Cyprus... The island of the Gods, the last divided capital city in Europe and... the place where I endured food poisoning in close to 40C/104F heat. In all fairness, I ate or drank something that didn't agree with me somewhere between Lebanon and Larnaka. I can't pinpoint it for sure but I had a feeling that the homemade mint lemonade I had in a restaurant in Beirut may have been the culprit. Anyway, so how was Cyprus?
One huge mistake I made was thinking I'd be going to a Greek Island. Now, of course I know that Cyprus is an independent country, the northern half Turkish and the south is Greek. But I was expecting the same cute buildings and yummie food like I've experienced it in places like Rhodes before. Let's just say Cyprus was very different from what I had imagined it to be like. Not in a bad way, mind you. Although I won't mention the taxi driver that verbally abused us, calling us cheap because we flew Ryanair to Cyprus or the rude Russian staff at our hotel who barked orders in very basic English at us during check-in (which turned out to be our check-out as they suddenly realized they were overbooked). In all fairness, I don't think I even met many Greek Cypriots. I met some Turkish ones though when I crossed the border in Nicosia and they were just super nice and very welcoming!
Speaking of borders. So you basically wander along a really long shopping street in the middle of Nicosia, the capital city of Cyprus, and suddenly you find yourself at a border! Right there on the street. You show your passport, they stamp a piece of paper for you which you keep with you until you leave again and then you're in! The reason they don't stamp your passport is that whenever there are tensions between the Turkish north and the Greek south, people with stamps from northern Cyprus might get questioned when entering Athens.
I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed Nicosia. The city is just really beautiful!
Other than that I spent some time in Larnaka (that's where the above mentioned hotel incident happened), Limassol (where we found our hostel room floor covered bugs) and Paphos to check out the ruins.
The upside? When the hotel in Larnaka moved us to another hotel 30 minutes outside town, at least our new accommodation had friendly staff and was right at the beach. Win!
And when our room in Limassol was bug infested we walked to a 24-hr supermarket to buy insect spray in the middle of the night and decided to sit in Starbucks slurping a frappuccino until midnight. So not all was bad! ;)
What was my highlight? Paphos was incredible! Although I wish I had felt better that day - stumbling around this place in really hot weather with a seriously queasy stomach wasn't ideal. But the ruins and the mosaics are just oh-so-stunning!
All in all I saw everything I wanted to see on this trip and some of the things that happened to us and weren't funny at the time now make great travel stories. Would I go back? Definitely. I certainly would like to explore more of the Turkish part of the country and I'm sure there are more amazing places in the Greek part that I just haven't had the time to visit.
So one tip I can give you if you're thinking of visiting Cyprus is not to imagine it to be like Turkey or Greece. It really is different in so many ways and has developed its very unique culture over time. Maybe another tip... come for longer than just a few days! The island is bigger than it looks! ;)
So here's a little tour of Cyprus! :)