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21-06-2023 | Frank Jansen

Cyprus, the perfect alternative to Mallorca and the Canaries

I’ve been a regular on Mallorca and the Canary Islands for years, but I’ve never actually visited Cyprus. So, when the Cypriot region of Limassol’s tourism office invited me to visit, I didn’t have to think long about it.

In my search beforehand, I came across very little useful information about cycling in Cyprus. Unknown means unloved, usually. And yet, in our calendar, I saw that several cycling events were being organized, including three gran fondos.

Photo: the city of Limassol, between the sea and the mountains.

Now, making the trip to Cyprus is fairly simple, as there aren’t all that many options other than flying. Luckily, this is possible directly from several airports in Europe. Cyprus has two major airports, of which the smaller (Paphos) is my favourite. It’s worth noting here that although Cyprus is part of the EU, it’s not in the Schengen zone. Thus, your passport will be thoroughly checked before you can begin your trip.

Rick history

The four-hour flight allowed me to delve into the history of the island, which can safely be summarised with one word: eventful. Because Cyprus lies at a crossroads of continents and shipping routes, numerous populations have interfered with the island over the years: the Ancient Greeks, for example, and later the Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans (and later the Turks). And then, of course, there were also the French and the British.

Photo: if you like beaches, you will not be disapointed in Cyprus.

In 1960, Cyprus became independent, although the British still own an army base on their territory on the island to this day. In ’63, a conflict broke out; this culminated in the occupation of the northern part of the island in ’74. Thus, the Northern part proclaimed its own state, which is recognized by only one country: Turkey. Greek Cypriots still see the north as occupied territory. It’s a unique situation in Europe.

Anno 2023, the situation is fortunately much more stable. You can cross the border, if you want, and you can do it by bicycle. I didn’t do so myself, as my trip was concentrated in the Limassol region, which is located in the southwest of the island.

Driving in the left

Once you arrive, you immediately notice that driving is on the left of the road, not the right; it’s a legacy from the British era. That can take some time getting used to, but I got the hang of it pretty quickly. My first ride was in the mountains with Mike from Activate Cyprus, an organizer of tours and events. Mike is the big man behind, among other things, the Cyprus Gran Fondo, a UCI qualifying race. I should probably point out here that you can go to Activate Cyprus for rental bikes, if you’d like.

Photo: with Mike from Activate Cyprus.

In this ride, which spanned about 55 km, we encountered no less than eight cars and no other cyclists. The peace and quiet in the mountains is indescribable, and the roads are in perfect condition, even the smaller ones! Climbing here is usually pretty gradual. The percentages are generally quite mild. But make no mistake: you do accumulate quite a few meters of elevation by the time you reach the top!

Mike takes the time to teach me everything he can about the island, telling me that there are countless opportunities for gravel bikes and MTBs as well. You can find a lot more inspiration on Mike’s Komoot channel.

Photo: Awesome gravel and MTB opportunities in a beautiful green landscape.

The landscape in Cyprus is genuinely beautiful; although it’s already June, it is still quite green. There are fruit trees and vines everywhere - quite a difference from the arid landscape of Gran Canaria, for example.

On the second day, there’s some time for a little sightseeing. Among other things, I visited the old port and inner city of Limassol; definitely worthwhile. In the afternoon, we also visited various antiquities and even took a car ride through the mountains.

Photo: The old, completely renovated old port of Limassol.

Photo: you'll find many antiquities in the Limassol region.

One of the big plus points of Cyprus has to be the great food. Cypriot cuisine is an absolute must for those who like delicious and fresh food. You’ll find mostly Mediterranean dishes, with many Greek influences and, of course, lots of fish. One that’s definitely worth trying is the famous halloumi cheese: a flavorful, rather hard and salty cheese produced locally. And, should you be partial to a little wine, the island is the oldest wine producer in the world.

In terms of the climate, temperatures in the mountains are a good 20 degrees, good to do. On the coastline, meanwhile, the afternoon temperature is generally about 30 degrees. The best months to go are definitely March, April and May, if you ask me – or, of course, in the autumn.

Time to race

On Saturday and Sunday, Mike invited me to participate in the two-day stage race, 0-2000 Cycling Challenge. It’s a small but very tightly organized event.

As the name suggests, participants climb from sea level to the very highest point on the island, the pinnacle of Mount Olympus, at exactly 1952 meters. The first ride starts from Limassol. After a rather neutralized start, everyone can ride up at their own pace. I have pretty strong legs, if I may say so myself, so I fully enjoy this beautiful route. The Russian and Ukrainian participants ride up here fraternally, side by side, which is very nice to see.

Fietsen op Cyprus
Photo: Cycling in the Troodos National Park is a dream. In the winter, there's snow occasionally!

This stage as a whole wasn’t the easiest, though; in total, I reached the top with 70 km of cycling distance and 2300 meters of elevation. In the evening, I stayed at Hotel Troodos, where I had the opportunity to sleep at the summit, which is located at an altitude of 1700 meters. The hotel was full of cyclists, including the Zakarin brothers, who live in Cyprus and are still incredibly quickly.

On Sunday, there was a somewhat shorter ride. Since I still had plenty of time, I also added another loop through the Troodos National Park. It’s truly a beautiful, wooded area with great cycling opportunities. In winter, you can even ski there.

I’ll be back

And so, just like that, my trip to Cyprus was over. The aftertaste? Cyprus stole my heart. Perfect roads, peace and quiet, excellent food, mountainous terrain, great weather, and friendly people make this a great location to train for a week – with or without your family! In my opinion, The Limassol region is an excellent base as you can cycle into the mountains but still be on the coast.

Cyprus: I will be back!

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