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Limassol, the seaside city in Cyprus that is the island nation’s second largest after its divided capital of Nicosia, is hot.
For one, Cyprus has made a robust emergence from its financial crisis a few years back. And though Cyprus belongs to the European Union, it’s a lot closer to the Middle East than it is to Europe, and its reputation as a safe haven has burnished its appeal for not only for European sun-seekers but also travelers from nearby countries such as Israel, Egypt and Lebanon.
In this cosmopolitan port city (called Lemesos in Greek), travelers will discover audacious new high-rises and sometimes maddening traffic. The effect, frankly, is that of a more relaxed, sultrier version of London. And unlike many Mediterranean destinations that close up shop for the winter, Limassol powers through every season, sometimes with the help of some very tasty red wine.
1. It has serious wine clout.
In ancient times, red and white grapes indigenous to Cyprus were picked and sun-dried to make a libation that was said to be sipped by Cleopatra and eventually became known as Commandaria: a sweet red favored by royalty in medieval Europe. It got its name from the area in and around Limassol in the 12th century when the Knights of St. John ruled the roost. You can sample the wine at just about any bar or taverna in town, or venture out for a drive along one of the charming wine routes in the scenic foothills of the Limassol countryside.
2. There’s a young, creative vibe.
Limassol is a hybrid resort and university town, giving it a notably energetic and optimistic disposition. There are tavernas and cafés galore in the narrow streets where remnants of medieval and Byzantine fortifications mix with restored British colonial architecture. Vibrant street art adds plenty of local color, too.
3. You can hit the beach, even in winter.
The locals are proud to point out their city’s range of restaurants and cultural attractions, but happily there’s no getting around the fact that Limassol is also a beach town. The seafront is lined with beachside bars and there are plenty of spots for urban swims, even in wintertime if you’re up for it. Two great beaches just outside town include Lady’s Mile and Governor’s Beach, and the ancient theater of Kourion overlooks another gorgeous stretch of sand.
4. Aphrodite was born just up the road.
Though it’s not technically in the Limassol district, the lair of the original love goddess isn’t far at all. History buffs and hopeless romantics will be pleased to know that about an hour-long drive north along the coast will take you to the beautiful white cliffs where, according to legend, Aphrodite emerged from the sea foam to make her first appearance on land.
5. There’s a delicious food scene.
Turn on the radio in Limassol and you’re likely to hear everything from Greek, Turkish and Lebanese pop music to British DJs and Israeli news: and that eclectic mix is reflected in the culinary scene. There are traditional Greek Cypriot tavernas big on meze, along with swanky restaurants at the marina, Lebanese grills and plenty of contemporary spots that nod to the island’s heritage. One such is Karatello Tavern, a converted carob mill next to a castle built by Guy de Lusignan in 1193, where Richard the Lionheart married Berengaria of Navarre. Try the rabbit with onions and traditional cracked wheat or the Karatello salad: a tasty mix of fried halloumi cheese, tomatoes and pomegranate in a carob syrup vinaigrette.
6. There are great places to stay.
Limassol has its share of newer boutique hotels, though an arguably better way to experience the city’s split spirit is to book a room at one of the resort hotels right next to the sea. One such is the St. Raphael Resort, a five-star, family friendly hotel close to the seaside ruins of ancient Amathous (one of the royal cities of Cyprus until around 300 BC).
Or use your IHG Rewards Club points at the Crowne Plaza Limassol, another spot that wins accolades. Redeem 30,000 points for a one-night stay, or pay in cash for just $110 per night this winter.
This Mediterranean destination may not be on many travelers’ radars yet, but it will be soon. In March of 2019, the seafront Parklane, A Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, will debut as a Category 7 property.
Featured image via Shutterstock.
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