When most people think of taking an international trip at Christmas they either think of someplace balmy like Hawai’i or known for Christmas like Germany’s Christmas Markets – a less expected place is the middle of the Mediterranean in winter – Cyprus, for example.
While the Med can be stormy in winter, the temperatures in Cyprus actually are quite nice – hovering in in the 60s through most of the Christmas season and rarely dipping into the 50s. Some days are in the high 70s and 80s (these temperatures in Fahrenheit – the temperature rarely dips below 20 C in the Christmas season). It’s not just the climate that makes Cyprus a great destination though.
Cyprus has a long Byzantine Christian history and the season is festive with age-old traditions unique to the region. Among them are plenty of eating and drinking of local delicacies. Cypriots traditionally eat dried figs, nuts, and special loaves of bread called ‘Christopsomo’ (Christ Bread) on Christmas Eve. Honey cakes, walnut cakes, pies, roast lamb, stuffed Turkey and other familiar seasonal delicacies are also eaten on Christmas day.
Visitors will likely see crosses wrapped in basil which have been sprinkled in holy water and adorn the doors of villagers. These aromatic wards are to keep gnome-like creatures called the kallikantzari away during the holidays. Cyprus is steeped in magic and ceremony with processions, performances, and traditional celebrations leading up to Christmas itself (Christouyenna). The most important festival is held in Eleftheria in the city of Nicosaia on Christmas Day.
Perhaps the best reason to visit Cyprus during the holidays is to take advantage of the cheaper prices for hotels and flights to Cyprus. Visitors can get steep discounts during the winter months and even car rentals tend to be heavily discounted which makes exploring the island an activity that won’t break your bank.
Cyprus is known for it’s wineries and even has the world’s oldest wine – so don’t forget to sample the vino while you are there. Wine tourism has become a favorite activity in the last few years and there are well established wine routes and tours available – so no need to assign a designated driver.
Finally, as if there weren’t already enough reasons to visit Cyprus during the holidays – spa breaks are the gift that keeps on giving as you get to relax and return home from your holiday in better form than that you went in. Whether you choose to soak in mineral rich waters, enjoy a traditional steam bath, or get a massage worthy of a Greek hero – you will go home feeling refreshed and ready to come back for your next holiday.