Cyprus Road Trip: Nicosia

Travel

Nicosia is the divided capital of Cyprus; the southern half is Greek and the northern half is Turkish. On our drive into Nicosia, we could see the Turkish flag across the mountains in the North, and having heard so much about the conflict from Greeks, I was expecting tall fences with UN border guards with guns. But instead we were surprised to see people easily walking across the border with just a quick look at the passport. Despite the apparent ease we could’ve crossed the border, we decided to just stick it out in the southern part.

Walking around

We spent most of our day in Nicosia just wandering around within the city walls that were built by the Venetians. Nicosia is compact mix of graffiti-ed walls, 19th Century buildings and modern shops.

Hadjigeorgakis Kornesios

I’m so happy when I visit houses that have been well-preserved over centuries; it gives such an interesting insight into a country’s history and culture. Hadjigeorgakis Kornesios mansion belonged to a famous dogoman who acted as a liaison between the Greeks and Ottoman people in the 18th Century. The house is beautiful in itself (complete with its own Turkish baths), but there is a special blue room with beautiful cushions, fabrics and shisha. Not to be missed in Nicosia!

Souvlaki and mbougiournti

Goudouranaki Express is a spin-off branch of a popular Nicosia restaurant, which serves traditional Cypriot fare in a trendy three-floor restaurant. We were super impressed by their friendly customer service (actually, everyone in Cyprus is super super friendly), souvlaki and dips. Our highlight though was their mbougiournti with mboukovo;  roasted vegetables in tomato sauce with a dollop of spicy cheese sauce on the top. I first need to find out how to make this at home and secondly, how to say it!

Nutella hot chocolate

We stopped off in a cafe to write some postcards and I was just over the moon to find Nutella hot chocolate on the menu! They spread it all around the mug; I happily paid nearly €5 for it! Also the cafe had a super hipster, plant-loving vibe (but they get away with it much better than Shoreditch).

Syrian Arab Friendship Club

This has ended up being quite a foodie post! Our last stop in the evening was a Syrian restaurant with just the best name. I felt slightly sad thinking about the situation in Syria and wondered if the staff had any affected family members. The food was a large selection of traditional mezes, including falafel and my favourite salad. We actually asked for the mixed grill not to be served and we still ended up being stuffed! I don’t know how people do it!

Cyprus Road Trip: Ayia Napa

Travel

When you think of Ayia Napa, you think of hoardes of Europeans falling out of clubs, international DJs and crowded beaches. When we went to Ayia Napa in the middle of November, that was not what we got. It was literally like a ghost town; we could walk in the famous Ayia Napa square and encounter no one apart from closed down shop fronts.

Despite this, it was still sunny and warm during the day so we made the most of this. We spent our two days here lying on the beach, in the spa and lazily dozing in our room with our bellies full of tasty seafood.

Napa Mermaid Hotel

Having walked a fair bit down the strip of hotels in Ayia Napa, I think I can safely conclude that our hotel was the most popular. With a modern look, indoors spa and pool, and a beach opposite, it was like a safe haven for travellers, who like us, weren’t sure what to do in a ghost town. They also serve cocktails for a not-too-shabby price! Mmm…strawberry colada.

Cape Greco

The plus side of turning up in Ayia Napa during off season is that we managed to drive down as far towards the tip of Cape Greco as we could and had it all to ourselves! It was amazing sitting on a huge cliff edge watching the sun go down with literally nothing but waves crashing in the background.

Ocean Basket

We loved this restaurant so much, we went here twice for dinner! A wide variety of seafood and sushi was available, so we went for a bit of both. They also had some funky Mediterranean fusion sushi, which actually tasted a lot better than it sounds! Calamari and tsatsiki sushi anyone?

Cyprus Road Trip: Paphos

Travel

There’s something a little bit peculiar about Cyprus. We noticed it immediately in Paphos, our first stop on our road trip. Even though Cyprus gained independence over 50 years ago, there’s still very much an English influence on their society. Every local we met spoke  in excellent English, the road system is a carbon copy of ours and they have the same high street shops. Our most surreal moment was having a full English and teacakes whilst listening to Magic FM in a roadside café. We quickly understood the appeal for British retirees in this super friendly and warm country.

As we thought Paphos was relatively small, we only gave ourselves a few days there. I think you can get a lot more out of the surrounding area, but we still managed to fit in a lot in two days! 

Tombs of the Kings

These slightly spooky underground caverns that once were a burial ground for nobles and the upper classes are slightly sparse, but it’s still an intriguing place to explore hidden chambers and large drops! If you can find it, our favourite tomb was tomb no. 3 with its Roman columns.

Kato Pafos

I’d say this is the number 1 spot to visit in Paphos. Kato Pafos is a large archaeological park near the town centre with impressive Roman mosaics in the remains of large houses. It’s almost hard to believe how well they’ve been preserved for 2000 years! We spent a good few hours here snapping pictures of the landscape and the very un-Roman (but pretty) lighthouse. Definitely a destination for budding photographers!

Cypriot mezes and lamb kleftiko

The whole point of travelling to Cyprus was to gorge on good food and it wouldn’t be us if we didn’t try to suss out the best eating spots! Unfortunately, in a cruel twist of fate, most of the best places seemed to be shut whilst we were in Paphos (the whole town centre was under major construction of some kind – it is the off season). We still managed to get our foodie kicks though by trying Cypriot mezes (including dips, olives, stuffed aubergine, BBQ veg) and an extremely tender roasted lamb kleftiko. Can’t get enough of those dips!

Coral Bay

Coral Bay is a pretty little beach just 30 minutes drive away from Paphos (it’s spots like these that are worth hiring a car for). Another beach that we didn’t go to, but would probably be amazing to go during summer is Lara Bay – they have turtles!

Petra tou Romiou

Our joint favourite in terms of how beautiful and scenic it was. The apparent birthplace of Aphrodite (goddess of love, beauty and fertility), she rose out of the sea foam being carried in a clam driven by dolphins – how crazy is that image! Its extremely interesting reading the myths and traditions that relate to the rocks along this little piece of coast. If you’re a confident swimmer, we spotted the clearest blue water along some cool rock formations around the coast.