Suddenly, it seems like Cyprus is the only country still standing.
Coronavirus doesn’t discriminate but, even so, it has largely spared the third largest island in the Mediterranean (after Sicily and Sardinia), with infections low after the Cypriot government restricted travel in and out during April and May.
‘We want to ensure visitors enjoy a safe, carefree and much-needed holiday after months of stressful isolation,’ Cyprus’s Deputy Minister of Tourism Savvas Perdios told the Mail.
Cyprus is a fascinating melting pot of cultures, cuisines and religions. Pictured is Petra Tou Romiou in Paphos
Cyprus is sunny 300 days a year, with temperatures about 25c well into November. Britons travelling there must provide a Covid-19 ‘fit-to-fly’ certificate prior to entry (and proof of a negative test result).
While that might sound like a palaver, when I boarded my Paphos-bound plane it was reassuring to know all passengers had tested negative within the past 72 hours.
Cyprus sits at the crossroads of three continents. It was discovered by the Ancient Greeks and has been fought over by the Egyptians, Romans, Turks and even the British.
So it’s a fascinating melting pot of cultures, cuisines and religions. It only takes two hours to drive from east to west. You can be on a beach in the morning, explore Roman ruins in the afternoon and escape to a rural village for dinner. Here’s our pick of where to go…
The former fishing village of Paphos, pictured, has a wealth of historic relics, which has earned the entire town UNESCO World Heritage status
Cyprus has 403 miles of coastline, but the island’s western side is as much about culture as its Blue Flag beaches.
None more so than the former fishing village of Paphos whose wealth of historic relics has earned the entire town UNESCO World Heritage status.
Don’t miss the 2nd-century Roman mosaics at Kato Paphos — floor mosaics found in the remains of Roman villas. They depict scenes from Greek mythology (including Narcissus admiring his reflection in water) and are amazingly well preserved. Legend has it that this was the birthplace of Aphrodite.
The Greek goddess of love is said to have emerged from foam between two dramatic sea rocks at Petra Tou Romiou. Go early with a swimsuit and you can even bathe in this beauty spot without the crowds.
Paphos has chichi bars and tavernas and at night the Greek colonial style buildings in the main square are illuminated
At least one evening should be dedicated to exploring Old Paphos which has seen a recent makeover. Start with a sundowner at Muse — a clifftop bar with the best view in town — then have a wander.
There are chichi bars and tavernas in the pedestrianised Hani District and at night the Greek colonial style buildings in the main square (the town hall is a replica of The Parthenon) are illuminated.
TRY: Order a special Muse cocktail. The History one (this is Paphos after all) is a blend of cognac, strawberries, mint and raspberry with a ginger ale kick.
How to do it
Luxury: Seven nights half-board at the Almyra Hotel in October, with Scott Dunn, from £1,600 pp, including flights (scottdunn.com).
Mid-range: Seven nights B&B at Constantinou Bros Asimina Hotel in October from £1,169 pp, including flights (asimina-cbh.com).
Budget: Seven nights all-inclusive at Louis Sofianna Resort in November, with Tui, from £426pp, including flights (was £664pp, tui.co.uk).
Limassol’s marina, which is full of gleaming yachts and designer shops at one end and a strip of swanky beachside hotels at the other
It was at Limassol’s medieval castle that King Richard the Lionheart got married and crowned his wife Queen of England.
Bang in the centre of southern Cyprus, this lively port has a chic marina full of gleaming yachts and designer shops at one end and a strip of swanky beachside hotels at the other. The Parklane resort is particularly great for families, with Rio Ferdinand football academies for youngsters.
On top of the Acropolis of Kourion is what can only be described as an outdoor theatre with the world’s best view — an amazingly intact 1st-century Greco-Roman affair which overlooks the Med.
In Limassol you can try Commandaria, a Cypriot dessert wine (it tastes like sherry). Pictured is Kourion beach
Channel your inner Peter O’Toole (he filmed Katherine Of Alexandria here) by standing on the middle of the stage and hollering. The acoustics are as good now as they were two thousand years ago.
A day trip from here to the Troodos mountains offers a refreshing change of scenery. Be sure to visit Governor’s Beach, reached by steps cut out of white limestone cliffs. Its sand is a surprising dark green.
TRY: Commandaria is a Cypriot dessert wine (it tastes like sherry) native to the Limassol region.
How to do it
Luxury: Seven nights B&B at Amara Hotel in October, with Sovereign, from £1,558 pp, including flights (sovereign.com).
Mid-range: Seven nights B&B at Parklane in October, with BA Holidays, from £706 pp, including flights (ba.com).
Budget: Seven nights B&B at Harmony Bay in October, with EasyJet Holidays, from £386 pp, including flights (easyjet.com).
The old streets of Omodos. Lace, embroidery and trinkets are sold in its bijou shops
YOU MUST MAKE SURE YOU’RE ‘FIT TO FLY’ TO CYPRUS
Jo Kessel in Cyprus. When she boarded her Paphos-bound plane, she said it was reassuring to know all passengers had tested negative for Covid-19 within the past 72 hours
Fit To Fly certificates can be obtained from private clinics around the UK. It’s best to book in advance as demand is high.
Travellers to Cyprus must also fill out an online form (cyprusflightpass.gov.cy) within 24 hours of departure.
Cars can be hired from just £25 a day. Cypriots drive on the left.
A day ticket costing £7.80 entitles you to visit as many archaeological sites in Cyprus (there are 12) as you can squeeze into 24 hours. Senior citizens are half price, and under-18s go free (with ID).
No need for adaptors; Cyprus uses British three-pin plugs.
The first Olympic medal won by Cyprus was at the London 2012 Olympics in sailing.
Cyprus isn’t just about water sports; it’s about winter sports, too. Mount Olympus is its highest peak (1,952m/6,404ft) and has several ski slopes.
On average Cyprus receives only 40 days of rainfall each year.
Venture into the island’s quiet, rural interior, where the foothills of the Troodos mountains are carpeted with vineyards. Taste five wines for five euros at the Zambartas winery and you’re in for a treat.
Head further inland and you’ll reach Omodos, the prettiest of old, white stone villages. It’s higgledy-piggledy pavements are tricky to negotiate (top tip: don’t wear heels) as you eye up the lace, embroidery and trinkets sold in its bijou shops.
At the village’s heart is the Holy Cross Monastery, home to one of Christianity’s most prized (and gory) relics: a piece of the rope which tied Jesus to the crucifix.
A short walk away is the Makrinari Tavern. Order a meze and you’ll be served moussaka, meatballs, Greek salad, tzatziki, olives, halloumi and more, all for 10 euros a head. Get lucky and the owner will strum his bouzouki in the background.
TRY: George’s Bakery is famed throughout Cyprus for its special ‘Omodos’ bread.
How to do it
Mid-range: Seven nights room-only at Arsorama in October from £357 pp (arsorama.com.cy). Flights as above.
Budget: Seven nights at Elysium in October, with Home Away, from £266 pp (homeaway.co.uk). Flights as above.
AWESOME AYIA NAPA
The Adams Beach Hotel, pictured, is perfectly situated next to Nissi Beach, which has a water sports centre
About half of all holidaymakers to Cyprus park up in the eastern Famagusta district. The sea’s warm; the turquoise water so clear you can see tiny shimmering silver fish swimming all around you and its pearl-white beaches feel more Caribbean than European. Ayia Napa has a reputation for being a party resort, but it’s easy to find quiet corners. Nissi Beach is the most popular, with a water sports centre on an island you can walk to.
The Adams Beach Hotel is perfectly situated next to Nissi as well as having its own quiet cove and waterslides, though they’re not as daredevil as the rides at Ayia Napa’s ancient Greek themed WaterWorld.
For a complete change of scenery visit the town of Larnaca, 40 minutes away. Highlights include a stroll down its Palm Tree Promenade, St Lazarus Church and a string of salt lakes where flamingos are a common sight from November to Spring.
TRY: Earn dinner with a two-mile walk along the coastal path to the harbour full of colourful fishing boats.
How to do it
Luxury: Seven nights at Villa Seashell (sleeps 12) in October, with James Villas, from £1,790 pp. Wizz Air (wizzair.com) London to Larnaca from £50 return.
Mid-range: Seven nights all-inclusive at Panthea Holiday Village in October, with First Choice, from £903 pp, including flights (was £992 pp, firstchoice.co.uk).
Budget: Seven nights B&B at Adams Beach Hotel in October, with Jet2 Holidays, from £528 pp, including flights (jet2.com).
YOUR UP-TO-DATE COUNTRY GUIDE ON TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS
The travel corridor conundrum is becoming ever harder to predict. After Denmark’s infections soared past 20 cases per 100,000 people — the UK Government’s threshold for imposing quarantine — the Scandinavian country was tipped for removal from the safe list.
But Slovenia and the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe were ditched instead on Thursday, while Thailand and Singapore were added (though British tourists are currently barred from entering both countries).
Here’s what’s happening elsewhere…
The country remains a good option for a quarantine-free sunny break. Package holidays are 19 per cent cheaper than this time last year, according to Travel Supermarket, and temperatures reach daily highs of 26c in October.
Spain is bracing itself for a second wave after recording 11,000 cases and 239 deaths on Wednesday — its deadliest day since early May during lockdown.
Madrid is seeing the biggest surge, with parts of the capital reaching 1,000 cases per 100,000 people (the UK is currently sitting at 35.2).
Cases remain high but stable in the amber zone. The country is still on the UK’s travel corridor list but could be removed if cases begin to creep up.
Mainland Greece remains quarantine-free for tourists travelling from England. Like Italy, cases remain high but under reasonable control.
Visitors to St Lucia, pictured, must stay in a Covid-certified hotel and are only allowed to leave resorts on organised excursions
The Caribbean islands are our best bet for winter sun. St Lucia is on the UK’s travel corridor list, has had no Covid deaths and only 26 recorded cases since the beginning of the pandemic. British tourists are welcome but are required to provide a negative test taken no more than seven days before arrival.
Visitors must stay in a Covid-certified hotel and are only allowed to leave the resorts on organised excursions, which include visits to rainforests, waterfalls and trail walking tours of the Pitons.
BA flies direct and return rates in October and November are as low as £392.
Antigua and Barbuda
The islands have had three deaths and 95 cases and are on the UK’s travel corridor list. Visitors must provide a negative test taken no more than seven days before arrival. Further health screening may be undertaken at the airport on arrival.
Depending on the test results, the authorities may instruct visitors to enter government-provided quarantine, for which a£28.50-per-night fee may be charged.
The cluster of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean has had 140 cases and no deaths. It is on the UK’s travel corridor list but only tourists from countries deemed to be a low or medium risk are permitted entry. The UK is not currently on the list of approved countries.
By Harriet Sime