Cyprus has the cleanest bathing waters in Europe. It's in the Top 10 of countries most prepared for the easing of lockdown restrictions and it averages 300 sunny days a year – all of which makes the island an increasingly attractive holiday destination for Greeks.
Cyprus effectively closed for business in March as the Coronavirus pandemic swept westwards.
Now, thanks to the government putting health over wealth, Cyprus is considered to be one of the world's safest travel destinations – and it has opened its doors once again to other `safe' countries, including Greece.
Other `Low-Risk Category A Countries' given the green light to return include Austria, Australia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germans, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Switzerland.
While passengers initially had to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test conducted within 72 hours prior to departure, this requirement was relaxed yesterday (20/6/20) for Category A countries.
Of course, with some countries waiting on the Category B list to get in, and some countries not making any list at all – step forward America and Great Britain – the Cypriot authorities expect to see only 30% of the usual number of tourists that visit the island each year.
However, there is good news for those that do make it because Cyprus received two timely accolades this month with an EU report confirming that 99.1% of Cypriot bathing waters are of excellent quality and an Oxford University study placing Cyprus in the Top 10 countries most prepared for the easing of lockdown restrictions thanks to its low infection rates.
In March, Cyprus was roundly applauded for taking a tough stance as the pandemic reached Europe. After closing all airports and imposing lockdown, the early restrictions largely paid off with the number of COVID-19 infections now standing at 985 (correct as of 19/6/20) and deaths at 18.
Naturally, tourism paid a heavy price and with the holiday season well underway, the island is now working hard to cast off its traditional summer-sun image to reveal a broader appeal as a year-round, high-quality destination.
To this end, the government has been actively – and successfully – courting investment in new ventures including sports tourism, agricultural tourism, nautical tourism, and medical tourism.
George Campanellas, Chief Executive of Invest Cyprus, said:
“Cyprus has acted bravely and honourably throughout the Coronavirus crisis, which means we can now begin the journey of re-establishing the island as an ideal holiday destination – and an ideal location for tourism investment.
“Over the past few years, we have seen increasing interest in diverse tourism opportunities with significant investments, including hotels, MICE facilities, sports centres and projects in rural areas on the island.
“Though the last few months have been tough on everyone, not only Cyprus, the government's handling of the crisis has shown that Cyprus not only has more to offer than sea and sand, but an eye on the bigger picture."
Although the island's beaches are again open and many hotels stand ready to welcome guests with extra sanitation procedures and social distancing measures, there are many other delights the island has to offer.
Here are our top picks away from the usual sand-and-sea excursions:
Cycling: Good weather, idyllic scenery and challenging routes are fast making Cyprus a go-to destination for bike enthusiasts – with the route to Mount Olympus topping the bucket list of many avid cyclists.
Paphos-based Aspire Cycling welcomes some 600 cyclists a year. There are two cycling seasons to choose from – late February to early May and late October to early December – and all bikes are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected after every rental. Prices for a week's tour start from €165 and this year the tour company has a ride-for -four-days-pay-for-three offer on their rentals.
Horse Riding: George's Ranch is a premier equestrian centre lying a stone's throw from the Sea Caves in the west of the island. With the white rock coastline at its feet and the lush green of Paphos Forest at its back, George's Ranch has a vast array of hacking options to suit every rider, from absolute beginners to serious equestrians. As well as lessons, the Ranch offers week-long packages tailor made for individual riders ranging from €260 pp to €320 pp. Riders have to arrange their own flights and accommodation, but the staff are happy to help with recommendations.
Diving: Thanks to the Coronavirus, marine life along the coast has flourished – due to less maritime traffic, fewer swimmers and a decrease in fishing – all of which means, visitors to the Kalliopi Dive College are in for a treat.
Scuba diving has always been a sport governed by strict hygiene protocols, but following the pandemic, staff at this centre have adopted even stricter measures in accordance with DAN Europe guidelines and Ministry of Health directives.
A five-dive package costs €250 and includes kit, tanks and transfers to and from dive sites. Until the season ends in November, the college also has a Bring a Buddy discount of up to 50% to encourage more couples and families to explore the wonders of the Mediterranean together.
Bird Watching: Every autumn and spring, twitchers flock to Cyprus to catch a glimpse of the Masked Shrike, Collared Flycatcher, Cretzschmar's Bunting, Purple Herons, Bee-eaters, and Black-headed Wagtails as well as homegrown winged wonders such as the Cyprus Scops Owl, Cyprus Warbler and Cyprus Pied Wheatear.
For details on packages available including flights, accommodation, all meals, transfers and birdwatching excursions email: email@example.com.
Green Getaways: Overlooking a rural valley outside Simou village in Paphos you'll find three authentic Mongolian Yurts offering a unique, sustainable, off-the-grid ecological bed and breakfast experience.
With panoramic, breath-taking views of the Cypriot countryside, Yurts in Cyprus is ideally situated for winery tours, hiking holidays or star-gazing away from the light pollution of towns and villages.
Open all year round, the yurts are popular with tourists and residents. Prices start from €90 for one night and €595 for a week.
Yes, you read that right – husky sledding on the sunshine island of Cyprus.
Despite its enviable reputation as a sunspot, Cyprus gets enough snow in the winter for skiing holidays and husky rides. Conditions for sledding are usually good by late December or early January, which is when you will find Australian Ali Rhind – along with her adorable dogs Dolce, Lulu and Dante – ready for action in the Troodos mountains.
A 90-minute session for up to six people costs €195 euros.