As in Greece and Turkey, much of the male population of Cyprus is obsessed with football. Otherwise, the most popular activities relate to the island’s geography and climate, from paragliding and climbing to sailing and scuba diving or even, for a few weeks in the year, skiing on the snowcapped Troodos Mountains.
With its excellent weather and varied terrain and coast, Cyprus is ideal for flying, gliding, parachuting and wingsuiting. For general information contact the Cyprus Airsports Federation (22339771).
Cypriots have a reputation for eating rather than watching songbirds, but the former is now illegal in the south. Thanks to its position between Africa and Europe, Cyprus is visited by around 250 million birds during their great annual migrations. Those interested in birdwatching in Cyprus should contact BirdLife Cyprus (22455072).
Climbing and hiking
Popular sites for rock climbing/bouldering include Eagle Rock and the Chassamboulia rock in Pafos District and Cave Greko near Agia Napa. For detailed information on climbing, contact the Cyprus Mountaineering and Sport Climbing Federation (97770067).
For hiking there are numerous marked trails in the Troodos Mountains. A section of the European Long Distance Path E4 travels for 539km the length of the island, and there is 322km of good walking divided into 72 nature trails. An excellent booklet on the E4 Long Distance Path and the nature trails is available in CTO offices in Cyprus and abroad, as are trail guides produced by the Ministry of Agriculture’s Department of Forests. The best general walking in the north is in the Kyrenia range and along the Karpaz Peninsula – look out for the tourist office’s excellent trail guides Kyrenia East and West and Karpaz East and West.
Cycling has been enjoying a huge boost in popularity in Cyprus, both with amateur hobbyists and professionals. Cycling is a year-round activity, but conditions are best in spring and autumn. Mountain and road bikes can be rented in all main towns and holiday areas (guide rental €10–20/day). For further information look out for Troodos Cycling Routesmap available in tourist offices, contact the Cyprus Cycling Federation, or check out bikincyprusadventures.com.
Fishing, both in the sea and in freshwater (the latter primarily in reservoirs), is popular in Cyprus. The main source of information regarding angling in the south is the Department of Fisheries and Marine Research (22807807), who publish a booklet on the subject. In the north look out for sea-fishing trips from the most popular harbours (for example, fishingnorthcyprus.com, from Girne). It is possible to get permission to fish in reservoirs, but is probably not worth the effort.
Football is strongly supported across the island. The Cyprus Football Association runs a full league of four divisions with fourteen clubs in each, and there are three cup tournaments. Admission prices are a fraction of what UK league teams charge, and tickets can be bought at the ground, on the day. Despite being relative minnows, Cypriot clubs have reached the group stage of the Champions League three times in recent years, and in 2012 Lefkosia’s Apoel became the first to reach the quarter finals.
There are four main golf courses in southern Cyprus, three in Pafos District, and one in Lemesos, another, just outside Larnaka, planned. For a summary see cyprus-golf-courses.co.uk. In north Cyprus, there are two.
There are numerous horseriding stables in Cyprus, and many offer holiday packages – look out for literature in the CTO office or your hotel. Two of the best are Ride in Cyprus, based just outside Pafos, and Drapia Farm in Kalavasos (book through cyprusvillages.com).
Though it might seem unlikely, from January to March there’s usually enough snow on Cyprus’s highest peak, Mount Olympos, to allow skiing. The Cyprus Ski Club (22449837) operates a ski centre on the mountain with four ski lifts serving three slopes: a chairlift on Zeus slope, and T-bar lifts on Hera, Aphrodite and Hermes slopes.
There are hundreds of tennis courts across Cyprus run by the municipalities as well as many hotel courts. Most have all-weather surfaces and are floodlit. There are numerous local tennis and beach tennis tournaments, and, during the winter, the Cyprus Masters Cup and Aldiana Seniors Open tournament. Cyprus also plays in the Davis Cup. For further information contact the Cyprus Tennis Federation (22449860).
Water sports and diving
The main coastal holiday areas, in both north and south, all offer the full range of water sports, either through centres on or near the beach, or through the big hotels. Dive schools in both the south and the north offer accredited courses. Among the numerous recognized dive sites are the wrecks of the Vera K and the Achilleas off Pafos and the wrecks of HMS Cricket, a British army helicopter and, most famously, the Zenobia off Larnaka. For scuba diving, contact the Cyprus Federation of Underwater Activities (22754647).
Sailing is widely catered for, either within the island or visiting – there are many ports, marinas and fishing shelters from which to choose. For charters, try Cyprus Yacht Club (70002677) in Limassol, Cypus Yacht Charter (24665408) in Larnaka or Cyprus Yacht Charters (26910200) in Pafos.
Top 5 National parks
Cyprus has numerous national parks and nature reserves, which can range from fairly small semi-urban parks with picnic areas, children’s playgrounds and a few paths, to large areas of countryside with extensive marked trails.
Troodos National Forest Park
Covering 9147 hectares of the Troodos Mountains this is Cyprus’s most visited national park, with four separate nature reserves, nine picnic sites, three campsites and ten nature trails covering over 57km.
In Cyprus’s northwest corner, the Akamas Peninsula is one of the island’s most remote areas which can be accessed only on foot or via mountain bike, trail bike or 4WD. Once dominated by a British Army firing range it is now something of a haven for wildlife.
Petra tou Romiou National Forest Park
Home to one of Cyprus’s most photogenic beaches, said to be the birthplace of Aphrodite, the Petra tou Romiou National Forest Park covers 350 hectares of woodland and coast 10km outside Pafos.
Macheras National Forest Park
This is the Troodos Park’s little brother, covering 111,000 acres at the eastern end of the Troodos range, and notable for being empty, unspoilt and heavily forested.
North Cyprus has just one national park: the Karpaz Peninsula, the long tapering strip of land that heads northeast towards Asia Minor. Around 80km long but just 20km wide at the base, it has a very low population density (though its roads are manageable), and is famously home to feral donkeys.