The New York Times Travel Section publishes a weekly series called “36 Hours” in which they give a short itinerary of places to see and things to eat if you have just a day and a half in the given city. With these articles, the authors appeal to broad tastes but cover more than just the traditional tourist traps. We often consult the column of any city we’re planning to visit, if it exists, just to get a sense of what’s out there to do. That being said, the articles don’t give much depth (by design) and often don’t cater to specialized interests, such as one’s budget or the distance between sites. As such, we often end up visiting just one or two of the recommended sites or restaurants mentioned.
This week, the column published “36 Hours in Cyprus“, breaking its traditional mold of writing about a single city to write about an entire country. This is understandable, considering that the entire population of Cyprus is less than most metropolitan areas (1.1 million). Given that I have lived in Cyprus for just over a year, I thought it would be nice to have an expat’s perspective of what, if anything, from NYT’s article is worth the visit.
As I mentioned, we’ve found that it’s only possible for us to visit one or two of the spots on any given itinerary
The article covers two areas of Cyprus: Limassol and Nicosia.
In Limassol, the author recommends a visit to:
- Limassol Castle
- To Theatraki
- Gin Fish
Honestly, I can’t comment on any of these as I haven’t been to them. I don’t spend a ton of time in Limassol, mostly because it’s far from home and work and there honestly isn’t much there that can’t be found elsewhere on the island. That being said, the Limassol Castle sounds cool and I’ll probably stop there on my next trip by.
The author gives a couple of recommendations for well-known places (Pyxida & the Castle) and a couple of lesser-known places like To Theatraki and Gin Fish.
Finally, something a little more familiar! Or so I thought. Here’s what the author recommends:
- Shacolas Tower
- Evroulla’s Restaurant
- Redesign Antique
- A.G. Levantis Gallery
- Silver Star
- Lost and Found Drinkery
- Hamam Omerye
- Cyprus Museum
Again, this is a good mixture of well-known and off-the-beaten-path locations. Even as someone who has lived in the city for a while, I haven’t heard of half of these places (although I know of some great ones!). From this list, I can personally vouch for TheGym and Lost and Found Drinkery. These two places make the best cocktails in the city, hands-down. What the article doesn’t tell you is that Lost and Found is not easily reachable on foot from Old Town, whereas TheGym is right off the main drag (Lidras St.). The galleries mentioned look pretty decent from their websites, and I wouldn’t be opposed to checking them out sometime as well.
Per usual, the column does a good job of mixing up the itinerary to provide some variety to the destinations. While there isn’t a ton to do in Cyprus, there is more than enough for 36 hours, so crafting an efficient itinerary is a must if your trip is short.
What I don’t like about the article is that it’s not realistic in terms of transit. Cyprus is a difficult place to get around without a car, even with the bus mentioned in the article. That being the case, I would highly recommend that you rent a car when visiting Cyprus, even if it’s only for a couple of days. Getting a taxi from the airport to Nicosia currently costs €50 (although there is a shuttle that will get you to the outskirts for €8). Renting a car can be as little as $9/day, so there’s really no reason to rely on public transportation
The second qualm I have with the article is that it doesn’t mention much about the North (“Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”). Sure, it talks about the foot crossing in the old city, but there’s so much more than that in the North. Although difficult to reach without a car, following my advice and renting one will alleviate any of that as there are several crossings you can drive through. Note: to drive your rental car in the North, you will need to purchase insurance at the border. The cost is about 15€/day and can be paid in Turkish Lira or Euro.
Taking all of that into consideration, here is what I would recommend you see in 36 hours in Cyprus:
- Rent a car and drive to Fig Tree Bay. This place has everything you need from beaches to a boardwalk and restaurants. The best part is that it’s not nearly as crowded as Limassol or Ayia Napa.
- Stay overnight at a place you found on AirBnB – there are TONS of rentals available for excellent prices. Don’t get caught overpaying for some “beach hotel”!
- Spend the morning at the beach, sipping pina coladas and basking in the fact that you missed all the crowds.
- Check out of your AirBnB and drive across the border to Northern Cyprus (purchasing a 1-day insurance permit) and head toward Famagusta. There, check out the 12th-century ruins from one of the Mediterranean’s most important trade cities. Also stop by Varosha Beach to have a look at a deserted resort town, now caught in the U.N.-controlled buffer zone.
- If you still have the energy, head up to Salamis where you can walk around more 11th-century Roman ruins and enjoy the fine architecture and ocean views.
- From there, drive back to Nicosia (watching out for speed cameras as they are everywhere in the North!) and stay at another AirBnB in/near the old city (on the South Cyprus side).
- In the evening, have a walk down Lidras St and have dinner at Piatsa Gourounaki (traditional Cypriot mezze with good portions and great prices) or Pivo Microbrewery for a different (but fabulous) take on Mediterranean cuisine and in-house brews.
- After dinner, grab a drink at The Gym for one of the island’s best cocktails, then stroll around Old Nicosia until you can’t take it any more.
- Cross over to the North via the pedestrian crossing at the end of Lidras St. in Old Nicosia. Then, head over to the Büyük Han to peruse the shops and have a Turkish coffee or some tea.
- When finished, make your way to the Büyük Hamam for a Turkish bathhouse experience and scrubdown. [The hamam is open from 9am-9pm daily (except Monday) and that Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday morning sessions (9am-3pm) are for males only while the other days are female-only. The later sessions (4pm-9pm) and all of Friday is open for all]. This bathhouse is not only more traditional than the one suggested by NYT, but also much cheaper!
All in all, the NYT did a pretty good job of capturing some fun and interesting things to do on a short visit in Cyprus. That being said, I think anyone who doesn’t make it to North Cyprus is missing out on a lot of culture and excellent history. Also, NYT didn’t accurately describe how difficult it is to get around the island without a car so I highly recommend you rent one, even if it’s only for a couple of days. If you do come to Cyprus, I hope it’s for more than 36 hours–but if not, you should be able to see a lot with any of the suggestions above.