This past weekend was a whirlwind. Starting Thursday night, with the shortest flight I’ve ever taken. Seriously, 10 minutes in the air before the pilot announces our descent into Larnaca, Cyprus! The first of my international journeys from home base in Lebanon definitely set a precedent for the rest of them, because Cyprus was amazing! The small island is one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever seen. Really, life there might be a bit slow at times but the sky and sea definitely make up for it. As a former British colony, a crazy history of civil strife, and the “birthplace of Aphrodite,” Cyprus has a lot to offer all around.
To the left, to the left
The view from the Larnaca hotel in the morning.
We started off Friday with picking up our rental from the airport – a rental car is the way to go in Cyprus. There isn’t sufficient public transportation to get to all the cool things on the island, most of which are outside the major cities that buses go to. Now the roads in Cyprus are very well kept and clearly signed, but that didn’t stop us from going in so many circles and getting lost about three times just trying to find the highway from the airport to Paphos (just follow signs for A5, it will turn into A1 about halfway to Limassol). And this was only the beginning for our many failures in following directions. I blame the roundabouts. Also, driving on the left side of the road for the first time ever was actually pretty fun, if harrowing at times when it comes to turning…
So the first stop on our Cyprus adventure was Limassol, or Lemosos in Greek. About halfway in-between Larnaca (where we arrived to Cyprus) and Paphos (where we will be staying the next two nights), Limassol is the second biggest city in the country and the only place we ever encountered traffic on the entire island. Though the city looked like it could be fun, with our limited time we were only able to spend a couple hours walking around the lovely Old Town, browsing tourist shops and grabbing some good lunch. We passed on the Limassol Medieval Castle and Museum. It was only 1.70 euro but didn’t look that interesting.
Limassol Midieval Castle and Museum
A shop alley in the tourist part of Old Town.
Moving on, we continued up the highway toward Paphos with stops at the Kolossi Castle, the Cyprus Wine Museum, and a failed attempt at visiting Ancient Kourion before finishing up with an epic sunset at Petra tou Romiou. To get to most of these places, make sure to take the B6 highway rather than A6 between Limassol and Paphos. The A6 will get you there a little faster because it’s the commercial highway, but the B6 is a coastal highway, winding and climbing among mountains and valleys, and has some of the most breathtaking views of the sea and countless orange groves along the way. It’s also passes right along the stops we made with very clear signs for every attraction, making it the easier option too.
Raise the roof!
Fun fact: along part of this highway you will actually be in the UK. As part of the deal when Cyprus gained independence, they had to forfeit some of their land for British bases, which means even law enforcement is British. And if you are born in the single town within these borders, you get dual residence.
Anyways, though small and modest, I would definitely recommend the Kolossi Castle to anyone passing through. The entrance fee was only 1.70 euro and they sell delicious fresh orange juice right outside, though save it for when you leave so you don’t have to chug it before going in like I did. The views from the top of the castle justify the entrance fee alone, not even counting the interesting history behind the Crusador castle, including stories of Richard the Lionhearted the Knights Templar. A few minutes down the road in Erimi is the Cyprus Wine Museum, where we were immediately accosted by cats wanting attention before we made it halfway to the door. They were clean, well-kept, and friendly, the opposite of the typical Lebanese cat you’ll find wandering the streets. It took a few minutes to drag ourselves away from them, more and more just kept on showing up! But we finally got inside and for 5 euro got a full private tour of the history of wine on Cyprus with a tasting that included a red wine, white wine, and a dessert wine, the famous Commandaria, the oldest wine still in the making in the world. A taste of the Cyprus-made liquor, or “fire water” as they jokingly (but not really) call it, was also included in the tasting. It was a little too early in the day for that one though, especially since I would be driving for the rest of the day until we reached Paphos.
The Cyprus Wine Museum
The gray one in front followed us all the way through the tour.
The famous Commandaria, in cool bottles.
We had hoped to get a chance to explore Kourion right after the Wine Museum but got there just as it was closing at 5pm. It was still going to be on winter opening hours for another few weeks. Instead we took some time to follow a random road down to the Kourion beach, covered in large gray pepples with a beautiful backdrop of white cliff faces, before heading back up to the B6 highway to Petra tou Romiou.
Petra tou Romiou is the purported location of Aphrodite’s birth, the rock against which a wave crashed and she burst up. Legend has it that if you swim around the rock you will be granted eternal beauty, but the water was really cold so there was no way that was happening… People are actually technically not allowed to climb the rock either, but the top had the most spectacular view and I just love to climb things so I went up anyways. I’ll let the pictures do the talking for me.
On the right, Petro tou Romiou.
Conquering the rock!
Petra tou Romiou
Sunset on a cliff, overlooking Petra tou Romiou.
After sunset, we embarked on the final leg of our journey for Friday, ending in the lovely city of Paphos to meet our couchsurfing host.