Beautiful coastlines and beaches, crystal clear waters, history and culture plus amazing hospitality. There’s much more to this island than meets the eye... Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and without doubt is one of the most popular tourist destinations. With sun all year round coupled with an abundance of activities for those with a love for the outdoor life, it ticks all the right boxes.
Where2 wanted to find out more about this popular destination and called on the expertise of a local family based in West Yorkshire. Born in Leeds to Cypriot parents, Mario Paraskeva and wife Claire visit Cyprus at least twice a year with their two young boys, Xavier and Will. For Mario, the main reason for visiting is to see his family. He, Claire and the boys fly into Larnaca, which is the oldest town on the island and has a history dating back 6000 years.
Mario says about Laranca, “There’s so much culture and heritage to see here and you don’t have to travel very far to experience some real gems.” About 45 minutes from Larnaca is Konnos Bay, in a small place called Protaras. Mario reckons that, “Konnos is one of the best bays in Cyprus. It’s fun for the kids and being more of a traditional destination means that it’s also popular with the locals. The boys love being able to jump into the sea from the rocks right into crystal clear water. There are watersports on the beach and Claire enjoys taking the boys out for a ride on the pedalos. It’s also a great place for those who enjoy snorkelling.” Mario also recommends walking along the bay for about 1.5 km to Cyclops Cave, “To get there, walk though beautiful Cypriot meadows filled with natural herbs – you might even spot the odd lizard or snake!” The cave is small but has around three or four ‘rooms’ where you can see the stalactite formations.
Of course, Cyprus is well-known for its amazing hospitality and for being fantastically child-friendly. In the old Turkish quarter of Larnaca is Militzis Restaurant – just past the Old Fort at the end of Finikoudes Promenade and well-known by locals for having the finest meze. Mario and family make sure they visit as frequently as they can, “As soon as you arrive, you’re made to feel extremely welcome – in fact, they tend to remember us now. The service is always brilliant and the food great – there’s a good vegetarian choice as well. The best time to go is around 1pm, as their big clay ovens are just warming up around then!” The restaurant specialises in village cooking such as char-grilled halloumi and Kleftiko (lamb cooked slowly in traditional clay ovens).
For fish lovers, a visit to Rotsos Fish Tavern in the Mackenzie area of Larnaca is a must, ‘Go for fish meze if you’re hungry,” says Mario “and then sit, relax, enjoy a drink and watch the sun set while your kids play along the beach.”
MacKenzie Beach is one of the few sandy beaches In Cyprus as many of them tend to be rocky. The sea is quite shallow which means you can walk out for about 50 metres and still only be waist deep, so again great for the children. Across the promenade are shops, bars and restaurants as well as a large municipal car park if you decide to drive there. Watersports are available to hire at the end of the beach including jet skis, speed boats, water skiing, windsurfing and parascending. There’s also diving available around the Zenobia wreck.
An alternative way of visiting the wreck is by boat trip from Finikoudes Beach. As well as visiting the wreck, you can also opt to go octopus fishing!
“For truly spectacular views over the island,” says Mario, “head to Stavrovouni Monastery and if you’re looking for diving and snorkelling then Cape Greko (Kavo Greko) is the place to go, which is between Ayia Napa and Larnaca.” Often, you can see people diving off the cliffs into the clear water, although you just need to watch out for strong currents. Walk north for a few minutes away from the car park and you’ll come to a small bay where there are the remains of a Venetian lighthouse which is popular amongst bird-watchers.
Once you’ve been to Cyprus, it will be easy to understand why Mario and family visit year on year.