Some come to Cyprus to swim in crystal water and soak up the sun, some to explore archaeology that goes back 10,000 years, and others to experience the country's diverse natural splendours, from bird watching to hiking the Aphrodite Trail. Many more pursue a combination of such interests, easily accomplished in so compact a place. But before you go, here is a foretaste of what Cyprus has to offer.
A sure sign of approaching winter in Cyprus is when the snowbirds arrive - literally. Flamingos, traditionally numbering around 10,000, stop to feed in the salt lakes at Akrotiri and by Larnaka Airport every year, usually in December after the first rains. Herons, egrets and glossy ibis also overwinter in Cyprus. But birds are not the only ones attracted by Cyprus's mild winter weather.
This season is a great time for seniors (and anyone else fed up with the cold) from northern climes to come for long stays at a time when island life is decidedly low key. Winter is brief, generally extending from mid-December to early February.
Cyprus's varied geography means that you can forget about winter in January if you want to, or truly savour the spirit of the season. While daytime temperatures are suitable for strolling in shorts near the coast, they are deliciously cooler in the Troodos, the mountain range at the centre of the island. This means you can soak up the sun after breakfast and spend the afternoon skiing or snowboarding, or taking a brisk hike. Days may be shorter but they are still quite sunny, and daytime temperatures are still mild enough to accommodate most outdoor activities. Museums and ancient sites and are at their least crowded during these months, making it easier to linger longer and take in important details you might otherwise miss. Many hotels discount their rates substantially in the winter, and airfares to Cyprus are almost always lower right after the holidays.
The promise of uninterrupted Mediterranean sunshine is, of course, a large part of what makes Cyprus such an irresistible lure for travellers from around the world.
Even if you're not out to get a tan, the sun makes virtually everything more enjoyable on the island: from swimming to sailing, hiking the hills to surveying ancient ruins, it's all cast in a golden glow on average 300 plus days per year, almost all one needs for instant relaxation. Whether you're planning a honeymoon or an overdue family escape, Cyprus's sunkissed 840-kilometre shoreline has the stress-free answers.
Our beach hotels are amongst the best and best equipped in the world, with oversized swimming pools, tennis courts, health clubs, spas and top restaurants. Most of the hotels have a range of facilities for children, from beach clubs and special kids-only swimming pools to fully fledged day care centres. And parents can rest easy knowing that Cyprus, with one of the highest standards of living in Europe, is a safe place where crime is virtually nonexistent. Spring and fall are when couples and independent travellers have the run of the island and its many beaches.
Water lovers can take comfort in the fact that the beaches of Cyprus are among the cleanest you'll find anywhere. Cyprus participates in the European Blue Flag Campaign, a program which promotes clean beaches and environmentally sound management of coastal areas throughout Europe. I
In 2000, twenty-nine Blue Flags were awarded to beaches in Cyprus. These are mainly beaches that are actively managed, being part of or near major resort areas. Other coastal areas, from the waters off Petra tou Romiou (Aphrodite's Rock) to isolated Lara Beach on the Akamas Peninsula, are easily accessible. In eastern Cyprus, the beautiful beaches of Nissi Bay in Agia Napa and Fig Tree Bay in Protaras gradually give way to Cape Greco, indented with sea caves and rocky coves embracing crystal blue waters.