Best destinations for an autumn break in Europe? Cyprus is rightfully on the list, and last October we finally visited it for the first time. Since Lu always has 2 weeks of school holidays at that time, we booked really cheap plane tickets from Zagreb to Paphos, but instead of intensive exploration of the island and daily movements to new locations, we chose a one-week vacation in a private villa with a pool near the beach for a change. Despite the fact that we primarily wanted just to enjoy the sun, the sea, good food and rest, we also ended up renting a car for the whole time of our stay. Having a car enabled us independent transportation to and from the airport as well as day trips to different parts of the island’s western part. For our next visit to this diverse Mediterranean island, we still have a lot of interesting places in the east of the Greek part of Cyprus, as well as the entire Turkish part left to explore. Read more about the places we’ve seen during our let’s call it a relaxing active-passive vacation.
Visited: Akamas peninsula, Polis, Latchi, Coral Bay, Paphos, Peyia
How: flight from Zagreb, rented car
Stayed in: private villa with a pool
WE VISITED CYPRUS WHEN LU WAS 11 YEARS OLD AND MILA 1 YEAR OLD. READ MORE ABOUT CYPRUS WITH KIDS AT THE END OF THIS POST.
To get started, here is some basic information. We flew to Cyprus with RYANAIR, from ZAGREB and paid 70eur per person for return tickets, including seat reservation. We drove to Zagreb with our own car and reserved parking at the airport in advance. We stayed in a VILLA WITH A SWIMMING POOL FOR 8 PERSONS in the north-western part of the island, between the towns of POLIS and LATCHI. The villa was a little over 700 eur for the whole week. At the airport in PAPHOS, we also HIRED A CAR for 7 days – we had to take a 7-seater as there was 6 of us, we paid around 500eur for the week. In Cyprus, you drive on the left, communicating in English is easy on this part of the island, many houses and apartments on the island are also owned by English people. It is also possible to visit the Turkish part of the island, but this time it was too far for us.
PAPHOS | one of the most historically important towns on Cyprus
So we landed at the international airport in PAPHOS, in the southwestern part of the island. We were greeted by beautiful sunny weather, palm trees fluttered in the light breeze, we could smell the sea and we were immediately overwhelmed by the feeling of vacation. A visit to the city of PAPHOS should be interesting for all history lovers, as it is also included in the UNESCO World Heritage List due to its rich architectural heritage, archaeological sites and numerous mosaics. Don’t miss a visit to the KATO ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK WITH THE ROYAL TOMBS, MOSAICS and REMAINS OF FORMER VILLAS, CITY CASTLE, AGIOS NEOPHYTOS MONASTERY and AGIA KYRIAKI CHRYSOPOLITISSA CHURCH, walk along the PROMENADE and in the OLD TOWN, where you can visit more museums and markets. In the vicinity of the city of Paphos there are many bays and beaches, some of which we also visited. Check out the following: SANDY, POTIMA, CORAL BAY, CORALLIA, AGIOS GEORGIOS, LARA and WHITE RIVER BEACH.
POLIS | the largest town in the NW of the island
I had never heard of POLIS, which is the largest on this part of the island, until we found “our” villa right here. Well, basically the villa was somewhere between Polis and Latchi. Of course we visited the town a couple of times during our stay, especially the FISH MARKET and many small SHOPS selling delicious fresh fruit and vegetables. By the way, Cyprus has a really huge selection of fresh products, we also noticed a lot of banana plantations, which surprised us a bit.
Pharmacies, doctors, mechanics and similar services can also be found in Polis, but much more TOURIST INFRASTRUCTURE in terms of restaurants by the sea, beaches, a promenade, children’s playgrounds, hotels and shops can be found right in the neighboring town of LATCHI. Latchi lies along the coast, while Polis is a little further inland. There is a larger CAMPSITE by the sea in Polis though and one can walk from Latchi to Polis along the sea on the beach.
LATCHI | great starting point for visiting Akamas peninsula and national forest park
So our base was somewhere between the towns of Polis and Latchi, close to the coast with its strip of villa blocks, apartment houses, tourist apartments and villas with swimming pools. We also chose to stay in a private villa and I can mention once again that we found the location really excellent. It took us less than 5 minutes to walk down to the beach, where there were a bunch of RESTAURANTS and BARS along the PROMENADE. Towards the east we could walk to the CAMPSITE in Polis and towards west to the MARINA in the center of Latchi and further to another larger sandy bay.
There are also a couple of areas on the BEACH where you can borrow sun loungers and umbrellas, there are public toilets, benches and CHILDREN’S PLAYGROUNDS along the promenade. Otherwise, the beach itself is probably not the most beautiful in Cyprus, but we really liked it because of the peaceful atmosphere.
The closer we get to the town, the more SHOPS and RESTAURANTS here are, as well as some HOTELS. We found it nice to stay in a house on the peaceful outskirts of Latchi, and still be close enough to the center if we felt like going out. We ate a few times at the nearest restaurants, La Plage, and at Psaropoulus Fish Tavern – both were good, and the prices were also moderate.
Latchi is otherwise a great starting point for daily trips to the popular BLUE LAGOON, THE BATH OF APHRODITE and the rest of the AKAMAS NATIONAL PARK. Read more about these places in the rest of the article.
VILA HALIMA STEFANOS | our base on Cyprus
This time we traveled together with Lu, my aunt and her husband so we were 4 adults, one child and one baby. In the original plan there should have been 2 more adults on board that’s why we booked this comfortable villa for 8 people.
PRICE for the week was a little over 700eur and considering the size, location and what it offered we found the price to be excellent. We also had a lovely SWIMMING POOL in a beautiful GARDEN with a large TERRACE, a spacious living room with kitchen, 2 BEDROOMS on the ground floor, another 2 BEDROOMS on the upper floor (one with a balcony and one with a terrace), and a BATHROOM on each floor. So really lots of space. In the garden there is also a bbq and lots of toys and balls for the pool. The interior is a bit outdated, but that didn’t bother us since we spent most of our days outside anyway.
The best part of the villa was definitely the GARDEN WITH A BIG TERRACE BY THE POOL. When we didn’t go to the beach or on a trip by car, we spent our time here. And yes, although we often ate out, we also often prepared a delicious lunch or dinner at the GARDEN BARBECUE. The ingredients were really easy to find, we were particularly impressed by the fresh fish from the fish market and vegetables from one of the mini markets along the main road. If you like to cook I really suggest renting an apartment or a house with a kitchen during your stay on Cyprus.
The villa is located right next to a road, which is fortunately not too busy, and the garden is surrounded by a high fence as well so we were not bothered by any noise. It took an hour and a half to get to the house from Paphos airport by car and then another 200m of walking to reach the first beach. We liked this part of Cyprus mainly because it is much less touristy and it was really peaceful. You won’t find massive hotel complexes here, and you are close to some of the biggest attractions in AKAMAS NATIONAL PARK, which is a perfect location for all nature lovers.
Our garden wasn’t the only place with lush vegetation though, we were surrounded with beautiful palm trees, flowering bushes and exotic ferns wherever we went, even just this SHORT WALK DOWN TO THE BEACH was a treat for the eyes.
AKAMAS PENINSULA | picturesque peninsula and national aprk with many hiking trails
The AKAMAS PENINSULA, with its many gorges, cliffs, bays and variety of fauna (here we find a good number of different reptiles, butterflies and birds) and flora, is certainly one of the most picturesque areas of Cyprus. The diverse landscape is best experienced on foot if you follow one of the marked HIKING TRAILS – you can choose between ADONIS, APHRODITE, SMIGIES, PISSOUROMOUTTI and AGIASMA TRAIL. In general, CYPRUS seems like a HIKER’S PARADISE, but unfortunately we came quite unequipped this time, and with Mila, longer hikes would be more difficult. Another good reason to come back. Although this time we saw a really small part of the peninsula, we were completely impressed by IT. This smell of lush vegetation, fresh air and wonderful views towards the sea. Gorgeous!
I must also mention the wonderful AVAKAS GORGE, which we did not visit, but it is at the top of the “for next time” list. The gorge, which is famous for its interesting flora and rock formations is located near the bay of TOXEFTRAS. The hike through the gorge is quite intense, partly wading through water and walking on slippery stones.
Other treasures of the peninsula include the famous NATURAL CAVE with the Aphrodite Baths pool and, of course, many beautiful bays and beaches, such as LARA BEACH, BLUE LAGOON, APHRODITE BEACH, FONTANA AMOROSA, MANOLIS BAY and AMPHITHEATRE.
BATHS OF APHRODITE | natural cave and spring
It is one of the major attractions on this part of the island, but I can say that this NATURAL SPRING, which is believed to have special powers, will not impress everyone who visits it. The pool, in which, according to legend, APHRODITE bathed (who also supposedly met her love ADONIS here), is often quite muddy or even dry, so at first glance it is really nothing special. The best part of it was the walk to the spring which leads through a lush forest full of amazing eucalyptus trees.
On the way back to the parking lot, we also walked through the smaller BOTANICAL GARDEN, which we thought was really nice. Otherwise, this is the end of the road and, in a way, the beginning of the AKAMAS park – there is an unpaved road that runs along the peninsula, but it is only suitable for 4×4 vehicles. From here you can drive overland with 4×4 vehicles, for example, to the famous Blue Lagoon bay.
APHRODITE BEACH | interesting beach at the start of Akamas peninsula
Well, instead of an adrenaline ride, which we usually don’t resist, we opted to visit APHRODITE’S BEACH, which is located just a few steps down the cliff from the parking lot. Here we also find a RESTAURANT and a BAR with a viewing platform, and when there is no wind and the sea is calm, it is also very nice for swimming and a day at the beach.
BLUE LAGOON | one of the best swim spots on the island
Is it just me, or does every Mediterranean island have its own “Blue Lagoon” bay? Anyway, Cyprus has one too, namely right here in the AKAMAS national park. And we tried our best practically the whole week to visit it with one of the TOURIST BOATS that leave from the marina in LATCHI. Unfortunately, the first two days we were still too lazy for organized trips, but then the sea on this part of the island was so rough due to the wind that the trip was not possible. We could also go there by land with one of the many LR Defenders that offer guided tours, but this option didn’t offer swimming possibilities, so we gave it a pass.
Otherwise, it is possible to choose between a morning and an afternoon BOAT TRIP. There are several providers, some also offer lunch, some have a boat with a glass bottom, and the ride to the Blue lagoon takes about an hour, and the prices vary around 25 euros per adult. For the vast majority of visitors to this part of Cyprus, the Blue Lagoon seems to be the absolute highlight of their visit to Cyprus, so there has to be something to it.
CORAL BAY | wonderful sandy beach in Peyia
Without a doubt, the MOST BEAUTIFUL BEACH, on which we had a good swim and enjoyed the warm sun. This beach can be found in the main bay of PEYIA, just over 10 kilometers from the city of Paphos. There are a whole bunch of larger hotels in the bay, which are especially popular among families with small children, probably because of this sandy bay and the proximity of the international airport.
We arrived early enough in the morning to get a parking space and sun chairs in the first row without a problem, the beach was still very pleasant and calm. However, after a few hours, a good number of people gathered and the atmosphere became more and more lively, so we decided to end the swim day in the early afternoon and visit a few more attractions in the area.
In addition to the possibility of renting sun chairs and umbrellas, the beach also has free toilets, showers, several bars and restaurants and various shops, and there is no shortage of offers for more or less adrenaline-pumping WATER SPORTS. During the peak summer season, various festivals and parties also take place here. We thought it was a really nice place, especially for small children, but it is true that it probably gets quite crowded during the summer months.
EDRO III SHIPWRECK | abandoned shipwreck next to the cliffs
Our next stop that day was at one of the interesting SHIPWRECKS, located not far from Coral Bay. The over 80m long ship EDRO III ran aground on a rocky shore in 2011 due to rough seas, and all attempts to raise the wreckage from the sea have been unsuccessful to date.
The impressive wreck, which is unfortunately also decorated with some graffiti, is located really close to the edge of the cliff, which can be reached after a short walk from the parking lot at the end of a dead end street. We combined the tour with a stop for lunch at a nearby excellent restaurant. More about the latter below.
ONIRO BY THE SEA | excellent restaurant near the Edro III shipwreck
Since we thought the CYPRUS CUISINE was absolutely fantastic and we ate really well every day, I simply have to mention this particular restaurant, which wins our selection of the best Cypriot lunch or dinner. And not only was the food top-notch, the location is simply wow. Right by the sea, not far from the EDRO III shipwreck, which you can walk to after lunch, with a unique terrace on top of the cliff. On top of everything, extra friendly service.
For a change, we had excellent COCKTAILS, with which we shared a couple of delicious appetizers, and for the main courses (with the exception of Lu, who insisted on a burger), we ordered SEAFOOD, from spicy shrimp, cuttlefish and sea bass to fried calamari.
SEA CAVES | more wonderful cliffs und sea caves in Peyia
In Cyprus, there are several similar SEA CAVES, we took a look at these ones from the top of the cliffs near CORAL BAY and the town of PEYIA. Access to the actual caves is not possible from the top, but you can see them from up close from the sea. On the cliff, there are a couple of WALKING TRAILS that lead us to the beautiful WHITE CLIFFS after about 500m, and we could see some impressive arches (AIVA ARCHES). It is not superfluous to be careful when walking, because the cliffs on the edge can break off.
STERNA WINERY | wine tasting in Kathikas village
Cyprus is famous for its good wines, based on a few varieties of indigenous grape varieties, and we simply couldn’t miss a VISIT TO ONE OF THE WINE CELLARS. The drive through the village of KATHIKAS itself was idyllic, and we arrived at the STERNA WINERY just before sunset, which is, I would say, the ideal time to visit.
The most widespread Cypriot red wines are from the MAVRO variety, as well as MARATHEFTIKO and OFTHALMO, while the white ones are from the XYNISTERI grape. Otherwise the sweet orange dessert wine COMMANDARIA, which consists of the Mavro and Xynisteri grapes, is very popular. After visiting the MUSEUM PART and the SHOP, we of course had a couple of glasses of local wine to taste, along with little bowls of olives and bread. Also took a couple of bottles for the remaining evenings in our villa.
CYPRUS WITH KIDS
Our holiday week in Cyprus was really a great sunny escape before the long winter, and after what we saw and experienced in one week, I can also say that CYPRUS IS A GREAT DESTINATION FOR FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN. Let’s see why. TEMPERATURES were just right at the end of October – not unbearably hot during the day, but still warm enough to swim in the sea. In the evening, a sweater or a light jacket was not too much. THE FLIGHT FROM ZAGREB lasted only about 2 hours, and it is also possible to get really CHEAP TICKETS. The time on the island is only 1 hour ahead compared to Slovenia, so there is no risk of jetlag. On this part of the island you can find a good number of SAND BEACHES – in some bays there are also LARGER HOTELS, although I would always prefer to rent an apartment or a villa. Given the availability of FRESH FRUIT, VEGETABLES and SEAFOOD SPECIALTIES, it is really awesome to have your own kitchen. We think this is especially practical when we are traveling with children. In Cyprus, there are also a whole bunch of WALKING TRAILS and options for various DAY TRIPS, for those of you who have older children or who like to be active. This time we left the baby carrier at home and took a FOLDABLE BUGGY for Mila, which came in handy, even though the buggy is little missy’s enemy ever since she’s been walking. Another advantage is that everyone speaks English and communication is not a problem. In general, we really enjoyed ourselves and I think we succeeded perfectly in combining being lazy by the pool / on the beach with active day trips. The only challenge might be DRIVING ON THE LEFT in case you rent a car, so be careful on the road. So if you are looking for a destination for your next family trip or vacation – Cyprus is a great choice! We will come again 🙂