October 1st, 2023
Today, Sunday, we actually landed early at the airport in Larnaca in Cyprus – our 77th country. Although part of the EU, Cyprus is not part of the Schengen so when we left Athens, we got stamped out and here in Cyprus we had to go through immigration to enter.
We had arranged a rental car but the instructions on where the “on site” location was were not clear and it turned out to not be on site – we found the shuttle stop and had to wait about 45 minutes. Upon arrival, they upgraded us to an automatic Honda Fit – a small SUV and off we went.
They drive on the left hand side of the road here – throwback to British occupation days.
While waiting at the airport in Athens, we had loosely planned out our route and we opted to head to occupied (Northern) Cyprus first.
Northern Cyprus, officially the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), is a de facto state that comprises the northeastern portion of the island of Cyprus. It is recognized only by Turkiye and its territory is considered by the international community to be part of the Republic of Cyprus. The Cyrpriots call it an “occupied zone”,
A buffer zone under the control of the United Nations stretches between Northern Cyprus and the rest of the island and divides Nicosia, the island’s largest city and capital of both sides.
A coup d’état in 1974, performed as part of an attempt to annex the island to Greece, prompted the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. This resulted in the eviction of much of the north’s Greek Cypriot population, the flight of Turkish Cypriots from the south, and the partitioning of the island, leading to a unilateral declaration of independence by the north in 1983. Due to its lack of recognition, Northern Cyprus is heavily dependent on Turkiye for economic, political and military support. Attempts to reach a solution to the Cyprus dispute have been unsuccessful. The Turkish Army maintains a large force in Northern Cyprus with the support and approval of the TRNC government, while the Republic of Cyprus, the European Union as a whole, and the international community regard it as an occupation force. This military presence has been denounced in several United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Northern Cyprus is a semi-presidential, democratic republic with a cultural heritage incorporating various influences and an economy that is dominated by the services sector. The economy has seen growth through the 2000s and 2010s, with the GNP per capita more than tripling in the 2000s, but is held back by an international embargo due to the official closure of the ports in Northern Cyprus by the Republic of Cyprus. The official language is Turkish, with a distinct local dialect being spoken. The vast majority of the population consists of Sunni Muslims, while religious attitudes are mostly moderate and secular.
Although there is no official statement on the meaning of the flag, it can be interpreted as the star and crescent meaning Turkishness, the red color representing the blood of the Turkish Cypriots, and the stripes indicating Turkiye (top) and Northern Cyprus (bottom).
Currency: Turkish lira – 1 lire equal to .036 cents USD / .049 Canadian
Gasoline: 32.31 tl per litre – about $4.44 a gallon
License plate: non EU so just a sort of circle on the left in the space where letters would usually be located:
Beer: Turkish Efes
The “border” crossing at Pergamos had a small line up and we had to show proof of Turkish insurance which we did not have as we were not in Minou so Doug had to get out and he bought 3 days’ worth at a cost of €20.
As this is not an official country, nothing is stamped in your passport. The weather was warmer than Santorini, with temps reaching 30C / 86F and storm clouds on the horizon. Our shuttle bus driver earlier this morning, told us it “never rains” in Cyprus but later in the afternoon, he was proven wrong, of course.
We drove northeast ward towards the large spit that juts out that corner of the island. We made our first stop to see the Ancient City of Salamis.
Salamis was an ancient Greek city-state on the east coast of Cyprus, at the mouth of the river Pedieos River, 6 km north of modern Famagusta. According to tradition, the founder of Salamis was Teucer, son of Telamon, king of the Greek island of Salamis, who could not return home after the Trojan War because he had failed to avenge his brother Ajax. There is however some evidence that the area had been occupied long before the alleged arrival of Mycenaeans (at Enkomi) and the town of Salamis was developed as a replacement when Engkomi was isolated from the sea. There is otherwise little direct evidence to support the foundation myth.
The earliest archaeological finds go back to the eleventh century BC (Late Bronze Age III). The copper ores of Cyprus made the island an essential node in the earliest trade networks. In 877 BC, an Assyrian army reached the Mediterranean shores for the first time. In 708 BC, the city-kings of Cyprus paid homage to Sargon II of Assyria (Burkert). The first coins were minted in the 6th century BC, following Persian prototypes.
The Greeks were here in the 11th century BC, followed by the Persians in the 5th century BC and after Alexander the Great defeated the Persians, in the 4th century BC a period of Roman rule in the 1st century BC. On his “First Missionary Journey”, Paul the apostle and the Cypriot-born Barnabas made Salamis their first destination, landing there after heading out from Antioch of Syria. There they proclaimed Christ in the Jewish synagogues before proceeding through the rest of the island. Tradition says that Barnabas preached in Alexandria and Rome, and was stoned to death at Salamis in about 61 CE. He is considered the founder of the Church of Cyprus. His bones are believed to be located in the nearby monastery named after him.
The entry fee was in both lira and euros (3) and since we had no lira, we paid the highly inflated euro price, but really, only three euro? Can’t really complain.
The site is quite large and much of it is in ruin but the theatre, the Hamam and the Gymnasium were surprisingly in good shape. There was very little signage other than telling you what a site was with no information whatsoever. We wandered around for about 20 minutes checking things out and taking photos. We wanted to drive up the spit of land on the north east just to do it but there wasn’t much to see as we began the drive and there is little in the way of towns along the road so we opted to hit the northern coastal side just to take a boo. Fran found the “old coastal road” and we almost made to the point she wanted but the road was not in great shape and we hit a point that was quite heaved and opted not to 4×4 over it. So we just stopped and took photos.
Now it’s after 3:30 and we decide we’ll spend a couple of nights on the east coast so we have a day to relax a bit.
(When we met back up with Mark and Christine on Santorini, Mark had caught a cold that started when they left Paros three days earlier. Fran now seems to have caught that cold.)
Fran found an apartment at the Caesar Beach Resort for two nights for €75 for both nights and it had a washing machine and a swimming pool and was very close to the coast. We booked that and went over stopping for some beverages at the supermarket on the edge of the resort complex. We were also given wrist bands to wear for the duration.
We were given a one bedroom apartment with a sea view and a huge balcony and settled in. Fran got one load done that afternoon before we went for dinner at the Azul restaurant on site. It rained hard before sunset and in the west we saw this:
We both enjoyed a relatively inexpensive but tasty meal.
Fran was really beginning to cough a great deal by this time and had worn a mask in crowds during our journey here so as not to spread the cold. She is a bit congested but mostly coughing which, of course, means it’s hard to sleep. There was a wide sofa in the living room so she opted to sleep out there so as not to bother Doug’s sleep too much.
Monday, we awoke to clear skies with a bit of rain forecast for early afternoon. Fran got some more laundry done, Doug went to a pharmacy to get Fran some cold meds and then went grocery shopping.
We went for a walk down to check out the beach; it was nice enough but rocky in parts, sea grass in others but it all looks like it’s under a major renovation along it to develop it more for the nearby resort.
We returned and got in our swim suits to sit by the pool and read. There was little shade but by maneuvering the umbrellas we had some until the wind really came up and we called it. Doug made our dinner that night and we went to bed around the usual time.
Tuesday morning, Fran was feeling worse not better, guess it’s really too soon; you usually have 2-3 bad days with a cold before it gets better and with Fran, when she gets a cold it gets into her chest and the coughing can last for a long time. She’s hardly congested, has no fever, has not lost her sense of smell or taste, so we don’t think it’s COVID.
We packed up and left around 8 am and made our way south to the big city of Famagusta – a walled city from the 15-16th century. We parked and went for a stroll.
Famagusta or Gazimağusa is a city on the east coast of Cyprus. It possesses the deepest harbour of the island. During the Middle Ages (especially under the maritime republics of Genoa and Venice), Famagusta was the island’s most important port city and a gateway to trade with the ports of the Levant, from where the Silk Road merchants carried their goods to Western Europe. The old walled city and parts of the modern city are a de jure territory of the Republic of Cyprus, currently under the de faco control of Northern Cyprus as the capital of the Gazimağusa District.
We took a short walk around the town to see the walls, outside of a castle and some of the churches but Fran didn’t have much oomph so we didn’t stay long. It was also starting to get rather warm.
We then travelled northwest towards the coastal city of Kyrenia making a stop to see the Bellapais abbey ruins. We love to see these kinds of places – they leave things to the imagination and the photo ops are usually quite good.
Bellapais Abbey, is the ruin of a monastery built by Canons Regular in the 13th century on the northern side of the small village of Bellapais, now in Turkish-controlled Northern Cyprus, about five kilometres from the town of Kyrenia. The ruin is at an altitude of 220 m above sea level, and commands a long view down to Kyrenia and the Mediterranean sea.
Aimery de Lusignan founded the monastery, with the first buildings dating to between 1198–1205. The abbey was consecrated as the Abbey of St. Mary of the Mountain. The White Canons succeeded the founding canons in 1206. Consequently, documents from the 15th and 16th century refer to Bellapais as the “White Abbey”. The main building as it can be seen today was built during the rule of King Hugh III 1267–1284.
We walked around the outside taking a few photos and Fran was really sleep having not slept much the past two nights due to coughing. So out came Booking.com and we found a place to say in the nearby city of Kyrenia. Before going to it, we drove over by its 16th century Venetian castle but couldn’t get very close. After we checked in, Doug went for a walk to check it out the nearby castle.
There is a Venetian Chain Tower in this city at the harbour. They would raise a change between the fortress and the tower when in danger to block hostile ships. We took a couple of photos but they are rather dark so here’s a Google shot:
Fran tried to sleep but was beyond the “sleepy” point by this time and although she tried to read herself to sleep, it didn’t work.
Our accommodation tonight is a 2 bedroom apartment on the ground floor with a full kitchen, bath and living room for €85. We got two bedrooms so Fran wouldn’t keep Doug all night coughing. It has great Wi-Fi, AC and is well supplied.
We had a pretty uneventful night after making our dinner in the apartment.
Wednesday morning, Fran was feeling better but not 100%. She’d managed to sleep some but there’s some catching up to do. We checked out around 8am to begin a longer driving day with one stop.
Along the drive:
We made our way to the “border” and crossed back into Cyprus proper. We parked the car outside the walled city of Nicosia and walked in to wander around a bit.
Nicosia was established as the capital of Cyprus back in the 10th century during Byzantine times. During medieval times, it was the French capital of the kingdom of the French House of Lusignans from 1192 – 1489. During Venetian rule from 1489 – 1570, it remained the capital of the island. It was at this time that the current walls were built. These walls did not stop an Ottoman occupation and by 1878, Cyprus was occupied by the British.
The city of Nicosia a divided city as part of it is in the “occupied zone” and part in Cyprus. As there was one building we wanted to see on the side, we walked over there first after finding parking – had to use a pay lot as there wasn’t much choice.
In order to do this, we had to walk across a pedestrian only “border control”.
And then we wandered the alleys checking things out and looking for our Christmas ornament for Cyprus but we did not find one until we passed through the military zone once again and were on Cypriot soil.
Buyuk Han is the one building we wanted to see. At one time it was a like a hotel/resting area for wearing travelers. It is now more of a market run by female craftspersons who actually reside there as well.
The “occupied territory” as the Cypriots call it or Northern Cyprus as the Turks call it, feels like Turkiye but not; there seems to be more affluence than we remember from Turkiye and much more English signage. In the shops you see many Turkish items and the prices are mostly in lira but they do, of course, accept euros.
Cyprus, officially the Republic of Cyprus, is an island country located in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. It is geographically in West Asia, but culturally and geopolitically Southeast European. Cyprus is the third-largest and third-most populous island in the Mediterranean. It is located north of Egypt, east of Greece, south of Turkiye, and west of Lebanon and Syria. Its capital and largest city is Nicosia. The area occupied by Cyprus is about three-fifths the size of the state of Connecticut.
The northeast portion of the island is de facto governed by the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a claim recognized only by Turkiye.
The earliest known human activity on the island dates to around the 10th millennium BC; it is home to some of the oldest water wells in the world. Cyprus was settled by Mycenaean Greeks in two distinct waves in the 2nd millennium BC, which left a lasting impact on the island’s culture, language, and architecture. As a strategic location in the Eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus has been contested and occupied by various powers since antiquity; it was successively ruled by the Assyrians, Egyptians, and Persians before Alexander the Great seized it in 333 BC. It was annexed by Rome in 58 BC. It remained part of the Eastern Roman Empire for the next thousand years, albeit intermittingly coming under Arab control, sometimes jointly with the Romans. The French Lusignan dynasty took control of the island during the Third Crusade of the late 12th century, succeeded by the Venetians in the late 15th century, from whom Cyprus was subsequently conquered by the Ottomans in 1571.
The Ottoman period saw major demographic, political, and cultural changes, including the emergence of nascent Greek nationalism. Cyprus was secretly placed under the United Kingdom’s administration based on the Cyprus Convention of 1878, and was formally annexed by the U.K. in 1914.
Following an armed campaign in the 1950’s, Cyprus was granted independence in 1960. The crisis of 1963–64, which escalated intercommunal violence between Greeks and Turks, resulted in the displacement of more than 25,000 Turkish Cypriots into enclaves and led to the withdrawal of Turkish Cypriots from government and other state institutions. On 15 July 1974, a coup d’état was staged by Greek dictator Dimitrios Ioannides, with the support of Greek Cypriot ultranationalists and mutineers in the Cypriot National Guard, in an attempt at enosis; this action precipitated the Turkish invasion of the island on 20 July, which displaced over 150,000 Greek Cypriots and 50,000 Turkish Cypriots.The military occupation of Northern Cyprus culminated in the establishment of a separate Turkish Cypriot state by unilateral declaration in 1983; the move was widely condemned by the international community. These events and the resulting political situation are matters of continuing dispute.
It has been a member of the Commonwealth since 1961 and joined the European Union in 2004, adopting the euro in 2008. Owing to its climate, scenic beauty, and cultural heritage, Cyprus is a major tourist destination in the Mediterranean, and it is internationally recognized as the home of several pornographic websites.
The flag of Cyprus is a symbolic attempt to promote peace and harmony in the island nation.The design is deliberately neutral. It features the island in a brown-orange color – a reference to the large copper ore deposits that may have given the country its name. Below the map are two green olive branches as traditional symbols of peace. These elements rest on a plain white field to emphasize non-alignment and impartiality. Cyprus adopted the original flag design on August 16, 1960. The last update was on April 24, 2006, which changed the shape of the branches and the shades of colors.
License plate letters: CY
Currency: the Euro
Gas: €1.62 per litre – equal $6.53 USD per gallon
On the Cypriot side of Nicosia, we saw an ancient hamam and walked to see sections of the “walls of the walled city”. At times there were soldiers walking around but it did not feel uncomfortable.
And found our Christmas souvenir. We returned to the car and pushed on hoping to make the far south west corner of the country to the beach/holiday town of Paphos. It was about a 150 km drive / 93 mi and the highway is very good so it didn’t even take the projected 2 hours of driving time. As the roads are very good and we’re driving a car, not Minou, we made good time.
While driving, Fran looked for a place to stay and the prices reflected the fact that this was a beach town – on the pricey side especially if you wanted to be on the beach in Paphos. We opted to skip a beach front place in favour of one close to the beach and that had a pool. We paid $168 for two nights at Kefalonitis Hotel Apartments which included a kitchen, balcony, free parking and AC. It had a large pool with a walkway over it:
We made it there over an hour earlier than planned, stopped for some beverages and snacks and we were told our room was ready. While it’s not the Ritz, it’s clean and seems comfy. We only hope the AC can keep up as it’s hot here: 32C / 90 F.
After resting for a bit (Fran is not coughing quite as much but still tired), we headed to find a beach. Fran asked at the desk and there are four in reasonable walking distance and the front desk recommended the Lighthouse Beach so off we went. We are about two blocks from the coast and about 3 blocks over. This is a Blue Flag Beach.
The chairs and umbrellas go for €2.50 each which is very cheap. We dumped our stuff, grabbed our pool noodles (Doug had bought them for about a buck at the resort we stayed at a few nights ago on our first night here) and went for a float in the sea – it was lovely – warmest water we’ve been in since being back in Europe. Fran actually thought it was too warm but Doug loved it.
We enjoyed a sit on the beach reading, got some beverages and a snack and stayed till around 3:45 – by this time the wind had picked up and being wet in the wind was not comfortable.
Upon returning to the hotel, we opted for a dip in the large pool and then went to our room and chilled for the rest of the day eating in again.
On our way back to the room, we stopped from Cyprus beer and shared a large one in the room with dinner but it was not our favourite:
Paphos definitely has a holiday feel, there were tons of Brits around and there are beach shops and lots of restaurants around.
We passed through one tunnel today on that long drive.
On Thursday, we visited a couple of archeological sites in the morning, hoping it would be a smart move to avoid the heat. We packed some stuff to head to the beach afterwards.
First was the Paphos Archeological Site – the best UNESCO site in the country. It’s huge and as we’ve seen many of these, we opted to pick and choose what we walk to.
Paphos Archaeological Park contains the major part of the important ancient Greek and Roman city and is located in Paphos, southwest Cyprus. The park, still under excavation, is within the Nea Pafos (“New Paphos”) section of the coastal city.
Its sites and monuments date from prehistoric times through the middle ages. Among the most significant remains discovered thus far are four large and elaborate Roman villas: the House of Dionysos, the House of Aion, the House of Theseus and the House of Orpheus, all with superb preserved mosaic floors, especially an Orpheus mosaic. In addition, excavations have uncovered an agora, asklipieion, basilica, odeion, and Hellenistic-Roman theatre, and a nearby necropolis known as the “Tombs of the Kings”.
Nea Paphos is one of the three components forming the Paphos archaeological complex inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1980 for its outstanding mosaics and ancient remains, as well as its historical religious importance.
It did warm up pretty quickly and we began to fade some.
We returned to the air conditioned car and drove a few kilomtres north to the Tombs of the Kings (where NO kings are actually buried). This site had many different tombs and we opted to visit three but ended up seeing four.
The Tombs of the Kings is a large necropolis lying about two kilometres north of Paphos harbour
The underground tombs, many of which date back to the 4th century BC, are carved out of solid rock, and are thought to have been the burial sites of Paphitic aristocrats and high officials up to the third century AD (the name comes from the magnificence of the tombs). Some of the tombs feature Doric columns and frescoed walls. Archaeological excavations are still being carried out at the site. The tombs are cut into the native rock, and at times imitated the houses of the living.
The tombs have been known and casually explored for centuries. The oldest modern account was written in 1783. Almost a century later, in 1870 the first archaeological excavations were conducted. In 1915 the first excavations under scientific supervision took place. Systematic excavations took place in the late 1970s and the 1980’s.
Doug had read about the most ancient well ever discovered being in Cyprus. It was hard to find; we had three different sets of coordinates and never actually found it. But we did discover the Kissonerga-Mosfilia site. It is the largest prehistoric site in Paphos with the longest history. It was founded by Neolithic people in about 6500 BC. It was abandoned in the early Bronze Age around 2500 BC. When it was excavated, five periods of occupation were uncovered including middle and late chalcolithic period.
Right beside the site was a small banana tree plantation:
It’s feeling even warmer now and the temp is nearing 30C so we head straight to Coral beach. It’s very large and a long crescent sandy beach with beautiful water both in colour and temperature. We easily got sunbeds and an umbrella for €7.50 and settled in for several hours of sitting, reading, using our pool noodles and just chillin’.
Tonight for dinner we used up a bunch of our groceries: eggs, cheese, bread etc. and ate in.
Friday, our plan was to head to what we read was voted the best beach in Europe many times: Fig Tree Bay Beach. Now we were shocked at that 11am on a Friday, the beach was packed and there were no sunbeds left! So summer is not over in Cyprus in early October!
Rather than sit on the sand in the sun we opted to move to a different nearby Blue Flag Beach and hope for the best there as it is much larger looking on the map.
Nissi Beach is very lovely. Here Fran managed to get one of three remaining sets of sunbeds (same price as back at Lighthouse Beach) but that meant we were at the far end of the beach which was good and bad. Bad because change rooms and toilets were far but good because if felt less crowded and when the DJ began about an hour later, it wasn’t so booming loud. We had leftover bread and Nutella from our groceries so Doug made us some sandwiches while Fran went to change. It was already very warm and we went into the water right after to cool down.
You have to walk out quite far to get deep enough to use a pool noodle and just float. It’s a fantastic Caribbean blue and the water temperature is wonderful.
We ended up going in about four times and chillin’ in between. Food and drinks are available and the few beach bars and we thoroughly enjoyed our last full day in Cyprus.
Around 2, as usual it seems here in the Mediterranean , the wind pick up and by 3:00 we decided it was enough. We packed up and went to the room we’d found on booking.com for the night. Marina’s rooms were simple but clean and some of the less expensive in town. For €76 we got a room that slept four with a private bathroom, free parking, AC, Wifi and access to a shared kitchen. It wasn’t the greatest area of the city of Larnaca, but it was only for 12 hours as we had an early flight on Saturday.
When we arrived in Larnaca, the shuttle bus driver told us about a Canadian fellow who had the best burger joint in town so after we got settled in our room, we walked into the city to find it. It took three tries as the maps were not accurate but we made it to Jemm’s American Steak Bar. Once we sat down we asked the waitress about the ownership and he came out to meet us (we never caught his name). He’s from the Ottawa area and he married a Cypriot wife. After 9-11 they came to Cyprus for two years to try it and after returning to Ottawa again, they decided this was better for the whole family (they have 3 children).
Well we kept chatting and then discussions of climate change, politics and conspiracy theories began and that ended our pleasant chatting.
The burgers were delicious though and we did enjoy them. It was definitely dark for our walk back and we went to bed a bit early and set the alarm to get up before 5.
So Saturday morning, went smoothly, dropped off the car, caught the shuttle to the airport, had time for a tea and a snack before boarding. The flight was on time and we said goodbye to our 77th country.
We drove a total of 1010 km / 627 mi in our little rental car.
While Cyprus may not be on your radar for a vacation, we think it’s worth tacking it on to a trip to the Greek Islands (or Turkiye but don’t enter from the Turkish side or you won’t be allowed into Cyprus) – the language is the same as in Greece, the weather is warmer and the beaches are awesome.
Fun Facts about Cyprus:
- The oldest wine in the world is made in Cyprus. The local wine Commandaria dates back to before 2000BC and was a favourite of King Richard the Lionheart. It’s a delicious sweet with a high alcohol content.
- Mark Anthony once gave Cyprus as a gift to Cleopatra
- It is said that Leonardo da Vinci visited the village of Lefkarain the 15th century to buy lace for theater of Milan Cathedral.
- The famous Cypriot Halloumi cheese dates back to the Medieval Byzantine period
- Cyprus was the first country in the world to put its map on its flag
- The beaches of Cyprus are the cleanest in all of Europeand have held this title for over a decade. 99.1% of all bathing waters on the island have been classed as ‘excellent quality’.
- With the northern part being under Turkish occupation, Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, is the only administratively divided capital in the world.
There are no other sheep in the world like the unique Cyprus Moufflon.
- Some of the world’s oldest water wells can be found in Cyprus. The stone-age wells that were discovered in Kissonerga, Paphos have been studied and it is purported that they have been around for about 10,500 years.
- The shape of Cyprus is like that of a Cigar pipe.
- There is a tree in Cyprus known to fulfill wishes.This tree at the entrance to the Christian catacombs in Paphos is adorned with handkerchiefs and ribbons. People believe that infertile women will bear children and people will return to their loved ones when something that belonged to them is tied to the tree along with a belief that good will happen.
- The remains of the oldest known pet cat were found in Cyprus, buried with its master. Archeologists found the remains to be dating back about 9,500 years.
- There is a type of goat endemic only to Cyprus: the mouflon ovis: