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Cyprus holidays: Enjoying the island’s mesmerising mix of ancient and modern

Leonid and Katarina had long planned their dream wedding for 2022 at the swish Columbia Beach Resort in Pissouri on Cyprus’s south coast.

Some 80 guests were invited, rooms confirmed, lavish parties to be held over four days and nights. Their big day was to be truly big.

And then the man from the Kremlin launched his ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine.

Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russians made up more than 20 per cent of all tourists to Cyprus, David Davies reveals. He says that it’s ‘no wonder Limassol (pictured) has been dubbed Limassolgrad’

A holiday favourite: The award-winning Fig Tree Bay at Protaras in Cyprus - the best beach on the east coast, according to David

A holiday favourite: The award-winning Fig Tree Bay at Protaras in Cyprus – the best beach on the east coast, according to David 

No wedding, no guests, no rooms needed, no parties.

The reaction of Leonid, who hails from Moscow, and Katarina, from Belarus, to the closure of Russian airspace and the cancellation of the usual 100 Aeroflot and Globus flights a week to the island is best left to the imagination. Another seven events at the resort soon went the same way.

In 2019, about 800,000 Russians — and not a few Ukrainians — visited the EU’s easternmost member.

Russians make up more than 20 per cent of all tourists to Cyprus, a number exceeded only by us Brits. Or, at least, they did. That’s bad news for the Cypriot economy.

David, who has been holidaying in Cyprus for 30 years, remembers 'when Paphos (pictured) was described in brochures as a "quiet fishing village"'

David, who has been holidaying in Cyprus for 30 years, remembers ‘when Paphos (pictured) was described in brochures as a “quiet fishing village”‘

The signs of Russian domination are all around. Many of the cash machines have a Russian language option; shops hire assistants who can speak Russian and much of the signage around the island is in Russian, pointing to supermarkets, Russian Orthodox churches and even the odd fur shop.

No wonder Limassol has been dubbed Limassolgrad.

I’ve been coming here every year for almost three decades and remember when Paphos was described in brochures as a ‘quiet fishing village’.

Embrace the tranquillity of the Troodos Mountains, pictured, at the heart of the island with Mount Olympus its peak

Embrace the tranquillity of the Troodos Mountains, pictured, at the heart of the island with Mount Olympus its peak

David recommends that history buffs visit the Kourion Amphitheatre, pictured above, in Episkopi

David recommends that history buffs visit the Kourion Amphitheatre, pictured above, in Episkopi

And last week, now that all restrictions have been lifted, including the wearing of masks, I returned. What I’ve always loved is its almost effortless mix of old and new, ancient and modern.

The tranquillity of the Troodos Mountains at the heart of the island with Mount Olympus its peak; contrasting with Limassol for shopping and night life. If you want history, there’s the Kourion Amphitheatre in Episkopi, near the British military base. It dates back to the second century BC and has enough archeology and culture for the most demanding of us.

Not far away and within easy reach of Paphos is the Kato Paphos Archaeological Park. Here, magnificent mosaics were unearthed by chance by a farmer in 1962. 

'The remains of five Roman villas and their tessellated floors, depicting scenes from another age can be seen,' writes David of the Kato Paphos Archaeological Park (pictured)

‘The remains of five Roman villas and their tessellated floors, depicting scenes from another age can be seen,’ writes David of the Kato Paphos Archaeological Park (pictured) 

One of the 'magnificent' mosaics at the Kato Paphos Archaeological Park

One of the ‘magnificent’ mosaics at the Kato Paphos Archaeological Park

The remains of five Roman villas and their tessellated floors, depicting scenes from another age can be seen. But please, take a sun hat.

For children, Cyprus loves its waterparks. There is WaterWorld near Ayia Napa to the east, and between Limassol and Paphos at Fasouri Watermania in the south.

There are plenty of activities on and below water in Cyprus, with experienced divers exploring the wreck of the ferry Zenobia that sank off the coast of Larnaca in 1980.

Best beaches? For me, the award- winning Fig Tree Bay on the east coast near Protaras takes some beating — but Coral Bay in the west provides stiff competition.

There are plenty of activities on and below water in Cyprus, with experienced divers exploring the wreck of the ferry Zenobia (pictured) that sank off the coast of Larnaca in 1980

There are plenty of activities on and below water in Cyprus, with experienced divers exploring the wreck of the ferry Zenobia (pictured) that sank off the coast of Larnaca in 1980

Don’t dismiss the interior of Cyprus, especially Omodos village (pictured), with its monastery, winery and coffee shops

Don’t dismiss the interior of Cyprus, especially Omodos village (pictured), with its monastery, winery and coffee shops

TRAVEL FACTS

Jet2holidays (jet2.com) has seven nights B&B at Columbia Beach Resort from £1,169 pp, including flights from Birmingham. London and Manchester flights are also available.

And don’t dismiss the interior, especially Omodos village, half an hour from Pissouri, with its monastery, winery and coffee shops.

If it’s golf you want, the Aphrodite Hills Championship course off the main cross-island motorway is as good as it gets, although it is often wildly busy — and expensive.

For sure, the Russians will miss Cyprus in 2022. How the island copes with their absence is another matter. ‘Prices will have to come down,’ one Paphos hotelier told me. And, ‘Bring us more Brits please’ was a message I heard again and again.

Marios Nicolaou, owner of several posh restaurants around Limassol Marina, Epsilon and Gazebo among them, told me: ‘Everybody here is worried about what’s coming round the corner. And we’re worrying as much about 2023, too.’

That worry did not seem to be shared by Britons over the Easter break — summer bookings are nearly back to pre-pandemic levels. And the Russians’ absence may remind some of us of gentler times in Cyprus. So this could be an optimum year to visit this fine island.

Oh, and Leonid and Katarina have postponed their wedding and still hope their big day will be in Cyprus. But they have no idea when that might be.

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