As Cyprus is a relatively small island, you sometimes — especially on your first attempt — have to rack your brains trying to think of where to take your little one for the weekend. To keep your head intact, we’ve compiled for you a selection of places which are guaranteed to be of interest.
Every Saturday, I arrange a small holiday of sorts for my wife. I don’t bring coffee to her bedside, nor do I cook a miraculous breakfast or order an orchestra to appear playing outside her window — I do something far more kind and worthwhile for her. I wake up and take our two-year-old son away until the evening so that she has the whole day completely to herself — and it’s a pleasure to do so.
This tradition is more than a year old, therefore, my son and I have already spent 52 Saturdays together on such trips, while I try not to repeat anything and take my son to a new place every time. That’s why we’ve cruised both up and down the whole of Cyprus in search of things to entertain us. We’ve provided you with our subjective “chart” of the best places to go in Cyprus for a weekend day out with children.
For me, this is always №1. Both good for the health and a sight to behold, the natural surroundings of Cyprus’ small island are highly diverse: they range from the boundless fields nearby Nicosia, to the wooded Troodos mountain range, the sun-scorched hills of Paphos, the unique natural landscape of Akamas and the “Afghan” scenery of Akrotiri. There are so many picturesque spots where you can have a picnic or a little wander while marvelling at the beauty of the landscape. My son’s favourite spot, however, is the picnic zone nearby Prodromos reservoir. The area itself isn’t out of the ordinary: it features the usual tables, benches, places equipped for cooking meat and playgrounds. But there are several important “bonus” features nearby.
Firstly, there’s an excellent piece of lowland forest here — a great rarity in these parts. You can take a peaceful stroll along the forest pathways without fear of breaking your legs or getting out of breath every ten steps. It’s a beautiful, coniferous expanse where you can breathe easily. In autumn, you can find mushrooms or pick bramble berries.
Secondly, the reservoir is home to a lot of fish, so we always come here with a loaf to feed the water’s inhabitants. I think feeding the fish is my son’s favourite activity.
The fish are aplenty in the reservoir, so whenever I throw the first several pieces of bread into the water, it begins to stir and vibrate from the hundred or more mouths that have swum over for lunch. My son isn alwayscaptivated.
Thirdly, the reservoir is situated roughly 1600 metres above sea level, so it’s an excellent spot to escape the heat in summer.
Children’s Play Areas
Every large city in Cyprus has one or more active play areas for children. They’re pretty much identical, with approximately the same prices (this now only applies to centres for children up to two years old. Play areas for children of a greater age differ due to their large diversity). As a rule, these premises feature a cafe, where you can have a drink of coffee in peace, while your little one goes on the slides and trampolines. This is guaranteed to keep my son busy for two hours. No more. We’ve tried all the play areas and to our liking, the best playground is "Wow Action Park" in Larnaca. The choice of amusements is a little wider here compared to its equivalent establishments on the island: not only can kids run and jump around, but they can ride in the children’s cars, shoot a toy cannon and play with a pneumatic balloon shooting system. The cappuccino served at the centre’s coffee shop also isn’t to be sniffed at.
Cyprus has two zoos — in Paphos and Limassol — along with various other areas for interacting with animals: numerous donkey farms, a camel park, a mouflon nature reserve and so on. To our liking, Limassol Zoo is the best there is to offer. True, it’s not as big as its Paphos counterpart and you can’t hand-feed the camels like at the Camel Park. In general, it’s also tiny. But it has been designed to give your child the maximum experience. The rational and sensible positioning of the various zones compensates for its small territory. You can observe any of the animals from a two-metre distance and the fencing in many of the enclosures allows you to observe the animals without any obstacles. But the birds, for instance, are located in aviaries with one side made of glass. Small peepholes have been designed lower down for little munchkins to look through.
Ticket prices for Limassol Zoo are extremely affordable — visit it at least every day and you won’t incur any losses to your budget. The premises are clean and the selection of animals for such a small zoo is rather impressive. It has monkeys, otters, meerkats, crocodiles, hippos, kangaroos and many other species. There is a cafe situated in the centre of the zoo, which also features a small children’s play area.
I’ve written that I try to take my son to new places every time, but the zoo is the exception to the rule, as we regularly pay visits here.
What makes a beach suitable for children?
Firstly, the absence of waves. So, due to this feature, let’s immediately exclude the northern coastline — Polis and its vicinity. True, there aren’t always waves there, but they do appear rather often.
Secondly, it’s important that a beach is clean, so here we have to say goodbye to practically the whole coastline of Limassol. Dassudi, for instance, is a gorgeous beach, but shovel the sand with your hands and you’ll no doubt dig up two-three cigarette butts.
Thirdly, there’s the extremely undesired “Gelendzhik” effect, when you have five holidaymakers for every square metre of beach. So, yes, I apologise to the beaches of Ayia Napa, Protaras and southern Paphos — they truly are the most beautiful spots. But any pleasure you take from visiting them is blanketed by the feeling of being on a market square.
The fourth issue is that you should be able to go into a beach’s waters without any professional acrobatic skills. Sand is also desirable. And so, with a heavy heart, we’re now forced to bid farewell to the incredibly picturesque “White stones” to the east of Limassol, as well as all the beaches from Episkopi to the neighbourhoods nearest to Paphos.
As requested, I’ve managed to find only 4 beaches which I’m completely happy with: Rikkos Beach close to Paphos, Lady’s Mile nearby Akrotiri, Turtle Beach, also in Akrotiri and Turtle Beach in Akamas. The first two beaches haven’t been spoiled by tourists. Even in tourist seasons, you can calmly settle down here without digging your heels into the person relaxing in front of you. There’s also infrastructure — children’s play areas, cafes and water rides. The beaches aren’t as beautiful as those in the vicinity of Ayia Napa, but they’re by no means an eyesore. The shore is sandy, with a shallow, pebble-less seabed.
The second two beaches are for those who love relaxing in complete solitude. Just you and the open air. Akrotiri’s turtle beach isn’t far from Limassol, but there aren’t any tarmac roads leading to it,so beachgoers are a rarity here. The turtle beach in Akamas lies close to some large residential areas and fairly often empties as a result of this.
Both turtle beaches have excellent sand, scenic views and minimal traces of people having been there.
Alas, parks, squares and alleys aren’t a strong point for Cyprus. There aren’t many places to go for a stroll. As a rule, these are the main streets adjacent to the coasts of cities and villages, which are all unique and full of colour. To my liking, the Molos promenade in Limassol is the finest and most convenient place for a stroll in Cyprus. My son rates it highly because there’s always something to do there.
There are two children’s play areas on the promenade, several art pieces — some of which are actively used by the children when playing — as well as cafes, restaurants and small stands where you can buy freshly-pressed juice or hot corn. At weekends, especially in the summertime, street musicians often perform on the promenade. There’s a small amphitheatre where various performances are put on for free. But the main thing is — you can buy ice cream here!
This “chart” should be plenty enough for you to spend several brilliant and interesting weekends with your children, which will also be of benefit to them. But, naturally, I haven’t been able to enclose all the interesting places in Cyprus worthy of visiting. I’ll try to do this in future articles.