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  • Entertainment

TRAVEL: The Irish return to Cyprus

Saturday, 9th December, 2017 10:00am

Story by Jack Gleeson
TRAVEL: The Irish return to Cyprus

The island is steeped in history.

TRAVEL: The Irish return to Cyprus

The island is steeped in history.

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THINK Cyprus and it’s hard not to conjure up images of sandy beaches and cloudless blue skies but the Mediterranean’s island of love has plenty of other funky features that make it perfect for a family holiday.

This island nation was a favourite holiday destination up to around a decade ago, but like Ireland, it was hit hard by the financial crisis.

Direct flights stopped and Cyprus dropped off the radar when it came to sunshine getaways. However, flights have resumed and Irish holidaymakers are going back in droves.

In fact, over 2,000 seats have been sold every month between Ireland and Cyprus by Cobalt Air.

Confidence in the market is now so strong the airline has announced a year-round schedule from Dublin, with flights on Wednesdays and Saturdays, direct to Larnaca, from €350 return including taxes and luggage.

Cyprus is gloriously predictable when it comes to the weather, with guaranteed sunshine from May to October.

And when the novelty of lazing away in the heat wears off, there’s enough activity and adventure to keep kids amused right throughout the day and their parents entertained well into the early hours of the morning.

Ask any seasoned traveller what makes a destination special and invariably the answer will be ‘people’.

So the warm, welcoming nature of the Cypriots helps explain why the island has been one of Ireland’s favourite holiday hot-spots for more than four decades.

Cyprus has some of the cleanest bathing waters in the Mediterranean. The best are found around Agia Napa and Protaras, where warm turquoise waters lap gently against white sands.

Nissi beach in particular is ideal for smaller children as it has warm shallow waters. Other beaches in Agia Napa include Makronissos and Landa, both perfect for building sandcastles and simply relaxing.

The kids will love the Cypriot beaches but when they start looking beyond the sandy coastline for fun there are plenty of family attractions that children of all ages will enjoy.

The island’s water parks provide hours of entertainment and there are some wonderful wildlife attractions to explore including the Aquarium and Bird Park in Pafos; the Camel Park near Larnaka; the Donkey Sanctuary near Limassol; and the Ocean Aquarium at Protaras.

For older children and adults, most beaches in Cyprus offer water sports with everything from thrill seeking activities like water-skiing, kite-surfing and parasailing to more conventional canoeing and sailing on offer.

And if there’s not enough fun on top of the water you can always go under it. Cyprus is great for snorkelling and scuba diving with an abundance of magnificent marine life to discover around the island, as well as a shipwreck just off the coast of Larnaka.

Cyprus also ticks all the right boxes when it comes to a fantastic natural environment.

Cape Greko, a preservation area of extreme beauty near Agia Napa, is one of the highlights and exploring the shoreline for secret sea caves and coves is a great way to spend an afternoon.

Take a short walk up the hill to the top of Cape Greko and you’ll be rewarded with one of the best viewing points to watch the sun set in Cyprus.

Another natural ‘must-see’ is the Akamas Peninsula, a nature conservation area in the Pafos region, on the western side of the island.

Here, protected loggerhead turtles return every year to beautiful Lara Bay to lay their eggs. The only way to get to it is by jeep safari from Pafos.

Pafos, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a charming and historic town that makes for a perfect base for families with slightly older children.

A stunning 13th century castle overlooks its picturesque harbour and there’s a wealth of history to explore.

Attractions include the local archaeological park which has the most beautifully preserved mosaics; an ancient burial ground known as Tomb of the Kings; and a magnificent second century Odeon built entirely of limestone block.

A holiday to Cyprus wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Troodos Mountains. The whole Troodos area is the perfect place for the whole family to work up an appetite.

With its charming, traditional hilltop villages and vine-blessed slopes, it offers some cool relief from the warm summer heat, and provides a chance to enjoy hiking, cycling and bird watching.

Villages in the Troodos are picturesque with cobbled pathways, traditional cafes and family run taverns. It’s the best place to experience the legendary hospitality of the Cypriots.

Cypriots are happiest when eating and it’s really worth making an effort to join locals for a meze – a slow banquet of Cypriot delicacies.

Meze can consist of as many as 30 small plates, so there’s always something to satisfy everybody’s taste buds.

Dishes range from savoury dips and vegetables to a wide variety of meat and fish recipes, all washed down with a glass of local wine.

Producers of their own tipples, Cyprus has a long tradition of wine-making and the island boasts the oldest named wine in the world – Commandaria.

There’s loads of organised family entertainment throughout the year on Cyprus such as outdoor theatre and drama as well as contemporary, classical and traditional musical.

Festivals are a big part of Cypriot life and in villages and towns across the island hardly a weekend passes without some kind of a celebratory event.

Cyprus offers a good selection of accommodation to suit all budgets. Popular choices include hotel apartments or villas with pools, but there’s also some quiet hideaways in simple, family-run establishments.

The island is dotted with beachside hotels with excellent amenities including health spas where visitors can indulge in pure relaxation. Most hotels also provide children’s entertainment and good crèche facilities.

For flight information visit www.cobalt.aero and for more on what Cyprus has to offer see www.visitcyprus.com.

Nissi beach is as beautiful as it is popular. PHOTO: BIGSTOCK A traditional Cyrpriot home.

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