monuments. Among them is one of the oldest churches in Nicosia, the Panagia Feneromeni .
Nicosia: life in a divided city
On the Greek side of the city you will also find the remains of an aqueduct . Tourists who like visiting museums should recommend a visit to the National Museum of Cyprus, which is located just steps away from the Attila line (or green line) and the border crossing called Ledra Palace. For the crossing “to the other side” you can use one of the two border crossings: Ledra Palace or Ledra Street. It is not a pleasant experience, especially if you choose the first one. In order to reach the Turkish Cypriot border crossing point, you have to walk across a nearly 500 meter long neutral strip. It is filled with barbed wire fences. Photo bans are everywhere. At the border itself a sign “Turkish Cyprus Republic Forever” meets newcomers. Border control is quite standard: checking of documents, visa application. It should be done on a separate sheet – putting a stamp in your passport can mean a lot of problems when you return . A place worth visiting in the Turkish part of Nicosia is Mevlevi Tekke . It is now a branch of the Ethnographic Museum. It used to be an order and a temple of whirling dervishes. The current Selimiye Jami Mosque is the best testimony to the history and destiny of the island. The original temple on this site was built during the reign of the Lusignans . At that time it was called the Temple of the Wisdom of God (Hagia Sophia). When the Ottomans conquered Cyprus in the 16th century, after their first victory and the destruction of the entire interior, the church was renamed a mosque. The interior elements were changed: there were mimbar and mihrab. Also were added two 50-meter minarets and a fountain for ablution in the courtyard. In 1954, the mosque was dedicated to Sultan Selim II, who conquered the island.
Nicosia: life in a divided city
Another unusual and interesting sight is Büyük Han, a former Turkish hotel. This caravanserai served primarily as a place of rest – it had 68 rooms for merchants. Nowadays there are souvenir shops and mini-galleries of local artists. It is also worth a walk through the ancient district of Arabahmet . This area only recently returned to its former glory. It used to be inhabited by rich Greek and Armenian merchants . Not surprisingly, after the events of 1974, it started to fall into decay.
Location: Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean. It’s only 70 km south of the Turkish coast and about 100 km from the Syrian coast. Division: Cyprus is divided into two parts: the southern part, Greek (belonging to the European Union) and the northern part, Turkish (constituting an autonomous state, but not internationally recognized – the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus). Currency: Euro or in TRCK also Turkish Lira . 1 euro = 91 rubles; 1 Turkish lira = 9.8 rubles. Languages: Greek, Turkish and English (especially in the southern part). Transport: The island has several international airports – Larnaca, Paphos and Nicosia on the Greek side, where you can fly to on a flight of your choice. On the Turkish side there is Nicosia-Ercan Airport, where Turkish Airlines (including Turkish Airways from Istanbul and Ankara) land. According to international agreements, no one else can fly into the unrecognized country. Border crossing: Bear in mind that Cyprus is not part of the Schengen area, so you will go through a standard document control upon arrival. The same applies to crossing the border between South and North Cyprus. There are two pedestrian crossings in Nicosia . Also in the capital there is a road crossing (Agios Dometios). Remember that the inspectors do not have to put a visa in your passport – you have to ask for a separate sheet.
Cyprus in winter: no, we’re not crazy!
An unusual idea for a winter trip is to go to Cyprus. Do not forget to bring sunscreen, you will need it.
What’s the weather like?
Definitely warmer than in Russia. All winter months in Cyprus during the daytime temperature ranges from +15 to +20C. Sometimes the wind blows, sometimes it rains, but in general the weather is very comfortable. And the sea never becomes icy – in December and February is usually about 18C. So with the sun you can take a dip.
“In the winter in Cyprus, it is very easy to distinguish between tourists and locals. Visitors walk around in shorts and T-shirts during the day, someone even manages to sunbathe and swim. The locals wear down jackets and hats. For them even +15C is a real cold. But for the evenings be sure to bring warm jackets. And the hotels are always cool.
The Stone of Aphrodite, Paphos
What awaits you in Cyprus in winter?
1) A very beautiful sea. In Cyprus, it is extraordinary, can be blue, blue, dark blue, gray, green.
2) Free beds. On many beaches, they leave, but the money for them no longer charge: too few tourists to bother with them.
3) A lot of sunshine, even in winter. Especially true for residents of Moscow and St. Petersburg, which periodically forget what it is at all.
4) Quiet, calm and complete relaxation. There are very few tourists in the winter months, mostly retired people and mothers with children. This is an ideal place to think about life, reboot and rest your soul.
What you definitely shouldn’t expect is partying, partying, drinking till morning. If you imagine Cyprus like that, then you have to go to the island only in summer at the height of tourist season.
5) Early sunsets. Around 4:30 pm. After that it gets cooler and not at all crowded. And after 22:00 the streets and restaurants are completely empty. Therefore it is better to think out your evening rest in advance: you can drink wine on the beach, snuggled up warm, read a book in the hotel lobby, watch a movie in the room.
6) Ideal conditions for trekking. In the Troodos and Kirinia mountains there are routes for both beginners and experienced hikers.
7) Russian is everywhere. Even in winter, less touristy time in Cyprus, you can easily talk in Russian in cafes and stores.
What resort to choose and what to see there?
The main thing is not to go to Ayia Napa. If in the summer it is one of the most lively and youthful resorts, in winter is a dead village. It is better to choose a bigger city – Paphos, Larnaca or Limassol.
The city with a beautiful promenade along the sea. It is possible to walk for several kilometers. On the route you will meet elite hotels, expensive restaurants and small cozy cafes, a castle and an archaeological park.
Daria, who has been to Paphos twice, both times in winter, has made a to do list for one day:
- Start your morning at Cafe Nero (Poseidonos, 6). Climb to the third floor and take seats on the edge, from there you have a beautiful view of the sea.
- Then devote yourself to endless walks along the promenade. When you get tired, have a cocktail at the Almyra’s outdoor café (12 Poseidonos Ave). Almost any drink costs 7 euros: the view, service, and comfort level are top-notch.
- Dig a little deeper into the city. Paphos is not limited to the seafront. There are plenty of stores and pretty streets waiting for you.
- It is better to meet the sunset by the sea. An ideal place is the beach of Faros . While you watch Paphos lighthouse and pass (or visit) the archaeological park.
- Finally, it’s time for dinner. If you want a very dense meal, grab a fish or meat meze. I recommend it at Mother’s Restaurant (Avenue Apostolou Pavlou Basilica Center). From there you will not leave for a long time.
Also the stone of Aphrodite (Petra tou Romaiou) is a must visit, which is located 9 km from Paphos. According to the legend, it is there where Aphrodite emerged from the sea. Nowadays the tourists are told that it is necessary to swim around the rock 3 times counter-clockwise, and then you’ll find eternal youth and beauty.
Larnaca is in no way inferior to Paphos in terms of hiking. There is also an excellent promenade-alley of many palm trees, which ends with a huge port with boats and yachts.
By the way, only in winter you can also walk around the lake near the airport. In the summer in dry weather, it dries up almost completely. But in the winter months, even flamingos arrive there.
Flamingos on the salt lake, Larnaca
“Larnaca has a fairly modest sightseeing program, but the promenade along the sea and the old neighborhood with the Church of St. Lazarus and cozy streets are more comfortable without the stifling heat of summer. In contrast to the smaller resorts, Larnaca in winter life does not stop. Winter Cyprus suits fans of relaxing and measured rest with beautiful scenery, ancient monasteries at a comfortable temperature, “- said Tatiana, who was in Cyprus in December.
She advises not to miss in Larnaca:
- Salt Lake , where you’ll only see flamingos in winter;
- Funicudes and Mackenzie beaches ;
- St. Lazar’s Church and the city center in general;
- Shopping centers with good sales;
- Meze and other joys of Cypriot cuisine – always and in any weather.
Larnaca is very compact, so it’s easy to explore in a couple of days and then go on to explore Cyprus further.
Compared to other cities of Cyprus Limassol can be called a megalopolis – with business centers, huge avenues and skyscrapers. But there is also a long, well-appointed promenade, a port and a castle – it seems to be a traditional set for Cyprus.
If you have time to drive around the area, be sure to visit:
- White Stones Grotto (located next to Alamanou Beach ) – an insanely beautiful shore with white stones. People often come here for wedding photo session, but in general the place is not very popular yet.
- Archaeological Park “Kurion” is for fans of history, excavations and various antiquities.
What to try in Cyprus?
Regardless of the time of year and the resort, there are three things you must try in Cyprus, these are:
1) Komandaria wine, the most famous local wine and very common among tourists. A bottle costs from 10 euros in supermarkets. The wines are good, but in fact and those that cost 3 euros are not any worse.
2) Haloumi cheese is another trademark of Cyprus. It is made from a mixture of goat, sheep and cow’s milk. It is similar to tofu cheese in taste and composition, and it can also be fried.
3) Meze fish and meat are a huge assortment of about 10 dishes that are served to you one by one (this is a drawback because you can not take pictures of everything you have eaten). The fish meze will have shrimp, mussels, crabmeat, and various fishy things. The meat meze will have all kinds of meats and a million different sauces. All this will be accompanied by side dishes, herbs, vegetables, and fresh bread.