A group of Irish travel professionals bid ‘yamas’ (‘cheers’) to balmy Cyprus this week (20th-24th May) on a fam trip hosted by Sunway and Cobalt Air aimed at showcasing the island’s vast potential for various styles of travel.
A rousing welcome at Larnaca Airport, where the group was greeted by Chrysos Elonodorou, Dominus Travel Services’ General Manager and other hosts with local delicacies and wine, immediately set the scene for a trip that saw attendees get an invaluable insight into the stunning Cyprus scenery and abundant assortment of offerings. Authentic local experiences were in ample supply, from sampling the distinctive local cuisine to discovering picturesque villages and getting a crash course in the making of halloumi – the island’s iconic cheese.
The airport in Larnaca is accessible via a smooth five-hour flight from Dublin, with Cobalt Air offering convenient service on Saturdays and Wednesdays. On arrival, the group found an agreeable climate that hovered between 30-40°C, with warm conditions continuing throughout the day and evening. The country’s year-round warmth is undoubtedly one of its strongest selling points – temperatures rarely drop below 15°C during winter.
The warm conditions beginning in May contribute to a striking golden landscape that provides plenty of memorable vistas, although our guide described the island as a “green, multi-coloured carpet” throughout the spring and winter. It was against the backdrop of this dramatic arid scenery that the group ventured into Lefkara, a sleepy village renowned for its production of silver and lace, or lefkaritika.
Here, we got a closer look at the village’s still-blossoming culture of lace embroidery, which has been named on the UNESCO national list of intangible cultural heritage for Cyprus. Its far-reaching influence is best exemplified by Leonardo da Vinci’s renowned ‘Last Supper’ painting, whose tablecloth features the same distinctive pattern as the lefkaritika.
The visit was just one of the many activities sure to appeal to those seeking to immerse themselves in Cyprus’s rich cultural history, with wine-tasting experiences also available at the Dafermou Winery – the scene of spectacular elevated views of the plunging surrounding landscapes – and basket-weaving and halloumi-making offered in the home of renowned artist Petros Nikolaou in Choirokoitia.
It would, of course, be impossible to overlook the quality of the local cuisine, with fam participants treated to tables overflowing with rich, savoury food at every turn. From octopus, sea bass and calamari to creamy local potatoes and salads, a variety of meats and, of course, the country’s famous cheeses, Cyprus takes its culinary culture very seriously, and it was reflected in the calibre of the local fare at restaurants and hotels alike.
Visiting Lefkara, traversing the hilly terrain, or simply taking a walk along the Limassol Marina are just about as idyllic as experiences as you can get, but there’s really something for everyone in Cyprus. Limassol’s hotels, bars and nightclubs teem with activity by night, while, at the time of our visit, Larnaca was also gearing up for its Kataklysmos festival, set to take place at the end of May. This historic annual occasion, known as the ‘Festival of the Flood’, is a staple of the Cypriot calendar, with Larnaca’s promenade coming alive each year with cultural performances, food stalls and other demonstrations lighting up the coastal town.
As for the accommodation? Cyprus is dotted with a host of outstanding hotels that take full advantage of their beachside locations and picture-perfect surrounding scenery: the 5-star St Raphael Resort in Limassol was a fitting base for the group during the first four days of the fam, with a regal lobby area, vast pool, and 272 spacious rooms that are set to benefit from planned renovation in the near future.
Golf enthusiasts will be right at home at Aphrodite Hills Resort, which features an 18-hole course among its sports facilities that also include football and tennis academies. Capo Bay Hotel’s Koi Restaurant, meanwhile, was the setting for a superb dinner after fam participants had availed of its facilities for a relaxing afternoon poolside.
An apt conclusion to a memorable trip was provided at the Coral Beach Resort in Paphos, a sprawling property that has its own private harbour and strikes a perfect balance between quaint tradition and impressive modern facilities. The group spent its last night in Cyprus at the hotel, with Pambos Michael, General Manager, hosting a lavish outdoor dinner by candlelight to mark the end of the fam. It was a fitting finale to a trip that will live long in the memory of its participants – and Cyprus should not be surprised to see an influx of Irish visitors as a result.