Slowly Slowly - How to experience Cyprus like a local

Located in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, this stunning island is perfectly situated between Europe, Africa and Asia, turning it into a popular holiday destination for many different cultures.

Here’s my guide to making the most of this diverse gem.

Beautiful light during the golden hour in the Troodos Mountains

Beautiful light during the golden hour in the Troodos Mountains

1: Hire a car

This seems like an obvious first tip, but Cyprus doesn’t really do public transport. So if you’re keen to venture out past the resort beaches, hotel bars and chain restaurants, you need to take matters into your own hands and get driving. UK drivers will feel at home, as Cypriots drive on the left and road signs are in English.

2: Hidden Beaches

Being an island, Cyprus is bejewelled in beaches to suit any traveller. Most are easy to find and reachable by car, but if you’re up for a bit of adventure, hire yourself a 4WD and hit the dirt tracks. It’ll serve you well, as many of Cyprus’ hidden shores are only to be reached by this kind of sturdy vehicle.

If you’re looking to escape the busy beaches of Paphos, then head North East, and to Lara Beach’ Turtle Sanctuary. It’s a 5km trek on an untamed road, which will lead you to a quiet beach dotted with locals and lush waters. But the extra special touch, is that you’re surrounded by protected turtle nests. Bringing umbrellas is forbidden as they might disturb the nests, but you’ll want to forgo the shade for this rare experience.

Discover hidden gems like Lara Beach by going off road

Discover hidden gems like Lara Beach by going off road

3: Explore the café culture

After strolling through the streets on a hot day, you’ll be craving a sit down and a pick me up. Well make sure you take in Cyprus’ incredible café culture. Wander off into the backstreets and find seasoned coffee sippers, watching the world pass by. Make sure you try a frappe, a frothy ice coffee that the Cypriots have mastered to creamy caffeinated perfection! Hang around long enough, and some cafes turn into bars and music venues, where you can spend the rest of the evening drinking cheerfully with the locals.

Pieto Cafe in Nicosia

Pieto Cafe in Nicosia

4: Troodos Mountains

With spectacular beaches lining the islands coasts, it’s easy to see why we Brits flock to Cyprus for holidays all year round. Venture inland however, and meander into the Troodos Mountains, and discover the place where the islanders go to escape the searing summer heat. The mountains are home to Mount Olympus, the highest peak at 1952 meters, picturesque villages filled with talented craftsmen and excellent wineries. 

5: Siesta

Don’t we all dream of that Mediterranean way of life? Rising early (or a bit later, you are on holiday after all), get a few things done before temperatures rise … and just give into that sleepy feeling after lunch. Have a nap, read a book and relax, so you’re all rested when life on the island picks up again around 5 PM. You’ll need it for dinner, as in line with Mediterranean culture, dinner starts late, meaning 8PM onwards. 

Left: shop closed during siesta time. Right: locals emerge after a good afternoon rest

Left: shop closed during siesta time. Right: locals emerge after a good afternoon rest

6: Submerge yourself in mezze

‘No menu. We do mezze. Lamb from grill or lamb from oven?’ Those were the first words from the waiter at Taverna Agios Epiktitos, and made me instantly fall in love with Cypriot taverna dining. I love food, and I often have trouble choosing from a menu, as I want to try everything. That’s why mezze works so well: you sit down, order a drink (a nice cold Keo beer in my case) and let the feasting begin. Meze is a perfect plethora of small vibrant dishes often starting with lighter vegetable bites until you get into the meatier platters. Be prepared for over 15 dishes to stack up, with the table becoming a food jenga board. Finish off with some fresh fruits, and if you’re lucky some Loukoumades (Cypriot doughnuts soaked in sugary syrup and orange blossom) before rolling home. The dishes vary from tavern to tavern, and can change with the season or according to what’s for sale at the local market. Indulge in local delicacies, but pace yourself and don’t fill up on the breads and dips, as you won’t have space for the main courses later!

The owner of our guesthouse kept saying ‘Slowly Slowly’. It’s no good rushing about in the heat. Everything in Cyprus happens when the time is right. Embrace the slow pace of life, eat well (and slow!), and you’ll come back rejuvenated and in love with this beautiful island.