Welcome to Cyprus’s vibrant but divided culture, complete with Cypriot meze, Turkish mosques and Greek antiquities.
Limassol, the principal cruise port of Cyprus, sprawls around Akrotiri Bay, midway between Larnaca and Paphos, and close to the southern foothills of the Troodos Mountains.
At first glance, Limassol appears to be a typically busy and chaotic Mediterranean city, but it actually has plenty of historical interest too. Take a bus or taxi into town, a mile and a half from the dock, and you will find a tangle of narrow, pedestrianised streets around the medieval centre, where ancient mosques sit alongside Greek Orthodox churches, and outdoor bars and cafés are clustered around a 15th-century castle.
Most cruise passengers, though, give Limassol little more than a passing glance as they head out of town on tours. Paphos and its antiquities, the Troodos mountains and the magnificent amphitheatre at Kourion are all easily accessible.
What to see and do
Cyprus’s antiquities can’t really compare to sites like Ephesus or Olympia, but Kourion, some 19km west of Limassol and the island’s most important archaeological site, is a beautiful amphitheatre overlooking the coast, surrounded by extensive excavations of a Roman city-kingdom dating back to 200 BC.
Paphos, where Aphrodite was reputedly born from the sea, is under an hour’s drive from Limassol, and has so much to offer that the entire town has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In Greco-Roman times this was the island’s capital city, and today you can still see the extensive and detailed mosaics from the Roman governor’s palace. The Tombs of the Kings are a mysterious collection of caves and vaults, and a large-scale excavation site. The bustling harbour, surrounded by cafes and tavernas, is guarded by a chunky medieval fortress.
The Troodos Mountains, the spine of forested hills that runs east-west across the island’s centre, make for a refreshing day trip on a guided jeep tour if you’re travelling in the heat of summer. From the top, there are sweeping views right across the Turkish-occupied northern section of the island to the Turkish mainland. The mountains are peppered with some astonishingly wealthy monasteries, the best known of which is Kykkos, its interior dripping with gold artefacts.
Omodhos, some 40 minutes from Limassol, is an attractive village set amongst terraced vineyards. At its centre are cobbled streets, some excellent tavernas and a monastery. Most tours here include wine-tasting.
If the weather’s not too hot, Nicosia, the last divided capital in Europe – sliced through the middle by the Green Line – is fascinating. Take your passport if you want to cross over to the Turkish side, where Greek Orthodox churches are replaced by mosques.
Where to eat and drink
For a break from cruise ship food, you can’t beat a flavour-packed Cypriot meze: a feast of lots of small dips, salads, spiced sausages and seafood to start with; followed by a heftier main course of meat or fish; and finally, sweet baklava and other pastries or fruit. Allow a whole afternoon! For a really good meze, go to Limanaki on the beach at the Amathus Hotel (amathus-hotels.com, on the main hotel strip west of town).
For lighter fare, Stretto Café (carobmill-restaurants.com, right by the medieval castle), is part café and part restaurant, with light Mediterranean dishes, sandwiches, wraps and grills. Or take a taxi to Pissouri Bay, along the coast, where there’s a string of tavernas on the beach, ranging from toes-in-the-sand places to the spectacular Lebanese-Cypriot fusion restaurant Limanaki (a popular name here, www.limanakipissouri.com).
|Language||Greek is the official language but English is widely spoken|
|Climate||Hot and dry all summer, often punishingly so. The mountains are cooler.|