Cyprus, north and south, has a huge range of hotels, hotel-apartments and villas, ranging from the palatial to the cheap-and-cheerful. There is also a growing number of “agrotourism” options – village houses, barns, small public buildings adapted and renovated to provide modern comforts and facilities. However, unlike in Greece for example, the renting of rooms in the homes of local people does not feature strongly.
All tourist accommodation in the republic is registered with, and classified by, the Cyprus Tourist Organization, listed in their annual “Guide to hotels and other tourist establishments” (available at wvisitcyprus.com). Although attempts by the CTO to standardise accommodation have been largely successful, there is still a big gap between the best and the worst – it’s always worth checking your proposed accommodation on websites such as Trip Advisor. The CTO also, surprisingly, includes a list of hotels in the two main tourist areas of north Cyprus (Gazimağusa/Famagusta and Girne/Kyrenia), though with warnings given about land ownership issues.
In all establishments rates are approved by the CTO, and guaranteed for the range of dates specified. Rates should be displayed in the room or apartment, and include overnight stay, breakfast, VAT and ten-percent local taxes. Air conditioning is compulsory in three- to five-star hotels and “category A” apartments and villas in the big resorts on the coast, though not in the Troodos Mountains. There are reduced rates for single occupancy, children sleeping in parents’ rooms, and for additional guests in apartments.
Partly because of the isolation of the north since 1974, and partly because of the lack of investment caused by this, north Cypriot hotels can often seem old-fashioned and down-at-heel, particularly outside the main tourist areas of Girne and Gazimağusa. Staff, though often friendly enough, can appear poorly trained and may speak only Turkish. However, it must be taken into account that many such hotels are aimed primarily at Turkish businessmen or gamblers while some operate as thinly disguised brothels. Therefore, families or solo female travellers can find themselves feeling uncomfortable. On the other hand, rates are generally lower than in the south.
Bear in mind also that land ownership in the north is still extremely controversial. Many of the north’s hotels and villas, once owned by Greek Cypriots, are regarded in the south as stolen property. The Cypriot Ministry of Foreign Affairs publish a list giving the ownership status of every hotel in the occupied north – only sixteen are considered legitimate, since they were owned by Turkish Cypriots before 1974, or are built on land owned by Turkish Cypriots (wmfa.gov.cy/occupiedarea-properties). While this is extremely unlikely to affect the casual visitor, it is worth bearing in mind for those considering buying or leasing property in the north.
Tourist accommodation in the north is listed in the “North Cyprus Hotel Guide”, available at tourist offices and wnorthcyprus.net. Though the guide offers no guarantees regarding standards or prices (it is produced by the hotel owners themselves, after all), it is a useful summary and provides helpful lists of travel agencies, taxi and car rental firms, restaurants, festivals and museums.
Hotels and apartments
The bulk of the island’s accommodation is dominated by big full-service resort hotels and holiday villages, concentrated in Agia Napa, Protaras, Larnaka, Lemesos and Pafos in the south and Girne and Gazimağusa in the north. Most include a choice of rooms, apartments and villas, restaurants, bars and shops, spas, sports facilities and kids, clubs, with access to private beaches. These are supplemented by apart-hotels where services are limited (though some do have swimming pools and café/restaurants) and kitchen facilities. Far less common are the smaller town-centre hotels and guesthouses which should appeal to those who like to be in the thick of things, but they can be very noisy, are less well-organized than the big establishments and, in the north especially, quality can’t be assumed. In the Troodos Mountains, small hotels might be the only option. A range of private apartment rentals can also be found at wairbnb.
An increasingly popular accommodation type across the island is the self-catering villa, either purpose-built for the tourist trade or privately owned (often by Brits) who wish to offset part of the cost of their place in the sun by letting it out. Lettings are usually for one or two weeks, and are often part of a package which includes flights, the services of a courier and, in some cases, the use of a car. On average, you could expect to pay €900 (1 week) to €1400 (2 weeks) per person with flights and car hire included, varying according to season and how many people are in the party. Sunvil Holidays, offers perhaps the widest choice of villas on the island.
A similar sort of self-catering experience can be obtained by taking advantage of the burgeoning agrotourism industry, where traditional houses are modernized, often to a very high standard, and rented out. These are frequently in rural villages, and so are ideal for people who want something a bit different – peace and quiet and an insight into traditional Cypriot life. In some, guests might even be allowed to help with the harvest, or with milking the odd goat. For the full range of properties check out the excellent Guide to Traditional Holiday Homes published by the Cyprus Agrotourism Company (t22340071, wagrotourism.com.cy).
Hostels and campsites
Finally, there are hostels and campsites, though their numbers are severely limited. There are official CTO-approved campsites at Governors Beach, Geroskipou, Coral Bay and Polis, with two more in the Troodos Mountains, plus four HI hostels (whihostels.com) at Girne, Pafos, Larnaka and Protaras. However, the only hostel that can be unreservedly recommended is the forest station hostel at Stavros tis Psokas deep in the Tillirian forests. Wild camping, while not specifically illegal (except on picnic grounds), is viewed with suspicion in both north and south.