Two Cultures, One Country

In Cyprus, European comforts meet Middle Eastern flavor

By: Judy Koutsky

East really does meet West in this small country located south of Turkey. Combining European comforts with Middle Eastern culture and cuisine is what makes this country well worth a visit.

The Greek-dominated South offers an array of five-star resorts, miles of beaches with the accompanying watersports (scuba, snorkeling, boating), and well-maintained hiking trails in the mountainous region. Vacationers come here to relax and enjoy the warm climate. This area of Cyprus has long been a tourist destination and the infrastructure reflects this with English signage and an English-speaking service industry (hoteliers, restaurateurs, etc.).

The Turkish-occupied North, however, has a completely different feel. This area was only recently opened to tourists and thus, a strong tourist infrastructure is not yet in place. What the Turkish North lacks in English signage and thus easy navigation it more than makes up for with authentic cultural appeal. Five-hundred-year-old bathhouses; Ottoman-style architecture; warm, friendly people eager for tourists and the economic benefits they bring; and great Turkish food can be found here.

A trip combining both ends of the island is definitely the way to go. Since visitors must fly into the South, Larnaka airport, it makes sense to start the journey on the Greek side of Cyprus.

Lefkara village, a picturesque small town known for its lace and silver, is a great first stop. Mom-and-pop shops line the cobblestone streets and an array of outdoor cafes are good for eating and people watching. The locals are often seen in front of their shops hand crafting beautiful lace that guarantees a steady group of tourists year-round. All prices are negotiable and each piece of lace, since it’s hand-made, has a unique design.

Southern Cyprus offers a variety of hotels in any budget range. One of the nicer ones, found near Lefkara in Pissouri, is the Columbia Beach Resort, built in December 2002. It’s located on the water and offers a variety of watersports. Nearby are vineyards, where many guests go for the day.

Also within driving distance, visitors can find other activities unique to this part of the world including olive picking and halloumi-cheese making. Both of these can be found in the Tochni Agrotourism village.

A short distance away is Pafos, a scenic mountain town, known as the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite. One of the top attractions in the town and one of the highlights of the trip is the mosaics at the villa of Dionysus and House of Aion. Originally laid down as floors for noble houses in the third century, these mosaics were hidden in the ground until 1962 when a farmer discovered them while tilling his field. An excavation lead to the discovery of over 100 square feet of intact mosaics; the mosaics depict the stories found in Greek mythology. This area is considered one of the best-preserved mosaics in the world.

The Elysium Beach Resort, located in Pafos, was built in August of 2002 and has become popular with tourists. A full-service spa and golf course, as well as touches like Aveda products in all hotel rooms also make this resort a honeymoon favorite.

Perhaps one of the best hotels on the island is the Anassa Hotel, a member of the Leading Hotels of the World. This five-star hotel was built right on the water and overlooks the Akamas peninsula. The rooms are extremely spacious, all have balconies and many suites have Jacuzzi bathtubs. The spa offers an array of treatments as well as a sauna, Jacuzzi, steam room and heated indoor pool.

After all the pampering in the South, visitors are ready to spend some time in the North. It’s common to spend a majority of time in the South and just a day exploring the North. Once the North puts a strong tourism infrastructure in place, I’m sure it will be easier to spend more time in this region.

Nicosia is the capitol of Cyprus and it’s the only divided capitol in the world. Visitors have to go through a checkpoint to visit the North. After showing one’s passport, visitors can enter the Turkish side of Cyprus.

Some visitors choose to rent a car and explore the beautiful beaches in the North. However, because signs are not written in English, navigation can prove to be a bit tricky. Most tourists instead prefer to spend a day in the Turkish part of Nicosia, wandering around the city and soaking up the culture. Stops include 500-year-old bathhouses, cafes offering the traditional Middle Eastern pipes, and winding streets that offer great views of the Ottoman-style architecture. The locals are very friendly, but not all speak English. Those that do are eager to practice their skills with foreigners.

A trip combining the luxury of the South with the Middle Eastern flavor of the North, is sure to go over well with clients.


Cyprus Tourism Organization
(212) 683-5280

Hotel Information:

Columbia Beach Resort
10 percent commission

Elysium Beach Resort
10 percent commission

Anassa Hotel
10 percent commission