Cyprus offers an island escape to fit all

With sun-kissed beaches, ancient ruins and tranquil villages, Cyprus offers an island escape to fit all. What’s more, the small Mediterranean island is fast becoming a foodie destination in its own right. Coralie Modschiedler tries grilled halloumi cheese and ice-cold zivania, and meets the talented chefs turning up the heat with their modern take on Cypriot meze.

Why now?

Cyprus for foodies - saladGreek-style salads are popular in Cyprus
WTG / Coralie Modschiedler
With year-round sunshine, Cyprus is famous as a beach holiday destination but it also has splendid ancient Greek temples, Roman mosaics, Byzantine churches and monasteries dating back a thousand years. As autumn sets in, the throngs of tourists that were scampering around the island all summer have subsided. At this time of year Cyprus lends itself to relaxing days basking in the sunshine and exploring the island’s UNESCO-listed sites without the crowds, whilst temperatures still simmer pleasantly around 25°C (77°F). It’s a perfect time to explore the island’s other claim to fame: food. If you thought Cypriot cuisine was all about tavernas and Greek-style dishes, you’re in for a surprise.

The food

Cypriot food has transformed over the past few years into a contemporary cuisine which combines international food trends with traditional Cypriot recipes. The best way to sample Cypriot food is by trying out lots of meze (tapas-style dishes), typically including dips (like fish roe-based taramosalata), olives, bread and some grilled meat or seafood. Kleftiko (seasoned slow-baked lamb) and dolmades (vine leaves stuffed with rice) are favourites. But you can’t leave the island without tasting some halloumi cheese – pan-fried in butter with cherry tomatoes and lemon juice, it’s just delicious.


Cyprus for foodies - coffeeBlack walnuts in syrup with Cypriot coffee
WTG / Coralie Modschiedler
Located less than an hour’s drive from Nicosia, Larnaka, Paphos and the Troodos Mountains, the island’s second largest town and main port is the ideal base for exploring the whole country. Limassol, one of Cyprus's liveliest cities, has long attracted holidaymakers to its resort hotels and their sweeping sea views, swimming pools and private stretches of beach. A spanking new marina, the second in the Mediterranean, will open in 2012, much to the excitement of the locals. Limassol’s compact Old Town is enjoying a makeover too, with funky new restaurant openings adding to the buzz.

The old market (open Mon-Sat 0400-1400) is the best place in town to stock up on local delicacies such as black walnuts in syrup and soujouko, a dried sweet made from grape juice which doesn’t look appetising with its rubbery texture but actually tastes delicious. These sweets are best enjoyed with Cypriot coffee, which is taken short and strong – if you prefer it sweet, ask for a ‘glyko’; if you want it less sweet but without the bitterness, ask for a ‘metrio’.

Limassol is a great base to get a taste of modern Cypriot cuisine. One of the most talked-about restaurants in town is Ta Piatakia, run by the island’s celebrity chef Roddy Damalis. The red walls are adorned with colourful small plates (Ta Piatakia means Little Plates) adding plenty of character and fun to the place. The food is creative and excellent – Greek-influenced dishes with a Cypriot twist – while the chef Roddy is a jovial character, with his infectious smile and positive energy.

Cyprus for foodies - brownieChocolate brownie with chilli and chocolate ice cream
WTG / Coralie Modschiedler
The atmosphere at his restaurant reflects his personality – relaxed, comfortable and fun. My highlight dishes (apparently locals’ favourites too) are rocket wrapped in smoked pork, drenched in strawberry coulis and fresh pepper; mushrooms flashed in Commandaria (a sweet dessert wine) and rosemary; and chicken livers sautéed in brandy and herbs. Make sure you leave room for dessert – the chocolate brownie with chilli and chocolate ice cream is to die for.

If you love wine, the sun-drenched slopes above Limassol have plenty of vineyards worth stopping by. Sweet dessert wine Commandaria, the world's oldest continuously produced wine, is also produced here. It was first made by the Knights of St John of Jerusalem in the 14th century. If you dare, try ice-cold zivania, made from highly distilled grape juice. Similar to French eau de vie or Italian grappa, it is so strong that it's said to ward off mosquitoes and sterilise wounds!

Cypriot villages

Cyprus for foodies - villageLefkara village is famous for its lace
WTG / Coralie Modschiedler
Other tourist cities like Paphos or Agia Napa are also undergoing extensive renovations but parts of these towns look more like construction sites than buzzing Mediterranean hubs at the moment. After spending a few days in Limassol, hire a car (by far, the best way to get around the island) and head inland, where you’ll discover small villages that have a very definite and beguiling character.

The food in Cypriot villages is traditional with an emphasis on local produce. Visit a halloumi cheese factory like the family-run Anoirkatino farm in Anogyra village (30 minutes’ drive west of Limassol) to get a real taste of the island’s famous cheese. Also produced here are Greek yogurt and inari, another traditional cheese made from whey, that tastes like ricotta. Further west, near Paphos, is Letymbou village where traditional flaouna cheese pies are the speciality, especially at Easter. When you get there, ask for Sophia Kyriakou. She’s the best producer in the village, baking Easter pies for the entire village every year.

Cyprus for foodies - breadLetymbou village is the place to try flaouna cheese pie
WTG / Coralie Modschiedler
On the other side of Limassol, east of the Troodos Mountains, is Lefkara village, famous for its lace, which is painstakingly made by village women – a single item taking days or months to produce.

For dinner, head to Kornos village (on the Nicosia-Larnaca highway), where award-winning chef Savvas Savva will woo you with his unique take on ancient Cypriot classics. His restaurant, Archontiko Papadopoulou, is in a magnificent restored building, which adds to the culinary experience. His slow-cooked food is sublime with dishes including chicken rolled in parma ham served with seasonal vegetables and a 'secret sauce' that won him the Gold Junior Chef of the Year Award in 2010. It’s a perfect venue in which to end your gastronomic tour of Cyprus with a memorable meal.


• Aphrodite’s Rock, in the protected Akamas peninsula, is where the goddess reputedly bathed awash in orchids, jasmine and butterflies.
• The ancient city of Kourion, just west of Limassol, is the region's finest archaeological site with a Roman amphitheatre, enjoying a magnificent site perched on a cliff overlooking the sea. The amphitheatre has recently been restored to its former glory and is used as a venue for concerts and plays during the summer.
• Cape Greco: The island's southeastern tip provides a breathtaking viewpoint of Konnos Bay, the finest beach on the island.
• Paphos is famous for its Roman mosaics, amongst the finest in the Mediterranean.

Eat out:
• Ta Piatakia (7 Nikodimou Mylona, 3095 Limassol)
• Archontiko Papadopoulou (67 Makarios Avenue III, 7640 Kornos, Larnaca)

Wine tasting:
• Tsiakkas Winery (2 George Sourris, 3027 Limassol)
• Vouni Panayia Winery (60 Archiepiskopou Makariou III Avenue, 8640 Panayia, Paphos)

• Columbia Beach Resort (PO Box 54042, 3779 Limassol) - read our review
• Londa Hotel (PO Box 52000, 3509 Limassol)

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.