Nicosia: Located at the cross roads of Asia and Europe, Cyprus marries modern comforts with ancient heritage and its turquoise blue beaches, green mountains, rich culture and mouth-watering food will make you return to the sun-kissed Mediterranean country again.
In Greek mythology, Cyprus was the birthplace of Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love. So the picturesque island could be a perfect wedding destination for Indians, say authorities here who are chalking out plans to woo them.
Though a small island, Cyprus has something to offer for every traveller whether it's a nature lover or an adventure freak. If you are interested in history there are several archaeological sites. A laid back kind of a person can spend days in the villages like Omodos where all kinds of facilities are available. What you need to do is to just relax. The people in the country are perfect hosts.
The best part of touring Cyprus is that travel time between the two places is so short that in winters a person can ski in the snow-clad Troodos mountain range in the morning time and surf in the sea in the afternoon.
Troodos is the largest mountain range in Cyprus and hosts four ski slopes, Byzantine Christian monasteries and churches and picturesque villages. Nine churches and one monastery in Troodos together form a World Heritage Site.
Being an island country, Cyprus boasts of one of the cleanest beaches in Europe. Eastern side of the island has undoubtedly the most beautiful beaches. Nissi and Macronnosis beach in Ayia Napa and Fig Tree bay in Protaras are some of the most famous beaches. But if you love solitude, Firemanas beach, Sirena Bay and Louma beach can be a good choice for you. Lemasol marina is a very popular area with several cafes.
The rocky shores of the island have formed wonderful natural shapes like caves and rock bridges.
But without seeing the ancient sites of Cyprus, you cannot really appreciate the rich Cypriot culture.
The Cyprus Museum, Kourion Archaeological Site, Amathous Archaeological site, Temple of Aphrodite and Paphos Mosaics would provide you a glimpse of the country's history.
The Cyprus Museum has artifacts from the Neolithic Age the Byzantine period (7th century Ad). The museum also houses the terracotta human figures, ancient coins, jewellery and cross shaped idols from the Chalcolithic period.
The capital city of Nocosia itself has a story to tell. A Venetian sandstone fortress with a moat and palm trees add an oriental atmosphere to the old city.
Kourion is one of the island’s most important city- kingdoms in antiquity. The once-flourishing kingdom was eventually destroyed in a severe earthquake in 365 AD. The magnificent Greco-Roman theatre was built in the 2nd century BC and extended in the 2nd century AD.
The site also includes the remains of a third century AD Roman market and some public baths. Kourion also possesses evidence of early Christianity with a 5th century AD church at the site. The large Byzantine basilica area is wonderfully picturesque with its tumbled columns and scraps of mosaic floor.
It would be unfair if we don't talk about the food which is a combination of Greek, Turkish and Lebanese cuisines. You’ll even find African influences. Coriander seeds, cumin, fresh herbs and parsley along with olive oil and lemon juice are just some of the typical things that can be found in many of the local dishes.
Meze is one of the most popular options being a multi- course meal featuring about 30 dishes likes salads, seafood, chicken, sausage and kebabs. It’s a great way to try lots of different dishes if you are not sure what to order as your main plate. You can also savour them at an open-air taverna.
For vegetarians there are a lot of options too. The island is the home of halloumi cheese. Greek salads, Cheese pies, Fried bulgur donuts stuffed with mushrooms and spices. And not to forget potatoes grown here are super-delicious.
Cyprus is also one of the world’s oldest grape-growing and wine-making regions. The Commandaria is one of the oldest wines in the world, representing an ancient wine style documented in Cyprus back to 800 BC. In drinks you have zivenia and ouzo too.
After a few days spent relaxing, it may be high time to indulge in a spot of retail therapy. With the main towns around the country packed with designer boutiques. There are also modern malls. Cyprus has an amazing night life like other European nations.
The island also offers excellent dive sites and facilities, with one of the best wreck dives in the world, the Zenobia, situated off Larnaca. Other popular dive sites include Ayia Napa, Paphos and the Akamas Peninsula, where divers are often able to see artifacts such as Roman pottery on the seabed.
Though the country is still not a popular tourist destination among Indians, arrival of whom remained less than 2,000 in the past years. The government is hopeful of having more Indian tourists in the future. Authorities want to promote Cyprus as a wedding destination for Indians.
They are also looking for options to woo Indians visiting countries like Egypt, Israel and Greece to add Cyprus in their travel plan as it is very easy to reach the island from these places.
Though there is no direct flight between India and Cyprus there are connecting flights from Qatar, Bahrain and Dubai and many other places. As more than 80 per cent of the population speaks English so language will be hardly a problem for Indians. And for those who really miss Indian food, every big city in Cyprus has an Indian restaurant.
So what are you waiting for? Get ready to lounge on the beaches, discover ancient settlements, hike across forest paths and relax in villages.