7 ways to experience the wonderful wilds of Cyprus
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You can easily spend a week, even two, lazing on a beach in Cyprus*. And I thoroughly recommend it. But if you do drag yourself off the sands, a whole country full of adventure awaits. And I'm not just talking about the island's famous hiking trails.
Put your paperback down for a real thrill ride diving in search of shipwrecks, surfing world-class breaks and even skiing. This island nation constantly surprises when you explore beyond those beaches.
Getting to Cyprus: you'll find a wider range of deals on holidays to Cyrpus with TUI*, which departs from airports across the UK.
Ok, so veteran outdoor swimmers might allow themselves a wry smile at the 'new' lockdown trend of what's termed wild, open water or sea swimming.
But there really is nothing quite as life-affirming as plunging into the open sea, an experience guaranteed to not so much blow away the cobwebs as blasting them off into the surf.
Cyprus boasts over 50 EU Blue Flag accredited beaches, awarded for their cleanliness and water quality, so there are plenty of opportunities for taking a dip. There are even swimming trails you can follow.
Bump along on a Jeep safari
Forget hiring a car; instead, head out on a Jeep safari. Not only are these adrenaline-pumping fun, but you get to explore the less-visited parts of the rugged east coast as you go.
We're talking off-road adventures to remote beaches, hidden coves and mysterious sea caves. Safaris in the Troodos Mountains bump you past gushing waterfalls and rushing through thick forests as you tackle the steep terrain.
The same company behind the Troodos trips, Dino's Tours, also organises trip to the wild Akamas Peninsula.
Get on your bike
For years, Cyprus was more known for its rough mountain biking than road cycling; mystifying really, given that the mountain roads are just as suitable as those in cycling hubs like Majorca and the Canaries.
That has all changed with the arrival of the Cyprus Gran Fondo (a UCI Gran Fondo World Championships qualifier), which has put the island nation firmly on the road cycling map.
Spring and autumn are the best times for two-wheeled experiences when the temperatures are cooler and there is less risk of ice and snow in the Troodos Mountains.
The highest point in these mountains is 500m higher than anything on Majorca, so get geared up for a tough challenge, especially if you're setting off from sea level.
It's quite a feat conquering Mount Olympus; we're talking 150 km with a full 2,000m of climbing. Gradients on the upper slopes often reach double digits!
Off-road MTB comes into its own with some testing well-maintained tracks through the mountains and forests. For family-friendly cycles, there are great routes along the coast.
Take to four legs
As a country, Cyprus loves its horses and the island is really well set up for equestrian escapades.
It's quite the experience to ease across this deeply dramatic landscape in the shadows of Greeks and the Romans; they would have cantered across these same trails all those centuries ago.
The is a sprinkling of horse riding clubs and an island equestrian federation. If you want tuition or to head out on the trails, George's Ranch in Paphos* gets you in the saddle.
Dive world-class wrecks
One of my favourite spots is the HMS Cricket. No ghoulish war grave, this old British Royal Navy gunboat was once used for target practice, with Navy shells and rough weather eventually sinking it in 1947.
Nature has since reclaimed its upside-down hulk so it's a wreck dive that feels like a reef in Larnaca Bay. The wreck sits at depth of 27m. Experienced and qualified divers swim around and inside the hull. You'll be in good company with the nosy local groupers.
Another popular wreck dive is the 172m-long Zenobia, also off the coast of Larnaca*; it's a wreck dive of global renown.
The Zenobia is a Swedish-built ferry that sank disastrously on its maiden voyage in 1980. Today, experienced divers can still see the trucks strapped on deck while meeting local turtles.
Forget a lazy lilo or a noisy jet ski. The ultimate test of man, or woman, versus water, has to be surfing. Handily Cyprus offers world-class conditions with something to suit everyone, from total beginners right through to those looking to test themselves and brush up on their skills.
The best surf spots are generally found on the west of the island with decent Mediterranean swells and breaks.
Toxeftra Beach and Lara Beach are particularly good. At Lara Beach, you'll have to look out for the turtles who love to bob around in this undeveloped nature reserve. Other highlights include the sandbar break at Venus Beach and the reef break at Cripplers Beach.
Hit the piste!
No really, you can indeed ski in Cyprus. One of Europe's most southerly ski fields does sound unlikely, but when you consider the height of the Troodos Mountains, which soar to almost 2,000m, skiing in Cyprus starts to make sense.
The season is short, typically running from January to March, with the Cyprus Ski Federation & Club the guys who keep the runs going.
The most exhilarating runs are on Mount Olympus itself, sweeping down for up to 500m. You can rent skis and all the gear here so you won't need to heft it all with you when you fly.
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