Athena was born in Cyprus, so as a true local she has tons of insider knowledge to share with us. She started writing about the wonderful places to visit and the culture of her home country and share insider secrets about the beauty of Cyprus with the rest of the world.
We’ve heard that street food can be really great in Cyprus, do you have any tips on what we should try?
Souvlakia – pieces of pork meat cooked on charcoal and served in pitta bread with salad
If you had to rank them, what would your top five traditional Cypriot dishes be?
1. Souvla- pork or lamb meat cooked on charcoal for 1.5 hrs
2. Koupepia – rice, herbs and meat rolled in grape leafs
3. Makaronia tou fournou – pasta with cream, herbs and minced meat
4. Afelia – small pieces of meat cooked in wine and herbs
5. Tavas – small pieces of meat cooked in clay pot with onions and potatoes
How about traditional sweets, are there any we really must taste?
A visitor can try “gluko tou koutaliou” - fruits cooked in water and sugar, “palouze” - sweet made of grape juice and “loukoumia”- traditional sweets.
Is there anything that gives traditional Cypriot food its particular flavours?
Various herbs like thymari, oregano and dafni are usually used in a variety of dishes.
For the real foodies out there, are there any festivals based around food we should take a look at?
Various festivals around the island especially in the summer time promote the fruits and foods of the local places. The “palouze festival”, the “fig” festival, the “cherry” festival and many more are worth visiting.
How about local beers & wines?
We have a variety of local drinks produced in Cyprus. A local spirit called “Zivania” which is made usually from grapes, a lot of wine varieties, beers and “Koumandaria” which is one of the oldest wines produced in the world! “Zivania” is a local drink with high alcoholic concentration if taken from original sources on some villages. It can be also found in milder versions as it is mass produced by some local brands. In Nicosia there is an annual beer festival usually held in September. In Limassol we have a very old wine festival which attracts thousands of visitors each year. Both are worth visiting.
Do you know where Zivania is made?
In some villages on the Troodos Mountains one can easily find some locals producing Zivania spirit.
Is there a place with excellent shopping that we should visit?
Nicosia, Limassol and Paphos have their own shopping malls where someone can find a variety of shops. However, someone can find high end shops both in Nicosia (visit Stasicratous Street in Nicosia Centre) and in Limassol (Makariou Street).
Can you tell us the best local products to take home?
Visitors who prefer to buy some local products can visit local village shops and buy Zivania (alcoholic beverage), Sioutzouko (delicacy made of wine), and traditional Loukoumia (sweets with different flavours).
Attractions & activities
If we fancy a dip, where could we find the best beaches?
All around Cyprus you can find blue flag beaches but the nicest are in Protaras area, Larnaca and Pafos. In the area of Akamas in Pafos one can find remote beaches.
Are there any attractions off the beaten track that you would recommend to visitors?
1. The Church of Saint Paraskevi at Kato Akourdalia village, Pafos
2. The caves of 318 Holy fathers in Arhimandrita village, Pafos
3. The abandoned village of Trozena in Pafos
4. The old abandoned monastery of “Saint Savas Karonos”, Pafos
5. Church of “Panagia Sinti”, Pafos
6. The green line in Nicosia which separates the capital
7. The house of “Hatzigeorgakis Kornesios”, Nicosia
8. The venetian walls in Nicosia
9. The abandoned “Verengaria hotel” at Prodromos village, Limassol
How about the architecture of Cyprus, what can we expect to find?
Many buildings within the old towns of Nicosia and Limassol usually attract most interest, some well-preserved villages also show traditional architecture like Kalopanayiotis in Nicosia. And Fikardou. Neoptolemos Michaelides is probably the most famous architect in Cyprus. His most famous buildings are located in Nicosia.
How about the major celebrations, when are they & which should we see?
Christmas and Easter time are the most important but the 15th of August, Green Monday, the Holy Spirit day, and the “Theofania” are also celebrated across the country. If you happen to be in Cyprus during summer time then a variety of festivals all over can be found. Do not miss the ones on the Holy Spirit day in Larnaca. The “Palouze” festival at Salamiou village in Pafos end of September. The Wine festival in Limassol, September.
What is your top travel tip for packing clothes for our trip?
Packing for coming to Cyprus depends on the season – if you are coming during the summer then all you actually need is your swimsuit and some sun lotion! If you are into hiking then a good pair of hiking shoes should be fine but always remember to bring long trousers and long sleeve blouses or a scarf if you want to visit some monasteries. If you are visiting during the winter then you will need your coat and your boots.
We’ve heard that Cyprus is a good all year destination, what time of year would you recommend for a visit?
Visitors travelling to Cyprus should first decide upon the season. If they want to enjoy the sun and the beaches, then a good time to visit is May-June or end of August and September. July is a very hot month with temperatures up to 40°C. In addition, visiting in March or April is a good period to enjoy the mountains because of the small rivers and the beautiful wild flowers.
Mercury Holidays would like to extend our thanks to Athena for her hard work and participation in our Ask the Expats project.